According to the Daily Telegraph, Tony Aguirre, an eye specialist at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, was barred from boarding a flight at Manchester airport after refusing to go through a body scanner.
He said the scanner’s x-rays could be potentially dangerous to his health;
“X-rays are known to cause cancer and I think somebody will get cancer from this body scanner whether its me or someone else. It is well known that X-rays can cause cancer. It can cause mutations in the genes in the spermatogenetic cells, as in most other cells.”
We are told that the scanners provide a smaller dosage of x-rays compared to those machines used for internal investigations but it is quite clear to anybody who has visited a radiology department that the medical profession takes an extremely cautious approach to x-ray use. Given this culture, it is unsurprising that Mr Aguirre declined to take advantage of UKBA’s generous offer to irradiate him to no useful purpose, particularly in view of this little piece of information;
Recent studies have suggested that the X-rays used at Manchester airport could produce 20 times as much radiation than first thought.
While the dose remains fairly small – and probably within current guidelines – to be using the machines despite the uncertainty over dose levels seems an extraordinarily cavalier approach to the health of passengers, especially as opinion is divided on the subject of scanner safety – even at their certificated output levels. Clearly, the health police are more exercised by ‘risks’ posed by individual free will – smoking, drinking, doughnuts, watching TV, sitting down, etc – rather than by redundant, state-delivered radiation. (Don’t neglect to click on the link in that last sentence: it not only explains why the scanners are redundant but it also provides a scanner image much closer to their real resolution levels than those of the fuzzy image of me dancing the macarena that the media normally provides. Is it really appropriate that UKBA should have images like this of your wives and daughters to misuse?).
Mr Aguirre argued against the scanners’ intrusiveness saying,
“You shouldn’t be forced to expose yourself and it raises moral issues and dignity issues.”
We’re told by the media that something like 70% of people dismiss this argument in favour of our government’s position of anything being justified when it comes to our safety (aw!) – although the comments on this topic over at the Mail do not seem to confirm this statistic.
Our culture is – in part – based on values of privacy and modesty. We were promised that our way of life and our values would be unchanged by the threat of terrorism until, at the first opportunity, one of our more fundamental values – and one which has shaped our national character in the world – is tossed aside by our politicians and their jobsworth bully boys: the mere act of travelling is considered sufficient for the state to assume rights over our bodies.
But there’s something more insidious at work: routinely stripping people dehumanises them (think Belsen); it is part of a process used by prisons to humiliate, subjugate and rob inmates of their independence and individuality.
An individual’s willingness to submit to virtual stripping may be a function of – and a further stage in – his diminishing independence; consider this paragraph from a brief description of the Zimbardo Stanford Prison experiment:
As the prisoners became more dependent, the guards became more derisive towards them. They held the prisoners in contempt and let the prisoners know it. As the guards’ contempt for them grew, the prisoners became more submissive.
Does it have a familiar ring? Does it not describe the increasingly one-sided relationship between the state and the individual as we passively submit more and more to the state’s control?
Quite apart from the doubtful functionality of the scanners, there are proven alternatives, namely the methods successfully used prior to the scanners’ introduction: even the thugs of America’s TSA permit a pat-down for those objecting to the scanners. In the UK, though, our state is so abusive, so controlling that it will not permit any deviation – it’s go through the machine or throw away your ticket as Mr Aguirre’s stand for freedom obliged him to do:
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “A no scan, no fly rule exists in the UK, meaning that if selected for screening, passengers do not have the option of a pat-down search and are escorted landside.”
The mindless stupidity and arbitrary bureaucratic nature of this rule is shown by the fact that Mr Aguirre travelled to Liverpool and flew to Zurich from there.
Amazingly (hang on to your jaws), he and his plane arrived safely – despite the fact that Liverpool does not use scanners.
Update For those who have not arrived here via Leg-iron’s link, check out his trenchant views on the demise of our freedoms here. And to know where we might be headed on airport security, click on the link provided by nooneofanyimport in her comment below.