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Samizdata quote of the day

To people saying “pulling The Interview means the terrorists won”: we’ve been taking our shoes off at airports for no reason for 14 years…

– @ozchrisrock (Not the real Mr Rock, but as quotable.)

It was slightly quicker to go from London to New York 55 years ago on a de Havilland Comet, including the refuelling stop in the middle, than to go direct on a modern airliner and take in the two security theatre performances at either end.

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Mr Ed

    It’s not the terrorists who have won, it’s our own governments, but few realise who and what our governments are fighting, they are mainly fighting against our freedoms, not terrorists.

  • RogerC

    Exactly. It’s not about safety, it’s about maintaining control.

  • Barry Sheridan

    Flying during the late 1950’s and early sixties (when I began) was a totally different experience to that of today, in numbers alone it is staggering, the introduction of the 747 bringing in genuine mass transit by air, with millions of folk now routinely flying all over the place daily. By this measure alone comparisons are impossible. What makes this all the more of a contrast is the attitude changes, then going by air had a certain glamour (stewardesses were usually pretty dishy, especially on PAA routes), all in all it was a pretty civilised and cultured business, with the passengers reflecting the times, being generally polite, considerate and well groomed. What dangers existed were limited to mechanical reliability, the weather and so on, no one ever dreamed the aircraft might be hijacked or bombed.

    Today going anywhere by air is a trial. Airports are huge sprawling affairs crowded with far too many people resigned, well more or less, to waiting hours to board before hopefully getting away approximately on time, while hoping even more so that their bags will also make it. Once inside a modern marvel of flyable technology the journey itself may come to be compromised by indifferent service and the behaviour of fellow passengers, many of whom barely seem able to recognise that how they behave affects others. Frankly travelling by air today is a nightmare, the activities of security, the TSA in the US and comparable bodies elsewhere simply adding the whole. I preferred the old days!

    I have just realised that I made an error here, I mentioned that women of the time were good to look at. That will get some boring feminist foaming at the mouth. Well don’t bother to share your offence. Seeing a well turned out woman sparks even now a little skip of the heart. Sadly there are so few like this that it does not happen very often, such a pity, a decent looking well turned out female still brightens the drabbest of days.

  • Stuck-Record

    As one who hates airports that is an interesting and enlightening comparison.

    Sadly the Comet 1 journey entailed a considerable risk of you and your G&T ending up shredded into tiny pieces in a field or ocean.


    (And yes, I know, the Comet 2 fixed the problem and was a nice safe plane.)

  • Clovis Sangrail

    It can be no coincidence (to quote the Communist Party of just about anywhere) that some of the most unpleasant modern commercial flying experiences are to be had in/going to/coming from the USA. Ignoring the TSA (good luck with that, should you be exiting or passing through the US), most airline and airport staff in the US really seem to regard the passengers as cattle to be stuffed into the appropriate cars as casually and grimly as possible and to be suitably prodded if they fail to perform.

    I continue to be amazed by this, since my experience of Americans outside airports is of unfailing (if occasionally slightly mechanical) courtesy and helpfulness.

    One wonders whether the staff feel that passengers aren’t the customers in airports/on aeroplanes.

    The TSA, BTW, seem to have modelled their treatment of passengers on the old USSR border guards, with a dash of Nork hysteria thrown in. I treasure the memory of being repeatedly screamed at by a TSA functionary at Miami airport: it’s probably the closest I have ever come to being treated like a resident of a totalitarian state.

  • Current

    I think these type of checks are a good idea.

    A long time ago now there was the shoe-bomber. He failed, but he established an idea for an attack. There are many others, of course, we know that. But lots of terrorists aren’t very bright. They’re not so likely to be able to think of new attacks. There are other ways it helps. Recently, I’ve been discovering the anti-semitic political views of a few of my not-very-bright acquaintances. When their big-bad enemy able to do one or two impressive things they assume that they have many other unbelievable capabilities hidden behind the scenes. I think the same is probably true of potential terrorists, although only a few things are checked they probably believe that there’s much more to it than that. Those little corridors that you walk through with the two automatic doors at the ends are the best idea ever in security, a paranoid person could believe they do anything.

  • llamas

    Well, as it happens, I flew back and forth across the pond a couple weeks ago.

