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September 7, 2003

May The Farce Be With You

Plane Turned Around Because of Lapel Pin

The security hysteria over flying knows no bounds. (Click for some earlier comments.) A commercial airliner was turned around on the runway and returned to the gate when John Gilmore declined to remove a lapel pin that read, "Suspected Terrorist." His point was that if everyone was to be treated like a terrorist suspect, it made him one too, and the pin was simply a statement of the fact. The full story is posted on his web site.

Gilmore (Home Page) has also made the news for suing the government and two airlines for what he maintains is the illegality of being required to present ID, which is justified by no law and violates the right of Americans to travel freely and anonymously within their own borders. Besides being notoriously unreliable, the practice of screening all IDs does nothing to protect the public, but provides ample opportunity for hassling those who displease the authorities, such as legitimate protestors or critics of official policy. The only legitimate security activity in today's circumstances, Gilmore says, is checking for weapons and explosives.

It seems to me that the whole demeaning and offensive process is largely a waste of time in any case. While inestimable time and effort is expended inconveniencing and insulting people by confiscating nail scissors, tobacco knives, and children's toys, real potential dangers are allowed through without a second glance. One of the nastiest and most lethal improvised weapons you can have is a glass bottle with the bottom smashed off. Should intending hijackers forget to bring their own, there are thousands on sale in the duty-free store, last stop before boarding. Airport staff will even deliver them to the jetway for you. Which tends to reinforce the suspicion that the whole thing is more a pretext for further extending the system of tracking, profiling, indexing and generally keeping tabs on the activities of all.

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