Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why do officials insist on saying self-evidently stupid things?

What brings this up is the continued insistence by airline and government officials that the passengers and crew of US Airways flight 1536 were not endangered when a pilot's gun "accidentally discharged" and punched a whole in the plane while it was landing on Saturday.

This could only be true in the narrowest possible sense. In other words, it was only true in the sense that at that exact moment when the gun fired it didn't happen to be pointed at anybody or any vital part of the plane.

But by any commonsense understanding of the term, of course everybody was endangered. Anybody who has ever handled firearms or been on a firing range knows that there's no such thing as a "safe" accidental discharge of a weapon. Any time a weapon is fired when it wasn't meant to be fired it is a dangerous situation. The only thing preventing tragedy when this happens is pure luck.

I do not find it comforting when government officials assure the public there was no danger when there clearly was a danger. They either think we're too stupid to know the difference or they're too stupid to know the difference. Neither option is reassuring.

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