The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

So much for ‘foiling’ the terrorists

In Australia we have a fairly competent customs and quarantine regime, and so every couple of months it’s not unusual to hear of yet another drug bust at an airport or the prosecution of some silly person trying to smuggle native animals.

When airport drug busts are announced, people acknowledge it as good police work, maybe even with a bit of nationalistic pride. They do not lock themselves in their homes, screaming “oh no! this is a sign that the streets are flush with drugs!”. There are no calls for massive increases in funding for drug detection at airports (because clearly, catching one smuggler means all the others are getting through). Nobody tries to ban plastic bags (or condoms) on planes for fear of the horror they could unleash upon addicts.

Compare this to the current panic over a foiled terrorist attack at Heathrow Airport.

This news is a nice confirmation that despite their flaws, the Metropolitan Police are still one of the best police forces in the world.

It is not a good reason to go cancelling flights, panic selling airline shares, or making long-haul flights unbearable by banning iPods.

Nor is it reason for crazy hype. Had the attacks gone ahead, it wouldn’t have been “mass murder on an unimaginable scale”, contrary to the assistant commissioner. A dozen destroyed planes = about 5000 people = roughly the number of people who die in London every month.

It never ceases to amaze me how common sense is in such short supply when it’s most needed.

(This post inspired by zeFrank, via Ponderance.)

  1. Something that gets mentioned in eng fairly frequently – the difference between actual risk and percieved risk. (Along with such questions as “how safe is safe” etc, but that’s another topic.)

    And I think aeroplane flights are perceived as more risky than, say, cars, because they’re not an everyday thing for most people and they’re out of their control. All the general public can do is go along for the ride.

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