The Cost of Security

August 8th, 2006 at 11:06 am by Mark
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Swanky blathered a pretty decent post today.

When was the last time anyone you knew was poisoned by a product tampered with in a store? But how many times have you started to squeeze out some mustard or pour some honey and realized you had to open it up and remove the “tamper proof seal?”

“Some sort of terrorist inoculated Tylenol capsules with cyanide in 1982, killing seven people. However, that frightening and much-publicized event (it generated 125,000 stories in the print media alone and cost the manufacturer more than $1 billion) failed to inspire much in the way of imitation.”

     We’ve all complained about the endless child-proofing and tamper-prevention of things…
     But I have no sense of humour today.  I have to take exception, and remember some history.

     Back in the 1970’s, American had gone through two oil embargos on such a grand scale that many of our local gas stations were forced to close.  Electricity prices skyrocketed.  In some areas, water was dangerously close to being rationed.  There were a rash of airline hijackings.  There were hundreds and hundreds of hostage situations.  Our Export program was completely in the toilet.
     In the 1980’s, as hard as things were, a lot of that changed.  We began meddling in the affairs of the Middle East more actively, and have avoided multiple embargoes.  Electricity prices declined as nuclear power and better infrastructure was instated.  The rise in water prices also allowed for better infrastructure.  Airline hijackings dropped as metal detectors became the norm, and we expected no less in other countries.  Nobody dared take hostages any more.  And our exports increased exponentially as our newer “shelf stable,” sealed packaging allowed us to send food and pharmaceuticals to countries we’d never been able to before, regardless of the climate.

     All the complaining we do can’t measure up to the fact that tamper-resistant seals had enough benefits to help the entire country at the expense of minor annoyance.

     But, seeing John Mueller’s article, “A False Sense of Insecurity,” mixed in there and applied just goes to show me how completely uninformed most Americans are.  Especially college kids from OSU who’ve never worked in the real world.
     “Public Hysteria” about terrorism, I feel, is in the public’s best interest.  Americans need to wake the Hell up and realize things were already bad well before 9/11, and well before weird foreign wars that Media will certainly tell us are right-wing conspiracies.  They also need to know what’s coming.

     When I started travelling the world in 1996, the State Department said, “Hey, don’t go to this list of twenty-four countries, because as an American, you may be a victim of terrorism.”
     But by 1998, it had been amended to say, “Don’t travel out of the country.  Nowhere.  You’ll probably be a victim of terrorism, because the rest of the world hate us and has little regard for human life.”
     I’m paraphrasing, of course, but the sentiment is true.

     The really nasty part comes in the fact that 9/11 killed more people than the last thirty years of terrorism combined.  That one day killed more people than the constant border-struggles between Lebanon and Israel.
     Times they are a-changing.  They’re setting their sights higher.

The terrorists have indeed won. No, they didn’t blow us all up. They just made us all so scared of a few dozen guys in the desert that we do all sorts of stupid, costly and annoying things, to ourselves and others. And, I might add, do all these things rather than help out our fellow Americans and humans. Taking money out of positive and helpful pursuits and into all sorts of things that help no one.

     I can remember how people complained about metal detectors in airports back in the 80’s.
     “How is me taking all the loose change out of my pocket going to affect whether some Iranian steals a plane or not?  Why are we wasting all of this money rather than doing something positive with it?”
     Ten years later, people didn’t see it as an inconvenience.  And, of course, flight crimes decreased exponentially.  People were less afraid to fly, and prices dropped drastically.
     Eventually, we stopped seeing it as an inconvenience, and dropped our guard.

