Film and TV

Everything's suspicious in John Elway-narrated terrorism video

Recognizing the 8 Signs of Terrorism, a new video released yesterday by the Center for Empowered Living & Learning (CELL) in conjunction with the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference is an eight-minute plunge (well, six-and-a-half, with about ninety seconds' worth of credits) into a world where average-looking white people want to murder you and everyone around you. Even narrator John Elway isn't safe.

At the outset, the viewer is high above the earth, ominous music precipitating a perilous dive through space and clouds directly into the CELL headquarters -- a camera move that ends with a symbolic explosion. Elway, who's inside, is brave enough not to run for cover -- but he's certainly more somber than usual as he shares his memories of 9/11 as the World Trade Center explodes again. Back then, he couldn't believe something like the attacks could happen in America, but he understands now. "This is something we're going to have to deal with the rest of our lives," he warns.

Immediately thereafter, Channel 9 anchor Kim Christiansen shares the eight signs of terrorism identified by unidentified experts: surveillance, elicitation, tests of security, funding, acquiring supplies, impersonation, rehearsal and deployment. People witnessing imminent threats should dial 911; for other suspicious activities, they're urged to phone the Colorado Information Analysis Center, or CIAC. Because Elway and Christiansen pronounce the acryonym "kayak," staffers at Bass Pro Shops should start expecting some strange calls.

From there, the viewer is treated to step-by-step advisories about how to tell the difference between benign behavior and the threatening kind. For instance, a guy is shown taking photos at Red Rocks -- but he's shooting a security camera instead of the scenery. Bastard! We're told that elicitation -- essentially asking people about stuff -- can be done by males, females, by telephone or in person (apparently, hermaphrodites and e-mails are safe). A sample security test: A guy times how long it takes for a bag left on the light rail to be discovered. A funding example: A bald guy who looks like an extra in a Nazi movie tries to sell roadside paraphernalia that probably wouldn't pay for a handful of gravel. Regarding impersonation, someone dressed as a cop who doesn't act like one should raise a white flag: "If you see something that may be abnormal, or have a gut feeling that something's not right, call the CIAC," Christiansen urges. And if someone's actually deploying a terrorist attack, 911's the call. That last one was tough to figure out...

After all this Orwellian grimness, the makers of the video try to end their offering on a semi-upbeat note, albeit one with an ominous subtext. "It's a beautiful day here in Colorado," Elway says, "and there can be many more days like this with the help of people like you."

In other words, we're all going to die unless you spot the scofflaw and call the kayak. Or something like that.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts