At the risk of moving us ever-closer to an all-TSA, all-the-time blog, I just wanted to point out that Security Theater is not limited to the inanane antics of the TSA.
We — the passengers of America — have also been driven by irrational fear into paroxysms of moron-level behavior, and the airline industry is indulging us in them. Many of us are bit players on the stage of Security Theater.
Just ask Adam C. Parsons, a "food stylist", who got yanked from a Delta flight by the captain and flight crew because a passenger reported him for "suspicious behavior." His "suspicious behavior"? He has the words "atom bomb" tattooed on his fingers.
Pearson was temporarily asked to step off the plane and learned that another passenger had reported him for suspicious behavior, and noted that he had the words "Atom Bomb" tattooed across his fingers. Questioned by the captain and the flight attendant, Pearson explained that the tattoos referred to a childhood nickname. After answering a few more questions, Pearson — who is a frequent Delta passenger and has flown over 142,000 miles with the airline this year alone — was allowed to return to his seat.
America's scientists are second to none, despite the best efforts of our educational system. However, I am reliably informed that even they are not able to make the printed word "bomb" explode. Maybe if we gave them more funding. Also, to the extent that atom bombs are available in food-stylist-carry-on-luggage sizes, it strikes me as unlikely that terrorists will come with warning labels, tattooed or otherwise. Also, wouldn't an atom bomb be sort of overkill to take down a Delta flight? Have you seen their safety record? You could probably take one down with an allen wrench and a brusque tone of voice.
What probably happened here is that the sort of person who lives a sheltered life in, say, San Marino or La Canada encountered for the first time a person of the sort you encounter in Los Feliz or Echo Park, which are far more hipster-intensive. Nobody bothered to ease this person into her first exposure to pronounced hipsterism, perhaps by driving past a record shop or watching a shift change at Starbucks. So she saw someone who looked different, freaked out, and started stabbing at the attendant button like Casca knifing Caesar.
Given that even "trained security professionals" have difficulty distinguishing between a dangerous thing and a picture of a dangerous thing, even when the dangerous thing is imaginary, it's hard to expect the public to do much better. But the alarming thing here is not that a random citizen was an idiot. The alarming thing was that the random citizen gave in to the noisy and insipid "if you see something, say something" mindset, part of the ignorance-and-irrationality-as-a-virture Gift of Fear culture. TSA agents and their ilk are not personal liberty's greatest enemy. No, we've met the enemy, and he is us. Governments like us to inform on each other, and we're conditioned from childhood to do it. With the help of a government all too happy to increase its own power, we've convinced ourselves that we're duty-bound to voice our most irrational suspicions — for the children. We don't think about what sort of world that creates for those children.
Edit: Greetings, guests. You can read our other recent TSA coverage here.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017