     9/11 kinda proved that.  Who would’ve thought a box cutter was a bad thing to have on a plane?  Certainly not the 450 people who died on the planes that day.
     That caused public hysteria.  People were scared as Hell to fly any more.  And so they have a false of security — at least they’re getting back on the planes, giving money to an industry that was failing miserably in the wake of it all. A lot of companies are hiring Fast Guard security to protect them and their customers. The rest of the world hates America.  And it has nothing to do with the current President, politics, foreign policy, or anything else.  It’s simply due to the fact that the majority of the world is Socialist.  People are told what to think, what to buy and where to buy it.  All of their best products are exported out of the countries, while their citizens get to “make due” with whatever scraps and second-hand items are around.
     The only people telling us what to think are Academics (who repeatedly show that they have less experience than idealogy), Media (constantly for fodder to increase their profits) and Politicians (who will lie, cheat and omit to forward their own lust for power).  We can buy most anything we want anywhere we want.  And we get to enjoy the spoils of our efforts in manufacturing -and- trade (think our products suck, being that they’re all from China?  Try buying the same product in another country and you’ll realize — we do get the best of everything!).

     And, c’mon, Swanky, be honest…  When’s the last time you were harrassed and inconvenienced by the guys at the gates?  😉

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6 Responses to “The Cost of Security”

  1. swanky Says:


    Last time I had to take my shoes off to get on the plane…

    My point is this. One man had a bomb in his shoe and so now, every person getting on every plane has to have their shoes examined. One person put poison in Tylenol in some town somewhere and now everything that comes in a bottle across the entire country has a seal on it. It’s an over-reaction. And it’s pointless in stopping what it aims at. In the case of the shoe bomber, well, maybe that won’t happen again, but what about the hat bomber? The belt bomber? In the case of the safety seal, that does nothing. If I take the seal off and poison something, will you know there used to be a seal there that is gone? Could you not glue the seal right back in place if you wanted? Sure! It only inhibits the unimaginitive. And it only gives a false sense of security to the dull.

    If you want to argue that everyone is a dullard that needs to be lead around by the elite, okay. But, I’d rather some of the elite try talking sense. I’d like to see responses in proportion to reality.

    Of course, you might get creative. Figure out some really annoying habit of the masses and sabotage it in some way so that there is a scare and people are forced to stop. Maybe we could figure out a flaw in cars that caused cell phones to explode when you drive and talk on them. We only need to find a couple of cases of it happening before all cell phone use in all cars would be banned. No, not banned. Technologically forced not to work. There would be a device in all cars to keep the cell phone from working. And we’d all pay to have it installed, to be “safe.” The government would require it.

  2. Mark Steel Says:

    I know the point. But think about the history there. Metal Detectors certainly stopped a lotta things. Far from useless they were.

    I don’t think you can equate tamper-proof hysteria with terrorism-hysteria anyway: tamper-proof hysteria was a way to justify the extra cost of getting food & drugs as viable exports.

    Terrorism hysteria is a wake up call. Get out in the world — even London. They have a hundred times more surveillance, a hundred times more crime and a solo American can get accosted pretty easily. Though you’re not likely to get “killed,” chances are pretty good you’ll get smacked around a lot if you walk around oblivious — even in that “First World” country.

    And I certainly don’t think “that everyone is a dullard that needs to be lead around by the elite…”  On the contrary, I hope, on a good day, that if people start taking the “hysteria” a little more seriously, they’ll open their eyes and realize, “Oh, damn, the scale suddenly increased tenfold — maybe there’s something to all this stuff.”   Maybe then they’ll get a grip on the reality that the rest of the world DOES hate us, and can’t seperate “those people” from “that Government.”

    We’ve been complacent for too long.  Nobody’s tried to invade.  Now … we’re rife for it, especially with half the “Elites” saying, “Oh, it’s not that bad!” and Academics claiming, “People are people, and we’re all basically good!”  That’s bullshit.


    As far as the political aspects, I see it this way.

    One side says, “Hey, you people are stupid, and can’t do anything without getting hurt! We need to take care of you by childproofing everything!”

    The other side says, “Hey, you people can make your own damn decisions. We don’t need to get involved.”

    The one side decries the other side, “Hey, those people that don’t give a damn about you, they keep bringup ‘family values.’ Buncha Bible Bangers!”

    The other side says, “Hey, those people wanna run your lives, and making fun of your religion. Buncha Atheists!”

    When it comes right down to it, one side will rule you with an iron fist and childproof your toilet paper given have a chance. The other side doesn’t care what you do — kill yourself, for all they care! — but don’t start interfering stuff.

