Thursday, November 25, 2010

Goodbye to meaningless colors

The Department of Homeland Security is planning to get rid of the color-coded terrorism alert system. ...

Red, the highest level, meant “severe risk of terrorist attacks.” The lowest level, green, meant “low risk of terrorist attacks.” Between those were blue (guarded risk), yellow (significant) and orange (high).

The nation has generally lived in the yellow and orange range. The threat level has never been green, or even blue. ...

The color-coded threat levels were doomed to fail because “they don’t tell people what they can do — they just make people afraid,” said Bruce Schneier, an author on security issues. He said the system was “a relic of our panic after 9/11” that “never served any security purpose.” ...

Conan O’Brien joked, “Champagne-fuchsia means we’re being attacked by Martha Stewart.” Jay Leno said, “They added a plaid in case we were ever attacked by Scotland.” ...
--John Schwartz, NYT, on a small victory against security theater


Amy Wax, president of the International Association of Color Consultants North America, said — perhaps not surprisingly — colors could be an effective part of a warning system if tied to specific action. ... She said the agency’s use of “childish” primary colors like red, yellow and blue might have diluted the impact. “Purple, orange and magenta might create a sense of something that would get attention,” she said.
--John Schwartz, NYT, on relentless lobbying

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