"Air security is meaningless"

by Rob Horning

23 November 2005


Thankfully I am not flying anywhere this Thanksgiving, or this Christmas. (And luckily I’m not driving to Washington D.C, where I-95 is currently on fire.) But everytime I fly and I am standing in one of those absurdly long lines shuffling along with my shoes off and my pants falling down, I think thoughts likethese recently shared by an Australian senator. Of course the security-check system is meant to put travelers at ease, not serve as a deterrent, which is perhpas why most of them aren’t apoplectic at the whole situation. But whether the system prevents any malfeasance is questionable at best. Those “determined to strike” will analyze the existing sitation and exploit its weaknesses, just as hackers, spammers and virus writers do in real-time on the Internet every hour. And countless exposes have demonstrated how easy it is to get knives and such past the checkpoint.

So the checkpoint is really a form of theater in which passengers duly play their part, and are perhaps flattered by the attention. But really they are the audience for this spectacle, and the security personnel are the performers. This may be why they are so surly; they may have been instructed that this brusqueness adds conviction to their performance, makes the whole charade seem more important. Of course, much of our security and orientation in society relies on performances like these, that convey conviction in certain values if not actually forcibly imposing them.

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