T-shirt with picture of armed robot endangers British aviation system

This poor guy tried to board a BA flight at Heathrow terminal 5 but was turned back and told to change out of his t-shirt, which featured a Transformer robot carrying a gun -- a robot with a gun that apparently posed a threat to flight safety.

Go through security, get pulled to the side. I'm wearing a French Connection Transformers t-shirt. Bloke starts joking with me is that Megatron. Then he explains that since Megatron is holding a gun, I'm not allowed to fly. WTF? It's a 40 foot tall cartoon robot with a gun as an arm. There is no way this shirt is offensive in any way, and what I'm going to use the shirt to pretend I have a gun?
Link (Thanks, PT!)


  1. I hate to see how they’d react if you wore a fake tuxedo t-shirt:
    “Oh, you are in first class I assume! Right this way sir!”

  2. Is this some sort of parody of real life? This is even more idiotic than the necklace bit.

  3. What about the tourist shirts with the cats or dogs?

    I’m sorry sir, you pose a threat to our allergic guests, all animals must be held in cargo. Would you like to rent the appropriate kennel? We’ve got one in extra-large that should accommodate you well.

  4. i don’t think its a gun ol’ megatron is sportin. looks like a telefunken u-47…..( in leather ).

  5. The TSA is looking better and better (by comparison). At least a nail file or a bottle of shampoo pose a relatively plausible threat (in an episode of OZ).

  6. As if we needed any further proof that this has absolutely nothing to do with safety or terrorism.

  7. Well, clearly he should’ve just pointed out that it was Optimus Prime and that he’s one of the good guys.

  8. A worthy experiment might be two folks with different shirts. The first has a pic of a gun with “This is not a gun” underneath it. The second has a pic of Magritte’s pipe with “This is a gun” underneath it.

    I imagine this to be the sort of thing used to assess developmentally challenged or brain-damaged children, so it’d be a fair fight.

  9. What is in the water over there??

    Heathrow didn’t want to be outdone by Kelowna? You had to up the ante…so…lets see what happens in Canada next. Thanks alot. : )

  10. I am so very tempted to make a tshirt with a picture of osama on it, with the caption “I won”, and wear that next time i take a plane trip.

  11. “OK let’s all sit back down slowly.
    I’m diverting this flight into the KFC drive-thru for some of those potato wedges.
    Sit back down there hero or my friend Voltron here will laser you back into the toilet!
    Maybe some mashed potatoes too, who’s with me!”

  12. Wait until they start taking away your Gnu tshirts. Y’know, because it’s code for something…

  13. I beleive people have been harrassed for wearing shirts with arabic on them.

    also the t- shirt captioned “suspected terrorist” has gotten people in trouble.

    Stupid people don’t like being told to their face that they’re being stupid.

  14. I got questioned over a Brave Woman t-shirt, which consisted of a single picture of an old woman in sunglasses sitting on a chair, with no background.

    I guess it reminded them of the shoe bomber or something because she way, you know, seated, and had shoes? Or perhaps because she was fat, she could have actually been hiding explosives under her garment?

    It seems that they want to run their security training on pictures of things as much as they want to run it on the very things themselves.

  15. It’s about time I implemented my luggage and apparel line brand BBOM.

    This is the kind of thing which needs a mass protest. With e-ticketing, anyone can fake up a boarding pass with a thermal printer — won’t work at the gate of course but it’ll certainly get you through ‘security’. Go on, arrest us all. All 1000 of us…

  16. Assuming things happened as described, there might be a good (in the logical, rather than moral sense) reason for it: if there’s some image recognition software backing up the security cameras, a picture of a gun would throw up a false positive.

  17. *pulls flight attendant aside*

    “OK, lady, I want you to listen very carefully. Unless this flight is diverted IMMEDIATELY to Tripoli and $5 million is deposited into this bank account, this Transformer will jump off of my shirt and blast the living shit out of everyone on board this plane. Also, as you see, my friend is wearing a Darth Vader T-shirt… Unless you obey our demands, he may invoke the Dark Side of the Force… Also, just remember, I have THIS”

    *pulls out Terminator bubble-gum card*

  18. I’m just in total despair now… I can’t take it anymore. We’ve been overrun by cretins.

  19. tubman #25, if i point my finger and cock my thumb, even as an unintentional non-pointing nose-picking gesture, could that also be recognized by the imaging heuristics as an actual gun? how about a birthmark, a haircut, sideburns (on men, of course), a deformity of the limbs?

    i think the point everybody here is trying to make is “where does all of this stop?” does it stop when we stop expelling and arresting children for sharing a pill of motril (for the purposes of alleviating menstrual cramping)? nope, not far enough.

    it is not done until all of our idiosyncratic reductio ad absurdum thoughts have been exhausted. for every new law or policy or guideline that is implemented, there are thousands out there who are unwittingly breaking it, and hundreds more thinking about how to push it to the absurd.

