Thursday, November 17, 2005

Primetime: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

I don’t know what’s up with ABC’s Primetime, but they’re really doing a great job of making Thursday nights scary. Tonight they did a feature on lax campus safety at various schools around the nation. On campus after campus their undercover guy was able to blend in with students, walk into dorms without ID and wander where he pleased. To drive the point home they highlighted a case where a non-student walked into a dorm, walked into a girl’s room, raped her, then incinerated her body.

Just so you don’t mistakenly think you’re safe, Primetime was helpful enough to highlight the fact even at schools where they do check IDs, the students should fear each other. Apparently admissions offices don’t do background checks to see if applicants have been convicted of anything.

Last week Primetime did another piece on school safety, but this time the focus was on elementary and high schools. The purpose of the piece was to show how vulnerable kids are during a Columbine-type attack. Boy, did they ever make their point.

The kids at the school being showcased have regularly scheduled “attack” drills, so they thought they knew what to do, but all the security expert from Primetime had to do was flip the script by chasing them with what looked like a real gun and all their planning was shot to hell. The worst part was, the teachers themselves did things that in a real situation would’ve gotten the kids killed. One teacher led her students into a room with no windows and only one door -- a certain deathtrap. Another teacher led her students into a classroom, locked the door, then opened it again moments later to see if the “intruder” had gone away. He was waiting right outside the door for her. BANG! He “killed” her, then entered the classroom and “shot” each student one by one, execution style.

You can see how that would happen, though.

To make things more disturbing, they had some parents watching the exercise on a monitor. The parents were horrified as they saw their kids pass up opportunities to save themselves. They pretty consistently ran past street level windows and few had the instinct to run out the front door of building. Instead they allowed themselves to be herded by the “gunman.” They ran into bathrooms and other places where they could be easily cornered. Even the ones that could think out of the box enough to run out of the building had a tendency to congregate within 20-50 yards of the entrance -- close enough for a rifle-wielding assailant to pick them off.

Primetime touched off this “trilogy of terror” a week before that with a show on how women are vulnerable to various forms of attack. Similar to the school shooting feature, this story showed how people (women) allow themselves to be herded. The “security guy” would enter an elevator with a woman and in a second she would be cut off from the buttons. The guy would follow a woman into a parking lot and get within arm’s length of her without her saying anything. The same guy used some “crime scene” yellow tape in a park and convinced two women to detour off a safe, visible path into a shadowy area behind some trees because they thought he was working in an “official” capacity. Finally, “security guy” pointed a phony gun a woman walking along a road and told her to get in his car. She did, and as he pointed out later, her odds of being found alive after getting into an attacker’s car would’ve been about nil if it had been for real.

Each show had valid tips on how to protect yourself. Of course, the tips all seem (mostly) obvious when you’re not the one cornered in the elevator or in the bathroom while a guy with a shotgun is looking for your ass. I really liked the idea about using the liquid soap to coat the floor in front of the bathroom’s entrance if you’re trapped there. The idea of using a fire extinguisher to create a smoke screen was good too, but I think you might be really vulnerable in the seconds you’d probably be fiddling with it. The advice about what to do if someone driving a car pulls a gun on you and tells you to get in was particularly wise. It’s really not that obvious that you should take your chances and run in the direction the car came from.

Despite the tips, these shows are creepy.

I wonder what’s on tap for next week’s show?


Luke Cage said...

I feel so bad for the kids. When I went to school the biggest thing I had to worry about was if my grades would be up to my mother's standards, not if I would make it home alive from school.

But this generation's kids are sensitive as f@#$! Every little thing sets them off, and the only way they can cope is by eradicating their fellow students. How in the hell is that an option for them?

Because sadly their parents are working 70 hour work weeks, traveling on the road, come home late, giving those kids far too much time to get into something. I ALWAYS had someone in my home at one time or another when I was growing up. Its funny how much I hated it then, but that probably saved me from getting into trouble.

This is our world today. And if you want to capture people's attentions you don't light a firecracker. You drop a bomb. Nice post miss Michelle.

Florida Voter said...

It sux, and I fear for my kids and my family every day. However, you can't let it rule your life or you would never go out of the house.

Just teach them the best you can and hope that they remain calm in a situation that requires it.

craziequeen said...

Hi Michelle, the British papers love to send uncover reporters in to show the flaws in the systems we think are safe - so we're used to reports like this.

Michele sent me :-)


Dak-Ind said...

it is tragic how far into the sewer this world has gone, when you need to hold excersizes like this one. school is a place where my kids should feel safe and be able to learn reading and writing and math, they shouldnt have to learn how to run away from gunmen in thier classrooms. Hello, Michelle sent me.

Carmi said...

This is precisely how they goose their ratings. They take what is essentially a non-story, wrap some provocative headlines around it, promote it to death, then play it with snappy editing and creepy-sounding music, all designed to stoke fear among viewers.

Local newscasts do the same thing too, and we fall for it every time. I hate getting suckered!

Howdy from Michele's today. It's good to be back.

Michelle Pessoa said...

Frank, I had the opposite experience growing up. I'm an only child an both of my parents worked and were getting their graduate degrees, so I was home alone for four or five hours a day. I had no supervision, but I never left the house and I didn't get in trouble.

Nevertheless, I don't think it's possible to raise a child like that now. They can get in trouble without leaving the house now that we have the Internet.

Shannon said...

It's not just Primetime. The media exists to scare the shit out of us - that's how they keep us in line so we remain "good little citizens" that listen to the government. Cuz you know, the government really does know what's best for all of us. ;-)