Redesigning Homeland Security’s Advisory System

I disagree with Kurt Andersen on his conclusion (slide 5):

“There are really only two states of affairs that are worth signaling in this graphic way: Caution, which should be the perpetual default mode, should’ve been before 9/11, should be after 9/11, …”

It suggests that all Americans should live their lives constantly cautious of terrorist attacks, which is ridiculous fear-mongering at best. There’s a difference between simply using common sense and being aware of your surroundings and the people in it, and living your life constantly thinking about possible attacks.

Being cautious, in a general sense, is perfectly sound advice. “Be Cautious” as the default state of being as dictated by the Department of Homeland Security, is giving carte blanche to all citizens to be suspicious of everyone, justified or not. The past 8 years have shown that instilling fear into people’s minds does not help anyone live a happier, safer life—in fact, the opposite effect is more likely to happen.

It’s the Department of Homeland Security’s responsibility to make us feel safe from terrorists, not the other way around. To that end, I think the “Be Calm / Be Cautious / Be Alert” designs (slide 2) are a much more fitting and reassuring advisory system.