  20. OMG. Noen, you are right its not about security, its about submission – our submission. To whatever idiocy they deem necessary. I was recently driving through Springfield IL and one of the signs posted said to be sure and go the right speed because the interstate was being ‘monitored by video’. I wonder if they stop you for wearing the wrong shirt…

  21. oops, Motrin not Motril. For all I know, Motril could be some illicit drug… (sorry I couldn’t edit the original response).

  22. Seriously. Let’s not fly anymore.

    People stop flying –> Airlines tank –> Airports close –> Airport Security evaporates like a nightmare that seemed so real at the time.

  23. Trust Terminal 5 to jump the TSA’s shark. Man, that’s incredible. I can see why they might not want a shirt bearing “OSAMA ROXXORZ” and a pic of old Beardy with an AK, but a Transformer? Kinda going off on a trippy tangent of their own there – I’d love to see what went on inside that rentacop’s head.

    @Carlos – just let oil prices do it for us. :)

  24. some one up thread said

    “What is it something in the water over there?”

    Good god, have you been asleep for the last 8 years?

    It is not an “over there” thing, dmbkpf, it started in the US frcrsk.

  25. I am a gamer and have several portable systems. The last time I flew, I didn’t bring this because I thought they’d overreact.

  26. If this is real, I wonder if it’s some sort of work-to-rule protest on the part of the security guards. Enforcing the rules to the letter to draw attention to them and (hopefully) get them changed.


  27. @#29: I’m not sure that is the question everyone’s asking, because the answer is all too obvious: it stops when accountability starts.

  28. @27 CAPTAINVW

    May I be the first to say, you’d better stay outta the airport, baby, because YOU IZ DA BOMB! F’in brilliant.

    I like the mass protest, but it should be weirder. Shave our heads, wear black business suits, and everyone wear a walkman or iPod tucked away in the suit, but everyone wears one earpiece. And sunglasses! Oh, and everyone should check their wristwatches every couple of minutes or so.

  29. Many years ago, my then 6 year old daughter won a mini cap pistol keyring (about an inch long) at some cheesy tivoli sideshow. I didn’t want her to play with it, so I shoved it in my pocket, bought her a teddy bear instead, and promptly forgot about it.

    Months later, we’re checking our carry-on to board a plane (Zürich to London, if it matters), and all of a sudden a swarm of armed police descend on us. They start furiously searching through the assorted junk on the conveyer and come out victorious with the stupid cap pistol, from the depths of that rarely-worn jacket pocket. Apparenty size is quite hard to guage on those x-ray screens

    At the time (’96?), everyone watching burst out laughing, they confiscated the toy, and waved us onto the plane.

    These days, I wonder how many years my 6 yo would have got in jail.

  30. @33: Some poeple have to earn a living, relax or visit family.

    We might as well stop living all together -_-

  31. error404 – a cupla points:
    1. At least scroll back up and find the person’s screen name.
    2. I think the point being made was not that the UK (where I live) started it, but that we have a government that are a major player in upping the stupidity ante whenever we get the chance.
    3. Calling someone a dumbkopf – a little strong in this context (though the “security” guy obviously qualifies, as do his colleagues, his bosses and the politicians and media who bang on about The War On Terror all the time despite the fact that the only combatants appear to be autistics who burn their eyebrows off in yummy mummy cafes in the west of England).

  32. @40–you wrote:

    “Some poeple have to earn a living, RELAX or visit family.” (caps added for emphasis)

    You go through airport security to relax? Geez, what’s your day-job? Minesweeper for the U.N.?

  33. Perfectly justifiable security measure.

    The security guard was concerned that the t-shirt would transform into a real gun.

  34. Even if this t-shirt gave the wearer the ability to transform into a gun he would still need Starscream to pick him up and fire him. Therefore he poses no threat to airport security.

  35. What you people fail to realize is that what the security people are dealing with here are robots in disguise. They could be anywhere and look like anything, even a T-shirt. WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

  36. I suspect that this is a breach of your civil liberties and right to free speech (as far as I know we have a law like that in the UK – as long as you don’t say anything racist or similar…)
    I would imagine that you have the grounds for a legal case against BAA.

  37. All kidding aside this isn’t about the T-Shirt confusing some image recognizing software with a picture of a gun. It’s about keeping a core population in a permanent state of panic. In order to maintain that, and thereby maintain your power, you have to protect their delicate sensibilities.

