Sunday, November 29, 2015
No classes Monday
Erring on the side of caution usually has good connotations.
Buying some extra insurance.
Tucking a flashlight in the glove compartment.
But college campuses, which magnify and concentrate our social flaws, have made caution a sickness, with their trigger alerts and manifestos of victimhood. They seem to think their job is to prepare the real world for students, and not the other way around.
So the FBI notices an online threat directed at the University of Chicago, informs the school, and in response the entire place shuts down Monday as a result. Classes canceled, students urged to stay indoors and, oh I don't know, cower.
Have we lost our minds?
Does the FBI have any idea how easy it is to post those online threats? How closing the school is the kind of wild overreaction that inspires mopes to do this kind of thing in the first place, and responding in such an extreme way only invites more threats? We don't pay ransoms to terrorists holding American hostages overseas, even at the cost of their lives, because we know that doing so only makes the situation worse. Yet one of the world's great intellectual institutions grinds to a halt tomorrow because somebody typed something mean?
Maybe there's more here than meets the eye. Maybe the FBI has some intelligence about a real danger, as opposed to some random threat. If so, they didn't mention that.
So much for safe spaces. For a cynical society, we can be shockingly naive. The New York Times Magazine ran a story Sunday about "swatting," the practice of online pranksters sending SWAT teams crashing in on the unsuspecting. It's jaw-droppingly easy, and an indictment of our reactive, militarized police force that some disturbed teenager in Vancouver could dispatch armies of cops across the country at his whim. It's so easy to do, you can barely blame the juvenile, and law enforcement was slow to respond -- to him, not when sending in the heavy artillery—until he had done it dozens of times.
We live in a dangerous time, but then we always have, one way or another. The question always is, what do we do about it? Do we give in to fear? Or do we resist? Do we go about our business despite the risks? The adults need to show more discretion. We need cooler heads that will understand that crouching in fear doesn't solve anything. If a person actually intended to shoot up the campus Monday, they wouldn't warn the students away. When does that ever happen? Such threats are the empty acts of brainlessness or unbalance. Which also explains the University of Chicago's reaction.