Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Deborah came across these the other night, as she was getting out her button-maker to use at our church's Spanish VBS. These are old, old, old. Back then, we weren't terribly enchanted with America and it's customs (Deborah especially) and these made perfect sense.

Unamerican. How well do you think these would fly these days? Literally trying to fly with one of these on your shirt would almost certainly get you pulled aside for questioning. Aside from the opinion and it's implications, I don't think people these days are so much in the habit of wearing their hearts on their shirt sleeves (or bumpers) as was more common years ago. These days, you'd pin your political statement to your blog rather than your shirt.


Jonadab said...

Honestly, if I were working the security checkpoint, I'd probably confiscate the buttons on some pretense (e.g., because they're metal, or because they have a sharp pin on the back, or whatever) and then proceed to check the bearer in the same fashion as everyone else.

My reasoning would be, the only reason for an attacker to try to board with something like that would be if the message printed on the button were a diversion. Therefore either the button itself is harmless and meant to distract us from catching something else (hence, don't waste any extra thought on the button), or else the button itself is or contains something being smuggled on in plain sight, and the message is meant to distract from that (hence, confiscate). Indeed, the button could even be meant to cause the checkpoint to focus on the bearer so that the next person can get through easier. So you don't do that: after you take away the button, you treat them like everyone else.

Of course the most likely thing by far is that the bearer is an ordinary harmless traveller, but that's always the case. In security, the question you always have to ask is not "how could this be harmless" but rather "what threat could this potentially represent".

So you confiscate the button, and you proceed to check the bearer in the usual fashion.

But then, I've read Schneier, and there's little evidence that the people manning the TSA checkpoints have done so.

Andy said...

Now that you mention it, taking this through a security checkpoint would be a real pain, because it would, for sure, set off the metal detectors.

Back when I was going to school in Germany, SwissAir was the cheapest way to get anywhere. At that time, if you flew SwissAir, you got chocolate. I think it was a matter of national pride, because they insisted—really insisted—that you have some. and it was very good.

I tell you all that to tell you this: They distributed them in the form of 2" diameter foil-covered coins. People would take four or five of them to keep the flight attendants happy, and pocket the other three. And, thing is, you don't think much about the high metal content of chocolate. But the security lines were a real pain, because people were setting off the detectors, looking deeply puzzled, patting themselves down, removing their belts, earrings, glasses, and finally submitting, completely nonplussed, to a handheld wand inspection. It was the chocolate coins, every time.