Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

Joking at Airport Security

You know, I really thought that the UK was the only country stupid enough to do something as daft as arrest someone for making an obvious joke when asked about the contents of their luggage at an airport. I am, of course, referring to the unfortunate American who, as a citizen of Chicago, joked to airport check-in staff that he had a gun in his violin case. He even showed the woman in question the contents of his violin case (a violin, of course), but, despite this, she still called the police, who arrested him, held him for 24 hours (causing him to miss his flight), and had him banned from all future flights with that airline and a number of others.

The level of stupidity required to do this is, frankly, beyond belief. First and foremost, the incident, which was recorded as part of the BBC's Airport series, was obviously a case of a harmless joke. For one thing, everybody knows that stereotypical Chicago gangsters from the days of Prohibition keep a tommy gun in their violin cases. For another, the man quickly explained that he was joking, and opened his case to prove it. If I were in charge of the check-in staff, I would probably have sacked the woman on the spot. If I were in charge of the police officers who thought it appropriate to arrest the individual in question, I would probably have severely reprimanded them for their behaviour.

But now, it seems that the United States is also afflicted with the same problem; according to this story from the BBC News site, a Briton, Ms. Samantha Marson, was arrested in Miami for joking that she had three bombs in her bag. I imagine that it was probably obvious that she was joking. For one thing, no suicide bomber or terrorist is going to tell airport staff when asked that they are carrying a bomb; if they were that stupid, then they wouldn't have been able to get their hands on one in the first place. No, this is sheer bloody-minded idiocy, just like the similar incident with a U.S. citizen in the U.K.

Sergeant Joe Wyche, Detective Robert Williams and whoever else are responsible for this stupidity should be suspended. At once. Clearly if they feel that an appropriate response to a joke is to arrest someone and threaten to take away their freedom, not to mention waste an enormous amount of court time and other resources in doing so, then they are not fit to be in public office. The same goes for any law-maker that thinks that making it illegal to joke about the contents of one's bag is a good thing and will do the slightest bit to combat terrorism. Terrorists won't tell you they are carrying a bomb or a gun. The only people that might are members of the public making an innocent joke, and if someone can't distinguish the two, then it seems to me that they shouldn't be working in airport security on either side of the Atlantic.

The only purpose served by this sort of thing is to make the rest of the world laugh even harder at American and British stupidity. Come on people, let's have some common sense.