Crying "Wolf" is the problem I have with last night's Amber Alert that broadcast on cellphones throughout California a BOLO about a missing child from Boulevard, California. Which CHP genius decided to make the alert statewide when the incident occurred near the Mexican border AND, according to reports I read, the authorities thought the suspect was headed to Mexico or Texas?
If pitting the inconvenience of getting awakened from sleep against the life of a kidnapped child seems like a fair appraisal of the situation to you, I won't argue. I think it's a queasy comparison, but I understand that you'd have to find someone who got into an accident last night -- or today because they are sleep deprived -- before we'd be even on the life vs. inconvenience scale.
My objection to last night's alert comes from worryinig that a lot of people switched off their phones' Amber Alerts today. Not because they don't care about kidnapped kids. Rather, because they think they shouldn't be put on alert for something 400 miles away and likely going further away. They think Amber Alerts are going to be another noisy bit of spam in their already full lives.
And, people who leave the Amber Alert on are not going to jump and read the next one if they think it, too, will be remote to them.
The overall discomfort over last night's California activation of the Amber Alert system isn't being articulated very well. People sound guilty about complaining because they are apparently objecting to a minor annoyance. They are not happy in the seeming self-focused position of judging 5 minutes of their sleep as more important than the lives of two children.
I don't feel guilty in objecting. It's not about my sleep, it's about the effectiveness of the Amber Alert program.
Whoever unleashed last night's mass alert lessened the impact of the Amber Alert system. They weakened future public reaction. They did something stupid.