Recently, we’ve marked the tenth anniversary of one of the largest terrorist events in modern history: the fall of the World Trade Center towers in New York in 2001.
I’m certainly not going to condone what happened, because there’s no way to condone or justify the taking of thousands of lives, but I do want to take a look at what happened afterwards.
Over the last ten years I’ve been increasingly amazed at the ever increasing security ‘measures’ introduced, and I’ve found myself shocked at the antics of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the USA in particular.
You see, I believe the bulk, if not the entirety, of what the TSA does is actually a fallacy. Controversial, I know, but hear me out.
Like a lot of things, you have to know what you’re dealing with, and the resourcefulness of terrorists is often overlooked. Please don’t mistake me: I’m not for one moment suggesting that I have any positive feelings towards them, because I don’t, but I cannot deny the one advantage they have over the ‘establishment’: that they are resourceful, and by proxy innovative.
The whole thrust of their campaigns relies on being able to instil a sense of fear, and that fear is based on the fact that they can cause harm and damage, and that it’s unpredictable: that fear of the unknown is one of the worst to stomach, and it permeates into the collective consciousness of a country all too easily, especially in our media-driven world.
Of course, the fear is eroded, potentially significantly, if there is nothing to fear. The thing is, a lot of the measures carried out by the TSA – and other security forces – are predominantly reactionary rather than proactionary.
Sure, it’s hard to anticipate something bad, but worse (far worse) is when you have a list of things to check and follow that in the name of safety when in reality you’re wider open to problems than before.
That’s the thing: the same checks will still be made, for the same things as before, while the terrorists proceed to go and do different, new things. They won’t redo the same things as before, what is being expected by the security forces.
Once a given method has been done, for the very most part they won’t carry it out again (at least not within a short period of time), because they’ve been observed and what has been observed is not going to carry the same level of fear.
I have the uncomfortable feeling that the policy-makers of such environments are bureaucrats who must be seen to be acting, rather than people who actually understand the people they’re dealing with.
I also have to wonder whether the likes of the TSA isn’t really about security at all (judging by several studies, the success rate of detection by the TSA itself isn’t that high) but about instilling the idea of security in the collective consciousness of the country, under the banner of security through increased vigilance.
If so, that’s definitely a flawed approach, because it’s only effective all the time there is sufficient exposure to the notion that it is actually providing some good, and it isn’t like there are news stories of major catastrophes being averted through the work of the likes of the TSA (and many more stories about things that they are doing badly)