Paranoid Precautions Infringe Freedom

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Brian Ashley

I would like to take this week’s column to relay a newspaper story I found through a link on the rotten.com news Web site. Gwen Shaffer wrote the piece for the Philadelphia City Paper (Oct. 18) and it is such an excellent example of what happens when stupid people get scared and overreact that I could not resist sharing it with you. While the whole article and specifics are too much to fit here, I will try to illustrate the situation as best I can.

Neil Godfrey is 22-years-old, white, and from Philadelphia. He looks and dresses like most other 22-year-olds. He arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 10 in preparation to fly to Phoenix to see his father and go on a family vacation to Disneyland. He went to the United Airlines ticket counter to check his baggage and was told that he had been selected for a random baggage check. He had no objections and watched as security searched through his luggage and scanned it. Nothing came up and he proceeded to the walk-through security check with the magazine and book he brought for the flight.

However, when Godfrey reached the security check, his choice of reading material, specifically his chosen novel, were highly scrutinized by airport security. The book, “Hayduke Lives!,” is about the radical environmental freedom activist George Washington Hayduke III, who is known for using physical and destructive violence to prevent the construction of bridges and developments in fragile or endangered environments. However, being complete idiots who probably couldn’t fight their way through a Hardy Boys, much less a real novel, the security guards simply looked at the cover of the book: a drawing of a man’s hand holding sticks of dynamite. While they were suspicious, they let Godfrey pass through the gate where he proceeded to sit down near the boarding gate to continue reading.

Later, a National Guardsman (read: New Thought and Appearance Police) approached him and asked him why he was reading the particular book. Soon 10 to 12 police and National Guardsman had responded to the scene where the used their mighty brains to analyze the book for a full 45 minutes, all the while taking notes like grade 10 English students. As embarrassing and harassing as this was, it was just the beginning.

Soon, Godfrey was approached by a United Airlines employee who told him that he would not be allowed to board the plane for three reasons. First she said that because he had a book with an illustration of a bomb, he could not fly on the plane. Second, he purchased his ticket on Sept. 11 (although she failed to notice he purchased it just after midnight on the night of Sept. 10, over nine hours before the bombing, on Priceline.com). Lastly, she said his driver’s license was expired. It must be stated here that this women is the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Apparently she forgot the difference between “issue date” and “expiration date,” because she had the two mixed up. When Godfrey made her aware of this point, she pointed to another date printed on the card, and told him that was the expiration date. However, yet again, she was wrong, for what she was now pointing at was the date at which Godfrey turned 21, over a year ago.

Apparently Godfrey has dealt with imbeciles before, so he did the only thing reasonable in a situation such as this: he went home peacefully and called his mom to straighten things out. His mother purchased another ticket for the same day and he returned to the airport in full spirits and with a revised reading material: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. However, stupidity prevailed and after he had checked in, again, and passed through security, again, he was stopped by a security official who recognized him and the National Guard was again summoned. This time his book was only scrutinized for 20 minutes, showing that the idiots hired by the airlines for security are indeed better at children’s books than real literature. While they could find no illustrations of bombs in the Harry Potter book, the head of airport “security,” Burt Zastera, told him he could not fly. Not only that, but he did not give a reason and said that he was only relaying information.

At this point Godfrey left and his father called the airline, the police and the National Guard. United Airlines told his father he was banned from flying with United because he cracked “a joke about bombs.” Godfrey strictly denies this allegation. However, the spokesman for United Airlines has no record of such an incident. Ironically, neither the police, nor airport security, nor the National Guard filed any official documents. The Federal Aviation Administration stands behind its statement that the final decision of who can and cannot fly is up the airlines.

This kind of stuff is what happens when a bunch of uneducated, brain-dead, day job security officers and airline counter workers watch too much CNN and at the same time are given total authority in matters of our personal freedom. Congratulations bin Laden, your mission was a success. Thanks to Al Quaeda and CNN, we have gone from the greatest nation on earth to the most uninformed and fear-driven modern country today.