  38. When I was a BAA Security Guard at Heathrow T4 back in 93/94 (paying off my student debts), we were trained that items with “representations” of weapons were a problem. A t-shirt with a slogan about bombs or guns, kids toys, lighters in the shape of guns, etc. So this is not a new thing, even if it is particularly stupid.

    The main difference was that at the time, there was a very real threat from effective terrorists – the IRA. I was at work the morning they managed to get a mortar on the roof of our building. These days its more movie plot threats than real explosives.

    One thing I find very concerning about flying these days is that when I was x-raying and frisking, I was pretty terrified that if I screwed up, a plane was going to fall out of the sky and it would be all my fault. We had the IRA and old fashioned middle eastern terrorists to deal with, and consequently I took the job very seriously. And because it was a serious business, I tried to be as polite and imformative to the public I was dealing with as possible.

    Fast forward 15 years, despite the unimaginable dangers posed to us by lethal shoes and exploding Evian water, I see security guards at aiports laughing, joking, chatting – but no-one really paying attention to the people passing through the checkpoints. It would not suprise me if the x-ray screener was really playing solitaire.

  39. As we prepare for takeoff, please: make sure your seatbelt is fastened, return your seats and tray-tables in their upright and locked positions, keep your hands where we can see them, and don’t make any sudden moves. Enjoy your flight.

  40. Noen – actually, it has everything to do with security. Sometimes they just do it wrong. If I wanted to keep a population in a state of panic, I can think of better ways than messing with people because of their shirt, their jewelery, their hair, etc… Honestly, does this kind of thing panic anyone, or just annoy them?

    The problem with your “core population” is that it only takes one moron with a badge to make everyone look bad. This is no different than a bad cop harassing a kid with piercings or green hair. That doesn’t mean every cop is bad… and even if there were more bad cops than good ones, it still doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy to panic the population with bad police work.

    Never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence.

    FWIW, I don’t know if I believe this tale as it’s told. I can believe he was told to take the shirt off. I don’t get the next part tho: If he changed into another shirt, why did the supervisor tell him he would be arrested if he put the shirt on. There’s no reason he would be told that, unless “I haven’t been a dick SO FAR” means “I’m now going to be a dick and tell them I’m going to put the shirt back on after security”…

    either that, or he threw a fit at being preemptively told not to put the shirt back on, and walked away from the flight. Protest it that way if you want, but don’t say they kicked you off the flight.

  41. #11, I’m in agreement–it is so obviously Optimus Prime. Who the hell cares anyway, IT’S A FICTIONAL ROBOT!!!

    How do these people get jobs? Do they have to fail an IQ test first?

  42. These folks have been watching too much TV. It rots the brain ya know.

    “Who summons the wizar… Oh, it’s you guys.”

  43. Guns don’t kill people: t-shirts do.

    If it was me, I’d have just whipped it off and gone shirtless: that way, the whole terminal could have enjoyed the sight of my hairy man-boobs.

  44. What if the wearer had turned it inside out? Would that have satisfied security or would it have been worse because the dangerous image was now ‘concealed’?

  45. Yes, it says
    “Die, infidel scum! I am going to kill you all with this dangerous T-Shirt!”

  46. @59:
    “Can we please use some common sense at times like this?”

    Probably not. Ridiculous situations always leads to absurd outcomes.

  47. Common sense? Nope, no common sense here. We’re overdue for flying cars that run on carbon emissions now, anyway.

  48. I used to fly. A lot. So much so that one airline gave me a companion pass (every time I flew, I could take a second person for free).

    The security nonsense started and I stopped flying. I’ve been on one flight in the last five years.

    How about a t-shirt that says:
    Is your airline
    going under?
    Ask me why

  49. @57 – “furansu no kankei” = “French connection”, I guess

    You know, it’s not even a gun. It’s a made up piece of futuristic robot tech. There is no such object in real life. What if it had a picture of the Stone of Gol?

  50. yes yes, all going to plan now. How can we have the grubby little peasants kill one another on command if they run about learning each other’s names? Far toomuch of this “travel” nonsense. Citizen/Consumer units belong at their work stations, training centers and hovels, much easier to track that way too. Soon enough the price of travel will reach threshold and we won’t have to clamp down any more with “Security”. They’ll all stay put and be the better trading pawns for it! Next! We must deal wiht this “web” nonsense”. Free, cheap communication only encourages the proles to think unnecessarily and worse, get to know other proles in other corporate clusters.

  51. and what if it was a ‘deceptacon’? hmm? did anyone even think of that? one with an extremely big cartoid microphone in his hand! none are safe from its evesdropping wrath! but, thankfully, the BA security team was on top of it, and all were saved. yay!

  52. BBC’s “Today’s Quote” for May 28th:

    Apart from going to prison, no other activity in contemporary life exposes you to such intimidation, ugliness, regimentation, overcrowding and cruel dehumanisation, as the decision to go to an airport.

