As a young boy growing up in a part of the U.S. which has winter weather well suited for outdoor activities, I learned at an early age to ski. The small hill in the back of the house led to an equally small creek at the base of the hill. Occasionally my ability to stop wasn’t quite up to the task so I ended up in the creek. It may have been a little cold when breaking through the ice but that doesn’t stop a 4 or 5 year old.
Then an uncle who randomly showed his face around his mothers house found it great fun to tease me when he visited. One of the things he used to say was to be careful about falling into the creek. I asked why and he would say with hushed tones, “there’s whales in the creek.” I’ve returned to that little house in rural Minnesota and I see the creek has enough water in it to water a few gardens and keep a few frogs happy in the summer. Any fish larger than a minnow would die for lack of water.
The point in telling that story is to illustrate the obvious foolishness of taking everything literal. As a young child it’s not unusual to misunderstand jokes, totally misinterpret sarcasm and to fully believe what adults say. Sooner or later most ‘normal’ people outgrow literalism and perhaps a little magic of discovery along the way. Skepticism takes over because of our understanding that things aren’t always as they are presented and we should no longer become dupes or stooges. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
Now comes another story in the news about two young tourists wishing to vacation in the U.S. but are denied entrance based on a twitter posting. Homeland security I suspect uses tools which monitor the Internet for posts with keywords that raise a threat level concern. It should be all too obvious in the U.S. with this current state of heightened paranoia posting certain phrases may get you a visit with people wearing suits and or security personnel with bullet proof vests and helmets. Foreigners however haven’t had the correct political and security phrases indoctrination we have so a word or two out of place and the world becomes a nightmare for the naive. As an example while visiting a friend in the airport and as you greet him from a distance, don’t yell out, “high Jack!”
That can cause you problems and so does posting on twitter; “I’m going to destroy America and dig up Marilyn Monroe.” Two young tourists were handcuffed and kept under armed guard in a cell with drug dealers for 12 hours after landing in Los Angeles because of the concerns of U.S. Homeland Security.
It seems no one within the U.S. security services understands Brit slang which defines ‘destroy’ as party and get very drunk. They also seem to be short of TV viewing hours because the part of digging up Marilyn Monroe comes from a TV show, ‘Family Guy‘. The U.K. Daily Mail also goes on to say there are many other words or phrases which can get you into trouble with our security services. It was nice of them to do that but it leads me to my point as I first told the story about my childhood.
As an adult, we have to be intelligent enough to discern between real threatening things such as people who have a pattern of doing harm or engaged in activities which are or could be harmful. We also learn while growing up to not take everything we hear or read literally. The truth of the matter is our airport screenings have gotten out of hand, such as when TSA does a pat down of old women with colostomy bags, very young children, our own U.S. senators and as evidenced in this article, so too have our DHS authorities. Perhaps they should rely on more than a keyword scan for words and phrases somewhere in the social network or blogosphere. Use of these words are supposedly triggers in these scans and the reactionary forces with too much money and not enough brains might pay you a visit. This is a perverse use of technology without regard for the consequences of its use.
- British tourists arrested in America on terror charges over Twitter jokes (dailymail.co.uk)
- Brit pair deported from US for ‘destroy America’ tweet (go.theregister.com)