SECURITY THEATER OF THE ABSURD

Today is September 11, a familiar date in American history. All across the nation our citizens are observing the tragedy associated with that day. There is nothing wrong with such observation. But I suspect the date will fade in the nation’s collective conscience as years pass. After all, December 7, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack which brought our entry into the cataclysm of World War II, is a blip on the video screen pf public awareness these days.

True, the two wars that resulted from September 11 each lasted twice as long or more than WW II (with one continuing obscenely and unjustifiably). So I suppose in that sense our interest in the anniversary remains a part of our present reality.

It is time to contemplate and consider how much of the reaction to the occurrences of that date which we “honor” demonstrate that we have created a perverse industry that accomplishes de facto the intent of the murderers and their gurus.

It is pretty much accepted that the motivation behind those horrific attacks was th desire to lay bare the hatred of America and its way of life. Ironically that way of life has evolved profoundly into a system much closer to what those criminals found in their nations of origin.

We, like many of them, have become engaged in endless conflict with bogeyman rivals, though we once supported those very same leaders we now wantonly kill.

Moreover, we willingly have gone to great lengths to “protect” ourselves with measures that only upon occasion draw vehement protests as they become further and further ingrained in our psyche. Regrettably the majority of us blindly accept the lies submitted as a purported rationale for these measures though any freshly minted attorney just graduated from the Dewey Cheatem and Howe School of Law could utterly destroy their credibility in any court of competent jurisdiction in a New York minute.

The abominable and reprehensible and deliberately mis-named Patriot Act does have a good point or two. It is printed on very classy stationary and it makes wonderful kindling.

Otherwise it viciously assaults the rights of Americans in ways that only Franz Kafka could appreciate. Warrantless searches and invasions of privacy are specialties. Borrow books from the library or use its computers? The government can dig into those practices and the libray staff is forbidden to inform you so you could take action to counter the probe.

Of course the two most prominent and costly actions undertaken in response to this date are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have cost trillions of dollars and left many thousands of our fine young citizens dead or maimed, upheaving lives at home.

Have you flown lately? The TSA will ansure that your trip begins badly (the airlines take care of the rest) with ill-thought out policies and procedures of a Rube Goldberg nature. Then as you go through their checkpoints you are taken aside and informed you cannot fly. You are on a “no fly list” of some arcane origin since you are a “danger to security”. Funny that list has inlcuded the late Sen. Ted Kenendy (he was NOT going to pilot the plane with a young woman next to him) and five year old children.

That fine undemocratic institution known as the National Football League buys into this nonsense, requiring you to pass through metal detectors, subjecting some to body searches, yet does not prevent the admittance of certain Oakland Raiders fans with physical mayhem, not cheering for the team, as their raison d’etre.

Ah, but UMOC, what really set you off this fine late summer day?

I’ll tell you.

It seems that the very memorial to the victims of that awful day, that ought to represent the best about our great country, has instituted the reductio ad absurdum of security measures.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2012/09/sept_11_memorial_does_the_world_trade_center_site_really_need_so_much_security_.single.html

  1. Everyone in your party must be listed and have proper ID.
  2. You must print out your tickets before arrival
  3. You must show ID at several checkpoints
  4. Blah blah blah

  The article examines three questions raised by these measures.

Is enhanced security necessary at the memorial? Are the specific measures in place likely to be effective? And what is their cost to a free society? 

One person asked was Bruce Schneier, a leading security expert, who coined the term “security theater”

… to describe measures that are visible or intrusive but also pointless or ineffective.

Schneier posits that

The tactics, Schneier said, “assume we can guess the plot. But as long as the terrorists can avoid them by making a minor change in their tactics or target, they’re wastes of money.” What isn’t a waste of money? “Investigation, intelligence, and emergency response—stuff that doesn’t require you to guess the plot.” 

The article notes that similar memorials to terror attacks do not carry such restrictions though they recognize equally emotionally powerful events.

Moreso the truth is since that infamous date there have been at most just over a dozen deaths caused by Muslim terrorists in the U.S. and some argue the shootings at Fort Hood do not belong in that category. Yet we have a disturbed young man killing that many at a movie opening in Colorado or another disturbed young man killing nearly three times as many at Virginia Tech or…well the list could go on.

But even these crimes are so rare and so random that security measures established in their aftermath will likely most benefit the owners of security companies implementing them.

Yet this “theater” provides an illusion to the masses that they are safer when they were not unsafe in the first place. That is much like the illusion that greeted 1930’s movie patrons who were able to temporarily escape the harsh rigors of the Depression while watching actors and actresses in fancy garb dancing merrily across the screen.

As in the theater of the absurd, in security theater logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and actions.

Tom Stoppard, et al would be extremely proud of their progeny.

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