Thinking back on my “how to end the 9/11 Era” piece for WIRED’s 9/11 Anniversary package, it strikes me that I didn’t provide any practical guidance for being less afraid. So here’s an idea. Embed TV crews in the security services.
Back in April, AMC announced it would make a reality show about the Department of Homeland Security. Now that was a dangerous idea. Upteen TV dramas have spread the misleading impression is that DHS is some kind of elite policing agency, when in fact it’s mostly deskbound bureaucrats. So I enthused about what the reaction would be when that realness hit people’s DVRs:
Inside DHS, set for a fall debut, is supposed to present “the real story of the day-to-day battle to keep us safe, prepared and resilient,” according to an AMC exec. Oh really? Then don’t expect a counterterrorism version of Cops. Expect a nailbiter about the realities of the security bureaucracy, where agency science officials weigh the pros and cons of surveillance drones for safeguarding big public events; debate doling out grant money for bomb sniffing plants; and — in the key reveal — sign Memoranda of Understanding with the Defense Department for protecting the civilian internet from cyberattack. Set your DVR for the episode about Twitter. …
Done right, Inside DHS could be pretty neat. Most of the country has no idea how the federal security bureaucracy operates or why the Department of Homeland Security really exists, and only encounters it when its agents confiscate their Gatorade or grope their privates at the airport. A bureaucratic deep-dive probably won’t be as interesting as The Wire. But it might inform people where their security tax dollars are actually going.
Looking back, I’m embarrassed by the goo-goo tone of my April piece. So let me revise and extend: you show people how much the security sector consists of cubicle creatures — in a previous post I called it More TSA Than JSOC –and my guess is that would create a bigger public outcry than any policy paper could.
Alas, AMC looked at the bureaucracy of DHS and figured no one would watch such a boring show, rather than grasping its opportunity to make a subtly polemical show in which boringness is the star. The Office, for real, at the Department of Homeland Security. Scheming, blinkered eccentrics control don’t just sell paper, they decide who gets counterterrorism grants and watch your borders. That’s too real for TV.
Who wants to bankroll me to make this show?