    –Stephen Bayley in The Telegraph.

  53. need to form Travel Gangs. Adopt a common clothing style, stylable haircut, logos, slang and other identifiers. Just for travel. At the airport, group together, face outwards and look hostile at any non-Travel Gang members. Always bunch together to go through security, do everything as glowering unit. Sit together,scowl all the time. On arrival at destination, dissolve and go your separate ways. Let the security uniforms feel they are facing uniformed groups instead of easily terrorized individuals.


    Small world! I was a passenger flying through that day. Nick Cave was giving a free concert, but I missed it because it was too close to my departure time. I should have gone because my flight was delayed ~24 hours anyway.

  55. I’m tempted to make a t-shirt that says “This T-Shirt Is Dangerous” and see what happens when I try to fly with it. No pic, just text.

    Naw, I’m already pulled out of the line for TWB (in my case, Traveling While Bald) so it wouldn’t be a very good test.

    I sure hope the new POTUS, SOTUS, and HROTUS will see fit to abolish the Trepidation Support Assholes. That won’t help you at Heathrow’s increasingly-obviously-accursed Terminal 5, though.

    The USA: My once-great country, now counterexample to the world.

  56. “This land is your land…” No longer, on either side of the pond. -Woody Guthrie could not have gotten through the airport with his guitar monogrammed with “This guitar kills fascists” as he did.

    People have been arrested in the US just for wearing anti-bush T-shirts to July 4th parades and even simply to shopping malls (even though later, of course, these cases were thrown out of court because they violated no law.)


    I post this, however, not to contribute to our governments’ climate of fear which has “the terrorists” having already “won” by curtailing our freedoms, but rather to chime in that when our freedom of expression in harmless apparel is seen as a threat, it’s time to use that power to start a real dialogue about our vanishing civil liberties by wearing more and more controvercial T-shirts. Let’s make a transformer shirt that says “Does this T-shirt threaten your security?” or the like. Let’s get creative and baffle the dumbshits further.

    And BTW, “travel gangs” are entirely impractical. If you’ve got the time, money, and wherewithal to organize this, you could affect a lot better social change in other ways.

  57. How to organize a travel gang:

    1. The name of the Travel Gang shall be the Black Gang.

    2. The uniform of the Black Gang shall be black. As much as you’ve got, as little as a bandana. Extra points for sunglasses.

    3. The slogan, secret handshake, tattoo, hailing sign, war cry and identifier shall be : Travel Black!

    4. Any who declare to any anywhere are legitimate members. Non-human species are included.

    That oughtta do it. “Entirely impractical”? You gotta read more history.

  58. It’s…. it’s…. almost as if the powers that dictate the laws of this land are doing so to solve our housing crisis by persuading every right thinking individual to leave.

    Not allowing you onto the aircraft is just the final kick in the face before you head off for good.

  59. Graham Anderson @50:

    When I was a BAA Security Guard at Heathrow T4 back in 93/94 (paying off my student debts), we were trained that items with “representations” of weapons were a problem. A t-shirt with a slogan about bombs or guns, kids toys, lighters in the shape of guns, etc. So this is not a new thing, even if it is particularly stupid.

    I believe that makes you the only person here who can answer this: why are representations of weapons a problem? Did they explain?

    WeightedCompanionCube @52, do you have documentation for your version of events, or are you just making it up?

    RossInDetroit @57, good question. If the representation was the problem, turning the shirt inside-out should have fixed it.

    JSG @60:

    This is really getting stupid. Can we please use some common sense at times like this?

    Please don’t say things like that without specifying who they refer to. You’re indistinguishable from someone who’s being deliberately insulting.

  60. I would totally pay money to have someone walk through airport security with no bags, no jewelry, no cell phone or keys or money, and wearing nothing but a speedo. The security people would be totally befuddled – they’d have to let him JUST WALK THROUGH without being able to ask him to take anything off.

  61. Allow me to play advocatus diaboli for a moment.
    The safety features of our transportation system are obviously tragically broken and I in no way support security people who fear pictures on shirts
    If it was my job to scrutinize air passengers and figure out which had the potential to be troublesome, unstable or otherwise threatening to the comfort and safety of others I would feel it was not just my right but my duty to select for extra attention individuals who had chosen out of all of the clothing and jewelry options that they might have worn to the airport those which bore representations of firearms. It might be just a necklace or a t-shirt, but wearing it to an airport says something about you and the attention that it brings should not be entirely surprising.

  62. They’ve just caught a serial killer and the news crew is interviewing the neighbors. Do they ever say, “He always wore shirts with guns on them, boy howdy”? No. They always say, “He seemed like such a nice, young man. So clean-cut and well-dressed.”

