Wen suchet ihr?

Via Geoff Edgers, this bit of Hub ridiculousness:

Peter Watchorn is a professional harpsichordist, an Australian-born US citizen, and a 21-year resident of Cambridge. He was very surprised last week when he was mistaken for a terrorist…. A tip from a passenger and a manhunt that followed disrupted the T’s Red Line for about 13 minutes during rush hour Thursday morning, as police surrounded a train with bomb-sniffing dogs. It also forced Watchorn to miss a business trip to Buffalo while he was being questioned by State Police.

Peter Watchorn is an awesome guy. A number of years back, I somehow ended up at an informal concert/party he was throwing in his apartment. Knowing even less then than I do now about Baroque music or the ins and outs of harpsichord technique, I was a little uncertain about whether I’d make any conversation at all. But Peter pulled out a pristine vintage RCA no. 50 suitcase Victrola and spun a few priceless 78s, and we ended up chatting about local sources for proper needles. Wonder what his anonymous tipster would have made of that conversation.


  1. Arguments over correct German cases pale against the real point of this thread: civil liberties and how they mesh with the need for legitimate security that protects rather than threatens.The chief of MBTA security, quoted in the Boston Globe, declared himself “satisfied with the outcome” of this embarrassing debacle, with its elements of Kafka and Keystone Cops. I, on the other hand, as the unwilling star of this drama, am far from satisfied. My story is not personal: I was everyman (and woman), and this could just as easily have happened to anyone else. I suffered temporary embarrassment and inconvenience, but the worst aspect, and one that should disturb all, citizens and non-citizens alike, was the arbitrary suspension of those fundamental civil liberties that I, like all reasonable people, take for granted. This was the most disturbing aspect of this entire fiasco. The MBTA clearly owes me a public apology, on behalf of the general public they have also inconvenienced, and whom I represent. I will seek it on behalf of all of us, but, more importantly, the T management owes it to all MBTA users to review its absurd policy of accepting unsubstantiated gossip as evidence of a threat. This episode has made clear that witch hunts do not make us more secure, just more paranoid. A weakness has been exposed here. Is the MBTA sufficiently mature and self-critical to rise to the challenge that it now faces in pursuit of the greater good?

  2. <>Arguments over correct German cases pale against the real point of this thread: civil liberties and how they mesh with the need for legitimate security that protects rather than threatens.<>Absolutely–what happened was outrageous and frightening. For what it’s worth, here’s James Thurber, ca. 1950, on a similar incident:The Very Proper GanderNot so very long ago there was a very fine gander. He was strong and smooth and beautiful and he spent most of his time singing to his wife and children. One day somebody who saw him strutting up and down in his yard and singing remarked, “There is a very proper gander.” An old hen overheard this and told her husband about it that night in the roost. “They said something about propaganda,” she said. “I have always suspected that,” said the rooster, and he went around the barnyard next day telling everybody that the very fine gander was a dangerous bird, more than likely a hawk in gander’s clothing. A small brown hen remembered a time when at a great distance she had seen the gander talking with some hawks in the forest “They were up to no good,” she said. A duck remembered that the gander had once told him he did not believe in anything. He said to hell with the flag, too” said the duck. A guinea hen recalled that she had once seen somebody who looked very much like the gander throw something that looked a great deal like a bomb. Finally everybody snatched up sticks and stones and descended on the gander’s house. He was strutting in his front yard, singing to his children and his wife.“There he is!” everybody cried. “Hawk-lover! Unbeliever! Flag-hater! Bomb-thrower!” So they set upon him and drove him out of the country.Moral: Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country.James Thurber

Leave a Reply