The Normalization of Security

TSA-style security is now so normal that it’s part of a Disney ride:

The second room of the queue is now a security check area, similar to a TSA checkpoint. The two G-series droids are still there, G2-9T scanning luggage and G2-4T scanning passengers. For those attraction junkies, you’ll remember that the G-series droids are so named because in the original Disneyland Park version of the ride, they were created by removing the “skins” from two of the goose animatronics from the soon-to-close America Sings attraction (Goose = “G” series). While we won’t tell you why, you’ll enjoy paying a lot of attention to what the scans of the luggage show is inside. When it’s your turn to go through the passenger scan (a thermal body scan), you may be verbally accosted by a security droid. Also, keep an eye out in the queue for an earlier version of RX-24 (“Captain Rex”) from the original Star Tours; he’s labeled “defective” and has some familiar dialogue.

This is the new Star Tours ride at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Posted on May 20, 2011 at 2:43 PM34 Comments


William Beem May 20, 2011 3:00 PM

Very true. I was at the soft opening of this ride on Sunday. The TSA is part of our current travel experience and its been incorporated into the ride. One droid scans luggage, then you see yourself on display being scanned by another droid. Since babies aren’t allowed, at least there won’t be any diaper exams.

WTF May 20, 2011 3:01 PM

Ummm, what? An amusement ride that simulates the multiple “inconveniences” that the TSA puts us through, and we go pay money to be humiliated and insulted yet again?

Am I missing something here?

kingsnake May 20, 2011 3:40 PM

Why pay beaucoup bucks for a Disney E Ticket when I can get a high school drop out to probe me for free?

Anonymous 1 May 20, 2011 4:13 PM

Christian: Referencing natural news (albeit indirectly) will not make reasonable people inclined to believe you.

On the issue of the X-rays, you get far more radiation from the flight (by many orders of magnitude) than you would even if one of those machines were emitting a thousand times as much as it is meant to.

It’s usually a good idea to stick to arguments that are actually based on reality, like the porno scanners not actually being useful and being a massive invasion of privacy and stay clear of arguments that are irrelevant.

Anonymous 2 May 20, 2011 4:36 PM

You are comparing apples to oranges… The energy levels are different. It matters whether you get compton-scattering or the rays just pass straight through your soft tissues.

They claim the energy from these devices is all absorbed in the skin layers, yet we can clearly see bones in some images. They claim the energy levels are “safe”, yet clearly the levels are variable. Is it that the lowest levels are safe? How about the higher levels?

If all the energy is absorbed in the skin, then why do the “theoretical” safety tests assume it is evenly distributed throughout our entire body mass? For that matter, why are there no animal based studies? What about the elderly, the young, the pregnant, or folks who’ve survived cancer who are more sensitive to radiation?

You can say that the odds of getting cancer are 1 in a billion, but with 600 million passengers a year, someone is going to die from this.

Mr. Toad's Wild MKULTRA Ride May 20, 2011 5:15 PM

It’s A Small World After All v.2.0:

RFID and mind chips being distributed between ride attractions, forming one mind and sharing distributed information.

It really will be a small world, after all.

Anonymous 1 May 20, 2011 6:00 PM

The lowest levels are so far below what you’d get on the flight that you would be boarding after going through the scanner that even if it gave you a thousand times overdose you still wouldn’t get as much radiation as you get from the flight so unless you are trying to say that flying in aircraft is unsafe due to radiation you don’t have an argument on safety (of course even a small dose is too much if there’s no benefit, but there’s also basically no risk as well (if we can’t see it in statistics then I’m inclined to say it’s too small to worry about), it’s not like anyone is going to get 100 mSv from a porno scanner).

tommy May 21, 2011 12:00 AM

They need to keep tight security on “It’s A Small World After All”. Sources who spoke to me on condition of anonymity have said that it’s part of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: You strap in the suspect and ride them through it over and over, until they crack and tell you everything they know, everything their friends and family know, and everything their ancestors knew going back twelve generations.

