In case you haven’t noticed, the terrorists?
Only a few hours after the recent terrorist blast at a Moscow’s airport (remember that?), a flurry of predictable stories were stampeding for linkspace on the front page of Google News.
All of them were sternly pointing out the fairly obvious: The world’s airports are... ... still not 100% secure!
We’ve taken off our shoes, stopped wearing belts and watches, resigned ourselves to flying without our favorite sunscreen, and submitted to radioactive body scans…for what? Look! We aren’t 100% safe!
Consensus formed within the first six hours that airports need to take a hard look at the newly identified gap—Arrivals—and lock things down even tighter.
I'd like to suggest we do the opposite.
It would behoove the civilized majority of this species to deal with isolated acts of terror in the same way adults deal with dreaded toddler tantrums.
Ignore them. Keep ignoring them. Ignore them even more.
Sure, they may yell and scream and escalate for a while. But if during that period, if we could manage to keep ignoring them?
They'd stop eventually.
I'd humbly submit that if we stop reacting to and rewarding bad behavior, it just might end.
There are, according to Airports Council International, 1,633 airports worldwide, operating in 179 countries, and 12,328,767 passengers pass through those airports every day.
Maybe that number is too easy to gloss over in numeric form. Allow me to spell it out. Twelve million, three-hundred-twenty-eight-thousand, seven-hundred sixty-seven passengers move through Earth’s airports EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
On that Monday, one person— not even a passenger, and therefore a member of a whole different dozen-million people who go to or through airports every day without actually flying—walked a bunch of explosives into an Arrivals terminal and blew up.
That act was, without a doubt, a tragedy for the families and friends of those who were killed or injured.
But it does not represent a giant, looming, clear and present danger to each and every member of the flying public.
Can Restaurants be Safer? Are Stadiums Secure Enough?
There’s something about airports.
With every terrorist attack (or attempted attack) that targets planes or airports, we lose our collective sense of proportion. We notice and decry a "security hole" that allowed one person out of perhaps 18 million moving through airports on that day to inflict one single, solitary dose of death and destruction.
This time around, we’re noticing that the Arrivals area of an airport isn’t nearly as secure as the Departures area.
And in point of fact, no. It is not.
It isn’t supposed to be.
The Arrivals area is the place where billions of people each year gather to greet their loved ones, or to begin a travel adventure, or tend to international commerce.
It is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a SuperMax prison.
When bad actors target other locations with open access—subways, restaurants, night clubs, Times Square on New Year’s Eve—we typically don’t hear calls for airtight, water-proof, flame-retardant security to be piled onto such gathering places. Because it would be impossible to lock down those public places the way we lock down airports.
Very few would argue that we run every single person through body scanners to get into Vegas casinos, Hard Rock Cafés, university lecture halls, or train stations. And yet such targets are also full of people. They're great targets. They're wide open. And by necessity, they're much less secure than airports.
Forget high-tech, complicated terror conspiracies that take years to put together; a couple of high school drop-outs could probably come up with a dozen ideas to exploit the "lack of security" in most of our public spaces.
For the handful of people who feel the need to strap on explosives and blow themselves (and others) up, everyday gathering spots should be even more attractive targets than airports.
With every new security measure that slams into place (generally one that closes the barn door months after the horse left the building), we reinforce and nourish those who employ terror tactics.
When we sit down, shut up, and passively accept each new restriction and screening device, we show them that we are, in fact, terrified of what they can do to us.
Isn't that the wrong message?
Don’t Track, Don’t Sell
I hope within my lifetime, the media will collectively reconsider covering acts of terror with minute-by-minute blanket coverage, detailing the carnage and bloodshed, analyzing "security holes."
That's coddling the toddler.
Wouldn’t a voluntary, cooperative editorial decision to bury terrorism stories on page 10 (or run them only between the hours of midnight and 4:00 am, or not link them on the front page of news sites) do a lot more to stamp out terror than having some poor minimum-wage schmo paw through my underwear?
I also hope that within my lifetime, “security experts” will admit that the elaborate kabuki of most “airport security” is pretty much flash and special effects. It does nothing—absolutely nothing—to prevent terrorist acts.
The exception to this sweeping generalization is Israel, which unapologetically uses multiple layers of behavioral and physical profiling to identify people who seem suspicious. But they don't make every person coming into the place strip down and semi-unpack. That system makes a lot more sense to me than patting down Granny.
Active intelligence-gathering stops terror plots. Not invasive, radioactive screenings and body searches.
In light of the fact that we're finally going to be getting rid of the moronic multicolored "terror alert" system this April, I'd like to go further.
I'd like us to stop indulging the tantrum-ing terrorist toddlers, stand up straight, square our shoulders, pack as much shampoo and conditioner as we like, skip the scanners, and leave our damned shoes on as we tromp through one of those 1,633 airports.
And if by chance, as a price for such dignity, I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when one of my fellow 12 billion annual passengers decides to have an explosive hissy fit, at least that would be an exotic way to go out.
I mean, really. It's a lot more likely that I'll hit that jackpot (1-in-83 lifetime odds) dying in a car accident. Possibly on the way home from an airport.
(Originally posted at www.doesthismakesense.com)