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You can not carry that

Today I learned that Stansted Airport security will make you put your child’s comforter through the Xray machine. And before you get it back, if the beeper goes off, ask him to stand still on his own to have a wand waved at him.

My two year old boy sat down and screamed at the man. I was very proud.

30 comments to You can not carry that

  • And of course all this “security” is utterly useless.

  • Alisa


  • Flubber

    Yeah screening the walking bin bags would be racist…

  • Some good parenting there Rob Fisher.

    Keep that shit up.

  • CharlieL

    “I was very proud.”

    And it is well you should be.

  • PeterT

    Had the same experience with my then 3 year old daughter at Gatwick. They lamely said ‘we have to treat everybody the same’…I said something like ‘you chose to work here’

  • Cal

    “They lamely said ‘we have to treat everybody the same…'”

    I got the same, so I replied, “Even the terrorists?”

  • Lee Moore


    If I were a terrorist, I would have no compunction about using two year olds or their belongings to get my bad stuff past security checks. There’s nothing remotely contemptible about searchers declining to exempt children from their searches.

    Complaints are reasonable when the searches are pointless, or are conducted stupidly, or when people are selected for searches based on “everyone must be treated equally” rather than “we should use our search capacity so as to give ourselves the best chance of discovering the largest number of weapons / bombs etc”

    As to whether it is sensible to put comforters through machines, because things like coats have to go through, then y’all should bear in mind certain unfortunate aspects of the real world. Folk who do scanning and searching at airports are not particularly bright. If they were bright enough to run counter-intelligence operations, then they probably wouldn’t be scanning carry ons at Heathrow. So you have to give them rules they can follow. Giving them discretion on which garments to scan is liable to confuse already overloaded circuits. So treating all garments alike is not necessarily a case of equality for equality’s sake. It might simply be a case of training recruits to follow a drill. It worked for Wellington well enough.

  • Laird

    Lee Moore has a point. But so does Flubber at 1:04 PM. When they start screening on the basis of likely threats (read: young males who appear to be Muslims), or at the very least stop excluding the careful screening of people (allegedly women, but who knows?) wearing burkas on the grounds of “sensitivity”, then I’ll stop complaining about their patting down of toddlers and elderly women.

  • Alisa

    The point of Rob’s post, for me at least, is not who should be screened or searched and who should not – but rather that there should be no such screening by the government, period. If airlines see the need to so screen and search passengers, they should be able to do so on the basis of whatever parameters they deem reasonable, while we the passengers should be able to choose which airline to use on the basis of their approach to safety, among other factors. Under such arrangement, if an airline chose to screen a 2-year-old child of a secular Caucasian couple, I personally would choose to fly with their “racist” competitors, while others may choose differently.

  • Lee Moore

    1. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as “it’s nobody’s business but the airline’s and its passengers’ ” as we’ve seen that commercial jets can also be used as missiles. But I would tend to agree as that as a practical matter airlines have a good incentive to provide competent enough security, to cover both the “contractual” angle and the “tort” angle. There are however also issues to do with airport design – the airline doesn’t control the whole process from soup to nuts. The practice is a little harder than the libertarian theory.

    2. Excluding particular classes of “low risk” passengers – such as 2 year old children of Caucasian couples – would never be a good idea from a game theory point of view, as that would give the other side an easy and predictable way round your security. You might want to concentrate on particular types of people that you saw as higher risk, but not to the extent of excluding some types entirely.

  • bobby b

    Normally, I’d agree with Alisa that customers ought to be able to choose their preferred level of security. But there are implications of airline security that militate for a regulatory approach.

    The vast majority of victims in (for example) the 9/11 New York attack were not airline passengers. They were bystanders, outsiders to the transactions in which an appropriate level of security is negotiated.

    Recognizing that a flying 747 exposes everyone below to ultimate risk makes this one of the few scenarios in which government properly steps in to protect a common, but otherwise unrepresented, interest.

    If every plane could be routed such that no non-passenger ever faced any risk from its flight, then I would leave the level of security to the bargaining choices of the buyers and sellers. But, so long as I can look up and see them passing overhead, I’d like to see my safety have a place at the table along with the fliers’.

  • Alisa

    I certainly am not claiming that my approach would eliminate risk, or even minimize it – this is not about the level of risk in general, but rather about my right to choose the level of risk to which I am willing to subject myself. If I am not willing to subject myself to the risk of flying at all, I should not be flying, period.

    As to those not flying still being subjected to the risk from aircraft flying above them or at them: it is still very real, still very low, and has not been impacted one bit by the Security Theater measures such as those described in the post.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . the risk from aircraft flying above them or at them . . . has not been impacted one bit by the Security Theater measures such as those described in the post.”

    Can’t much disagree. I still want them to do it, though. I think it remains a valid common concern. I just want them to not suck so much at doing it.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    I don’t really understand why a comforter needs xraying but a cardigan does not. I also don’t see why child can’t be wanded while being held. A little sensitivity, bedside manner and customer service would not go amiss.

  • Alisa

    I agree, Bobby: I think governments do have a legitimate role in that specific area, but the way they have been going about this – surprise surprise – has not only been unhelpful, but has been counterproductive. An important part of the reason for that is that governments have grossly overstepped the line of their legitimate concern, between the safety of those on the ground and those in the air.