They wouldn’t tell me what is the record for the most trips through before someone cracked, but me, I’d spill my guts before I was halfway through.

(Actually, not a bad Movie Plot Threat — smuggle explosives into WDW — except that it’s already been done, and long ago: 1977’s “Rollercoaster”, )

John May 21, 2011 5:59 AM

It’s must be great to live in a ‘free’ country like America. I’m so glad I don’t

Another reason not to go to disney

Anonymous 2 May 21, 2011 10:21 AM

The energy levels of UV light are far lower too, but it will still give us a nasty sunburn. And UV is proven to cause cancer.

I’ll say it again: These porno-scanners vs what you get on the flight are an apples to oranges comparison. Look up compton-scattering and understand what it can do to soft tissues vs the “stronger” radiation during the flight that just passes through us. (Or is blocked by bone.)

If you are knocking electrons off molecules inside soft-tissue cells, and especially if the bulk of the energy is being concentrated in the skin (surface) layers, then yeah, that’s different from higher-energy radiation that just passes though us. (Or is blocked by bone.)

If these things are really so safe, then why is no one allowed to perform animal based studies verifying this? We don’t even get studies that are clearly biased by funding! All we get are theoretical predictions of safety. Why won’t folks put their money where their mouth is? Lets get some hard science in here! What is it that we’re all so afraid they’ll discover?

Is this actually about safety? About making us feel safe? Because I don’t feel safe. I’m not alone. A lot of other folks feel the same way. And we’re all going out of our way to avoid air travel. Especially with our kids. It just ain’t worth the risk. (And I’m not speaking about terrorism here. The odds of that are far too low to worry about. Especially if we’re driving instead!)

The TSA seems to realize this. In talking with other folks, it seems that many airports employ the older electromagnetic-induction-coils side-by-side with the newer X-ray tech. Folks are given a choice, if they’re sufficiently observant. Parents with young children are deliberately steered away from the X-ray tech. Apparently someone in power is afraid of a “you-gave-my-baby-cancer” lawsuit.

If this is nothing more than a make-work program, surely the money could be better spent on infrastructure or education…

If it is actually about safety, well let me ask you this: Before these scanners, a terrorist had to obtain some exotic highly-powerful difficult-to-detonate explosive of which they could only hope to smuggle a very small quantity on board. Nowadays, they can just wheel a shopping cart filled with hundreds of pounds of cheaply made, easily available material up to the over-crowded security line everyone is standing in. The bodycount would be beyond horrifying.

Why does this make us feel safer?

Or is it all part of some group-think, hide your head in the sand, don’t point out the emperor has no clothes or the secret police will come for you and your children in the middle of the night on the grounds of unamerican activities for daring to voice the bloody obvious?

jeffk May 21, 2011 10:45 AM

Man, this blog must be where senses of humor go to die. Disney is clearly poking fun at the TSA’s excesses here, not trying to normalize them and brainwash your children.

Anonymous 1 May 21, 2011 11:42 AM

Anonymous 2: All the things you are talking about have already been accounted for in the relative biological effect factor and the fact that the measured dose of radiation from the flight is from the cosmic rays which don’t just pass right through.

UV is proven to cause cancer at high doses, so are X-rays and gamma rays, etc. Low doses though are not proven to cause cancer and the RBE can be used to correct for different types of radiation and typically is used to give the value in Sieverts or rems).

As for the induction coils, could it be that those are just metal detectors? I wouldn’t be too surprised if the airport security workers just don’t want to be looking at pictures of naked kids (and a lot of them probably believe the baseless fear over backscatter X-ray safety).

Animal studies would be a waste of time, we’ve already done enough animal studies on the effects of radiation that the only that needs to be done is to measure how much radiation they are actually giving off (and that can be done with ordinary radiation detectors).

BTW: At no point did I say that the porno scanners should exist, I simply said that the argument over radiation is nonsense and that you need to use effective arguments against them, like them not actually being useful and being a massive invasion of privacy.

