What Tom Ridge Said: “I don’t think we’ve got to worry about threat fatigue. We need to be on the alert and America needs to know that those who need to do things are doing them, that their government is working 24-7 to protect them against terrorist attack.”
What Tom Ridge Might Have Meant:
“threat fatigue” — A little known cousin to “chronic fatigue syndrome.” Either that or, as Wordspy notes, “ignoring or downplaying possible threats because one has been subjected to constant warnings about those threats.” So if Tom Ridge tells us that we don’t have to worry about threat fatigue, am I to infer that he’s telling us to be scared shitless? And it all sounded so benign!
“We need to be on the alert.” — In Homeland Security vernacular, one cannot be alerted, nor can one be prepared for alert. One is “on the alert,” which, for some strange reason, conjures up imagery of Donald Rumsfield on the rag. Nonetheless, this might mean that, collectively, the nation is close to the alert button, or about to be alerted, but not quite there yet.
“America needs to know that those who need to do things are doing them.” — As opposed to wanting to know? Do we citizens not have “to do things?” Can we sit in our La-Z-Boys and eat Cheetos? Can we really trust “those who need to do things” to do them?
And then there’s troubling shift in perspective. Ridge goes from “we” to “those who need to do things” to “their government” in one sentence! Which suggests to me that “we” (the citizens) are sorta involved in any potential alerts, ad hoc, but are not people “who need to do things.” Additionally, Homeland Security and the U.S. citizens are joined at the hip, but “their government” implies that “they” are either the U.S. government or some unidentified government we are at battle with. (Perhaps Canada unknowingly?)
All I know is that Tom Ridge is full of shit, couldn’t speak intelligibly to save his life, and really has me worried about the DHS’s ability to communicate. I haven’t seen government language like this since the Nixon Administration.