About Me

Find out more about me here.

08 September 2011

Reza and the Full Body Scan

I saw this tweet from author Reza Aslan a couple days ago that made me think:
RT @rezaaslan: Experts tell me backpack bomb going off at security line in LAX or JFK would kill WAY MORE than a bomb going off on a plane, no way to stop
[approx. 6:55 PM Tuesday 6 September]
Others have noted the following before, but it's worth repeating. While the purported purpose of safety procedures (say that three times fast) is increased safety, it often does not match up so well to its intent. Case in point, forcing people to stand around, densely packed into a confined area essentially makes them easy targets for would-be terrorists, an ironic and unintended consequence. Now that we know it, will we change it? That is highly unlikely but not for the reasons that most would expect. It's not about institutional inertia or bureaucratic inefficiency. Instead, we have to look to the safety procedure itself. Irrespective of whether it actually makes us safer or not, the ritual of airport security helps us to maintain the irrational, shared belief in our safety. Flying in an airplane, as mundane as it has become for a large chunk of the population, is still an unnatural act that creates a great deal of anxiety, especially when we consider the history of symbolic violence done in midair by religious and political extremists/marginalists. If we didn't have these rituals, we all might suddenly realize how irrational the entire situation was and stop traveling by air, and if enough of us started thinking this way, our economy and larger social organization would suffer.

1 comment:

  1. The reactive (rather than proactive) nature of Homeland Security suggests that a security-line bomber would dramatically change the security procedures, but in practice this would probably mean that they would force us to wait in densely-packed lines OUTSIDE of the airport for a pre-security screening!