Around 8 am this morning my wife started grumbling the TV wasn’t working. I reset the U-verse box as per usual but the problem persisted. It was clear right away this was something beyond a typical glitch because of an emergency message displayed on the screen. According to the message, there was a national emergency and the White House was requesting I stand by for important information. In addition the set was apparently “force tuned” to NBC. There was no way to change channels.
My wife wanted me to call AT&T, but I started by poking around online and soon I discovered a thread on the AT&T customer forums filled with people experiencing the same thing.
By the time I arrived for work, the story was already being pushed by several media outlets.
A couple of hours later, the truth came out:
FEMA issued a statement friday afternoon confirming that a radio station program set off a false emergency alert that froze stations earlier today for AT&T U-verse customers and impacted others in several states including Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Detroit.
“This morning, there was an inappropriate playing of the national emergency alert notification tones on a syndicated radio broadcast,” FEMA spokesperson Rafael Lemaitre said in a statement. “There is not a national emergency. Today’s broadcast triggered alert notification in states where the alert has been played.”
The statement went on to stay that such alerts are designed automatically set off more emergency alerts by other television stations and radio networks. The incident is now being investigated by FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission.
“Certain alerts, like the one broadcast today, are designed to be automatically picked up and rebroadcasted by other radio and TV stations,” the FEMA official said. “FEMA and the FCC are currently working with broadcasters to determine the full scope of the situation.”
Of course since FEMA is involved and the interruption effectively hijacked users TV sets while it was ongoing, it didn’t take long for the conspiracy theorists to jump on the incident.
Two of the more prominent Google search results on the matter are articles titled:
Obama just took over my TV - What the heck?
NSA Collaborator AT&T Throws POTUS Emergency Switch
And there was plenty of Twitter action on the matter:
Alert system, "can only be activated by the President in times of emergency," yet AT&T denies feds involved! http://t.co/dm9znIXTtF
Steven De Gracia 3 mins "TEST RUN!!! SHEEPLE WILL JUST GO BACK TO WATCHING SPORTS!!!" http://t.co/YaQa1BMdKx
Don't worry, friends. We're just testing the Ebola Outbreak messaging system. O.o http://t.co/SN6BSfqT2R
The most common line of the tinfoil brigade is, as you might expect, that the events of this morning were a “test run” of some Obama masterminded plan to take over all media and bring the country to its knees.
There was also frustration expressed at the fact the boxes had “force tuned” people primarily to those evil Liberal networks CBS and NBC instead of letting the patriots of the nation stay on their Fox news.
Others insisted we should take this very seriously since Obama is the ONLY one who could have triggered this signal. A quick Google search shows that is patently untrue and what happened was merely caused by an error. The President has zero involvement in this whole thing, but don’t tell them that, it ruins the narrative,
This situation merely highlights a potential flaw in the Emergency Alert system. Nothing more, nothing less. Certainly not a vast conspiracy or front page news.