The slope is slippery

…but not slippery enough to prevent me from getting through airport security. I am in the lounge waiting. Tethered, since Air Canada lounges now want $10 for Internet access.

Airport security is now very tough indeed in Toronto.  Before even entering, every piece of hand baggage (one only) has to be fitted into the little metal frame. Mine does not (many cameras, lenses, etc) but amazingly, the person checking missed the bag on my shoulder.

Also, all passengers now get scanned by the full body scanner. You can refuse this – so I did, as a matter of principle.  If I have done nothing wrong I refuse to be strip-searched, “virtual” or not.

But it is clear that this “right of refusal” is discouraged. The full body pat-down is extensive and pretty unpleasant, in front of everyone. This is going to be routine very soon, Militaristic commands, undressing, virtual stripsearches: any right of privacy and of respectful treatment has disappeared: we have given it up without a fight, it seems to me.

But at least I and my cameras and lenses and speedlites are now on our way to Phoenix.

0 thoughts on “The slope is slippery

  1. Thanks for that report, Michael. Just curious – if they had refused your shoulder bag with all your gear inside, what would you do? I’m flying to Canada this year and would love to bring some photo gear, but it’s worrisome to me to hear your accounts and similar stories from others who have flown in and out of Canada lately.

    In the States, as you probably know, the slippery slope is a popular argument for, well, about everything. As in, “First they take our machine guns, then jack-booted government thugs show up at your house and take your kid’s cub scout knife,” and similar. Also, everything proposed by the government is a “takeover,” and what’s next? Socialism, of course!

    The slope is indeed slippery. I remember when flying was kinda fun, but that may be one of those things I have to explain to my daughter one day.

    • Well, sometimes the slope really IS slippery and it’s a bad thing. Would I have believed, 30 years ago, that I would be regularly patted down and removing my shoes? No way!

      And if I had been refused I would have asked for supervisors. Checking $25,000 worth of gear is not high on my list of great things to do…

  2. I’m often amazed by this fear of screening.. What’s the big deal? I’d rather spend a few extra minutes being controlled if that’s what it takes to lower the risks of a new terrorist attack.

    Yes, there’s a lot you can’t stop with a body scanner (the 9/11 guys didn’t carry anything but their own knowledge of flying), and some evildoers have been able to pass them – but it sure as hell stops a lot of knives, revolvers and other weapons…

    With so many people going crazy, especially in your part of the world, showing up at restaurants, post offices and former work places with guns – I really wouldn’t want to be trapped in an airplane with one of those maniacs. (Oh, and they too would be innocent on their way onto the plane..)

    So hey, just spread’em and smile, and we’ll all be better off.

    • Big deal? Disapproving of something does not necessarily make it a “big deal”: calling it that implies that it is exaggerated, so you are saying, not asking, it seems to me.

      But if you are asking, then:

      • I am simply not interested in living in a police state with military guys shouting at me to take off my belt.
      • The benefits of the security circus are very doubtful indeed, as you quite rightly say.
      • And even to the extent that it does work: there is a price for all this security. Price/benefit must come into it somewhere. Would you be OK if it took $10 million to stop each terrorist attack? $100m? $10 billion? $100 Billion? If we all had to work 100 hours a week from now on, and pay 85% tax, to stop two terrorist deaths a year? Presumably not. So would you be OK if everyone had to work one extra hour to stop 1000 deaths a year? How about one extra hour to stop one death every ten years? How about everyone gets strip-searched four times every day to stop one death a year? How about ten times a year you get stripsearched to stop ten deaths a year?

      I am sure you have your acceptable price level. For me, the doubtful benefit of possibly stopping terrorists (very doubtful: even if we stop attacks they will just start attacking buses or supermarkets) does not weigh up against the enormous price of living in a police state and making my job as a photographer tough.

      I have spent years in places like Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq: believe me, I do not choose to live in those circumstances. And yet, we are ore and more like them. (They too, by the way, use “terrorism” as the reason for the “Security”. Oh.. and so, of course, did Dr Goebbels).

