"The Fear Department"

In response to this item, about how the TSA would respond to the New York bomb threat, and this one about the closing of the Supreme Court's main entrance etc, several reader replies:

1) About the Supreme Court closure, a reader writes:
This reminds me of a quote on the destruction of the old Penn Station in NY and it's replacement with the underground station under Madison Square Garden.

"We used to enter the city like gods; now we enter it like rats." - Vincent Scully

For years I thought it was a quote from the Dodgers announcer and I would hear it in his wonderful voice but sadly it's a quote from an architecture professor at Yale. Still true though.*

2) From the managers of the wonderful (Onion-esque) Department of Fear:


Just a quick note to say 1) we have acted upon your suggestion with respect to the Arizona law and we hope you might be willing to attend the upcoming presentation by Prof. Xu Wei;
2) we are especially keen about your idea for improving the Lincoln memorial -- just a matter of getting National Parks on board.

Also, thank you for not speculating too much about "whether creation of an ever-threatened public mood is deliberate, or what interests it serves." Public ignorance regarding this question certainly cannot hurt. As we like to say, "timendi causa est nescire."

Directorate Sec. Malcolm P. Stag III
DOF Center, Joseph R. McCarthy Building
1300 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington D.C., 20005 http://feardepartment.com

Seriously, it is worth checking out their site.

3) If you were looking for a single volume to put the real world Department of Fear in perspective, and explore practical ways to deflect real threats while also protecting America's values, I highly endorse the Cato Institute's new book Terrorizing Ourselves. Launch event in DC on May 24. I am not an uncritical admirer of the overall Cato worldview, but this is a very valuable book.

4) In a similar vein, (the Atlantic's own correspondent) Lane Wallace, in a column for Flying Magazine, discusses how the sangfroid attitude I described in New York applies in aviation too. (Disclosure: she compliments my item, but that's not the main reason I'm mentioning this. It is another way of explaining the value of calm in the face of risk.)

5) After the jump, in case you haven't seen it, a Lewis Black clip from 2000 about New Yorkers refusing to be terrorized by terrorists. Because it is done without any awareness of the 9/11 attacks, at first it produces a gasp. But in the long run I think its attitude holds up well. (Thanks to Ari Ofsevit.)

Lewis Black, 2000:

Lewis Black - New York Senator
Futurama New EpisodesFunny Demon Zombie TV ShowFunny TV Comedy Blog

* Joseph M, who sent in the Vincent Scully item, followed up:

I double checked and here is a better source for the quote.

NYT, 6/20/93: "One entered the city like a God," the architectural historian Vincent Scully famously wrote of the original station. "One scuttles in now like a rat."

Like a lot of quotes, words get altered in the repeating. I've read it 10 times the way I sent it and this is the first time I've seen it as "One entered...". If I read it in the original I would have never imagined a train full of ballplayers getting off in Penn Station which is no fun.

This is why in journalism we have the phrase, "too good to check."

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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