What Fresh Hell

Yesterday, many news outlets over here featured a story like this, about a simulated terror attack at a big shopping center in Manchester.  Here’s the gist: the Home Office and the Manchester Police arranged for a fake suicide bomber to attack the shopping mall, “injuring” fake victims in the process.  (They got called out on Twitter for having the bomber scream, “Allahu Akbar!”)  It’s during moments like these that I begin to believe we’re truly living in a postmodern dystopia, a la White Noise.

“That’s quite an armband you’ve got there.  What does SIMUVAC mean?  Sounds important.”

“Short for simulated evacuation.  Anew state program they’re still battling over funds for.”

“But this evacuation isn’t simulated.  It’s real.”

“We know that.  But we thought we could use it as a model.”

“A form of practice?  Are you saying you saw a chance to use the real event in order to rehearse the simulation?”

“We took it right into the streets.”

“How is it going?” I said.

“The insection curve isn’t as smooth as we would like.  There’s a probability excess.  Plus which we don’t have our victims laid out where we’d want them if this was an actual simulation.  In other words we’re forced to take our victims as we find them.  We didn’t get a jump on computer traffic.  Suddenly it just spilled out, three-dimensionally, all over the landscape.  You have to make allowances for the fact that everything we see tonight is real.  There’s a lot of polishing we still have to do.  But that’s what this exercise is all about.”

“What about the computers?  Is that real data you’re running through the system or is it just practice stuff?”
“You watch,” he said.

He spent a fair amount of time tapping on the keys and then studying coded responses on the data screen––a considerably longer time, it seemed to me, than he’d devoted to the people who preceded me in line.  In fact I began to feel that others were watching me.  I stood with my arms folded, trying to create a picture of an impassive man, someone in line at a hardware store waiting for the girl at the register to ring up his heavy-duty rope.  It seemed the only way to neutralize events, to counteract that passage of computerized dots that registered my life and death.  Look at no one, reveal nothing, remain still.  The genius of the primitive mind is that it can render human helplessness in noble and beautiful ways.

“You’re generating big numbers,” he said, peering at the screen.

***

I would love to do a long form piece all about these simulated terror attacks.  I’m particularly interested in how they cast them.

 

 

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