      And if your price level is low (you accept strip searcheds for small benefit), then you must not make the mistake of thinking this goes for everyone. “I eat McDonalds, why can’t everyone else?”. You can spread ’em… that kind of life is not for me, thanks.

      Oh.. and guns? In my part of the world this hardly happens. I live in Canada. South of here, it does, but even there the risk of a McDonalds-induced heart attack is literally tens of thousands of times greater than the risk of a gun attack by a colleague who goes postal…

      • Yeah, the fact that you live in Canada, not the US, is what made me curious! Here in “communist” Scandinavia, we tend to think of Canada as our sane cousin, whereas USA is the nutty uncle who’s always on a paranoid rant about Big Brother, individualism, police states and so on… ;p

        I see that you’re really adamant about this, so I’ll stop mocking. But I’ll ask one question.

        You refused the body scan and opted for the full body pat-down. Which I’m sure is a lot more time consuming and thus – more expensive. So isn’t it a tiny slab of vanity – or at least something other than cost/benefit considerations – in there as well? The scanners are more cost effective than human control, and if you’re not carrying anything harmful, what’s the hassle?

        Oh well, I think we both can agree that we’re here for the photography stuff, so I’ll back off and enjoy the rest of your production!

  3. Agreed re photography.

    And that is one reason I take a stand. Yes of course it is inconvenient to be hand searched (they make sure of that), but I feel that if we just lie down and agree to all these infringements, soon there will be no travelling photographers. Scanners are a virtual strip search and while I have no problem with anyone seeing me naked, I’d like to think this is on my terms, not as a compulsion. Compulsory stripsearches are for criminals.

    So yes, a price to pay in the short term, but at least I am making the point that I will not allow this extension of state power (that ids what we are talking about) to stand unchallenged…

    And as for photographers: that is part of the issue. Travelling with cameras is getting more difficult all the time. Checking $25,000 of equipment is a no-no for me (I cannot afford to replace it!) so this is of more than academic importance to me, as I suspect it is for many photographers. So being vocal is not a bad thing.

    Scandinavia eh. Where?

    • Hi again!

      I’m in Norway, and feel like I should invite you over for some coffee and cookies after spending the day in this off-topic discussion with you =)

      I fully agree on the photo equipment, I just think that if we want to keep carrying it (and other electronic equipment) on the plane, we have to accept some sort of screening of it. What if your lenses were hallow shells full of heroin? Explosives? Rare representatives of the Canadian fauna? (You’d be surprised about the amount of animals smuggled on airplanes taped to travelers bodies etc.).

      And – I’m all for being vocal. I just find it hard to understand why this is something that so many people are angry about. I guess I just don’t see it as an infringement, extension of state power or as an intrusion of my private space. We walk through alarm sensors whenever we walk out of a store (at least here we do), without feeling accused of stealing. But we’re happy that they keep others from stealing… We are monitored by cameras wherever we go, and I don’t mind. I don’t think Big Brother cares all that much if I pick my nose or whatever, so as long as I don’t do anything illegal, they won’t even notice me.

      And when you say that compulsory strip searches are for criminal – what defines a criminal? Someone who broke the law 20 years ago? Someone who committed a crime last week? Or someone we think MIGHT break the law within two hours?

      And shouldn’t we be able to strip search anyone before we have determined that they have, in fact, committed a crime?

      Anyhow – my point is this: you have every right to act up, be vocal and protest. I’m just fascinated and a bit surprised that this is such a big deal to so many people.

      But then again, if the security folks in Toronto are anything like the grumpy-ass idiots in too tight uniforms who operates some of the airports I’ve visited in the US, I can understand how you might differ with me. In my neck of the woods, they usually just smile and guide us through…

      So – head over for some coffee (maybe bring Honl et al. for a class?), and you’ll see for yourself!

  4. And CNN now has an item up on how the “naked scanners” are being used to find liquids and illegal drugs, including cocaine, and hash pipes.

    Right… these scanners are allegedly against “terrorism”, but as I have always said, authority wants to be total and will never give up any power. So now, airports and the TSA are DEA enforcers also, and soon we’ll have these virtual strip0search scanners at schools and shopping malls. Sure seems like a slippery slope to me.

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