All the best imaginary worlds are ruled by despotic governments. Your 1984, your Stainless Steel Rat galaxy, and my beloved Aeon Flux all invite the reader to indulge the fantasy of organized repression. And those are mostly just books—you can also find plenty of despotism in other media of fantasy, such as cable news or American political discourse. If you like to pretend that titanic forces are arrayed against you—and really, don’t we all?—now is an exciting time to be alive. Today is Friday, and probably we are not poised on the brink of a new world order. It would be kind of awesome if we were, though, provided the actual despotism never, ever actually happened. Won’t you exercise the imagination/wallow in the disastrous ignorance with me?
On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration announced that an undercover agent passed through screening at Newark airport with a fake bomb. Don’t worry—a TSA official said the agency runs these kinds of tests often, and screeners fail to detect fake bombs “all the time.” Meanwhile, the New York Post continues its tradition of responsible journalism with this first-person account from an anonymous Newark TSA screener. Or it’s Ian Mohr typing with a sheriff’s badge stuck to his monitor. That’s the beauty of an anonymous tell-all; we just don’t know. We also don’t know whether the fake bomb the TSA brought through Newark was The Blair Witch Project or something of their own making. Huh? Am I right? I’d like to remind you that this blog is free.
Those of us who have our thighs caressed by a high school graduate every time we pass through Missoula International Airport* often wonder about the theoretical limit at which TSA screening procedures would not be worth preventing terrorist attacks. I call it the Castillo Limit, after former Miss USA Susie Castillo, and it’s hard to say where it would lie. Taking my nail clippers does not approach the Castillo Limit. Making everyone fly naked in a tank of that breathable gelatin from The Abyss seems like we overshot it. Somewhere in the middle is the precise border between liberty and security, but where exactly is a matter for our elected minders and, of course, international terrorists. At least one and possibly both groups got a little closer to discovering the Castillo Limit yesterday, when the Times announced that terrorists were exploring the idea of surgically implanted bombs.
Unless you are Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s elderly grandmother, chances are you have already heard about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to detonate explosives on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit on Christmas day. First of all, in order to save time and space, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab will henceforth be referred to as the Underwear Bomber. Second of all, in order to save American lives, a man with a GED will henceforth put his finger in your anus every time you fly on a plane. Does that sound like a demeaning invasion of your privacy? Well, do you want to live? Okay, then, let me just get a fresh latex sheath and…we’re in. Enjoy your flight!