The Myth Of Security

At Margaret Whitlam’s memorial service were six Prime Ministers including the current one, four Premiers including the current one, a lot of former cabinet ministers like Race Matthews and Barry Jones, several famous writers, directors and actors (Armfield, Gaden, Campion, Little Pattie), and the notorious international villain Phillip Ruddock.

Yet no security checks occurred at the church door. Anyone could queue up early, as I did, and get in unsearched. I had a black bag big enough for an explosive device that could have taken out most of Australia’s past and present eminences, and I was waved through.

What is going on here? Are we in a War on Terror, or not? Or is it currently in abeyance? And why weren’t we told?

Why is money spent on security checks in Parliament House, and on helicopter-gunship armed protection of Barack Obama in Canberra, if it is not also spent on eminent funerals? Or on Opera House opening nights? Or on Cat Empire concerts? Or on Opera In The Park?

What is going on here? Is it a waste of billions, or what?

Just asking.

  1. Happily Morose

    Rather inconsistent, isn’t it. Most of the enormously expensive post-September 11 security apparatus installed at our aerodromes for example is just for show, for the benefit of Mr & Mrs Average, as routinely shown by ‘breaches’ of people slipping into the terminal via the Exit doors and then disappearing in the crowd, unlicensed fake engineers gaining easy access to plane maintenance hangers, and the complete failure to insist on the presentation of photo ID at the boarding gate for domestic flights.

    It’s a booming business, ‘security’, and far too much of it now goes unquestioned by our public intellectuals, but I think, Bob, that we should be comforted, rather than alarmed, that it is not visible or evident at events like Mrs Whitlam’s funeral. It says something (if only an accidental whimper) about the differences between we Australians and our American friends.

  2. I agree with this. I remember in 1988 watching Bob Hawke, who was then Prime Minister, lumbering around a cricket field for half a day in Manly, and looking up at the eight hundred high windows in the adjacent skyscrapers and condominiums and bungalows from which he could have been sniped, and realising there was no danger of this, no danger at all.

    And thinking, ‘This is a good country.’

  3. There is not much visible security at a major Australian funeral because there has never been a major incident at such an event, and people don’t like to see a lot of uniforms unless there is a demonstrated need for it.
    There is a lot of security around the US president because many US presidents have been shot at. Many. And half the world would like to have a go.
    Security mostly reacts to what has happened. If you let people dream up whatever might go wrong and plan for that they soon take over everything, and start oppressing people for their own good.
    And anyway, times have moved on. They now have a lot of information on everyone. They were there, at the funeral, and they probably knew you and what might be in your bag. They would have known everyone attending, all about them. From this blog, for instance, it is easy for security organisations to track so many connections between people, they can easily predict what all those people might do, or consider.
    Security is a bit of a joke. Thats what LulzSec means.
    Anyway, you should have thrown that mobile phone at the Obama reception. It would have been interesting.

  4. I remember some years ago attending a hearing of the full high court and the place was packed for an important case, not one security check of anyone.

    However, when I needed to get something from the law library next door I was sent through a metal detector.

  5. What about those terrorists at the Tent Embassy? They could be a threat if they thought there was no security.

  6. Security all over the world went on steroids after 9/11. A fine growth industry.

    A democracy cannot really protect its leaders from a determined nutter, or an evil conspiracy. As the assassination of Indira Gandhi showed, the peril may well be within. (Gandhi was killed by her own bodyguards)

    And as the assassination of the Afghan warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud (killed by assassins disguised as a “TV camera crew!”) even authoritarian regimes cannot prevent a killer prepared to die in the act.

    My conclusion is that Security is mostly aimed at preventing indignities to their employers, whether political leaders, gangsters or tycoons. And of course to deter ‘casual’ attempts.

  7. My guess is that the ‘Security Effort’ is a kind of modernist theatre, and a poor production at that, and a necessary part of the social fabric of these times.

    Whether it’s the vulgar charade of the TSA goon-show and their daily humourless mollusc-like groping of young children and prosthetic-wearers and buxom beauties, or the relentless lobbying by sharps in suits for govt. departments to commit additional millions for the latest piece of gee-whizzery capable of revealing whether you’re wearing Calvin Kleins or LuminoGlow Micro Lace G-Strings, to some extent it’s all part of the smoke & mirror show that seems to have become an adjunct to the public experience in the aftermath of the daddy of all S&M shows, 9/11, the ultimate ‘pull the wool over the public’s eye’ exercise. And how many billions of dollars have been spent since then, and how many citizens in how many countries have questioned the degree of intrusion in their lives by humourless goons empowered by virtue of uniform and sanction?

    And any honest analysis of the cost-effectiveness of this theatre, objectively and fearlessly carried out, would reach the inevitable conclusion regarding the sham and futility of these amateur theatrics. Security! Thanks Bob, for raising the topic, but the sharps & spooks in suits and sunnies still call the shots, unfortunately.

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