Saturday, March 10, 2012

The "lockdown" concept expands

It's strange enough that the term "lockdown," developed in prisons, has entered routine use as a term for imprisoning school pupils in their classrooms during an actual or perceived crisis -- see here and here and here.

Now it's being used on towns. Look at this from yesterday:
Montesano, Wash. -- A man stabbed a judge and shot a sheriff's deputy with her own weapon during a courthouse struggle Friday in a Washington town that was later placed on lockdown as authorities hunted for the assailant.
The AP writer doesn't spell out what's meant by the term. Presumably, though, it means "curfew". In the identified Third World you would call what happened a "curfew". But that doesn't sound American enough. (And we do have to maintain our exceptionalism.)

In the Montesano case it probably did make sense to keep everyone indoors until the police caught an unhinged attacker.

But sometimes officials do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Calling this a "lockdown" reveals some dangerous thinking behind an action that was sensible in the current context. "Lockdown" implies that we are all in our cells and they can lock us in whenever they like.

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