German Pirate flashmobs protest enhanced airport scanners
WHEN THE GERMAN PIRATE Party first raised its black flag last spring and stormed ahead to receive a promising but ultimately unremarkable 2 percent in the September Bundestag election, I thought this event was worthy of a thorough write-up in an OS post. I also assumed the movement had peaked. While I may well be right about that, the group is still out there capturing headlines the way it does best: through calculated provocations and a keen sense of drama.
As I wrote yesterday, the German police union has reversed its policy against backscatter security scanners, which virtually strip air passengers naked as they pass through airport security checkpoints. The German government is likely to overturn its ban some time soon and the rest of the European Union is set to follow. As it turns out, this is just the sort of news that brings the Pirates - who have transformed the struggle against "glass people" into the battle cry of the digital generation - out of their winter hibernation.
On Sunday, January 10, dozens of Pirates flocked to the main airports of Frankfurt/Main, Berlin, and Düsseldorf to stage demonstrations against the future deployment of the new scanners. The buccaneers stripped down to their underwear and marched through the airports chanting "You don't need to scan us - we're already naked!" They also claimed to be heading for Flight GO1984, a refererence to George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
In a few minutes, it was all over - a good idea, considering the frigid winter weather. Organizers had contacted the participants in these so-called flashmobs (or, as the Pirates were calling them yesterday, "fleshmobs") via Internet and cell phone. The protests did not disrupt travel and no arrests were made.
Pirate protester in Frankfurt on Sunday:
"Security is an illusion! The private sphere represents human dignity!"
While it's unlikely that protests such as these are going to prevent or even slow the introduction of nude scanners at European airports over the coming year, it's still good to see that at least the Pirates are looking out for our basic privacy rights.