  63. Excuse me, Rossindetroit@84, but there is no evidence to suggest a correlation between someone wearing a ficticious depiction of a firearm and someone who would actually carry one, much less to an airport. That’s just like the age old argument, with no basis in fact, that playing violent computer or video games makes one more violent. Should our airports now screen for people who may have played FPS games?

    Tuakan@78: Your “travel gang” description is now so vague as to include just about anyone travelling. I am very well versed in the subject of History, thank you. You have no concept of what is practical if you think a bunch of people can simply drop everything in their lives and buy a bunch of tickets on the same flight, then fly to the same destination just to stage a protest. If you happen to be travelling en masse already for some reason, then go for it. Have the balls to do what you suggest. Take pictures of your “travel gang” and post them here, but I think if I were on such a group flight event, it would be a pain in the ass to have the travel organizer trying to get everyone to behave as you would dictate. Better to have a good time with your friends despite all the BS that the TSA’s are putting you through. Wearing the same protest T-shirt and not curtailing your good time because of some stupid security people at Heathrow sounds infinitely more preferrable and effective to me.

  64. yer missing the point. When people show up at the airport and see others bearing the same gang signs, all they do is clump if they happen to be on the same flight. Or clump while waiting for their respective flights etc. Ever heard of guerrilla theatre? The security industry and goons wear the same shirt.Why not the paying customers? The idea is to make a point. Ever been in a flash mob? A zombie lurch? A Halloween party? Anything? Sheesh. Tell ya what; work up to some civil disobedience at a rate you can handle; print some subversive t-shirts and hand them out.

  65. good work by the way, a parody like that must have been a hell a lot of work. Either a friend and admirer or a true psychotic stalker.

  66. Teresa, my only documentation is the same as Cory’s: The blog post. He never stated he was completely denied boarding, only that he was told to change his shirt, which he did. Then, for some reason, he was very strongly warned to not put the shirt back on. At that point he walks away angrily? That makes me think something transpired that he is omitting. Ending your story with a ‘tossers’ sentiment doesn’t impart a sense of levelheadedness.

  67. @86. PHIKUS, don’t ask to be excused when you’re going to disagree with me, just pull your socks up and do it. “Excuse me” is just snide when used that way.

    “That’s just like the age old argument, with no basis in fact, that playing violent computer or video games makes one more violent” Interesting statement. I disagree. I’m sure you’re prepared to take the time to explain the correlations that you see in detail since you feel so strongly about it.

    “Should our airports now screen for people who may have played FPS games?”
    Of course not. I know that, you know that, everyone knows that. Weak, specious argument.

  68. I’m not trying to answer for the BAA guy, but maybe the reason you can’t wear a gun/bomb theme shirt onto a plane is because
    other passengers might panic. Or they might get offended, and a mob mentality at 10000 feet is a bad thing. No security personnel is going to think you’re a terrorist just because you’re wearing a shirt saying you are, but someone else who is already nervous about flying might. I don’t see where the shirt here was a problem. Actually, I’ve been on planes where people have been wearing stuff like armed robot manga t-shirts.

  69. Jeez. . . what are they gonna do when someone shows up with a gun tattooed on his/her arm?

    “I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to remove that arm, please step right this way while we ready the chainsaw. . . oh, and here’s a stick you can bite down on.”

  70. Rossindetroit@92: My comment was not meant to be snide. My “excuse me, but” was meant to be a tap-on-the-shoulder point of polite fact reminding. Nothing more. It certainly had nothing to do with the positioning of my socks. What is this fixation with clothing you seem to have?

    As far as my argument goes: I was trying to take your statement to its logical extreme to demonstrate by example how ludicrous your tenuous connection between wearing clothing depicting ficticious weapons and actually carrying or deploying real weapons seems, in my opinion. I still believe it serves nicely. Profiling based on one’s clothing is dangerous territory, especially when it is most likely not to be supported by facts. Antinous said it very well. The real dangerous folks out there, for the most part, are real clean-cut and quiet types.

    And by the way, here is some of the proof you requested, although there is lots more out there:



    Thanks for playing.

  71. I do believe somebody already linked to a lovely picture of a gentleman who is the proud owner of a gat-tat in the general area of his biologically endowed gun?

  72. Zoinks…I’d consider wearing my old “RSA encryption in Perl” barcoded T-shirt through security; it even has the jazzy “THIS T-SHIRT IS A MUNITION” on the back. (it arguably was, at the time [mid-90s], before the encryption laws were changed.) But I think I would indeed probably get arrested, which would suck.

  73. Discouraging, though, perhaps, just regulations gone awry.

    I see the universe through rosy-but-real lenses, and am going to assume that the guard who enforced this regulation was not a cog in a grand, evil mechanism, but, rather, just stretching orders…perhaps even for a private giggle or uncertainty and caution in the enforcement of regulations and guidelines.

