Naked lies

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Back in February I wrote a very angry sweary blog post about airport scannersand about how the Australian federal government had decided that they’d be installed at all Australian international airports, and I explained, not for the first time, how that would influence my travelling decisions in the future.

PASSENGERS at airports across Australia will be forced to undergo full-body scans or be banned from flying under new laws to be introduced into Federal Parliament this week.

Well, if that’s the attitude then I bloody well will drive, fuck you very much. Well, really I mean I’ll carry on driving because this airport security theatre bullshit has been building up to this for several years, and since I really object to paying a lot of money to be treated as a potential terrorist instead of a paying customer I’ve sworn not to fly unless it’s really urgent and/or there’s an ocean in my way. If I can plan ahead I’ll go overland, even if it takes a few days.

Fuck. You. All.

I think one of the things that particularly infuriated me was the knowledge that my action alone, and that of the relative handful of other people who recognise this kind of security theatre for the useless unnecessary charade it is – well, perhaps not useless if you’re a politician with shares in the companies that make this stuff – also avoid flying if at all possible, is pretty futile if it doesn’t catch on. And sadly I think we can take it as read that as we head into the northern hemisphere’s summer hordes of people will soon be marching meekly through these electronic sheep dips at major airports all over the US and Europe, and in six months or so the same will apply here as people on their way to family holidays at the Gold Coast’s resorts stand tamely in line to have their children’s gonads lightly irradiated in the name of assuring everyone that they and their glowing, ah, I mean growing offspring will not explode en route. Even though any such assurances are questionable at best when they’ve failed to detect a fucking gun down someone’s knickers.

Baaaaa, baaaaa.

I despair, I really do. I mean you do get the occasional reaction, the odd burst of noise, from the herd when the cast and crew of the security theatre do something particularly stupid and/or egregious. You hear complaints when exactly the kind of abuse we were told would never happen does in fact happen. You hear them when kids – even babies barely able to crawl and kids in frigging wheelchairs, for Christ’s sake – get patted down by the security drones. You hear them when cancer survivors are left humiliated thanks to hidebound, unthinking and almost robotic adherence to badly written rules, or just covered in their own piss through pure ham-fistedness. You hear them when they loudly ask septuagenarian women if they’re wearing a sanitary towel. And then the next episode of Your Country’s Masterchef’s Got A Talented Voice Factor appears on the magic fishtank and the complaints fade. A relative handful carry on objecting, either writing about invasive searches afterwards, refusing to fly and encouraging others to do the same, or actually pitching up and the airport and then publicly refusing to be scanned or treated like a recent arrestee. But the majority just grumble before falling silent and accepting their new role as guilty ’til screened sufficient to be presumed innocent again, if not enthusiastically embrace their loss of liberty and presumption of innocence.

Did I mention that I despair? I did? Oh good.

And I will despair even more if Australia doesn’t go completely screaming batshit over the latest development. Because back in February we were told that in the interests of privacy, though not actual fucking liberty, the scanners to be installed in Australian airports would be the ones that display the stick figures on the screen. Not that that cuts any ice with me.

It’s also keen to allay concerns raised on travel online forums that passengers would appear nude on security screens as they had when similar scanners were introduced at US airports.

The technology will show passengers on a screen as stick figures of neither sex.

Not the point. As I’ve explained above and at some length in the past, my objection was never that someone might see my knob or my wife’s tits, it’s that neither of us are terrorists and there’s not a single goddamn thing in the whole fucking universe to suggest that we are. …I feel that it’s not unreasonable that I don’t get treated as a possible member of Alkyfuckingaida at airports, especially when the bastards know who I am well before I fly and can assess my potential risk in advance, leaving not much more than a need for me to satisfy them that I am, as I claim, Mr A Exile who’s never been in trouble with the police and was vetted before getting an Australian visa.

But with the Anglo-Saxon nudity taboo that’s relatively strong in western societies I’m sure for most people, and perhaps especially for women, it was indeed the thought of their personal sweater kittens and other bits being up on someone’s screen somewhere in the airport. Yes, we’re assured that staff wouldn’t be able to record images or identify who they were looking at, but the problem there is that as I recall the same assurances were made everywhere that has in fact happened. So the gingerbread man scanner was a sop to keep those folks happy. I can only hope that they find the rage coming back and, for a change, remaining as they realise that this too has turned out to be a false promise. Because the stick man scanners are still going to reveal more than some people would wish.

CONTROVERSIAL full-body scanners due to be introduced into Australian airports next month will identify prosthesis wearers, including breast cancer survivors and transgender passengers.

Earlier this year the federal government announced the new scanners, to be installed in eight international terminals, would be set to show only a generic stick-figure image to protect passengers’ privacy.

