By now, you’ve probably heard about the thwarted terror attack on a flight bound for Detroit. If you haven’t heard details, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to light his underwear on fire to set off explosives (the same explosives that Richard Reid–the shoe bomber–used). He failed to ignite the explosive materials and passengers and crew jumped him and put out the fire.
We’re still living with the legacy of Richard Reid’s attack. Every time we fly, we have to take our shoes off for special screening. So I would have expected the TSA response to Abdulmutallab’s thwarted attack to be … well, that every time we fly, we all have to take our underwear off for special screening. Makes sense, doesn’t it? But imagine the outcry from the public if we had to get naked in order to fly. And so, naturally, that is NOT the TSA response. Instead, the TSA has come out with a set of rules that make it incredibly obvious that none of this is about actually making us safer but is instead about responding in some way, in any way, so that people FEEL safer.
What are the rules? Most of them have to do with limiting passenger behavior during the last hour of a flight. Why the last hour? Because that is when Abdulmutallab chose to initiate his attack. There is absolutely nothing special about the last hour of a flight. Why not the first hour of a flight? Because this is about security theater rather than actual security. So, during the last hour of a flight, you may not be able to use the bathroom or access your carry-on baggage or (and this is my favorite rule) have a pillow or blanket over your lap. Because that’s where your underwear is, of course.
I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in astrophotography, game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.