Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dry Runs and Dry Ice: the United States of Paranoia

Two stories have come to light in the past few days that have some people on edge and others suspicious.

First is the story of a so-called "dry run" (or two, depending on who you read) aboard an airplane from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida in September. Supposedly one "Middle-Eastern-looking" man got up to use the bathroom (God forbid) while other "Middle-Eastern-looking" men got up to look in the overhead bins.

Hysteria ensued.

Well, okay, not quite, not physical hysteria anyway, but mental and linguistic hysteria, in the aftermath. Apparently the U.S. Airways pilots union disseminated a memo suggesting that the activities of these "Middle-Eastern-looking" men constituted a terrorism "dry run."

Lesson #1: Don't get a stomach ailment that requires you to rush to the bathroom aboard a plane.

Lesson #2: If you do have to rush to the bathroom aboard a plane, have the foresight to not be "Middle-Eastern-looking," or at least dye your hair blond ahead of time.

Lesson #3: Don't rummage around in the overheads, which constitutes "making a scene." If you left your book or your iPod in your luggage, tough shit. Just shut up and go to sleep so that your fellow passengers, who've been encouraged to think A Terrorist Is Hiding Around Every Corner, won't be upset.

Lesson #4: This event may or may not have even happened.

The second recent story involves something that actually did happen: two "dry ice bombs" exploded at LAX in just over 24 hours. No one was injured; no property was damaged. In addition, two other such devices were discovered before they blew up.

Okay, the dry ice thingies do sound like they might've been a "dry run," a test. But this just demonstrates, in high relief, what some of us have been saying for years: bombs can go off anywhere, not just on a plane. Bombs have gone off elsewhere, not just on planes. Domodedovo Airport, Moscow. Trains, Madrid. Subway, London. (And remember the LAX shooting in 2002?)

The TSA is useless, pointless security theater, designed to make people "feel" safe, without doing anything to actually make them safe.

Furthermore, cramming people together, hundreds at a time, in one place, such as a checkpoint, is less safe, not more. It's likely to increase carnage, not decrease it.

So while you're standing there with your arms up in the air, in a pose of surrender, in the worthless, expensive strip-search scanners, or getting your privates probed by a blue-gloved goon, somebody could easily detonate a bomb in the concourse, or in the security line itself, and poof, you're gone. 

But hey, why let facts get in the way? It's so much better just to pretend that the TSA is Doing Something. And as we know, Doing Something is always better than Doing Nothing, even if that Something doesn't make any sense.

Americans have gone off the rails since 9/11 (not all Americans, obviously, but too many of them). Our suffering is greater than anyone else's suffering, our wounds are worse than anyone else's wounds, our families are more important than anyone else's families. (The fact that the U.S. is bombing people willy-nilly all over the world is an added bit of barbaric irony.) We have turned into a nation of pathetic paranoiacs, afraid of a "terrorist" bogeyman at every turn, ready and willing to hand over our rights at the drop of a hat, to accede to anything, no matter how abusive, stupid, or simply insane, all for the illusion of "security."

As I've written before, countless times, we have done this to ourselves. Which is precisely, explicitly what Osama bin Laden predicted we would do. He knew us far better than we know ourselves.