Flying in the face of reason.


Pushing back into my seat as the aircraft hurtles down the runway and lifts into the air is a thrill, the lingering spectre of Paranoia International Airport, Belfast an irritation.

It begins at the bag drop, the first step into the moral maze, a visceral reaction reminiscent of end of term exam nerves.

“Did you pack this bag yourself? Are you carrying any of the prohibited items listed e.g. a gun, a knife, golf balls, water?”

Jesus! What do these people think I am, a terrorist? I’m going to Spain for a bit of winter sunshine not to join the International Brigade. But that’s entry level to what comes next. People who have not received counselling for sexual dysfunction or have had any hint of humour surgically removed can be found at this stage of your journey,

“ Passport and Boarding Pass. Please have any permitted liquids or cosmetics in sealable plastic bags before entering the security area.”

Right, that will be the Congo Line for penned animals, all shuffling along fidgeting with pockets and bags while trying to maintain some sense of dignity.

“ Place items in the trays provided. Remove your coat, belt, and your shoes too, sir”

Don’t be fooled by that moment of apparent civility, the Crack Squad are on standby with stun guns to take you down if you step out of line.

So all my earthly possessions are on the way to be incinerated, ok scanned for WMD, and I step, unshod, through the Pearly Gates. The scanner bleeps. Fucking ‘Bleeps!’. Eyes turn on me, fellow passengers in sympathy and relief, the securocrats in glee at the opportunity to demonstrate the efficiency of airport security in the ‘War on Terror’. In this instance that would be the infamous ‘Grey Zone’ headed to the Costa del Sol to spend their pension and save on the heating bills back home.

I’m ushered into the controversial Full Body Scanner.

‘Stand with your feet on the marks, and raise your arms above your head” Reichsfuhrer von Po-Face instructs.

Now I am a fucking criminal, the real deal, how proud my parents would be. I step from the Tardis after 3 seconds of high-octane x-ray to be confronted once again by Po-Face. For the benefit of his apprentice he indicates the ciphers on the body map betraying the WMD secreted on my person.

Cipher 1: location lower jaw; Cipher 2: waist.

I venture to ask what exactly this marvelous piece of modern security technology, costing a number with lots of zeros, has revealed. I am not given a reply but asked if I object to a further search. Now tell me, dear readers, what the answer to that question is as my recourse to consulting the oracle has failed. Po-face uses a hand-held scanner, then a thorough finger and thumb search of the waistband of my jeans.

“Would it be the endosteal implant in the molar of my posterior lower jaw and the copper rivets in the waistband of my jeans that are causing such confusion for your technology?”

A further lack of courtesy indicates that the technology, the operator and the government policy are in dire need of recalibration.

Now let me get this right. I decide my partner and I need a mid-winter break. The ease with which this can be achieved is the boon of technology. Book flights, print boarding passes, book hotels, and all so straight forward you want to congratulate yourself on savoir faire. In possession of the relevant documents you set off for the airport, with pre-paid parking voucher, to make that trip. The world of reason inverts when you step onto airport property. Customer? Customer my arse! Expect implants, fillings, dentures, piercings, and clothes to be added to the list of prohibited items, while issue of an orange boiler suit de rigueur

The Security Industry is ruling our lives. Edward Snowden has been excommunicated from the Church of the NSA for telling us so and the Sus Law now applies to 90% of the population. Airports are strangled with this nonsense and customers have become suspects.

Question: How many flights have been the subject of terrorist attack?

I can think of seven.

Question: How many flights, national and international, transit without incident annually?

The answer to that has lots of zeros.

The Security Industry will assure us that the safety of those flights is a consequence of their vigilance.

Question: Do you know why elephants paint their toenails green?

Answer: So they can hide in apple trees.

Question: Have you ever seen an elephant in an apple tree?

Answer: No, demonstrating how effective that ploy is.




“Fenton here was a dyed-in-the-wool paranoid schizophrenic who believed that radio active fluids were invading his skull and that hugely complex high-tech-type machines had been specially designed to pursue him without cease until they caught him and made brutal sport of him and buried him alive”   From Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

There’s been a lot of column inches and blogging on Edward Snowden. Some see him as a traitor, some a hero, still others a fool and a self-publicist. Whistle blowers have long been pilloried for revealing confidential or classified information in the belief that the detail should be in the public domain. This information reveals the underhand, misguided, or illegal activities of state or corporation. Movies like Serpico and Silkwood celebrated the whistle blower as conscionable people who witnessed corruption and acted. Whatever the public opine, these people are not naïve, they are well aware of the route they have chosen and it’s potential outcomes.

The shadow world that is revealed is mirrored in the world that the whistle blower finds himself or herself in as a result. Edward Snowden is in exile; stateless, caught in a no mans land at Moscow Airport. He’s neither arriving nor leaving. Julian Assange is also in exile, camped out at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Its stalemate but not checkmate…yet.

Meanwhile vitriol and anger versus admiration and gratitude. This is about ‘privacy’ and our perception of what it is, what it means and who has a right to it. The revelations that some 80% of online and telecom traffic is being monitored for our security raises lots of issues. That the NSA uses GCHQ intercepts to circumvent certain laws in the US is plain devious and illegal. This information, until now, was deemed classified and therefore none of our business. The extreme paranoia at the core of the State Security Machine is based on the premise that we are under attack.

In civil society deluded and paranoid human beings are sectioned for psychoanalysis and medication in secure hospitals for their own good and that of the public. Therefore the only conclusion that can be drawn from this level of state paranoia is that the lunatics have taken over the asylum with our blessing.