Afraid Uvtheman May 21, 2011 4:06 PM

I’ve been searching for a term to describe what I feel is an ever deeper penetration of security checkpoints in our lives and you’ve coined it perfectly. I’ve been complaining about the installation security guards, police, checkpoints and metal detectors in public schools. I don’t think there is anything to gain security-wise through these actions — but it does make it seem to the developing minds that these things are normal and to think nothing of them. Someone who has been through these every day of their school life, is much less likely to complain about them popping up anywhere else.

averros May 21, 2011 7:28 PM

jeffk: some jokes are so tasteless, they’re no longer funny.

TSA is one of them.

Bruce: the word is not “normalization”; the word is “desensitization”. And, yes, it works.

tommy May 21, 2011 7:47 PM

@ jeffk:

“Man, this blog must be where senses of humor go to die.”

Well, I try sometimes. Sorry that my post, the third above yours, wasn’t amusing to you.

If you’re looking for geeky humor, click my sig in this post (and a lot of others; they vary.) Cheers.

wumpus May 22, 2011 1:01 PM

I’m confused at the anger. As far as I know, Disney has taken security seriously since day 1, and has the “most Orwelian place on Earth” outside of a jail. If they wanted a TSA security style check, it would be at the entrance.

I’m hardly one to ask about Disney rides, but sometime between that last two times I was there (mid eighties and mid nineties) Disney was making an effort to make standing in line less mind-numbingly boring than it had been. Typically this was limited to having the lines decorated with theme appropriate props, and a great example was adding a “FedEx matter transmission” commercial at space mountain. Adding a fake security check that requires at least some customer interaction should break the monotony even better.

As Bruce mentioned, the scary thing is the normalization of security. And the idea that Disney appears to expect to keep this thing up more or less permanently.

Dirk Praet May 22, 2011 5:55 PM

Although I do see the humour of Disney mimicking TSA-style security theatre, in this form it’s about as funny as watching a senior citizen break his neck slipping on a banana peel. I suppose the creative folks that came up with the original idea had something much more witty in mind – like a smoking scanner not detecting anything or a malfunctioning security droid behaving like an ass -, but had these components censored by management in fear of a stiff government reprimand.

GreenSquirrel May 23, 2011 4:58 AM

@ anonymous 1

Saying the scanner adds less radiation than the flight is meaningless.

It adds more radiation than flight+no scan, which is the crux of the argument.

Clive Robinson May 23, 2011 6:09 AM

@ GreenSquirrel,

“It adds more radiation than flight+no scan, which is the crux of the argument.”

It is one asspect of the argument that is quite relevent,

However there are a whole host of issues.

From Chernobyl we now know that how radiation effects organisms is a very multifaceted subject. It did in many ways blow most of our models out of the water and left them in tatters. And we can nolonger assume simple rules (ie if A=B, A+B= 2A or 2B)

Which means we have to run live organism tests all over again… But… They take time to do (ie you have to wait and see what it dies of).

Unfortunatly the technology is “new and hot” and there is large quantities of cash involved….

phred14 May 23, 2011 7:34 AM

Also at the intersection of Disney and TSA…

Last fall my wife and I took a quick getaway to WDW. They have a feature called “Magical Express”. On the way there, you add an extra Disney tag to your luggage when you check it in. When you get to Orlando, you simply go to a bus, and ride to the Land of the Mouse. Your luggage magically shows up in your room a later that afternoon.

On the way home…

You check in for the flight home at the hotel. You get your boarding passes, they check in your luggage, etc. We checked in early in the morning right after checking out of the hotel – then went into one of the parks. Our flight out wasn’t until that evening, and we weren’t due to catch the bus until mid-afternoon. So for the whole day, our luggage was “in the Disney system,” but from a security point of view, we controlled it until we checked it in with them that morning. I presume that to be permitted by TSA to do this, Disney must have been bonded, or hired a bonded contracter.

I’ve wondered about the TSA implications of this setup even from before we made the reservations. Of course we and our luggage made the round trip with no problems whatsoever, which is what I would have hoped for, if not expected.

