Whine If They Do, Whine If They Don’t

Maureen Dowd’s latest New York Times [may require simple registration] column, “Hiding Breast Bombs,” may very well be the most whiny and annoying of her many whining and annoying columns. She complains about being searched (and yes, I, too, get more than my “share” of “random” searches because I frequently fly on one-way tickets from city to city to city) and patted down as follows:

Airport screening procedures are more reactive than imaginative. There’s an attempted shoe bombing, so all passengers must shed their shoes. Two female Chechens may or may not have sneaked explosives onto Russian planes, so now some T.S.A. genius decides all women are subject to strips and body searches.

Now…imagine what Maureen Dowd would be screeching, er, writing if a woman were to blow up a plane because she had sneaked plastic explosives in on her body and there had not been a screening procedure to catch her, especially after the two Russian planes were taken down by women bombers? The Maureen Dowds of the world complain about being searched, but, were there no searches and a bomb were to bring down a plane, they’d complain bitterly about not having been searched. They complain that we’re subject to random screening, but they’d howl like mad if passengers were subjected to more statistically sound profiling. As to profiling, here’s Maureen Dowd’s take:

Maybe we’re not at the Philip K. Dick level of technology yet. But how about some positive profiling? If airport security can have a watch list for the bad guys, why can’t it develop a watch list for the good guys? Can’t there be a database of trustworthy American frequent travelers who are not going to secrete things in their bras? After all, no one is going to sneak anything in there without our knowledge. Can they at least get a screen?

Of course, being a good “liberal,” Dowd hates the idea that anyone would be subjected to any greater burdens merely because they fit a profile. So, being a thoroughly unthinking “liberal,” she opts for a “watch list for the good guys,” instead. But such a good-guy list would mean that people who don’t make it on to the “good guy list” will be more likely to be searched. And who might those people be? Well, I’d wager that they’d be disproportionately poor, African-American, young, etc., etc. Dowd would bring class, ethnic, and age profiling in through the back door, but once anyone noticed, she’d whine about the injustices of class, ethnic, and age profiling.

What is it that prevents the Maureen Dowds of the world from understanding that there are tradeoffs; that the world isn’t perfect; that bombs and bombers don’t just announce themselves, but have to be detected, which entails costs; that out of hundreds of thousands or millions of passengers every day, a couple will feel that they were groped or leered at, but that that’s a very, very tiny fraction of all those who weren’t groped or leered at? They complain that a few people feel that they were treated badly, but they’d complain a lot more about a plane being blown up because the searchers were too frightened of complaints to search female passengers.

No doubt security procedures could be more rational (a huge amount of the Homeland Security expenditures are patently irrational), but Dowd isn’t asking for rationality, just for another opportunity to whine and complain.

4 Responses to “Whine If They Do, Whine If They Don’t”

  1. Here, here.
    What’s more, weren’t many of Mohammed Atta and co. supposedly ‘good guys’ whose neighbours told reporters how shocked they were that ‘quiet, well educated, polite’ people could commit such a barbaric act.
    If we reach the stage where frequent flyers who refrain from on-board homicide can bypass security, God help us.

  2. Vota Nointe

    It is not the checks themselves I object to, but the rude and unpleasant manner of them, the lack of privacy and the abuse of position of the checkers.

    It is a little too much to be stroked in the groin or up the buttocks or asked to disrobe either in public or for a check conducted by a person of the opposite gender.

  3. Tom G. Palmer

    No one could defend deliberate groping, and if that occurs, the person who does it should be dismissed. Millions of people go through those searches every day and the numbers of complaints are truly tiny. I have had rude checkers, to be sure, but I’ve run into rude people in lots of situations. I’m against rudeness. But what are the implications of being against rudeness? It’s not clear that we should shut down body checks for bombs because a handful of checkers have been rude.

    I think that a more serious matter is that we should be less concerned about knitting needles and even box cutters (with reinforced cockpit doors and alert passengers who now know the score, I don’t think that anyone would get away with a hijacking) and more concerned about plastic explosives, both concealed on the bodies of terrorists and in checked luggage. But then, that means that sometimes planes are delayed when the person who checked a bag doesn’t board the plane and all the bags are taken out (I’ve been delayed in Germany and Britain several times for such reasons) — which occasions whining — rather than rational comprehension, on the part of the Maureen Dowds of the world.

  4. Vota Nointe

    That should be right. Airport staff often seem to be preoccupied more with finding plasting cutlery and confiscating nail clippers than discovering explosives.

    I have been in several situations where checking staff have paid great attention to harmless objects, such as disposable razor blades and, once, a very expensive parker fountain pen, which they tried to confiscate despite being worth several hundred dollars whilst having no interest in my $10 cartridge pen in the same pocket but where the security sweep was so badly focused that I could have smuggled something through.