Tense times ahead
Warnings about terrorism have become an everyday part of city life. From Sydney to Singapore, Los Angeles to London, cities are cluttered with signs or public-address systems imploring citizens to report anything suspicious. The latest reminder comes from Pauline Neville-Jones, the former chair of the British Joint Intelligence Committee. She is “alarmed” by the number of people she sees walking around looking at their phones or listening to music. Instead, she says, we should be “aware” of our surroundings. Such warnings, particularly after the Paris attacks, are perhaps understandable. But do they really work? There is little evidence that an eagle-eyed commuter has ever stopped a terrorist attack. Instead, these warnings tend to put us on edge. Given how 2015 ended there seems little chance of the terror threat receding this year but that doesn’t mean we all have to commute to work or school in a constant state of worry.