    On the plus side – I was well-impressed by the way that I was efficiently mind-frisked twice – both times in the UK. Once, upon entry, by a nice young man from the Border Authority, who engaged me in seemingly-idle conversation. His task was to figure out why he was talking to a man who sounds like he’s from Chertsey, but was born in the Netherlands, yet carries a US passport. He did an excellent job of checking for internal consistency – it was absolutely textbook. We could have been talking over a pint in the snug.

    The second time was upon checking-in for the return flight, where a nice young lady from Delta Airlines had the same task. If anything, she did an even-better job – it was to the point where I actually could predict quite accurately what her next question would be. Where did you come from this morning? How did you get here? (Rental car) About how long did the drive take you? (2 hours). Did you fill the car with petrol before you dropped it off? (Yes). Where did you do that? (At the sh*tty gas station on the Bath Road). When did you arrive in the UK? (Last Saturday). At what time of day did your flight arrive? And so forth. It took about 2 minutes. All they are looking for is a consistent account that matches a few data points they already have – enough to catch 99.987% of people who don’t fit. And none of it was intrusive, aggressive or off-putting. Full marks.

    I didn’t take off my shoes at Heathrow. I don’t know why. Nobody asked me to. But I tell you what – I felt a lot more ‘secure’ (whatever that means) after going through ‘security’ at Heathrow than I did at DTW.

    On the minus side – entry into the US – even for a citizen – remains an absolute farce and fiasco. Fat, unkempt, loudmouthed, aggressively-uniformed-and-armed clowns yell unintelligible, conflicting and ambiguous instructions, herding people around like cattle in an obvious rote performance of a rigid process. The functionaries from CBP and TSA that one actually interacted with were obviously bored out of their skulls and simply going through the motions, being led around by the nose by their computer systems and formulaic processes. I could have brought a loaded Hi-Power and a live armadillo into the country, using a passport containing a picture of my dog Bogie, with no problem whatsoever. These clowns couldn’t stop a pillow fight. I still fail to understand why the US seems to feel it necessary to put on this Ruritanian show of force and majesty at the border, but then staff it with such a mass of obvious incompetents and jobsworths. Made me vaguely embarrassed for my country.

    Most of their nonsense is theatre, and like ‘The Mousetrap’ after however-many-thousand performances, it long ago lost any real effectivity and has now simply become a matter of routine, only the US version is a particularly offensive and slightly-vicious routine. And, of course, predictable routine offers the best opportunity for an asymmetrical attack. It lacks even the slightest spark of the originality and flexibility that will be required to even have a chance to catch an air-travel-based threat. I suppose we should be thankful that the bad guys don’t seem disposed to attack us that way anymore, but of course we are left with this awful, ineffective and costly Leviathan that will never, ever be dismantled.



  • Ann K

    My husband and I flew from Houston to Gatwick seven years ago, arriving at about 7 a.m. We went to the area where we thought we would have to wait in line, answer question and open our bags. A man in uniform just stood there, so we asked what we were supposed to do.

    He said something to the effect that doing all that would take up too much of his time and ours, and waved us on to the exit.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly Guy Herbert is correct.

    It is not just our governments – our culture has become deeply cowardly.

    And, no Mr Ed, it is not some Lew Rockwell deep conspiracy by Western governments against the people.

    Western governments are just cowardly shits – nothing more sinister than that.

    “We must keep the people safe” is indeed their concern – just as they say it is.

    That there are more important things than being safe does not occur to the governments – or to most people who elect them.

  • Mr Ed

    “We must keep the people safe” is indeed their concern – just as they say it is.

    So that’s why foreign rapists and killers cannot be deported from the UK upon release from prison if they have a ‘family life’, because of worries about the people’s safety, how simple of me to think it was a malevolent delight in scum-worship, but I don’t recall citing a Lew Rockwell conspiracy, just a fact I hold to be self-evident.

    If I were to cite a Lew Rockwell conspiracy, one I vaguely recall from that site was that the Falklands War was an anti-Catholic ‘crusade’ (as if there could be one) by Anglo and US WASPS. I gave up on them at that point.

