November 1, 2011

Salon covers Halloween hype

As it turns out, I didn't need to write my annual column on Halloween this year, because Tracy Clark-Flory over at did it for me -- even quoting my blog musings on the topic:
Year after year, new measures are introduced to keep registered sex offenders of all stripes from coming into contact with trick-or-treaters -- and yet there is zero evidence to support the legislative trend.... It isn't just law enforcement that is joining in the Halloween paranoia: Tech entrepreneurs are hyping new smartphone apps -- including a brand-new one for Facebook -- as tools to steer kids clear of sex offenders’ homes and even allow parents to track their kids by GPS, instead of actually accompanying them in person....

Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist who has long railed against the Halloween crackdown, calls it "security theater" and "the Halloween boogeyman."* She says "the scare feeds into a deep-rooted cultural fear of the boogeyman stranger."Just as with scary movies, this holiday allows us the thrill of confronting our fears in a controlled manner. Similarly, the inevitable spate of stories about stranger danger each October both exploit and assuage parental nightmares. Canny entrepreneurs sell parents ways to protect their kids from "real monsters" -- as though safety and control were but an app away -- while local politicians and sheriff’s departments circulate press releases to celebrate their own valiant efforts fighting ... a problem that does not appear to exist.

Most interesting of all to me were the comments on Ms. Clark-Flory's column, which were universally critical of the overblown hype surrounding sex offenders, and also raised the issue of civil rights and the infringement of civil liberties.

By the way, credit for the term "security theater" goes to Bruce Schneier, who writes and blogs about security. Schneier defines security theater as "security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security." Prominent examples include airport screenings and increasingly ubiquitous metal detectors. Thanks to Dave S. for alerting me to Schneier's interesting blog.

** I actually spell it "bogeyman," but opinion on the correct spelling is not unanimous.


Neil B Fisher said...

I have been contacting our nations criminal justices sex offender units as well as the lawmakers of our nations states for many years now, asking the simple question "why the false information ,misinformation and myths that the general population were made to believe as being the truth" that causes for the many hypes,hast,causing people to be afraid and scared for their family etc.And then while under the impression and the influence of the many false,misinformation and myths that cause for the very bad,wrong,injust,and unreasonable sex offender laws,rules and regulations are not being informed,told,reported etc. to the nations people as to once and for all get some needed damage repair and damage control but I never get any replies regarding this question.
I honestly and truly believe that once the nations people know all the true and real information that we would start to see some major changes regarding the people's attitude toward the low risk and medium risk offenders then allowing for the weeding out these lower risk offenders as to allow for more needed time and money put towards the real dangerous sexual violent predators and allowing for much less hype,hast,and fear and better and more reasonable sex offender laws.
Can anyone explain to me why the truth is not being told to the people of this nation as a whole.

Mr King said...

To Neil R Fisher: Truth thwarts power. Power attracts the corruptible. Truth exposes corruption. Plus, people frequently prefer fiction over truth--it's more exciting. Often times, when people are presented with truth, they get angry and vehemently defend their unsupported beliefs even in the face overwhelming evidence, and even when the truth makes for a much nicer world. I see this phenomenon consistently when I present people with the facts about cannabis. Even former users frequently seem to be invested in the idea that they have been brain damaged by cannabis. You'd think everybody would be happy that millions of people haven't turned their brains into fried eggs.

Power needs bogeymen. Be it communism, drugs, a different religion, or Halloween sex predators. If I can convince people there is a bad problem, and that I have the solution, I can gain power.