Writer and activist Adam Green brought to our attention his article about the now-infamous screwups that kept masses of ticketed people out of viewing areas for the swearing-in ceremony. Green asks a fairly reasonable question – is there going to be any accountability for the people whose poor performance created this situation? – but I cannot get fully behind the question.
Not because I don’t think people should be accountable, but because I think it’s somewhat akin to asking “why didn’t shaving a crop circle into my cat’s fur turn out well?” The first answer this question should get is “why would you want to do that anyway?” Bottlenecks and slowdowns in our city have become de rigueur even when we’re not dealing with an extra couple million people, and it’s time to take a new look at how we handle security and what we expect from it.
If you don’t look at one more word of what I have to day, at least take a moment to look at this interview with Bruce Schneier about the ways Mall security was and was not going to resemble Airport security and some thoughts on the matter.
The lesson I’d love to see us take from this is to ask ourselves “what do we gain in exchange from all this hassle?” There can be no reasonable doubt that stopping people to see if they had prohibited items like leathermen or swiss army knives slowed down the process of letting in those ticket holders. Anyone actually determined to stab someone with a 2″ pocketknife had a huge crowd outside the security gate they could have given that really nasty paper cut to, and we create these rich targets every time we bottleneck our entrances to the Air and Space or Museum of Natural History.
We all got a big scare in 2001 and nobody can blame us for being twitchy after that. It’s time to stop jumping at our shadows, however, and remember that the powdery substance on the floor of the grocery is much more likely to be spilled powered sugar than anthrax. Instead of asking “how can we make this huge and unwieldy rube goldberg security contraption work marginally better?” let’s start asking “are we actually being made any safer in exchange for making all these sacrifices?”