Beast Banner March 2007
ISSUE #114
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Features

ArrowSchlep Boys
Failing forward in one act

Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Britney Budget
Matt Taibbi

ArrowEeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
Blogger and journalist Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog on the hijacking of democracy and more

ArrowObama
The best BS artist since Slick Willy

Matt Taibbi

ArrowSweet Nothings
Lies my paper told me

Allan Uthman

ArrowMenace in Seat 36F
Based on a True Story

Michael J. Smith

ArrowBEAST gets poetic on dat ass!
Saul Williams schools us on Hip Hop and our choice of lunch

ArrowCelebrity Buttholes Will Be the End of Us
A. Monkey

ArrowThe BEAST Melanin / Electability Index

ArrowThe Truth Spin
Sometimes, honesty really is the best policy

Allan Uthman

ArrowTV Highlights
CBSs Numb3rs signals the end of the end of the American Empire

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Departments
ArrowKino Korner: Movies
The Abandoned, Wild Hogs, The Number 23, Zodiac, Reno 911!: Miami, Amazing Grace, Black Snake Moan, Shooter, The Astronaut Farmer, Inland Empire

ArrowBEAST-O-Scopes
As divined by your ethereal guide

Arrow[sic] - Letters
The Pussy of the Christ, How Great We Art, Dumb Shit, PhD, All You Need is Loathe and more

 

Menace in seat 36F

I walked onto an airplane yesterday, carrying a weapon in my pocket. It wasn't much of a weapon – a Swiss army knife with a three-inch blade, plus the usual assortment of other sharp edges. All in all, though, it probably represented twenty counts of some Federal crime.

I didn't commit these crimes deliberately—just forgot the knife was in my coat pocket. The coat was taken off, as ordered, and sent through the X-ray machine; but perhaps the operator was tired, or distracted, and failed to notice the knife, or perhaps it was lying at the wrong angle to cast a telltale shadow. I put my hand in my pocket as I was walking down the plane's aisle to my seat, and found the deadly thing there. “Shall I hijack the plane?” I asked myself, and answered, “Oh, what's the point.”

During the predictably squalid and brutish flight, I found myself gripping the knife in my pocket as if I were an apprentice Jack the Ripper, and contemplating my sharp little friend's implications for national security.

If a mild-mannered middle-aged citizen can carry a deadly weapon undetected onto a plane, without even meaning to, it's likely that a determined individual could find a way to do so with intent – particularly if he didn't care what happened to him. These reflections weren't disquieting – quite the reverse. If it's so easy to blow up a plane, in spite of all the “security” rigmarole at the airport, does it not follow, from the fact that planes seldom are blown up, that very few people really want to blow them up?

In fact, plane-exploders are probably no more likely to affect your life than serial killers. Both classes of people undoubtedly exist, but most of us don't go through our day taking elaborate measures to avoid serial killers, or lose sleep over the prospect of encountering Hannibal Lecter at the produce counter.

Is it too cynical to wonder whether the “security” in question is really job security? In recent years the policing and incarceration complex has become an economic and political force in its own right – like the military-industrial complex, though not on quite such a grand scale.  New York state alone spends $2.7 billion a year just on prisons, not counting police, private security guards, purveyors of surveillance devices, and the like. According to a recent New York Times item, “the [New York] state prison system has become, in effect, an economic development program.... [A] powerful alliance of upstate lawmakers and correction officers'  unions guard their constituents' and members' state-financed jobs and are likely to resist any effort to downsize the system." 

That explanation, by itself, is probably too simple. Dr Freud would remind us that human behavior is “over-determined”—much of what we do has more than one sufficient cause. A darkly suspicious person might conjecture a broader political motive for this theater of surveillance and scrutiny, this gauntlet of barking, hectoring coplets, this petty humiliation and fetishistic pawing through our underwear and toothpaste.

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