A grating ring pierced every American phone. It happened over a month ago. On that day and before, since I first learned about the mandatory “presidential alert system,” I have asked myself, why?
What could ever be so important that the currently installed United States President, and the tentacles of agencies that make up the executive branch, must be able to reach out to every American with a phone powered on?
I have seriously pondered this. Has anyone else? I noticed the “news” reports about the recent test, though I do not recall any objections or discussion on why such a system is necessary. A quick Internet search of the topic reveals only official propaganda, such as “What you need to know about the upcoming federal test…” At least one article had a misleading headline about how you can “turn off” the alerts, which amounted to using airplane mode, or simply powering off your phone.
Turning your phone off at a pre-determined time is, at best, a flimsy triage to the real problem. Under what circumstance would Free Men in a Free Constitutional Republic endure the service of interruption by one select branch of the federal government?
If there is truly something important to communicate, it will be done through the vast enterprise of state-controlled media outlets. This has been this way for some time, long before mobile technology was a matter of everyday life. Included with all the new forms of 21st-century communication, particularly social media, there is never a way that messages of the upmost priority cannot be transmitted to anyone interested in listening.
To phrase the problem another way, what type of real “presidential alert” could ever be sent to every American that would not sow nationwide panic? We can divide the population of possible alerts into non-emergencies and emergencies. The latter is naturally disqualified, with no threshold of urgency that cannot be done via less important channels. Within the population of emergencies, there are those of advisement and of critical action. If emergency and public safety alerts can be turned off from one’s phone, arguably far more relevant to individual continuity, by what justification does a “presidential alert” meet compulsory reception?
So if we rule out non-emergencies and “emergencies of advisement,” that leaves critical action events. The following information is so important, from the President of the United States of America, that you must read it, and likely must act!
Severe weather? A volcanic eruption? A meteor crashing? Are these the purview of the executive branch to ensure nearly all Americans receive notification of them?
Let us say you received a “presidential alert” about an imminent meteor crashing. First, the notion is silly, as most meteor crashes cannot be tracked with any timeliness. A really big meteor may be known ahead of time, but what form of comfort or support would arrive via a “presidential alert” to help you prepare?
If a meteor seems far fetched, let us suppose something more down-to-Earth and, unfortunately, more probable, if still unlikely. Suppose China invades the continental United States. Would “presidential alerts” be used to advise citizens of the matter, and actions every citizen should take? What could the federal government possibly say in a such a dire scenario that would be of use? How would you know it is not misleading propaganda?
Finally, there is the fatal flaw in the premise of “presidential alerts,” that the federal government, in a true emergency situation, could provide pertinent and useful information to every American phone. It would not matter if the current occupant of the Office is named Trump, Biden, or whatever unfortunately comes next, if the President or a federal agency sent a mandatory “presidential alert” on what they advised was a real emergency, I would assume the opposite, and likely perform the oppositive advisement of actions in the interests of my own well-being.
True emergencies to a local citizenry are local matters. Although I would never blindly trust, I would take under advisement alerts sent from more local levels of government. The more local, the greater the possibility I would believe the message. Air raid sirens, now tornado warning systems, normally have a valid purpose, especially when Mother Nature advises of potential danger herself.
The “presidential alert system” is a microcosm of the disfunction of large-scale government, providing an apparatus in the name of safety that, in practice, has no real value. I rarely discuss politics, but if a candidate arrived with dismantlement of this minor bureaucratic boondoggle in his campaign platform, I may be interested in at least hearing the proposition, especially if his platform were not be mandatorily relayed to my iPhone.
Thank you for reading my article. Donec deinde tempum.