Thursday, February 01, 2007

Occam's razor

In college, I worked as a dispatcher in our campus security department. Most of the guys there made fun of my intellect and propensity for reading and studying, but we got along amiably – usually. One day, a friend of mine had passed along a funny poster that started along the lines of “In the women’s bathroom of the Music building, a man armed with Occam’s razor approached a woman…” I can’t remember the whole thing or the exact wording, but it was like a security report, only obviously fake. I thought it was amusing, and thought the staff at the security department would appreciate the humor, so I posted it on the bulletin board. Big mistake.

The next day when I arrived to work the office was bustling and everyone was in a panic. One of the officers asked if I posted the report on the board, and why I hadn’t contacted an officer to talk to the victim and file a real report. I’m sure the silence that proceeded this question lasted a long time, because I honestly thought he was kidding. So I laughed and walked away. He followed and asked again, and then the director of security and a couple of other officers approached me and I was surrounded by people who apparently did not understand the meaning of Occam’s razor. I explained what it meant and how it was a joke, and was promptly reprimanded for posting it. Funny thing, being reprimanded for someone else’s ignorance – not to mention they all knew I would have called an officer if something had actually happened anyway.

The incident in Boston over the Cartoon Network signs reminded me of that experience, since the circumstances are similar, although the scale of the situation is much, much larger. Instead of the city government apologizing for the uproar and admitting they made a mistake, they have arrested two people (for what? Advertising? Because I don’t see how the charges of “placing a hoax device” and “disorderly conduct” are going to stick) and are pursing action against one of the largest media corporations in America.

OK, let’s look at the situation for a minute. So these signs are electronic and a bit distracting. Do they really look like bombs? And seriously, who places bombs in plain sight for everyone to see? The signs have been in nine other major media markets across the U.S. for weeks without any problems, so what, are Bostonians overly sensitive or something?

I realize in this post-9/11 world you can’t be too careful. But common sense goes a long way here. Maybe this will teach us that we are getting a bit too out of control with our fear, which, unfortunately, pretty much means the terrorists have won. They can sit back and laugh at the Americans blowing up devices advertising cartoons, and be satisfied with the fact that they don’t have to do the work anymore. Americans are terrorizing themselves with their own fear.


panagiotis said...

It would seem that Bin Laden actually managed to get what he wanted...shameful.

J.Doe said...

I agree with you that the city shouldn't have arrested those 2 men when it was an advertising agency and Turner Network behind the signs. They shouldn't have to take the blame for everything, but I don't think everyone should just be let go because the citizens of Boston are sensitive to a lighted board.
There has to be responsibility. None was shown here. By anyone.

melusina said...

Well, I think Turner has done a good job of taking responsibility, even though I really don't think they should bear the brunt of it. But they stepped up, and that's cool.

I guess my main issue is the fact that fear seems to have gotten so out of hand in America. It frightens me a bit.