Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Illusion of Security

Note to DHS computer crawlers: Any circumstances described herein are purely hypothetical.

A while back, I promised a post on security at the Happiest Place on Earth, and then promptly got distracted by the usual stuff.  Having been there today, I decided to revisit the topic.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For the descendants of hardy, self-sufficient pioneers who braved treacherous seas and crossed continents on foot, we've become a bunch of chickens.  I mean, read Little House on the Prairie -- any of you crossed a raging river in a covered wagon lately?

I thought so.

Interestingly enough, I think you can still see some of these character traits in the adrenaline junkies of our time -- the ones who climb mountains because they're there...because they want the challenge, the thrill.

And yet.

And yet, when we feel threatened, we're a knee-jerk-reaction society.  It doesn't help that we're litigious as well.

Case in point: we put ridiculous warnings on things that shouldn't require warnings.  Like taking the baby out of the stroller before you fold it.  But someone, somewhere, was dumb enough to do that, so the company went (knee-jerk) ohmigod we'd better tell people not to do that before they sue us (litigious).

So, after the September 11th attacks, people were trying to figure out other places terrorists might target and assumed (rightly; who knows?) that striking Disneyland or Disney World -- places of perceived innocence and channeling your inner child -- would psychologically hurt.

Okay, fair enough.  Reasonable assumption there.

So what do they do?

Set up security stations where they check your bags.

(Except at Disney World, where they -- intelligently -- have a separate "guests without bags" entrance where you walk in as a security guard looks at you.)

But here's the thing.

Actually, here's Thing Number 1:  What's to say someone didn't dig out the innards of that digital camera and replace it with some plastic explosive, anthrax, or other terrorist-like material?  If you just do a visual inspection, what's the point?

And Thing Number 2:  On many occasions, I have walked right into Disneyland wearing a windbreaker with a large pouch in the front, and have not been stopped by security.  That pouch has contained, variously, iPods, digital cameras, iPhones, cell phones, wallets, and various and sundry other things.

Because that pouch was part of my clothing, and not a separate "bag," it was not inspected.

At this point, I say simply:  See Thing Number 1.

And, finally, Thing Number 3:  On other occasions, I have walked right into both Disneyland and Disney World with pockets full of various electronics, medicines, and a variety of other substances that, while perfectly benign while I carried them, could certainly have been something else.

So, I must ask:  What on Earth is the point of all this?  You stand in long lines to have your bags looked through to absolutely no useful security effect.


Because it makes people -- or, at least, people who don't stop and think about things like this -- feel better.

Just like making people use plastic forks on airplanes makes people feel better, when I could snap off an arm of my glasses and make a perfectly serviceable poking device, useful for inflicting bodily injury on myself or others.

Just like installing security doors in cockpits that only the pilots can open and INCLUDING A FRELLING KEY-LOCK that (I must assume) is pick-able.

Because the illusion -- the appearance -- of safety is all we care about.  We don't think about the uselessness or pointlessness of it all.  We don't think about the fact that terrorism has existed for years and -- while, yeah, it was awful for it to hit us in such a visceral way -- will continue to exist.  We don't think about the fact that flagging one-way tickets is ridiculous, as terrorists would just buy round trip tickets without planning on using the second half.


Instead, we react.  We get knee-jerk-y and emotional.  And we comfort ourselves by making things look safer -- imagine the outcry if Disney hadn't started checking bags (for bombs and poisons and whatnot that STILL BE THERE) after September 11th?

Imagine the outcry if they took the ridiculous security station out now?

And, just imagine what will happen when the next attack comes, and it's a train.  Or a boat.  Or a suicide bomber running into an airport or other crowded place, knowing police are following him and shooting at him and not caring 'cause...well, 'cause he's gonna explode in 30 seconds anyway?

I don't know that there's a good answer, but I do know this: those green-covered tents do absolutely nothing other than placate the masses, and that's sad.  We need to start thinking with our heads again.  We're the country that decided it could go to the moon in a decade and DID, forty years ago.  We're smart.

This isn't smart.  It's an illusion, and if we spend too much time immersing ourselves in the feel-good illusion, we'll be that much more shocked when something else bad happens...assuming we know how to deal with it at all, and I'm not at all sure that we do.

"You either live life -- bruises, skinned knees, and all -- or you turn your back on it and start dying."  -- Captain Christopher Pike, "The Cage."

1 comment:

Amie said...

Well put.
I think about this every single time I stand in that line to get my purse "checked". Especially when we use to take a stroller and the basket on the bottom would be full of stuff, covered mostly by jackets or blankets. They never checked it.