Omnibus TSA Fiesta

A few days ago I quoted several readers who were exasperated with my complaints about "security theater" and the TSA and thought this all belonged in the category of "whiny professor" behavior.

Now, we'll hear once again from the other side. What follows is a sample of messages from readers who, unlike the previous set, have become more rather than less annoyed with the rituals and protocols now invoked in the name of security.

First, from John Barry Smith of California, a former military air crewman and current holder of a commercial pilot certificate. I had asked why some airlines insisted that noise-canceling headsets be turned off for takeoff, when they could not possibly interfere with aircraft equipment. His answer:

>>It's all part of security theater and establishment of authority.

For example: "Put seat backs in upright position." That order has nothing to do with safety but everything with establishing authority of the attendants over the passengers.

If you make the passengers do something stupid now, (move seat back two inches) then you can probably make them do something smart later on such as opening the emergency doors and exiting in an orderly manner.

The idea that a hundred dollar IPod or phone or headset could crash millions of dollars of electronics has always been funny to me. Impossible's a pretext to establish the authority of attendants in a crowded cabin.

Also, when an aircraft diverts and passenger arrested for trying to open passenger cabin door in flight is pure security theater. It's impossible to open that door in flight when cabin is pressurized, even if all passengers tried if their lives depended on it.

Remember, the airlines never want the passengers to think they are in a fuel laded bomb with ignition sources yards away but they are in a restaurant....nice food; a bar...nice drinks, a bedroom...nice pillows, a library....nice book/magazines, a living room...nice chatting, a movie theater....nice film.

I've always thought it funny for a passenger to shout out to another passenger with a common name, "Hi, Jack!" ... or...sing the National Anthem to be heard...."Bombs bursting in air...."

The country has the stink of fear all around and fear leads to anger and anger to hate and hate to violence and the police/TSA are the first to feel it and exploit it.<<

And on the same theme, from a friend who works in the tech industry:

>>As with most things related to air travel, 9/11 changed this too.

Around the 3rd or 4th flight where a member of the crew insisted that "all electronic devices with an on/off switch must be turned off," I came to two realizations. First, I would probably have to listen to my plane take-off and land every flight for the rest of my life. Second, I would gladly pay a substantial premium for noise-canceling headsets with no power switch. Sadly, no electronics company has brought one to market.<<

More after the jump.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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