Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 2, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

PANIC IN THE SKIES, PART 2....Security guru Bruce Schneier writes today about yet another fateful encounter in the air:

Ninety minutes after taking off from Sydney Airport, a flight attendant on a United Airlines flight bound for Los Angeles found an airsickness bag presumably unused in a lavatory with the letters "BOB" written on it.

The flight attendant decided that the letters stood for __________ and immediately alerted the captain, who decided the risk was serious enough to turn the plane around and land back in Sydney.

Can you guess what BOB is alleged to mean? Or why Australian Transport Minister John Anderson said that whoever wrote this was "irresponsible at the least and horrendously selfish and stupid at the worst"?

If you give up, go ahead and click the link. The lesson, like that of a previous panic over Syrians with a "cold, defiant look," seems to be this: even the most ordinary activity can be interpreted as evidence of terrorism by frightened people. After all, how could anyone predict that writing "BOB" on an airsickness bag would cause a plane to turn around and make an emergency landing? That takes a pretty vivid imagination.

And as Bruce suggests in his article, the real problem isn't the temporary inconvenience these false alarms cause. The real problem is that if people continue to act this way, eventually flyers will laugh off every report of suspicious activity. In other words, panicked reactions like this just make the terrorists' jobs easier.

Kevin Drum 12:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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