But documents released under freedom of information show that, in meetings with stakeholders, Office of Transport Security representatives confirmed the machines would detect passengers wearing a prosthesis.

Like I said, I hope those concerned about privacy will get angry about this, but I can’t help but note the time of year that this news comes out and that the scanners will be installed: the Australian winter, when fewer people are flying. Is it paranoid of me to wonder about this? Would there be anything in the idea that doing it several months ahead of the summer rush would give people time to forget about the scanners until they were at the airport in December, by which time it’s too late to buy your scanner proof undies or really do anything at all unless you’re prepared to write off the cost of your flights?

Stakeholders, including Muslims and civil libertarians, were consulted by the Office of Transport Security and raised numerous concerns.

[…]

The policy to use generic stick-figure images was introduced to placate these privacy concerns.

Internal documents also revealed a proposed privacy quality assurance program to check privacy issues was scrapped late last year.

Scrapped. Got that? Even something to address the bit most people are getting worked up about has been quietly ditched. I wrote more than two years ago that this would continue and even escalate unless everybody began voting against airport security theatre with their wallets, so if you don’t like it cancel your summer holiday plans NOW and go local instead.

This is not about making you safe, it’s about making a quid for companies that can jump on the bandwagon with products that gullible politicians can be persuaded to spend your taxes on to create an illusion of safety. As has been pointed out about a squillion times, even if the scanners were completely effective they’re going to look pretty stupid reduced to a smouldering heap of twisted wreckage the first time someone sets off a bomb while standing in the queue to be scanned. The only way to prevent that will be the next escalation and loss of privacy and dignity.

Flight number QF1984 to an unpleasant future is now boarding at gate 14.
You won’t be fully naked as you’ll be made to wear a taser bracelet – sadly not made up.

And part of me suspects we might have got to this point already if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s money to be made selling security technology in the meantime, though I suppose the taser bracelet might still be an option for the security theatre mob even when we are all expected to fly in the nip.

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Posted on June 11, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Absolutely spot on with this one Mr Angry.

    Air travel in America, above all, has become totally absurd with an entire industry springing up from nowhere and employing thousands upon thousands of men and women who seem to just love doing their fucking pat-downs.

    “You stand in aisle 3.” “That’s a foreign passport – Holy fucking shit!!! Go to desk 7.. you, you, child-murdering bastard you.”

    Nazi arseholes… all of ’em I say. Well ‘we’ say don’t we AA?

    And as I say to people. ‘Yes, I understand the need for all this. After all, planes are plummeting to the ground every few hours with innocents being fried to a cinder. Aren’t they?”

    Mr Angry, please tell me this, when was the last time you heard of a terrorist bringing down a passenger plane? 9/11 ring a bell?

    Look, I’m a pilot, and when I hear that the pilot is so worried he’s refusing to fly the fucking plane, then that’ll be the time I’ll be happy to go along and wait for my turn with the groper. Or have him push a fucking geiger-counter thingy up my shit-scared tight as a tick rectum.

    Some day I’ll bore you with my experiences with these people. But, just like you say, I’ve never once been supported by other passengers. They say I’m holding them up – sick load of ponses I say. What a load of cowards are around these days eh AA?

    I thought Aussie land was different though. Full of real chaps, tanned, wearing shorts and sandals. Protective to the last breath of their ladies… and all that kinda stuff. Hats with corks dangling above narrowed eyes. Rugger playing types with brawn in place of fat and tongues sandpaper laminated with a hell of a lot to say if you so much as cross their gaze. Must have been a huge let down for you when you finally got there AA? I feel for you.

    Well, only you and me left now… and your lady wife of course. Push it to the point that the gestapo have to call up security next time AA. Then, when then bovver-boys arrive, use the old ‘really desperate need to go to the toilet’ excuse. Works a treat… and it’s kinda fun.

    • Must have been a huge let down for you when you finally got there AA?

      One of the nice things about the place is that 90% of it is just fucking empty and there’s a lot of places you can go and feel as if the fed, the states and all their authority are a world away. While that may be more a theoretical thing or perhaps just a state of mind in reality there’s some truth in it since the nearest cop or official probably is several hundred kilometres away. The flip side of this relative freedom is that the nearest crawling or slithering thing packing enough venom to make you explode is probably snoozing within a few metres of your exposed skin. 😉

  2. All this security theatre is utter bullshit. The terrorists are winning the battle of the skies because every time they find some new tactic (like the liquid bomb plot or the internally planted explosives) the security theatre gets ratcheted up another notch.

    The only people who win are the terrorists, the companies pushing the increasingly complex security devices and the politicians (mostly in the US) forcing this through with draconian fines for non-compliance.

