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Living the CES security farce

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | Jan. 14, 2016
The new ‘enhanced’ security promised for CES turned out to be a joke, but the illusion of safety provided by security theater really fell away on the way home.

As it turns out, though, the special exception for journalists wasn’t really necessary. That’s because CES’s “enhanced security” was a joke.

It all fell apart early. My first clue that this was the case came only a few hours after I got I my green tag. Aiming to enter one room in the conference hall, I was directed to go to have my bag checked — and waved from the right side of a column to its left side. On the left side of the column, in an otherwise empty area marked as a security line, the other “guard” waved me on without glancing at me or my bag.

That was interesting.

Over the course of the week, I sometimes saw people’s bags checked, whether or not the bags were tagged. The “inspection” consisted of a quick look in the bag’s middle. There was nothing like a comprehensive check. All of those pockets that we had been warned against because they would take too long to search simply went unsearched.

Metal detectors? There wasn’t one to be seen. Scanning wands? Same story. Security dogs? Nope. Additional guards? I didn’t see them, and I was in all the major venues: the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Sands and the Mandalay Bay.

Some lines were long — long enough for one of my press brethren to sit down with his harmonica and start playing some mean blues — but, really, they were just typical, hour-long CES lines. I’ve been in worse lines at Disney World.

If someone had actually wanted to carry a bomb or a disassembled M-16 into CES, it would have been simple.

But you know what? I don’t want that kind of fear to rule me. We live in terror of terrorism in the United States, but then we resort to the placebo of security theater instead of real security to make us feel better. We’d be better off if we looked at it rationally. The odds of dying in any kind of terrorist attack worldwide are 1 in 9.3 million. That includes places like the Middle East, where real terrorism threats are much more a part of daily life.

In the States, you’re far more likely to die of choking on a hot dog (1 in 350,000), binge drinking yourself to death (1 in 820,000) or being stuck by lightning (1 in 576,000). What’s really likely to kill you is heart disease (1 in 5), cancer (1 in 7) or a car accident (1 in 8,000). Number of people killed by rogue ISIS agents on the Vegas Strip? Zero.

It’s not that I don’t take terrorism seriously, but I try to put it in perspective. And I can’t help but think that the point of terrorism is to terrify. If you live in fear, the terrorists win.


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