Saturday, May 16, 2009

TSA Terrorism

The authorities at the Newark airport have installed a fancy new device called the "Ionscan". The machine is a sort of cross between a phone booth and a jacuzzi; you step into a chamber, stand shoeless on the painted outline of the last unfortunate pair of socks, and get sprayed head to toe by a series of jets of air. Afterwards, in a voice only marginally more robotic than any of the nine uniformed TSA chimps slouching around this supposed oracle, you are ordered to shuffle towards the hypersensitive metal detector which is destined to touch off a panic over your pocket change. To date, no brain wave detectors (link) have been installed, nor do the jets (yet) contain gas aimed a providing a quick, efficient, and eminently individualized final solution to all your terrorism prevention needs.

The process of going through airport security is clearly a terrorist act that we perpetrate against ourselves. This is hardly a new technique -- a reign of terror is the oldest and perhaps most stable form of political control. After all, we don't really imagine that the pharaohs simply asked nicely when they wanted the slaves to drag all that stone out onto the Nile floodplain. Terror and politics are inseparable; it has always been easiest to control people through fear. You disconnect them from one another, set them at odds and make them suspicious, and assure that the only way they can reconnect is through the third party of a centralized state. You make sure they feel like small humiliated particles floating helplessly in a giant incomprehensible system. With the fluid mercury of this now atomized material you proceed to build a new society of aryans or soviets or owners or whatever.

What's interesting to me is how this phenomena self-organizes. Because when I say "you" in the last paragraph, I obviously don't mean you -- I'm not Machiavelli writing to the prince here -- I mean us. We control ourselves through terror, through constant fear and paranoia. You can see it in some many aspects of our lives, from our rudely clamoring cities to our panicky financial markets to standing in line holding your shoes at the airport, silently absorbing another dose of hysteria. What is interesting to me is the mechanisms by which we dehumanize ourselves, by which we build a world we no longer fit into as individuals.

UPDATE: Apparently arya has a sanskrit origin that Nietzsche claims (seemingly with some basis in fact, even if it scares the folks at wikipedia) originally meant "possessor". So maybe we should already have heard dark resonances when Bush started talking about the 'ownership society'.

1 comment:

adam said...

I finally figured out what Bush was saying when he talked about a "War on Trrrrists." He was actually saying "War on Tourists!" The guy always hated traveling anyway.