One year ago today I saw possibly the most ridiculous example of security theater I have ever witnessed

A young woman ahead of me at airport security was walking with a cane and had a “boot” on her foot – a removable enclosure to immobilize an injured foot.

The security guy asked her if she could walk without the cane, and take off the boot, and put them through the security scanner. The security guy was nice about it; he said if taking off the boot and walking without the cane caused any discomfort at all, she should just leave them on.

The woman said no no no that’s all right and she sat down in a chair and wrestled the boot off, and then hopped through the scanner.

It occurred to me, watching, that this was security theater in the purest form. This exercise was completely unnecessary. I bet if you asked this woman why she was going through this exercise, she would have looked surprised and said, why, it’s the rules. And you have to follow the rules, right?

This woman was given a choice of whether she had to send her stuff through the scanner, and she chose to do it , even though the purpose of this exercise is not supposed to be empty obedience. It’s supposed to be catching terrorists. And this woman knew better than anybody else that she was not a terrorist, and therefore would have been perfectly safe strolling through security without any screening at all!

I don’t say this to criticize the young woman, who seemed perfectly nice and just trying to be accommodating, or the security guy, who was also very nice and just trying to do his job.

I wrote the preceding in my journal a year ago. Re-reading it now, I see that I was wrong then. The purpose of security theater isn’t security. It is empty obedience.

You may well ask, holy crap, Mitch, when did you become such a paranoid conspiracy theorist? I ask myself that sometimes. 📓

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner