On Friday, the tinfoil hats of both far right and far left conspiracy theorists got just a bit tighter with the announcement from FEMA that the agency would run its first test of the cell phone Presidential Alert system.
First laid out in the WARN Act of 2006 and launched in 2012, the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system is the logical extension of the Emergency Alert System, the national network of warning messages that can be sent out in the event of catastrophic events.
Such a national alert system has existed since CONELRAD came online in 1951. The systems have evolved through the years, and took on the duties of warning about local civil emergencies, such as severe weather, as well as oncoming nuclear horror. They all test weekly on the radio and on TV.
So there’s nothing new or novel about a national alert system sending test messages, nor is there anything surprising about a system being set up to reach people using the dominant technology of the day – cell phones.
But since this is 2018 and Donald Trump is president and everyone is a conspiracy theorist, a simple test of text messaging technology has gotten turned into grist for the parallel plots that Donald Trump is going to unless a storm of indictments against deep state pedophiles, and that Donald Trump is going to declare himself president for life and bombard us with ads for Ivanka’s perfume.
Unsurprisingly, QAnon jumped all over the text alert news, with two posts – one that insinuated it would be the beginning of declassifying FISA memos devastating to the deep state, and the other a somewhat terrifying reference to the nuclear football.
A some Q believers took things a step further, positing that the occasion of a presidential alert (which can’t be blocked or opted out of) being sent to every American with a cell phone was a perfect time to announce that “The Storm” was beginning.
This is, of course, the mass arrest, military tribunal, and incarceration or execution of those deemed to be pedophiles, traitors, and opponents of Donald Trump. Never mind that such an action would be both unconstitutional and deeply fascist – Q has been building up “The Storm” for a year, going so far as to claim that the whole thing would kick off with a tweet from the president.
What do you do if you want to reach more people than even a tweet can? Send ’em a text.
Of course, QAnon is literally never right about predicting anything, other than standard deviations for luck. So you won’t be surprised that on the 17th, FEMA announced that the alert message test would be moved.
Due to severe weather and FEMA being a little busy, the test is now going to take place on October 3rd. So get ready for Q to retroactively declare he knew the test was going to get moved, and kick the can down the road a few weeks for the indictments to be unleashed.
But it’s not just the far right attaching their beliefs to the FEMA test.
Based on Trump’s abuse of Twitter, reasonable liberals complained about the potential for Trump to abuse this system as well, bombarding Americans with Fox News prattle, ads for Trump properties, and racist garbage.
Some even took things so far as to announce that they’d be turning off their phones on the afternoon of the 20th, so as to not get the message from Trump.
Again, emergency alert messages have been part of the fabric of American life since the early 1950’s. Back then, civil defense was part of everyday existence, with families preparing and practicing for ways to survive the inevitable nuclear holocaust. Turning off a radio broadcast testing the system would have been unthinkable – even if you didn’t vote for the president sending the message.
Systems like WEA exist for a reason, and have tremendous value when used correctly. They can disseminate crucial information with clarity, speed, and authority. Should the unthinkable happen and the US be under the threat of nuclear attack, a text sent to hundreds of millions of phones will be seen by far more people than anything on the radio or TV.
Of course, when used incorrectly, such as the false alarm text sent in Hawaii in January, they scare the living crap out of people. And Trump could use it incorrectly in a number of ways.
But overall, there’s no reason for the government not to be able to get emergency information to people, and it should be done using cell phones, rather than trusting people will happen to be near a radio or broadcast TV – which fewer Americans use anyway.
In the even of a national emergency, a text message from FEMA and sent under the name of the president will save lives. It’s understandable why people fear Trump abusing the system, but he hasn’t so far, and ultimately, it’s FEMA running the system, not him.
Turning your phone off on October 3rd to protest Trump, or grabbing popcorn because you think it means Hillary is about to get sent to Gitmo are both equally unreasonable. One is childish, the other ludicrious.
It’s good that FEMA has this system, and it’s good they’re testing it. They’re not going to use it to send ads for Trump International Hotels, and they’re not going to use it to round up saboteurs.
Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.