    This is the ultimate consequence of the “precautionary principle” being used to make a quick buck and allow the state to show it’s subjects (they certainly ain’t citizens, despite the assurances in the passport) who’s in charge.

    The bullshit about “…if it saves just one life…” is exactly that, it’s just an form of mutually acquired psychosis. I strongly doubt that a single life has been saved because of all of this security theatre, at the costs of billions of dollars in hardware, security agencies and lost man-hours / flight-time.

    The Israeli model requires none of this and El Al is one of the safest airlines in the world (despite, or indeed because of their continuous and very real threat of Muslim terrorism). Certainly the El Al approach requires exceptional training, selection and employee retention, but how much is the current security theatre costing for zero return (adjusted for error).

    “Ladies and Gentlemen.

    In the HIGHLY unlikely event of power-loss on all 4 engines, in all probability we’ll go into the ground like a fuckin’ dart.

    You won’t be screaming because you’ll be trying to get the seat in front of you out of your mouth.

    We’d be highly obliged if you’d wear your life jacket on the way down. This will do you NO good AT ALL. But, when archaeologists find you, in 200 years, they’ll think there was a river here.”

    Billy Connolly in Performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

    • One of Billy Connolly’s funniest, that. And true about the escalation of security theatre. I suppose that eventually someone will uncover a plot which revolves around explosive suppositories and that we’ll finally be faced with the choice of having a finger stuffed up your arse at the airport or the adoption of Israeli methods. Or do you think I’m being optimistic and we’ll see the spruiking and introduction of next gen scanners which will claim, perhaps with debatable justification, to be able to detect this risk at the very reasonable cost of only a couple of million dollars per unit more than the ones we’re installing now which have just been made obsolete by the exploding arse plot?

  3. There’s one question that security ‘experts’ always avoid and that’s “So, what happens if you get a suicide bomber complete with bomb vest at airport security?” Said terrorist has no need for check-in, that’s been done online.

    The truth is that finding a terrorist is the last thing these airport security drones want. The important word is ‘suicide’ … there’s no surrendering, escape plan …. they are there to detonate the bomb. And what can airport security do about it … sweet FA!

    God knows what they’d do if a terrorist blew up airport security along with all the staff and passengers. Probably mass resignations of security staff!

    You’ll note that no-one mentions the Moscow Airport terrorist bombing at all … that was arrivals but it could have just as easily been departures.

    So why hasn’t it happened in the West? … because the only terrorists are our own bloody governments!

  4. May I make an addition to your list of preposterous security questions?

    A few years ago, a relative in the late stages of prostate cancer decided to take a final holiday with the family. As advised, he carried a list of his extensive medication, implants and medical necessities.

    Security decided to go through this with a fine-tooth comb; looming over my relative’s wheelchair in front of in interested queue, a burly guard bellowed at the top of his voice.”And what is this item here on the list?”

    “It’s a catheter”.

    (even louder) “And where exactly do you keep your catheter, sir?”

    Cue a stunned silence, followed by much ill-mannered snickering on the part of an outwardly respectable family party – we were still laughing about it at the departure gate.

    (We might have managed to keep up the obligatory solemn demeanour had one teenage nephew not enquired of another, sotto voce, whether the security guard was taking the piss.)

    • Oh dear Christ. As if people in that condition don’t have enough on their plate already without some witless, semi-literate, box ticking moron asking something like that. Props to you all for the way you dealt with it – I doubt I’d have been able to.

  5. Thank you for articulating – again – exactly how I feel, especially the mounting despair. I’ve had my rants and fired off letters right, left and centre to any and all people and organisations I think might have an interest/do something about it. What an exercise in futility that was. Few had the grace to acknowledge me, let alone reply, including that tit, Albanese, the so called Transport Minister, with his smug, “No scan, no fly” TV soundbite. Well, screw them! Labor and all their minions, including my federal MP (also a non responder) can kiss my vote goodbye. Petty revenge is what I am reduced to but I will not give in. There must be more of us, surely?

    • Cath, I think all we can do is to keep bitching about it and pointing out how stupid, pointless and unnecessary, and even counter productive sometimes, it all is in the hope that other people start to listen. They won’t be people who can directly influence things – if they’re not profiting directly via shares then the Gillards and Albaneses of the world have been convinced that this will keep people safe and comfortable rather than frightened and angry, and politicians expect angry people to vote for the opposition. Plus they’re probably being leant on by the Yanks. For the same reasons I fully expect the Liberals (In Name Only) to do square root of bugger all about it.

      Far as I can see that leaves us with only one option – to encourage people to avoid flying altogether, not out of fear of attack but out of principle and as a boycott, and to withhold their vote from parties who support this nonsense just as they’re withholding their money from the airlines and airports who’ve meekly gone along with it.

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