It's an old joke but it can make a sharp point:
“Why do you always wear that ugly chain around your neck?”
“To keep the tigers away.”
“What do you mean, there are no tigers anywhere near this place.”
“Of course not, my chain scares them away!”
We would regard anyone who thought a chain around his neck kept tigers away as eccentric or worse. Yet we have similar thinking in many of the measures now in force to try to stop terrorists in this country. The attempted airline bombing on Christmas Day provides a case in point. That event has triggered more restrictions on airline passengers and those restrictions have “succeeded” insofar as no other attempts are known. However there is no evidence that any more bombing attempts would have been made with or without the changes.
Let's be honest, some security measures undoubtedly have been effective. Checking for explosives with the proper equipment is quite a reasonable precaution, as is keeping a list of people we cannot trust on airplanes. However other restrictions amount to placebos. The requirement that passengers remain in their seats with nothing on their laps for the last hour of the flight is as useless as wearing a chain to keep tigers away. Any terrorist equipped to blow up a plane will simply take action when that restriction is not in effect. Meanwhile passengers will be unable to use the restrooms – and that will surely not improve dispositions aboard.
Also in the useless category are many of the restrictions on what passengers can carry. Can anybody really believe that someone is going to hijack a plane with the nail file on a fingernail clipper? I don't know who came up with that restriction but I have to wonder what he was smoking.
In fact the prohibition on pocketknives is also useless and probably counterproductive. After 9-11 passengers are not going to sit by while someone with Swiss army knives hijacks their airplane. Anyone trying that will be lucky to survive to face a judge, more likely he will be beaten to death. After all, there will be only a few terrorists and many passengers to resist them. If a few passengers have pocketknives they will be better able to resist the terrorists.
Some of the measures taken to protect airline travelers do make sense. High tech “sniffers” can find many explosives and obviously we do not want passengers to carry firearms. That is fine but much of the current security system seems to be built on the assumption that citizens are incapable of taking care of themselves and that government should become Big Brother and treat the people like sheep. We now have a government that refuses to trust the citizens, a truly sad state of affairs in representative republic. That is especially true in light of the effective actions of the passengers on Flight 93 (cf my blog of 11 Sep 2009, http://hallillywhite.blogspot.com/search?q=flight+93, skip down to the 11 Sep article).
We need a change in the whole attitude of many government officials. We as citizens must insist that they stop regarding themselves as aristocratic repositories of all wisdom and start to think of themselves as servants of citizens. And they must realize that those citizens are likely to be as smart as they are. That will be difficult, changing ingrained attitudes takes time. As a start we should insist that congress overturn the ineffective regulations and allow only those likely to be effective. Of course congress is part of the problem so the only way we can get them to act is for enough citizens to write that they know their re-election is in danger if they do not listen to us.
We should all write our representatives and demand that they change the way security is managed in the airline industry.
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