The Individual Responsibility Bomb

Yesterday I saw Live Free or Die Hard, and I must say that it was an unexpectedly enjoyable film.  Good action from earlier movies combined with an unlikely buddy movie element.  I was disappointed only with one bit towards the end that overtaxed my suspension of disbelief.

Anyway, not to spoil too much, a mysterious group has hacked into government computers to shut down most public functions - air traffic control, traffic lights, emergency response.  They've also messed with communications and stock market computers. 

In pushing their terrorist attack, the message was interesting.  I can't remember the exact words, but it was stuff like "what if you called the government and no one was there to answer.  What if you needed help and government agencies could not help you.  You are all alone"  This struck me as a thoroughly modern form of attack -- the terrorists cut the welfare state off from the government, forcing them to take responsibility for their own lives, and everyone panics in response.

I remember one line where Bruce Willis says "Surely the government has departments full of people to deal with this kind of thing" and the other character says "it took the government five days after Katrina to get water to the Superdome."  Again, the assumption is that as the tools of civilization fail, only the government could put things together again, and they were undermanned.  But after Katrina, Wal-Mart and Home Depot had extra inventory in their local stores, with a focus on plywood and generators and the like, in hours rather than days.  FEMA on the other hand spent more time after Katrina keeping individuals from helping in New Orleans of their own initiative than doing anything themselves.   Civilization was built by individuals, not the government, and if it ever comes to rebuilding it, the same will be true.


  1. Sameer Parekh:

    That's an interesting point. But in the movie, did government save the day? No. "Mac" and John McClane did. The movie appealed to me in part because it demonstrated the ineptness of government and the resourcefulness (if a bit over-the-top and not-quite-believable) of the individual. (or the small self-organizing team, McClane + "Mac")

  2. la petite chou chou:

    I'm pretty sure that was the point.

  3. SuperMike:

    I did notice that the heroes (and villains), do to their planning, knowledge, and skills, were able to escape the paralysis and remained effective throughout the film. One character even had a house full of computers run on generators so he could continue his activities. (I'd never even considered a hacker/survivalist hybrid before)
    One thing that bugged me was that, according to the plot, regular people's activities seemed to grind to a halt because they blindly expected direction.
    ***** Spoiler alert*****
    At the beginning of the film, the bad guys make every traffic light in a particular area turn green. There's instantly a series of medium-intensity traffic accidents in every single intersection. The resulting gridlock is apparently insoluble. No one says, "Ok, so there's an accident and the police aren't coming, I'm going to at least try to get this car out of the intersection".
    A lot of people took pretty good care of themselves (and others) during Katrina.

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