By Marcia Love
There’s a difference between assessing a perceived threat to prepare for the worst and creating unnecessary paranoia.
First it was Sony Pictures Entertainment that got nervous about releasing The Interview, a movie depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after terrorist threats were made against theatres. The movie was cancelled at its cinemas.
Then it was West Edmonton Mall that was receiving threats from al-Shabab. Three dozen cheerleading teams pulled out of a major tournament that was set to take place at the mall last weekend, with many school districts’ insurance companies warning against taking students to the mall.
Maybe both of those perceived threats were the reason Canadians – many Torontonians in particular – were quick to toss around the T word when a 10-metre long two-metre high hole in the ground turned up near the Rexall Centre.
And then speculation and imaginations ran wild. It was terrorists. It was a couple guys who, instead of going to the bar to pick up chicks like normal dudes, preferred to pick up an odd hobby instead. It was terrorists. It was a family who knew the end of the world was nigh. It was someone preparing for the zombie apocalypse. It was two brothers whose grandfather recently passed away, and to remember the war veteran they built their own trench to know what he went through. It was terrorists.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say terrorists could have been behind it, but a bunker in the middle of TO has good reason to raise eyebrows. Sure, it’s cool if a couple 20-somethings want to make a “man cave,” literally, and spend their spare time on their little excavation project. Better that than plunked in front of a screen playing Xbox for hours on end, covered in Cheetos. But that doesn’t deter from the fact that it is weird. And how in the world did no one notice them digging this or question the mounds of dirt laying around? Then the simple brush-off that it was just a hole dug for “personal reasons” offered by Toronto police really had people wondering what was going on.
But last week a 22-year-old construction worker admitted to the media he was indeed the mastermind behind the Toronto tunnel – and it wasn’t intended for terror of any kind. He was just a guy with a unique project.
In the case of the actual threats made against West Ed and theatres showing a movie Kim Jong-un was not too thrilled about, there’s something to be learned. As Taylor Swift might say, Terrorists gonna create terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. And the threats will only grow. But that doesn’t mean you hide under your bed every time you hear a little noise.
Let’s not forget that we live in Canada. A place where you face a greater risk of personal injury while watching a hockey game and taking a puck to the face than by shopping at West Ed or heading to the theatre to catch the latest comedy after a terrorist threat.
I can understand why school divisions would take threats like that more seriously than most people and want to ensure students’ safety comes first. After all, they have to take every precaution when a 10-year-old calls in a bomb threat on his school.
But believing terrorists living half a world away are going to launch an attack while you’re eating popcorn laughing at Seth Rogen is pretty unrealistic – and only giving the enemy what he wants with very little effort required on his part.
In the days following Sept. 11, 2001, I remember a discussion in one of my Grade 9 classes about what would be some of the prime locations or major public events to attack in Canada. West Ed Mall came up, as did the CN Tower and Rogers Centre, and Calgary Stampede.
In that sense, terrorists were getting just what they wanted without even having to make an actual threat. They had instilled fear. And we, as naive as we were, didn’t even realize what we were doing by simply having that discussion.