The panopticon for morons
A botched Venezuelan coup and a school security pitch
Fishers from a coastal village in Venezuela helped nab a crew of expatriate soldiers and U.S. mercenaries who were allegedly planning to launch an amphibious assault and overthrow President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday.
It was an anticlimactic end to “Operation Gideon,” a coup attempt that was allegedly led by ex-military private security contractors from the United States.
If you haven’t already, I recommend reading the Associated Press article on the failed coup and the Al Jazeera followup on the arrests. The story reads like a Coen Brothers sendup of natsec culture, complete with MAGA gym rats, failsons of American oligarchs, and a guest appearance by the billionaire dilettante Richard Branson.
Florida-based private security entrepreneur Jordan Goudreau told the Associated Press he had a contract with US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido to assist with the coup. Guaido and U.S. officials have denied this so far. We’ll see about that.
The AP story sent me down a rabbit hole this week when it mentioned Goudreau’s day job. After he left the military, but before he got into the coup d’etat startup hustle, Goudreau settled down in Florida and started the private security company Silvercorp USA “to embed counter-terror agents in schools disguised as teachers,” according to the AP.
This was in 2018, not long after the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history took place in Parkland, Florida. Goudreau popped up in a November 2018 Washington Post article about the $2.7 billion school security market. The Florida state legislature had just set aside more than $250 million for school safety initiatives at the time, and vendors were circling the chum bucket.
Goudreau was making a pitch for his company at a school security expo in a hotel near Disney World. The idea was to charge parents — not local governments — $8.99 a month to send ex-Special Operations agents into schools undercover. The Post got some choice quotes from Goudreau:
"He's just a — he's a cool shop teacher: 'Hey, what's up, fellas,' " said Goudreau, 42, envisioning a potential conversation with a child. "I go sit down with a kid who's alone, playing 'Dungeons and Dragons,' and I just try to see whether there's any problems." …
"The beauty of it is it's all for the price of a Netflix subscription, so it's really hard to argue with me about, 'Well, it costs too much.' You can't tell me that," insisted Goudreau, hair buzzed and jaw square.
Goudreau was describing the work of a counselor or therapist, and he was glossing over the fact that the shooter in Parkland was no longer attending the school. The article offered little in the way of explanation for how Goudreau planned to circumvent public oversight and bill parents directly; I’m sure he had it all figured out.
I haven’t found any public records of school districts or parents who went along with Goudreau’s idea. The company claims on its website that it has operations in more than 50 countries, but who knows?
Ridiculous as Goudreau’s proposal sounded, I remember how shaken parents were — how shaken I was as a parent — in the wake of the Parkland massacre. The impulse behind Goudreau’s pitch is the same impulse that led high schools across the country to install metal detectors after the Columbine High shooting of 1999. It’s the same reason a school district near me started training administrators in krav maga and holding active-shooter drills with local police firing blanks in the halls.
The fear is real, and it’s worth a lot of money. I’ll let this stunning bit of ad copy from the Silvercorp USA website make the pitch:
We live in a dynamic modern age with uncatagorized threats and dangers. Silvercorp USA prides itself on being able to meet these unseen events head on. We use a the Special Operations planning method to analyze and mitigate every unforseen situation.
The threats to our children are indeed “uncatagorized.” The list of what-ifs is infinite.
We are willing to make concessions for the illusion of safety, whether it’s school surveillance of students’ web activity or a multimillion-dollar investment in bullet-resistant doors. Nevermind the dearth of evidence that these measures prevent violent deaths. We want comfort and there is always someone ready to sell it to us.
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The image at the top is a drawing by Willey Reveley of a panopticon prison, circa 1791.