Etymology: In 2010, journalist James Fallows coined the term “security theater” in an article for The Atlantic, referring to measures put in place after the 9/11 attacks to give the general public a heightened sense of security. According to Derek Thompson, a colleague of Fallows, the coronavirus outbreak has generated similar performative behavior surrounding cleanliness. Writing in The Atlantic in July 2020, he borrowed Fallows’ phrase and dubbed it “hygiene theater. Meaning: There are many things in life that have little or no purpose other than giving us reassurance: the sound of a car door slamming closed, the whir of a cash machine, the shutter noise of a smartphone camera. The same techniques are also used to offer a sense of security during the darkest of times. This story is from Kinfolk Issue Forty Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 19 Going Incognito We all secretly wonder what mischief we’d make if invisible: When our identity is hidden, everything seems possible. Arts & Culture Issue 19 The Best Policy Sometimes we talk to each other without feeling heard. Honesty—a most intimate interaction—can be just as thrilling as its more devious inverse. Arts & Culture Issue 19 A Sense of Suspense With unhinged imaginations and mountains of cliff-hangers, the filmmakers behind the sci-fi podcast Limetown have all the makings of a scary story. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Like Clockwork In this new column about time, we learn how slipping off our watches makes us feel like deadline-damning renegades. Arts & Culture Music Issue 19 On a Grander Scale Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna now may live on the opposite side of the globe, but she’s determined to evolve while staying true to her roots. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Neighborhood: Fire Stations The firefighting profession has evolved over time from Ancient Rome’s rudimentary bucket brigades to today’s sleek life-saving departments.