The PSA, which will be interspersed with other messages on the welcome screen, will be the same in all 5,400 hotels that LodgeNet serves. It ends by telling viewers to contact “local authorities.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says that reaching the “millions of guests that stay at hotels and motels each year is a significant step in engaging the full range of partners in our Homeland Security efforts.”
The federal government gained access to hotel TV sets by forming a partnership with the hotel industry’s largest association — the A
American Hotel & Lodging Association — which connected DHS with LodgeNet, the industry’s largest TV-content provider.
By entering hotels at a time when the hospitality industry is on the rebound, the government has the power to tap a growing, captive audience. Recent research from LodgeNet says 98% of hotel guests turn on their hotel TV, and the average guest keeps it on for more than three hours per day.
Ann Parker, a LodgeNet spokeswoman, is completely behind the new initiative.
“It’s about everyone doing their part to help keep each other and the country safe,”
But critics of the campaign point out potential pitfalls. Josh Meyer of the Washington-based National Security Journalism Initiative predicts it will generate “a huge amount of potentially baseless tips that will inundate local, state and federal law enforcement authorities.”
DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard, however, cites successful citizen interventions, such as the May 2010 incident in which two street vendors helped thwart a car bombing attempt in New York City’s Times Square by noticing a smoking vehicle and reporting it to police.
The difference here is that you are unlikely to see overly suspicious behavior in a hotel. What you will see is people acting normally and going about their day. You do not know who the employees of the hotel are, so there is no way for you to report if a person is doing something wrong. Comparing a smoking vehicle to people in a hotel is like comparing apples to oranges. This program is only used as a way to instill fear.
Out of the ordinary doesn’t equate to terrorism. Stepping into other people’s private business under the pretense of preventing terrorism, however, seems to be the modus operandi of the government.