David Thornley May 23, 2011 9:05 AM

@WTF: Yes, it does remind me of the theme park Somme World from Jasper Fforde’s book “The Fourth Bear” (one of his Nursery Crime books).

I can take things from Douglas Adams happening in real life, but when it’s Jasper Fforde I want off this rock.

Anonymous 1 May 23, 2011 2:17 PM

GreenSquirrel: The amount that it adds is so insignificant as to not be worth worrying about (even if it emitted a lot more than is claimed), whilst they shouldn’t be using them there isn’t a safety argument against them, only privacy and ineffectiveness (of course you really shouldn’t be exposing people to radiation without some benefit, but there just isn’t a risk here).

Dirk Praet May 23, 2011 7:06 PM

@ Anonymous 1

“but there just isn’t a risk here”

Which is undoubtedly the same phrase the good folks at Lehman used when selling their toxic cr*p to credulous customers. They probably even believed it themselves. There is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation, whether it comes naturally or is man made. Full stop.

Anonymous 1 May 23, 2011 10:09 PM

Dirk Praet: If there were no such thing as a safe dose of radiation we’d all be dead already (there’s lots of natural radiation around the place).

The fact of the matter is that low doses of radiation have such a small effect as to be insignificant compared to the other things we are exposed to or do (it’s much less risk even in the worst case than driving a car).

Not to mention the lack lack of correlation between cancer rates of low level doses of radiation (at least when you look at the literature as a whole). Below 100 mSv/year whole body exposure we can’t even find any evidence of harm and that is way more than any regulatory limit for non-emergency situations.

Now maybe radiation is dangerous down to zero but if it is it’s not very dangerous, it’s also quite possible that our bodies self-repair mechanisms create a threshold below which no lasting damage is done (and it is even possible that stimulation of those mechanisms by radiation actually offsets the damage sufficiently to make low doses of radiation good for you).

Now, are you going to ban granite counter tops over radiation safety concerns? Would you ban airline travel? Would you ban medical X-rays? Would you ban living at high altitude?

All things which expose people to more radiation than a backscatter X-ray scanner (and yes, those things should be banned, but on more rational grounds than your imagination).

notadermatolgistbutt May 24, 2011 4:56 PM

I think I agree there’s no ‘safe dose’ of radiation. Just doses.

Don’t most people get around 2 millirem per week just from electronics, the Sun ( i knew that thing was Evil sometimes! ), planes, and blogs?

But there’s a threshold law too. For example, you’re not supposed to have too many x-rays a year, a nuclear welder can only do two jobs a year, stuff like that…People do use UV blockers on their skin and for their eyes too I hear.

Not saying scanners are 100% lethal anymore than I’d say they’re 100% failsafe.

Disney had Abhraham Lincoln speaking at their parks once and phoney rockets. Why not scanners?

I think the REAL issue is their $50.00 cheeseburgers.

Anonymous 1 May 24, 2011 6:51 PM

Don’t forget coal power plants, if they don’t have effective fly ash capture equipment they can release more radiation than the limits for nuclear power plants (limits which the later very rarely come close to). Of course it’s nothing compared to all the other stuff that comes up the smoke stack of a coal burner.

The main dose I’d expect from electronics would be X-rays from old CRTs (if you’ve still got any around the place). Some discharge lamps can also emit shortwave UV if they are damaged (mercury vapour lamps which were hit by a ball have caused sunburn and eye inflammation that way). UV emitted by properly functioning lights is intense enough to be a problem (provided you don’t try to light your house with a tanning light or germicidal lamp).

Background radiation tends to be mostly from cosmic rays and radioactive materials present in the Earth (Uranium, Thorium, Radium, Potassium 40, Carbon 14, Radon (often the major source of background radiation), etc). The sun also contributes most of the UV (though now that we’ve stopped releasing so many CFCs that problem should lessen over time).

Of course the laws with regard to what people are allowed to be exposed to tend to be set to err on the side of safety (probably a bit too far compared to other regulatory environments, there does seem to be an attitude of demanding perfection from nuclear and anything involving radiation while letting things which don’t contain the N-word off the hook for pretty much anything).

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