Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Why I stopped flying

By Libby

If 9/11 really changed anything of consequence, it was the fun of flying. Even though I consider commercial airliners little more than a airborne bus and just as boring, I used to love to travel by air. There's something magical about boarding a plane in say New England in winter and stepping off in the tropics, all in the space of a few hours. The hub system took a lot of fun out of that when you couldn't easily get cheap direct flights anymore, but I love hanging around airports, so it wasn't a great annoyance to make an extra layover as long as there was a bar near the gate.

But the post 9/11 security procedures just ruined the experience for me. Getting there two hours early to stand in interminable lines in your bare feet at undermanned security gates while some stranger roots through your underwear and weighs your toiletries is annoying, mainly because it's so pointless. Patrick Smith, a commercial pilot who blogs at the NYT, explains just how nonsenical it all is.
The truth is, regardless of how many pointy tools and shampoo bottles we confiscate, there shall remain an unlimited number of ways to smuggle dangerous items onto a plane. The precise shape, form and substance of those items is irrelevant. We are not fighting materials, we are fighting the imagination and cleverness of the would-be saboteur. [...]

Thus, what most people fail to grasp is that the nuts and bolts of keeping terrorists away from planes is not really the job of airport security at all. Rather, it’s the job of government agencies and law enforcement. It’s not very glamorous, but the grunt work of hunting down terrorists takes place far off stage, relying on the diligent work of cops, spies and intelligence officers. Air crimes need to be stopped at the planning stages. By the time a terrorist gets to the airport, chances are it’s too late.
Exactly. This isn't security, this is security theater. Chances of a terrorist successfully pulling off another 9/11 are slim to none. As Smith points out, 9/11 succeeded because of the element of surprise. Until then, hijackers diverted flights and held hostages for money. No one crashed planes before. I can't imagine a planeful of passengers sitting quietly waiting for that to happen again.

Meanwhile, the plane is serviced between flights by dozens of undervetted personel who don't go through security gates while they're delivering the meals and cleaning the seats and you're riding above a load of unscreened cargo packed into the belly of the aircraft. The theater at the gate is meaningless and demeaning. It's not meant to keep us safe, it's designed to inure us to being herded.

Smith notes that "[h]ow we got to this point is an interesting study in reactionary politics, fear-mongering and a disconcerting willingness of the American public to accept almost anything in the name of 'security.'" He wonders why Americans aren't more outraged.

I wonder that too but I'm not that surprised when they've watched our government destroy democracy before their eyes and barely blinked on their way to the mall.

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Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

If our government hadn't been so afraid to force the airlines to do anything so silly as to use intrusion proof cabin doors, 9/11 never would have happened. I won't go into why we subsidize the airlines because they aren't profitable but won't subsidize trains because they loose money - I'll just say we have a government by for and of the idiots.

Air travel has been becoming more and more like cattle car travel anyway and airports more like stock yards. I simply don't feel like suffering the indignities any more.

The high speed trains everybody else in the first world seems to have make our whole transportation system seem crude - even the trains in China are a century ahead of anything we have because our lame government thinks investing in infrastructure is for "commies" and anything that doesn't bring immediate returns is a waste of time. So we sit and wait because our great technological country can't deal with snow or fog while those backward countries roll along at up to 300 mph in silent comfort in any weather. Pathetic.

9:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

all these security measures are a joke. I'm a courier in Boston and every bulding has a different contrived policy. some of them are counterintuitve, such as sending people to the service entrence. great, send me to the foundation of the building. the ID checks probably insure security on some level but "alot of good it did us on 9/11" as my stepmother, who very nearly died in tower two that day, noted dryly.

also OT- http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2007/12/29/ron-pauls-disgraceful-ad/

dissension in the Paul ranks

10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

It's just crazy, isn't it?

Lester, I'm working today so I won't have time to look at the link until later. I can't wait to see what that's about.

11:53:00 AM  

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