“Security Theater” – We’ve Got a Front Row Seat

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Photo by Thomas Hawk

Bruce Schneier is a cool head and a voice of reason when it comes to security and terrorism, and he has been outspoken on the issue of photographers’ rights. In his recent essay for the NewInternationalist, Schneier makes some salient points as usual. 

“Security theater” is the term Schneier uses to refer to measures that essentially make the public and government feel good but do little to actually prevent an incident. He writes:

An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No-one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards. Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at US airports in the months after 9/11 — their guns had no bullets. The US colour-coded system of threat levels, the pervasive harassment of photographers, and the metal detectors that are increasingly common in hotels and office buildings since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, are additional examples.

That makes perfect sense. When law enforcement and security guards harass photographers shooting in public places, it’s not like they’re really deterring terrorists or uncovering any plots, it just makes them feel like they’re doing their part in fighting a very intangible, nebulous enemy. 

And in a larger, big-picture sense, these misguided tactics work toward eroding our civil liberties and making us all feel a little less free than we were before. So in essence, this decision to criminalize very mundane, previously acceptable things (street photography, shampoo bottles on airplanes, etc.), it is us, the American people, who bear the brunt of the war on terror and find our lives are less pleasant and free than they were before. Joe Schmo Terrorist in Syria or wherever? He’s doing just fine.

And by the way, the best way to combat terrorism? Schneier says the most effective defenses are those you won’t even see in your day-to-day life: “investigation, intelligence, and emergency response,” and beyond that, it’s really about “our social and political policies, both at home and abroad.”

Schneier reminds us that the best way to deal with our new way of life, this all-consuming fear of terror, is not to overreact. As he says, terrorism is actually very rare. Don’t give into the hype, the hysteria, the suspicion lurking around the corner. It’s just not worth it and does nothing toward keeping us safe.

Read the whole piece on his blog: Schneier on Security.

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1 Response to ““Security Theater” – We’ve Got a Front Row Seat”



  1. 1 Watch Out, Ottawa « Trackback on March 24, 2010 at 7:36 pm

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