    We shall hope for better next time, once a pandora’s box of disbelief and irony peals across the galaxy.

  74. @100 “perhaps even for a private giggle”

    Come on man, isn’t traveling enough of a fucking, bloody hassle without that kind of crap? They’re is NO excuse for this kind of idiocy.


    PAtrick Dodds didn’t maske tyour point exactly.

    He made his point, you just spouted the usual “Uk nanny state, bad teeth etc” crap that a lot of Americans seem fond of.


    as for your point

    1. That i should always preface a comment with the correct screen name…well pardon me, I didn’t realise I was beahing so boorishly at the cotillion. It really is a matter of no concern

    2. You seem to not have cottoned on to the point I am BRITISH not a Yank.

    And am perfectly aware of the Blair Govs lap dog compliance. What I was remonstrating about was the myopic idea espoused by Blackbird that this was something that had originated in the UK.

    Unless the UK security meets the lofty standards of the TSA and Homeland security, then planes aren’t allowed into the US. So who exactly do you think is calling the shots there then?

    Oghh yeah it is the one idiot security bloke, because before we had to cpmply with the US crazy regulations people were routinely thrown off planes in the UK and Europe for have pictures of robots on a T SHIRT!

    See, this sort of garbage NEVER happened before.

    As for Blackbird’s statement, implicit in it is that this is “in the water” we’ve always beeen like this those crazy Brits….DO YOU GET MY POINT?

    3. “Calling someone a dumbkopf is a bit strong” – Dumb head!? Dumb head is a bit strong?

    My shall I get matron and the smelling salts?

    Are you seriously telling me that you find the phrase Dumb Head to be beyond the pale?

    Well if so, life must be a terrible trial for a hot house flower such as yourself.

    I’m not actually trying to be antagonistic here Patrick, but I am genuinely amazed by the pointlessness of your post attempting to rebuke me.

  76. Hi Error – sorry to have got you so angry. However, at the risk of doing so again, can I ask if you have flown somewhere other than America in the last few years? I don’t know, like, say, Ireland? Try going to Knock from an English airport. You will have the usual “no water, no lipstick, no deodorant” BS on the way out but not, as I remember it, on your way back (maybe Irish cosmetics aren’t so dangerous?). Still with me? OK, so, now, the point I am making is that it isn’t just flights to America that have absurd and meaningless “security” restrictions, it is every bloody flight you go on. Flying is now so vile an experience in Britain that it is to be avoided at all costs. It hasn’t taken the stupidities of the TSA to bring in the same stupidities here in the UK, we’ve done it all by ourselves. (Regulations re: information on who is flying where notwithstanding – that does seem to be a peculiarly American snatching of what was once our expectation, if not right, to privacy).

    (As an aside, I like what the Brazilian’s are purportedly doing, which is to subject American passengers to the same levels of security as American “security” services expect others to put up with on entering America. That is to say, each time American airports bring in some new absurdity, Americans traveling to Brazil are made to undergo it there whilst other nationalities only have to undergo the more usual security requirements – eventually, perhaps, Jane and John Doe will be able to watch other nationalities passing by whilst they themselves are cavity searched. That’s the story anyway – I hope it isn’t apocryphal and also that it applies to British travelers).


    “As for Blackbird’s statement, implicit in it is that this is “in the water” we’ve always beeen like this those crazy Brits….DO YOU GET MY POINT?”

    No, I’m afraid not, even though you’re shouting. I’m prepared to accept, of course, that it may be I that is the dumbkopf (indeed, I had to look up “cotillion” – thanks for sharing – nice word), but I do think that perhaps you are mistaken, although that is, of course, for Blackbird to say….

  77. @97 PHIKUS:
    Despite your offering the bait about violent video games twice, I’m not taking it. I don’t care about games. Please pick that fight with someone else.

    “I was trying to take your statement to its logical extreme”
    Actually, that’s called distorting the argument to make it look ridiculous. Anything twisted out of shape becomes wrong.
    Food is good
    20 cheeseburgers at once is fatal
    food must be bad

    “Profiling based on one’s clothing is dangerous territory”
    We agree on that, but the word ‘profiling’ is inflammatory because it is used in cases where a group or class of people are intentionally discriminated against, such as Driving While Black. There is no established ‘profile’ at work here, just the poor judgment of this over vigilant security guard.
    It is still valid to choose who among a group of airline passengers to scrutinize more closely based on factors of appearance and behavior. No, it’s not a perfect tool, but it’s unreasonable to expect one method of scrutiny to do all the work. Finding untrustworthy people is complex and appearance is a useful factor.

