Mall of America security department office. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
I recently picked up a lost piece of luggage at a TSA office near Midway Airport in Chicago. While waiting there, amid giant American and Illinois flags, pictures of graduating security officers in freshly pressed uniforms, the obligatory portrait of the president and the—also apparently obligatory—motivational posters depicting Mount Rushmore (“Gold is tried by fire, brave men by adversity”) and a team of skydivers (“When a team makes a commitment to act as one, the sky’s the limit”), I had the occasion to, um, obtain a copy of the trade magazine Emergency Management.
(Don’t tell anyone. I don’t want to end up on anyone’s no-fly list. It’s the January/February issue; I don’t think they’ll miss it.)
I love trade magazines, any trade’s magazine: by entering into what is taken for granted in a world not your own, you better recognize the vastness of the social universe—for there are so, so many worlds that are not your own. In this case, though, the journey is not just exotic. For this world—the world of “interoperable” communications systems, best practices in “behavioral profiling,” “Amazon web-mapping tools,” and patrol boats “equipped to serve as the ultimate platform for port and border security with hundreds of options ranging from gun mounts, to laptop docking stations, light bars and even CBRNE—detection apparatus (CBRNE, Wikipedia informs me, stands for Chemical, Biological Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives)—is our world too, as citizens, whether we like it or not.
So what does this world look like, from the perspective of the trade magazine that advertises itself by the slogan “Strategy and leadership in critical times”? Come with me, dear reader, to Bloomington, Minnesota, home of the world’s largest shopping center, the Mall of America, where we meet, in a feature by associate editor Elaine Pittman, “The New Mall Cop.”
“After 9/11, the Mall of America enlisted behavior profiling to increase security at one of the Midwest’s most popular tourist attractions.” That’s the subhead of the piece. The text begins, “After 9/11, the owners of the Mall of America handed the facility’s security director a blank check.”
It is, of course, the document’s controlling trope. September 11, 2001, invented a world. A magazine like this is one of that world’s myriad droppings. I decided to try an exercise: randomly, I affixed the phrase “After 9/11” to the beginning of sentences to try to find one whose meaning was thereby changed. It was very hard to find one—certainly not these:
“After 9/11, if I wanted to harm your society, I would take your electricity and water away for a while.”
“After 9/11, having a national network would allow a police officer in Atlanta, for example, to contact an officer in Florida, confirm the officer’s identity and get help with whatever was needed.”