See Nothing, Say Nothing

John Banner became famous for playing Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes. His most famous line, in one form or another, was “I see nothing! I hear nothing! I know nothing!” Sadly, that response to questions or situations became a mantra to many folks in those days.

As a young(ish) street cop in the early 70s, it seemed most people in the vicinity of a crime or possible crime had the Schultz routine down pat. How often I faced that kind of response is hard to know. I can assure you it was on par with the worn-out old answer, “but officer, I only had two beers.”

Oh, there were times when someone responded to the question, “What happened here,” by attempting to drop-kick one of us across the street or charged you like a linebacker going for the quarterback. But most of the time, there was a lame “I dunno” or “I didn’t see nothin’!”

After the September 11, 2001, attack in New York, the Feds attempted to change that attitude using the threat of terrorism to raise the stakes. They launched a campaign with the slogan, “If You See Something, Say Something®.”

As far as I could tell from what I saw, heard, and read about the issue, that was a bust. Of course, you must be careful when discussing something like this being a bust. The campaign did generate activity.

According to some published accounts, the first few years of the campaign resulted in thousands of reports that turned out to be nothing, hundreds of others that were hoaxes, and not one report that stopped an attack. Still, it may have raised awareness or made some would-be terrorist hesitant to act out.

Today, a new slogan is slowly making its way into the American lexicon. It comes in various forms, but I’ll keep this simple. There is no solid catchphrase yet, but jokes, memes, and thoughtful comments from some amount to “See something? Ignore it and go on with your life.”

Yes, this campaign is aimed at social media chatter spreading a new form of propaganda and unrest. From political slogans or other catchphrases that promote chaos, socialism, communism, and even less wholesome ideas, we are encouraged to ignore them.2 After all, we don’t want to be trolls and lash out at someone because we don’t agree with their ideas or weird sense of humor.

I know many even abandoned social media because of the crap that shows up on their devices. Others just block, reject or swipe past something without giving it further thought. Anyone doing that should think of the piece below.

Social media removes the need for conspiracies, indoctrination programs, or outright propaganda. Today a movement can start in hundreds of places based on falsehoods and hate spewed by a handful of people… if no one speaks out.2

1 Attributed to German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. Sources advise this is a paraphrase or adaptation of remarks made by the pastor in various speeches. It is published in numerous locations.

2 Some forms of social media and political propaganda advise us not to ignore or attack people who exercise some of their basic rights, but that discussion will need to wait for another post.

© 2022


About S. Eric Jackson

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2 Responses to See Nothing, Say Nothing

  1. It’s worrying how much we are pulled apart by the internet and advanced technology. We don’t interact with each other in person anymore. I miss that. I’m hoping there are still good people who WILL see something and SAY something in order to help someone in need xx

    • I agree! The tech world we live in today is a mixed blessing, and no one knows what it will look like in a few decades. However, there have been ups and downs throughout history, and I am hopeful we’ll figure out how to handle, or survive, the current technology as we have major advances in the past. Hugs & take care.

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