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The solution that's worse than the problem!
Although terrorism can be a problem, there is a worse problem now, and that is anti-terrorism. In effect, government over-reaction to terrorism has led to oppressive restrictive impositions which are worse than terrorism, are an insult to personal freedom, result in more loss of life than the terrorism itself, and statistically cause more loss of life than the entire death-toll due to terrorism.
It's time to say NO to anti-terrorism and to stop putting-up with the ritual humiliation at airports and the excuse to oppress people. The governments, especially the USA and UK, are using the "terrorist" excuse to impose oppressive measures against innocent people in order to gain information they do not need, in addition to being able to exert unnecessary power over people, presumably out of hubris and a desire to assert authoritarianism. Enough is enough. Time to fight back.
Now let's look at some of the messing-about in airports and examine how much of it has any basis in necessity and fact, and how much of it is unnecessary and futile. Admittedly having some airport security seems a good idea, and initially some of the security measures were well-intentioned. You don't want aircraft being hijacked.
However, the zero-zeros decade and early teens decade have seen airport security which is absurdly intrusive and which also fails to deal with actual terrorism. Instead most airport security seems to be to put airline passengers through unnecessary ordeals in order to create a false sense of "something being done", when in fact it's futile. Here are a few obvious observations:
* Sharp objects being banned on aircraft. Yes, OK, that seems initially to make sense. In theory any sharp object could be used as a weapon. However, once you start including sewing needles, knitting needles, and nail-scissors, it becomes nonsensical. This is especially obvious when other potential lethal weapons such as ties, are allowed. (Anyone heard of "the neck-tie murderer"). Also, a strong person can kill someone with their bare hands. I have been strangled, and yet I know of no-one who has ever been killed using a sewing needle, nailscissors, or knives and forks of the type used for food in restaurants. Plastic cutlery on some aeroplanes? No, let's be serious.
* No bombs. Fair enough. But really, no current airport security measures address this issue. The last line of defence was the fact that no terrorist would kill themselves, and that is why a passenger's bags can only be loaded onto a flight which the passenger themselves is on. The trouble, is that the basic assumption of "the terrorist will not kill themselves", is now proven to be false (9/11 etc). Therefore, the method of making sure the luggage is loaded onto the same flight as the passenger, is now meaningless in terms of terrorism prevention.
Plus, an early form of bomb detection, based on the assumption that bombs are made of metal, is also no longer valid. Ever heard of "Plastic Explosive"?
* No guns/swords etc. In the early days of aircraft hijacking, classically the "Fly this plane to Cuba!" type of thing, a hijacker would produce a weapon and hold the pilots to ransom in order to get them to do something. This is not the way of terrorism anymore. Terrorists tend to be suicidal, or in their own religious notions, "martyrs". So, what if we turn the "no weapons" idea on its head? Instead of having "no weapons allowed on plane", make it "everyone must carry a weapon of some sort". On a plane packed with gun-toting sword-carrying knitting-needle wielding passengers, what would be the chances of anyone hijacking the plane? Zero. Passengers these days know that if a terrorist shows up and threatens them, it's worth sacrificing oneself to defeat them. This is what happened on Flight 93. The idea of things being safer if folks have guns is not new. It's part of the US Constitution, the Right to Bear Arms. This is in contrast to the UK idea that no-one has guns except in special circumstances. For the USA to follow the UK rule rather than sticking "to its guns" is an almost unprecedented move, but that's what's happened on the airplanes.
* The worst place for anti-terrorist nonsense in the United States. Largely this is a knee-jerk reaction to being caught-out on 2001/09/11, but the revenge is taking its toll on innocent folks instead. That's rather poor form, don't you think? Sort of like a little child having a little tantrum. In fact, it's got so bad that some people refuse to transit the USA. Funny, it used to be "Land of the Free"?
* Having to take your shoes off. This is not about preventing terrorism, it's a ritual submissive thing like having to kneel down and pray to someone else's God. There are far better places to hide things, and no I'm not going to explain. These things are obvious.
* No smoking. Yes, admittedly smoking is a bad habit and it's an addictive drug, and the smell can annoy other passengers, but no smoking even in the toilets? Even the Nazis with their Hindenburg airship with Nazi swastikas on the tail-fins, its giant gasbags full of highly inflammable hydrogen gas and its skin coated in rocket fuel strapped together with wires that weren't earthed properly, had a "Smoking Room" (lined with asbestos and with only one cigarette lighter, chained to a table). But your could smoke on the Hindenburg, and yet not on a modern jet airliner. The modern authoritarians have out-authoritarian'd the Nazis. (Note: The Hindenburg flew successfully for a year and was finally brought down by electrostatics in a storm, not by smoking)
* No liquids. Admittedly this was originally based on some scientific facts, such as the way some fluids can be mixed together and explode. Not difficult. However, there are plenty of explosives which are made of solid materials. Did you know that? Gun Powder, I have heard, is a type of dry explosive made from three kinds of finely ground stuff mixed together, all non-metallic and non-liquid.