  • Alisa

    A little sensitivity, bedside manner and customer service would not go amiss

    But we are not the customers, Rob.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Yeah, I guess we could be if it was up to the airlines. We might notice the same improvement I notice when I use Bupa.

  • Alisa

    I never heard about Bupa – very interesting. If anyone feels like expanding on that, including personal experience, it would be greatly appreciated. Maybe even a separate post?

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Yes dealing with Bupa compared to the NHS is a lesson in the difference being a customer makes. There are caring people in the latter, for sure, but service ranges from outright annoyance at your presence to wishing they could help more of only there weren’t too many other patients.

    Bupa, on the other hand, are as good at customer service as an American restaurant. Plenty of welcome, understanding if you are late or need to move an appointment, patiently explaining things, and so on.

  • 1. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as “it’s nobody’s business but the airline’s and its passengers’ ” as we’ve seen that commercial jets can also be used as missiles.

    A large part of the reason that worked is because for decades, government taught people to be good little sheep when faced with a hijacker. Flight 93 changed that, just an hour or so after the first three planes hit their target, when the passengers realized the fate that awaited them if they submitted meekly.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    The problem here is that we’re just arguing about how best to play defense. You really can’t win that way. How about publishing a list of jihad-preaching mosques and madrasa world-wide, and setting out to destroy them? And, of course, closing down all such within your own jurisdiction.

    Are we really obligated to respect a religion (or at least a sect of a religion) that in effect practices human sacrifice? The Thuggees were treated pretty briskly, as I recall.

    As far as keeping potential terrorists (you and I) from boarding with weapons, why not simply slip a ‘courtesy cudgel’ into every seatback pocket, and let the passengers take care of any hijack attempt on their own?

  • Flubber

    PersonFromPorlock – “The Thuggees were treated pretty briskly, as I recall.”

    Its the triumph of moral relativism. Hence “Gays and Lesbians for Islam” – we no longer have the ability to call a backward political ideology masquerading as a religion an existential threat to our society.

  • Deep Lurker

    PersonFromPorlock, you don’t even need to go as far as a ‘courtesy cudgel.’ The 9/11 attacks succeeded in killing large numbers of people outside the airplane only because the Official Wisdom was “In the event of a hijacking, remain calmly in your seat, with your hands folded in your laps, and wait for Highly Qualified Government Agents to deal with the situtation.”

    Too many of the ruling elite would rather crawl naked over broken glass than admit that sometimes the right answer is for ordinary people to rise up and administer violence in self-defense. My view of the various airport security measures is that they are not “security theater” but rather the elite’s best effort to avoid admitting the legitimacy of self defense, now that “…remain in your seat” is no longer plausible advice. The measures are not there to prevent another Twin Towers incident, but rather an effort to prevent another Flight 93.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Deep Lurker
    May 29, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    True, but a supplied cudgel suggests an approved course of action. And somewhat improves its chance of succeeding with minimal damage to the good guys.

  • Mr Ed

    Cudgels would make for a more engaging pre-flight ‘safety’ demonstration.

    In the unlikely event of jihadi attack, pummel the bastards with the cudgel under your seat.’

    I have never actually felt around under my seat and found a lifejacket btw.

  • PeterT

    I don’t think a good risk assessment justifies searching children of parents with an ultra low chance of being terrorists – i.e. not muslims. That said, I personally would have no problem with a security system that was non-invasive, i.e. walk through a scanner, and where the details (pictures of my ‘junk’) were deleted the moment I had walked through the safety assessment.

    Having thought a little bit about this over the last few days, I think there is one good reason to have unnecessarily strong security measures in place in some situations. If it is a situation in which an incident could lead to a strong public reaction that led to a restriction of liberty across society, a ‘mumsnet trigger’ if you will, then this is a good reason to put strong measures in place to avoid such an incident occurring.

  • Paul Marks

    The security state is indeed demented.

  • Fraser Orr

    > I think there is one good reason to have unnecessarily strong security measures in place in some situations.

    The problem is that the security measures are not strong, they are grossly invasive and compromising of civil rights without adding any benefit at all. Recently the TSA was tested with a fake weapons test and failed to find 95% of the test weapons. 95%? How many people were fired? One guy at the top. I don’t understand why every screener who failed to find the weapon wasn’t fired.

    Plus the little discussed fact is that the security measures themselves cause a dreadful risk. Were I a terrorist I’d pack my bag with Semtex and nails, go at the time when security lines were busiest, and set off my bomb in the middle of the security line. That seems to be what happened in Brussels and it is frankly a miracle that only 32 people died.

    We can solve the problem with a free market solution. Insist that all airports have three screening gates run by different companies. Have drills where the airport tests them regularly. Pay the company a million dollars for every time they find one of the test weapons or explosive chemicals. Have the passengers pay for the screening plus a dollar toward the million dollars bonus. Adjust the million dollar number to get your optimum balance between security and convenience. Maybe add another dollar per passenger to fund a police agency whose job is to find terrorists before they even get to the airport.

    Maybe that isn’t the exact solution, but we need the power of competition and innovation, not the DMV at the airport unconstrained by success criteria or civil rights. We need a government agency who can be questioned without invoking “we can’t tell you for security reasons.”

  • PeterT


    Indeed, the security measure would have to be effective in order for the point of my second paragraph to hold.