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Putting the pan into Panopticon

Rob Fisher blogs about Monday’s USA Today front page a story about a new X-Ray machine for use in airports that can see through clothing. The machine apparently generates images that, “paint a revealing picture of a person’s nude body”.

He points out that the article does not even touch on the need for such machines.

Are not current metal detectors adequate for preventing people from getting on an aeroplane with firearms?

If an airline says it wants me to walk through this machine as a condition of getting on one of their planes, that is one thing: it’s a private company deciding that this is a necessary measure to protect its customers or keep down its insurance costs. It’s their aircraft, they can quite rightly refuse to allow on anyone they feel like for whatever reason.

But if the government mandates the use of these machines, then that’s the government forcing airlines and airports into doing something they and their passengers likely don’t want to do. It’s governments yet again abusing their power to achieve nothing of value to anyone except politicians who want to look like they’re doing something useful.

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4 comments to Putting the pan into Panopticon

  • Guy Herbert

    Nothing of value? Surely he’s ignoring the enormous satisfaction securocrats get from pointlessly humiliating and distressing members of the public. And the sense of security some members of the public gain from the same humiliation, which reassures them of a stable low status place in the heirarchy. And the sense of relative elevation some of the same members of the public get from seeing individuals otherwise of higher status subject to the same humiliation.

    You could call this the public choice theory of applied envy.

  • The trail of this sort of “see through your clothes” or “see through your children’s clothes” machine has been going on at Heathrow terminal 4 for some time now.

    The number of passengers who have suffered various degrees of extra stress, harrassment and even racial profiling does rather outweigh any possible advantages compared with traditional metal detectors or pat down searches, which are still in place.

    Some passenger feedback, expressing outrage:


  • Apologies for the spelling mistakes above – the font is a bit small !

  • Strophyx

    Why the obligatory pseudo-libertarian the airlines being private companies, so they’re free to require whatever they like? Complete and utter hogwash. When airlines are actually free to adopt their own policies, then I’ll start expressing such concerns. The reality is that they’re government licensed and controlled monopolies. Sure there’s more than one airline, but that isn’t really the issue.

    Suppose that I had more money Bill Gates and decided there was a potentially profitable market for a new and different airline. My potential market would be those travelers who are tired of being treated like sheep. We’d have more leg room, wider aisles and better seats. We’d also allow our pasengers to skip all the current silliness and abuse hiding under the thin mask of security. After all, all of our crew would be armed, so why would we be concerned about scissors? Even better, any of our passengers who felt the desire to would be perfectly welcome to carry carry their own personal firearms on our flights, thus making the job of a relatively small number of would-be terrorists that much more difficult.

    Whatever you might think of the profitability and/or sanity of my idea, consider this question: even with all those billions to invest (or squander) would I beable to try it? Of course not. The same government that likes to deflect all responsibility for the shortcomings of the current system onto the airlines wouldn’t allow me. As long as airlines have to toe the government’s line, “their” decisions and so-called choices are simply those of the government. The airlines will be no more likely to solve the problems than will the government, since they’re in lock-step.