Airport Scanner Discovers Familiar Truth

The country’s first full-body scanning machine has been installed in the Phoenix airport. Used in secondary screening, it automatically looks through passengers’ clothing for guns and explosives. If the phone booth-size thing works out, it will soon appear in New York, L.A., and other airports. [Note to younger readers: a “phone booth” is where folks used to go to have the private conversations we no longer have.]

Some people are fine with the new machine, enjoying the illusion of increased security. But others, of course, feel upset that the people operating the machines can “see” their bodies. According to The New York Times, special software intentionally blurs each image, leaving crucial details visible (bomb stuffed in a bra) while “flattening revealing contours” (exactly how much of the real thing is stuffed in a bra). Nevertheless, some people say it’s like a virtual strip search.

That’s 21st-century Americans: giving up the right to private phone conversations, email, bank transactions, travel plans, and medical records. But a stranger processing thousands of images each day sees the outline of your vulva or nutsack, and people feel violated. Our government is counting on this neurotic calculus.

Surely there was a group of peasants in Eastern Europe a thousand years ago with the same superstition as “modern” Americans—the belief that someone seeing the outline of your body somehow has a virtual sexual experience with you.


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