Communion Of Dreams

” . . . irrational, wasteful and pointless.”

That’s the description applied to most of the Security Theater (Bruce Schneier‘s excellent term) nonsense at our airports by a commercial airline pilot writing at the NYT Blog Jet Lagged. From the piece by Patrick Smith titled “The Airport Security Follies“, in which he discusses the fact that current security procedures are nothing but a sham:

No matter that a deadly sharp can be fashioned from virtually anything found on a plane, be it a broken wine bottle or a snapped-off length of plastic, we are content wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and untold hours of labor in a delusional attempt to thwart an attack that has already happened, asked to queue for absurd lengths of time, subject to embarrassing pat-downs and loss of our belongings.


In the end, I’m not sure which is more troubling, the inanity of the existing regulations, or the average American’s acceptance of them and willingness to be humiliated. These wasteful and tedious protocols have solidified into what appears to be indefinite policy, with little or no opposition. There ought to be a tide of protest rising up against this mania. Where is it? At its loudest, the voice of the traveling public is one of grumbled resignation. The op-ed pages are silent, the pundits have nothing meaningful to say.

* * *

As for Americans themselves, I suppose that it’s less than realistic to expect street protests or airport sit-ins from citizen fliers, and maybe we shouldn’t expect too much from a press and media that have had no trouble letting countless other injustices slip to the wayside. And rather than rethink our policies, the best we’ve come up with is a way to skirt them — for a fee, naturally — via schemes like Registered Traveler. Americans can now pay to have their personal information put on file just to avoid the hassle of airport security. As cynical as George Orwell ever was, I doubt he imagined the idea of citizens offering up money for their own subjugation.

Oh, I don’t know about that last point. Orwell understood quite well that almost any system is susceptible to the creation of an elite class – and in this case if you’ve got the money you can buy out of some of the pointless security hassles of flying. But the rest of the piece is a very powerful indictment of the stupidity of the current system, by one who knows how it functions from the inside. And, as the passages cited indicate, the piece is an indictment of us as well, who have been willing to trade off our dignity and civil liberties for just the illusion of security.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to UTI.)

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