Did LA Officials Panic Over a Dumb Prank?

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As you all know by now, schools in Los Angeles were closed today because authorities received a “credible threat” of some kind of attack. So far, all we know is that (a) it came via an email routed through Germany, (b) it contained the word allah un-capitalized, and (c) several other cities, including New York, received the same message. Was it wise to shut down every school in LA over this? Mike O’Hare says no, essentially because the threat strikes him as ridiculous, not credible.

This makes me curious: do we ordinary citizens ever get the chance to evaluate these threats after the fact? I get that it’s sometimes unwise to release a lot of information about events like this, but it also means that we never get to weigh the judgment and common sense of our elected officials. O’Hare thinks the risk that this was a genuine threat is infinitesimal. It seems the same way to me. After all, any half-bright teenager can write an anonymous email and route it through a proxy server somewhere just for laughs. Was there anything more to it than that?

Well, maybe there was, but they’re not telling us. Maybe there really was a good reason to believe this might be a genuine threat.

Or, maybe it was just a prank email and everyone panicked. I don’t live in Los Angeles, but if I were a taxpayer there I’d sure like to know more about this. City officials will almost certainly say they can’t comment further because the FBI is investigating yada yada yada, but I suspect they just don’t want to admit that they panicked over a dubious threat. I wonder if we’ll ever be allowed to know?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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