    You refer to a statement from Antinous that you say said “The real dangerous folks out there, for the most part, are real clean-cut and quiet types.”
    That’s not what he said. He said that after the dangerous person was exposed, their neighbors said there was nothing unusual about them. That’s what the neighbors would say of course, for the obvious reasons. That does not prove that a person with violent tendencies wont have clues in their dress and manner, just that others will deny it after the fact if it helps them avoid guilt for not acting on what they saw.

  78. Rossindetroit@97: You said that you disagreed when I posited that wearing images of ficticious weapons has no more correlation to actual violent behavior than playing FPS type video games does. I still no not believe it is too much of a “distortion” because you are trying to tie the fiction (wearing a transformer T-shirt) with the reality (carrying a real weapon on a plane.) You say you are not taking the bait, yet you continue to refute this with no supportive argument for your totally off-base statements. Please try supporting what you say with facts if you plan to get anywhere, otherwise you will go tit for tat with your opinion endlessly and it just becomes a stupid screaming match.

    Please look it up: “scrutinize more closely based on factors of appearance” is nothing but profiling. It is not a term tied to race or gender, etc. When you judge somebody based soley on their choice of T-shirt, you are making an assumption about their character which may have little or no basis in fact. That’s the problem with this practice: Everyone has their own criteria.

    As far as Antinous’ comment goes: I was paraphrasing, and so were you. Niether interpretation is what he actually said, but I was extracting from the context the valid point that real terrorists and people intent to do violence on a plane are not going to be wearing a transformers T-shirt. They will be making sure that there are no visual clues at all to possibly set off ultra-paranoid security people working a subjective profile.

    Lastly, Ross, I am not picking a fight with you. I’m sorry you see it that way. When you choose to post contrary to most of the opinion shared here as “advocatus diaboli” you must expect that someone is going to challenge the points you are trying to make. That is all.

  79. I flew from Heathrow to the US yesterday.

    I got more hassle on the *arriving* end. Heathrow actually had one of the least invasive security processes I’ve ever been through.

  80. @79: I think it’s more likely that the powers that be are trying to solve the climate change crisis by persuading people to stop flying.

    I think a better explanation is that this airport security insanity is part of a brilliant eco-terrorist plot to slow climate change by shutting down the airline industry.

    Think about it: Eco-terrorists infiltrate the ranks of airport security around the world and use the neo-con “war on terror” rhetoric to generate the kind of mass fear and loathing of the airport experience that stops people everywhere from flying. The war-on-terror’s attack on civil liberties receives regular media exposure, and if successful, tons of carbon emissions are kept out of the atmosphere and globalization and globalized processes are significantly impeded.

    And since this explanation is entirely plausible, I think it’s fair to argue that airport security douchebags should be considered potential terrorists, and subject to the kind of scrutiny and harassment that vegan pot-luck participants, bellybutton ring wearing air travelers, people with Arabic sounding-names, and people who take pictures in public spaces have come to expect.

  81. Makes me want to turn up wearing a T shirt featuring a portrait of Bin Laden, standing on the White House lawn, with a halo over his head, holding a gun to the head of a child, and the slogan: “I’LL BELIEVE WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT.”

  82. Patrick DODDS

    Sorry for being thought of as shouting but there seems to be no way of getting ITALICS.

    WE’ll have to differ on this oen.

    As I didn’t say that the new flight regs applied only to the US I said they originated there.

    Of course this stems from the faxct that if the US had had even the basic security on flights that existed in europe pre Sept 11th then it wouldn’t have happenend.

    Or at ther very least it would have been enormously difficult.

    I remeber my mother having her ppinking shears taken off her on a flight to Dublin in the nineteen seveties.

    Nearly 30 years later and folks were getting onto flights in the US with guns and Box Cutters.

    It strikes me that even the simple addition of those old fasshioned levels would have helped enormously.

    But thast is another matter I suppose.

  83. Sorry for being thought of as shouting but there seems to be no way of getting ITALICS.

    You could always try using the html tag for italics. Just a thought.


  84. If robots with guns are unacceptable, why was I watching the Transformers movie on a United flight a few months ago? This rule most only apply to non-moving pictures.

  85. Dude – nice Tee Shirt, I have the same one :)

    I’m travelling soon, via Heathrow, and will wear this Tee Shirt for my journey. Here’s betting that (a) I won’t get stopped or (b) asked to remove it and (c) that I will be able to fly.

    Behaviour like this is disgusting and should be reported to the very highest level to prevent it recurring…

  86. Error404, a propos of nothing at all, I remember flying to Ireland in the early 70s (or poss late 60s) and the woman in the seat next to me had a live crow in a box – she’d raised it from a fledgling. Every time an attendant came near she’d cover the box with her coat. Not sure this sort of thing will be happening again any time soon.

