Anyone who’s read Howard Bloom’s The Lucifer Effect, knows the inherent danger of memes as mind viruses, particularly in luring brains to fundamentalist beliefs – with radical Islamic fundamentalist beliefs amongst the most pernicious. Now, we have seen this mind virus played out again, with a seriously deluded 23-year old Nigerian zealot named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate his underwear (with Semtex sewn in) and a jetliner with nearly 300 on board with it- in the hope of seeing 72 virgins in “heaven”.
This brain diseased moron evidently used the bathroom for 20 minutes in the last hour of flight, then used a blanket to try to surreptitiously detonate the mix affixed to his panties. All he succeeded in doing was setting himself on fire- perhaps thanks to the alertness of two passengers who observed what was going on and wasted no time jumping him.
What is the result of this? Air passengers on many flights (mainly coming from foreign nations into the U.S. – but also some IN the U.S.) now must remain seated in their seats the last hour of the flight. Never mind they may get a sudden bout of diarrhea, or even have benign prostate hypertrophy – which necessitates frequent bathroom visits – or kids that may need to poop in “potty”. I suppose the airlines now will tell folks to wear disposable diapers for most flights.
Meanwhile, blankets are also now banned the last hour of flight. Never mind mom and kids are snuggled up safe and secure in their seats – WHOOSH!- blankets must go! Imagine now all the suddenly disturbed infants, kids who will be whining non-stop splitting the ears of all around them and with nothing to do.
Also, there must be nothing on the lap, no laptops, no bottles of water and no BOOKS! Watch out for those books, folks! People –passengers are now expected to sit stupefied in their seats with no mental stimulation (even electronic entertainment systems on planes must be off) for the last hour. In some cases, all i-pods and walkmans are banned for the duration. This really cuts it, as anyone who’s flown knows the last hour of a flight is always the longest, perhaps rendered so by anticipation in reaching one’s destination. I have often found that it drags on interminably especially when one must land at busy airport hubs like at Atlanta, or O’Hare. The only thing that preserves sanity is being able to take one’s mind off the situation (and any weather- caused delays) by reading. Taking that away because it is wrongly believed security will be “improved” will not many happy campers….errr, passengers, make.
Is this a savvy response, or stupidity? It is stupidity, 100% - because none of these hand waving non-measures will stop a determined attacker. All they will do is end up punishing and annoying millions of passengers – who until Dec. 25th - provided airline coffers with better bottom lines, until the incident and airlines’ unwise implementation of reactionary responses. Already, airline shares across the board have started to dive as business class travelers are expected to forgo all the extra nonsense and longer delays – probably in favor of web meetings. This according to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
What would work, according to Douglas R. Laird – a former Northwest security consultant, are high tech screeners such as backscatter scanners- at all airports. The backscatter scanners can disclose any hidden materials – such as the Nigerian had sewn into his underwear, and also any materials stuffed into rectums – as were used in Saudi Arabia in the last year.
Short of that, the ONLY thing that can work to ensure real safety – as opposed to nonsense in flight dictums- are full body searches. You do that, then let the passengers board, and leave them alone, including their blankets and carry ons. Of course, that will not happen. If people are averse to x-ray scanning methods which leave them “naked” in images (puh-leeze, folks, get a frickin' life!) , they will certainly not agree to full body searches, so there is nothing to really deter would be nuts.
Or maybe there is. Norman Shanks, a European security consultant avers the best method to contain air terrorism is “behavioral pattern recognition” (Financial Times, p. A3, Dec. 29). In this method, trained experts spot potential terrorist behavior from how the suspects are behaving.
But both Shanks and Laird agree that the current measures being imposed on travelers amount to “nonsense”. (FT, ibid.) Singled out is the one calling for sitting in one’s seat for an hour prior to landing. Such a rule – if already enacted prior to Dec.. 25- would have deterred the passengers who effectively neutralized the would-be bomber, after all else had failed to. Total stupidity! Why impose a non- method which diminishes the arsenal of possible responses, rather than keeps all available? But reactionary, feel good hand-waving and fighting the “last tactic” seems to be the limit of the air security system’s imagination.
Shanks, for his part, also skewered the tactic of some airlines to remove the image of the flight plan from view. According to him (FT, ibid.):
“Not being allowed to look at the flight plan is absolute nonsense, unless they are going to black out the windows as well”.
One hopes that as some time - and the immediate fear and hysteria passes- airlines and Homeland Security will understand that more intelligent, and specfic methods to stop attackers are needed – not dumb, broad spectrum reactive ones that only serve to antagonize the flying public, while blowing another hole in airlines’ finances . A public, who despite their robotic claims of acceptance “for our safety”- will not be so happy weeks from now if the totally exasperating, annoying, hand-waving pseudo-measures continue.
In the meantime, the systemic security lapses that allowed this radicalized, Nigerian religious freak to board a plane in Amsterdam, when he ought to have had his U.S. visa revoked and been on a ‘No fly’ list, can never happen again. Eight years and change after 9/11 there can no longer be any excuses for such ineptitude, showing the security failures and lack of communications that incepted September 11th were never learned in the first place.
We have to be smarter than that!