    That’s an unfortunate fact. Neither one cares.

    Yet, people keep polarizing this stuff to the point that nobody can have a decent conversation without getting pissed off.

    Academics have no clue.  Media just wants money.  Politicians want power.  That’s it.

  3. Doobla Says:

    I have to admit. I agree with the shoe removal comment. I was thoroughly searched recently when I flew to Vegas because I didn’t remove my shoes. There were long lines and we were being rushed through the Vegas airport. I was trying to not lose my laptop and other valuables and suddenly I am being jerked to the side and told to stand on the foot prints.

    The man asked me if I knew why I was there while he begins searching my body for weapons. I said I had no idea since my pants were falling down having been forced to remove my belt. I thought I had thought of everything.

    He said “you didn’t take off your shoes”. How was I supposed to know? There were no shoe removal mandatory signs. Then he detects metal in my wallet and rushes the thing off to be inspected. I’m thinking “Umm, I wanted to keep that….” Turns out I still had a spare key in my wallet.

    We have gotten way out of whack in our fear of terrorism. What ever happened to “Face your fears”? Now we’re scared of everything. Stupid. I say let them board our planes and and try to terrorize us. See what we are made of. If they pick a plane full of cowards then the cowards get what they deserve. I want my freedom, you can keep your security.

  4. Mark Steel Says:

    The problem to me: nobody was facing them.

    Nobody is even thinking about them, still. Everybody’s in their little, “I don’t believe in the boogeyman!” phase, and the world simply isn’t like that.

    Freedom takes responsibility.

    And even if we are responsible (which we aren’t) as a nation, we also cannot ignore the fact that a *gigantic* portion of US travel is by people of other nationalities who are “just passing through.” 

    But if we *only* search them, oh, dear God, the Europeans would bitch and we’d be eating Freedom Fries again. 😉

  5. swanky Says:

    Terrorism has not increased 10 fold. 9/11 was a blip. We are in no more danger today from terrorists than we were on 9/10. And the danger has never been great. Miniscule really. Unless you live in NYC, but, your threat level is much higher there regardless. Worry about muggers and burglars, not terrorists.

    Metal detectors have deterred some crimes. But, clearly, for those who want to, they can get around it. Getting box cutters on a plane was easy enough. There are still plenty of ways.

    Getting involved in Middle East politics may have helped stabilize the region, but it has also helped feed anti-American feelings i.e. Iran hostages. It will continue to do so as we support various governments that are merely pretending to tolerate us. We just get hated in degrees by all sides. It’s not helping prevent terrorism. Perhaps, just the opposite. By making us a nice target for everyone’s unhappiness.

    Is there any reason to put a tamper proof seal on a bottle of water? No. None. Waste of money and an annoyance. What about the glow in the dark handle inside the trunk of many cars now so you can open it from the inside? When were you last forced into your trunk at gunpoint? Anyone you know?

    The fact that there has been no terrorism in the US since 9/11 is not because of great new security. If I had a mind to, I could blow up a lot of shit any day of the week. So could any anybody. Strap on a bomb and go to the mall. Come on! No, the answer is, there are just not many of them and they are very little threat. That goes for McVeigh types as well as bin Laden types. The threat is exaggerated. And it’s cost us billions. And it’s screwed up our sensibilities.

    You cannot prevent it. Period. Not with these types of ways. You can ferret out the people making plans. But, taking off my shoes and everyone elses is not going to prevent terrorism. We will simply have to live with it and do what we can. Searching everyone’s shoes is not the answer. That’s just annoying. We can annoy everyone and take away our fredoms and out sense of freedom and be attacked. Or we can live life pretty much as we used to and be attacked.

    I feel the same way about the $300,000 a year spent by our school to put a security guard in the building. He is not going to stop a kid from shooting up a classroom if they really want to. He is just wasting money we could spend on education and he is giving dullard parents a false sense of security. If anything, he might be the first one shot, or he may get to shoot the kid shooter after he takes out the teacher and a few bullies. He won’t stop anything. He is hurting our kids.

  6. Mark Steel Says:

    Let’s hope Osama doesn’t know showtunes.