  87. This makes me wish my old Che t-shirt hadn’t finally rotted away. I wonder if they would take Martin Luther King to be a terrorist. Hmm. Dreams are dangerous and the pen is mighty.

    Of course, I would have to go through an airport to test it, and I have been boycotting airports since long before the Great Lipgloss Scare, back in the days of the Crochet Hooks of Doom.

  88. Re #91: It’s possible he omitted something, but equally possible that he did not. I remember substitute-teaching about 8 years ago at a high school. I work several jobs, and one of them required me to wear a pager (cell phones were still a rare sight) so I could be informed when a new assignment came in. One of the office secretaries noticed the pager and informed me that I’d have to remove it — something about how they weren’t allowed because kids used them to cheat or for gang purposes, and there would be some trouble if a teacher got to wear one. I said “okay,” removed the pager and put in inside my bag. No problem. Nope — I had to put it in my car. I found this annoying, but I complied with no more than an irritated “All right.”

    Fifteen minutes later, while I’m reading the lesson plans and finding all the teaching materials, I am summoned by intercom to the office. I walk all the way back, and am ushered into the principal’s office, where he and the vice principal were waiting as though I’d committed some offense. There they tell me that they heard I was wearing a pager. I said “Yes. The secretary already informed me about them; I took it off and put it in the car.” Then they wasted five more minutes going on about the reasons why pagers aren’t allowed. Then they told me to either put it in my car or hand it over so they could confiscate it. I re-stated that I’d already put it in the car, and had done so as soon as the secretary had told me to. They looked at each other with these “he’s a trouble-maker” eye-roll expressions, then finally let me get back to doing my job. Bizarre. They kept acting as though I was sporting a pager even though I’d gone out to the car and even told them that I’d put it away already.

  89. to rossindetroit

    “If it was my job to scrutinize air passengers and figure out which had the potential to be troublesome, unstable or otherwise threatening to the comfort and safety of others I would feel it was not just my right but my duty to select for extra attention individuals who had chosen out of all of the clothing and jewelry options that they might have worn to the airport those which bore representations of firearms”

    – how does making him change shirt change his intention or potential to be troublesome in any way? If anything it just makes him angry and so more likely to cause trouble.

  90. how does making him change shirt change his intention or potential to be troublesome in any way

    You’re right. It doesn’t, and I didn’t say it did.

    To repeat my earlier statement:
    The safety features of our transportation system are obviously tragically broken and I in no way support security people who fear pictures on shirts

  91. It seems appropriate to note here that airport security didn’t begin after 9/11. In the ’70s there were a number of hijackings and attempted hijackings of commercial planes. Bombs were used in some cases. The security authorities took this very seriously. Those signs you see in airports warning you not to joke about bombs may date back decades. my first recollection of this is from around 1975. Who knows if they were effective or excessive, but hijackings stopped.
    I’m making the point that not all airport security is due to the stupid 9/11 over reactions and security in airports is not something that popped up overnight that people are just now getting used to. For at least a generation it’s been widely understood that you screw around at an airport at your peril.

  92. yeah, and it’s since george bush that you understand you enter an airport at your peril

  93. since george bush that you understand you enter an airport at your peril
    though paradoxically now that they have half of us scared out of our wits we’re supposed to go on supporting our 1/3 of the economy by still spending. Be afraid, but don’t stop going to the mall…


    Actually, any sort of profiling/preferential screening/deciding-that-some-people-are-more-likely-to-be-threats-than-others-based-on-various-criteria is inherently flawed. Anything other than screening everybody in exactly the same way or picking people randomly for increased scrutiny is in fact decreasing the effectiveness of a security checkpoint’s ability to identify threats.
    Here’s a link to a paper that illustrates why this is the case: http://www.swiss.ai.mit.edu/6805/student-papers/spring02-papers/caps.htm

    Now, if you’re not arguing that people should be scrutinized differently based on their behavior/appearance, and instead that the shirt itself posed a threat to the safety of others and therefore had to be removed, I’m not sure what to say.

    Personally, I’m waiting for the day when we’re all required to wear burqas on airplanes.

  95. Such will only continue if it goes unchallenged and unchecked.

    Sue the bastards for unconstitutional first amendment abuses! Raise a stink in as much media as you can muster, and organize a boycott of that carrier to hit them in their economy.

    Make some phone calls to your senators…make sure you speak with them about it and make sure they follow up on it to make sure it won’t ever happen again!

    Remember, releasing a chicken in an airplane can only be considered an act of terror if there is a passenger aboard who has a fear of chickens.

    Oooh! T-shirt idea: “I’m not the one you’re looking for.”

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