And now here's the big one, the way terrorists could completely wipe out any and all present-day (2012) security measures. Terrorists don't mind if they die. Therefore, the explosive could be inside the person. The terrorist would willingly have surgery to have the bomb implanted, either as a beer-belly, a semi-false leg, or something connected to a device that looks like a heart pacemaker, or any of a number of other methodologies.
Bearing in mind these things are possible and there's nothing that can be done about it, it seems futile to have absolutist policies on things that are relatively harmless. Therefore it seems the reason for the absolutist policies is not to prevent terrorism but to inconvenience people so they somehow make-believe something is being done that's got to have some effect. It makes about as much sense as having a medical patient put through unnecessary and painful therapies on the basis that they will feel the suffering must somehow be "worthwhile" and that therefore they should feel better. Or to put it another way, nonsense.
A similar thing happened in the UK in the austerity measures of the Second World War. Park railings were cut off and taken away "for the war effort", but they were not being used for melting down and turning into weapons to fight the enemy. They were just being stockpiled in scrapheaps, some even around as late as the 1970s. The park railings were removed to make people feel they were giving something up and therefore it must be doing some good.
course you don't want to die because of terrorism, but...
What are the Real Risks of Terrorism?
Some time ago when I lived in the UK, I told my neighbour I was going to London, and the neighbour said "Ooh no, that's dangerous. There might be a terrorist attack". I responded that even if I knew there was going to be a terrorist attack in London on the day I visited, and about 100 people were going to be blown-up, then as there are 10 million people in London, my chance of death on that day would be 1 in 100,000. Or, if there was only a 1 in 10 chance of an attack that day, it would be a million to one that I died.
This type of philosophy is something that people coped with in the Second World War. The enemy bombs were dropping on UK cities, from enemy planes flying overhead. But did people all panic and do silly things? No, they defied the enemy and kept calm and carried on. This, I believe, shows a way to defeat terrorism. Ignore it. If no-one behaves differently because of the terrorist threats, then the terrorism is futile and can not win. Killing a few people at random is not what terrorism is about; it's about causing the maximum inconvenience and damage without much initial investment. Terrorists' main ally in this is... The Government. The authoritarian measures imposed on people have done the terrorists' work for them, making life difficult for the honest folk.
There are far more dangerous things about. On average, per year, a few hundred people die because of terrorism. That's about as many as who die putting their socks on in the morning, and by the time you get as far as how many people die crossing the road, terrorism starts to look very silly in comparison.
Incidentally, flying on a commercial aircraft is amazingly safe. It's so safe that even if you lived all of your life on a plane, you'd probably die of old age rather than crashing or being blown-up.
I am not the only person to say "Look! This anti-terrorism nonsense is stupid!". Here are a few other sites that give a perspective on the matter...
Ocean Liners are likely to make a big comeback, because they have a big advantage over their rivals, airlines. Although air travel is faster once you're up in the air, the big downside to air travel and what really spoils it is the ridiculous "security precautions". In reality these have almost no effect on terrorism and are largely for show, to inconvenience people so it makes it look as if some effort is going into doing something when it's largely futile. Ships, in contrast, have nothing like the amount of fuss, and certainly none of the ritual humiliation which puts all but the most desperate off flying. Oh, and terrorists. They don't care about the stupid security because they can easily circumvent it and they don't mind the inconvenience because they are going to die. It's the honest people who suffer. Don't blame terrorists for that. Blame the reactionary governments for giving in to terrorism.
Now, you may be wondering when I said that more lives are lost through anti-terrorism than through terrorism. Well, for a start there's the fact that some people have gone a bit scaredy-cat and travelled by road rather than flying. This accounts for hundreds of additional deaths per year, in contrast to the few hundred deaths per year worldwide though terrorism.
But more importantly, there's a bigger loss of life though anti-terrorism than from the terrorism which it pretends to fight. This may seem a strange thing to say, because surely being messed about and ritually humiliated in an airport doesn't kill you? No, but it wastes some of your life. The number of passenger flights per year worldwide, according to a reputable survey, is about a thousand million. Now supposing each person is mucked-about for an hour more than necessary (which is actually an underestimate), then the number of hours of life wasted is of the order of a thousand million hours. A person's life-span, even if they live to be a hundred years old, is 876 thousand hours, (see they're a bit like 1000 hour lightbulbs). That time-wasting alone accounts for the total loss of the equivalent of 1142 lives. That's whole lifetimes wasted because of anti-terrorism nonsense.
Obviously it would be best if the authoritarian governments gave up and stopped being so stupid. However, that seems unlikely for now. However, there may be a solution based on the idea of having a private jet. Having your own private jet is expensive, but at least you can knit when you're flying as a passenger. Also, as it's your own plane, the amount of messing about in airports is minimal. There's still some, but it's not so bad. So, how could the idea be extended to giving the more average airline passengers the same freedoms? One possibility is to have a full-size jumbo jet but have it classed as a private jet, and then it may be possible to escape some of the unnecessary rigours that passengers are currently forced to endure. A while ago a company known as Silverjet did something of that ilk, and it was initially a success.
The first airline/airport to provide a way of passengers being able to travel by air with minimal fuss will become a market leader, even if they are more expensive. People will be happy to pay a premium to avoid the stupid problems in airports.