  • Mr Ed

    Here is a man, only deceased a few years ago, Lt.-Cdr. John Bridge GC, GM and bar, who, although his Wikipedia bio omits it, was the 8th man to be sent down to clear underwater mines in a Sicilian harbour during the Allied landings in WW2. The previous 7 men failed to complete the job… you may guess why.

    Cdr Bridge was by no means unique, albeit exceptional, yet many thousands worked like him in appalling danger for years and years. Yet now, schools close in England if it snows or if a boiler breaks down. This is an appalling cultural collapse, but is it not driven by the Kulturkampf of the Left, the victim culture? And more importantly, can it be reversed?

  • Deep Lurker

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The purpose of the TSA is not to fight against terrorists, but to prevent ordinary private persons from fighting back against terrorists. Not to prevent another Twin Towers, but to prevent another Flight 93.

    The “ruling elite” have this primal horror of ordinary private persons using violence in self-defense. They know (and mourn) that they can’t go back to the days of “In the event of a hijacking, remain in your seat with your hands in your laps, and let the Official Anointed Government Agents deal with the situation.” But they are still desperate to do anything – anything at all – to avoid admitting that private violence is sometimes right and justified.

    Thus the TSA: Grimly determined to disarm the passengers both physically and psychologically. And if an actual terrorist is kept out, that’s merely a secondary means to achieve their primary purpose: To make sure that ordinary private persons never ever use violence against terrorist hijackers ever again. If a terrorist does slip through and succeed with a hijacking, that’s just a crisis that won’t go to waste. But if passengers actually stop a terrorist, then having to say nice things about that is like having to eat ground glass.

  • bobby b

    In a culture that despises the term “normal”, it is anathema to attempt to ferret out the abnormal.

    Thus, in the USA, we cannot carry out the intelligent use of the individual interview as originally designed by the Israelis as a means of unmasking possible threats.

    When every outlier of a response from an interviewee can be blamed on “cultural differences”, and the worst outrage against humanity is to be “culturally insensitive”, a discerning set of queries gets us nowhere.

    Hell, in parts of my country it is not allowable to insist that face coverings be removed for official photographs. How well do you think we’re going to perform terrorist-identifications?

  • “It was slightly quicker to go from London to New York 55 years ago on a de Havilland Comet…”

    …assuming the wings didn’t break off in mid-flight, which as I recall was a fairly common flaw in the Comet.

  • Laird

    “The purpose of the TSA is not to fight against terrorists, but to prevent ordinary private persons from fighting back against terrorists.”

    Certainly that’s one purpose, but it’s not the only or, I think, even the primary one. The primary purpose of the TSA is to get us acclimated to surrendering meekly to authority. They want a nation of sheep, and they’re well on the way to achieving that goal.

  • Not sheep, cattle.
    Those in government jobs or jobs funded entirely by the government ( hello LockMart) have discovered that they can live well indeed by farming human beings.
    Just figure it out. With all taxes, charges, excise, licence fees(licences required because these evil bastards say we need them and send armed men if we don’t “choose” to buy them) we’re half slaves.
    What a brilliant system. The slaves get to have to look after themselves and where necessary are bribed to be quiet with their own money and society can claim to have abolished slavery.
    No wonder those in power are keen on quelling any notions of violence being used by private citizens to defend themselves. It might give them ideas.
    If some of us are killed by wolves or lions due to the incompetence of the Authorities (see Sydney terrorism incident) that is just the cost of doing business.

  • Bombadil

    I think you all give the government far too much credit. Ascribing to the TSA any higher purpose than public sector union jobbery on the part of its employees, civil service careerism on the part of its managers, and cynical political opportunism on the part of the elected officials who support it, is pure paranoid fantasy.

    The modern US government is a machine being driven by no one, so vast and unwieldy that most of the people who interact with it hope to take (or steal) what they need from the lumbering beast without being noticed. I include even Senators and Presidents in that group.

    That leviathan isn’t going anywhere; indeed, isn’t CAPABLE of going anywhere deliberately. It just moves, via a thousand senseless and corrupted impulses, resembling nothing else so much as a cloud of noxious flies filling the air over a vast cesspit.

  • Bruce

    The lights are starting to flicker on.

  • Rich Rostrom

    There is a fundamental difference between taking inconvenient and costly countermeasures in response to terrorist threats, and giving the terrorists what they want.