Wednesday, September 17, 2008

They Call it "Emergency Preparedness"

Earlier generations spent their time ducking and covering, as this video demostrated, in the event of a possible communist act of aggression. But in the Information Age we simply give up our privacy and rely on the government to keep us safe. As an email from my university's Director of Campus Security illuminates, we are encouraged more than ever to be cataloged and mapped by participating in what Foucault critiqued as the new Panopticon -- the participatory panopticon. Here is an excerpt from the campus-wide email:

We will conduct an emergency notification test using the 3n system on Friday, September 19th. Please register immediately to be included in the test.

Thank you for taking this important step in supporting emergency preparedness.

National Notification Network

What is this all about? What are they preparing us for? Essentially, all the students at this university are being encouraged to enter their private information into a database run by a security corporation known as National Notification Network, or "3n". This company is part of a new series of Homeland Security Complex spin-offs that make money off of our collective sense of paranoia. It's only natural to be be skeptical about this. According to the 3n website, their corporation is "the leading global provider of mass notification solutions to Global 2000 corporations, government agencies, healthcare systems, and educational institutions in more than 230 countries worldwide."

"One Call Reaches All"

That is 3n's corporate motto. The company promises to notify the American public at large or specific groups of people of "any changes to the Homeland Security terrorist threat warning level", relays "notices to specific floors, buildings, or entire campuses after major disasters" and has remote roll-calling features -- to use their example, "Press 1 if you are at home; Press 2 if you are at work."

The guardians can keep tabs on the masses more easily and more legally than before, though we are promised that the database is only used in times of national or local emergency. Considered alone the mass notification system may be benign. In the context of everything else it is not. Recount all the unchecked executive orders, all the boundary-crossing authorizations, the limits to civil liberties and increases in government surveillance and scaling capabilities, and it has a much more serious and frightening context.


Mike Gogulski said...

Back in the mid-90s some friends and I used to half-joke about the advancement and arrival of the American police state.

It ceased being funny some time ago.

Anonymous said...

Participation in this 'optional' notification system is already slipping toward 'backbone' status.


The Fieldhouse is the designated shelter for the campus community in case of emergency, such as an earthquake. Where should people report in case of an emergency?

Even if the Fieldhouse gymnasium was available, our emergency protocol calls for us to assess the safety of all buildings before people are allowed to reenter following an earthquake or other natural disaster. The campus community will be notified of safe buildings and shelter areas via appropriate emergency communication channels, including the new 3n emergency contact system. To register for this system, please send a request to