“The Late Late Show with James Corden” last night hosted Eddie Redmayne, star of the new Harry Potter universe movie, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
A key prop in the story is a Mary Poppins-style suitcase belonging to Redmayne’s character (you can see the man himself inside the case in this trailer), so naturally Corden imagined what it would be like to get such magical luggage stuffed with magical beasts past the TSA.
The answer, it seems, is that it wouldn’t be too difficult: Corden’s power-tripping TSA agent is on the hunt for “threats” like a mouthwash bottle that holds more than 3 ounces of liquid — with hilarious results.
It’s funny, as they say, because it’s true. Time and again the TSA has proved itself utterly incompetent at stopping real threats, missing a whopping 95 percent of weapons and explosives in security test results released last year.
An older leaked report similarly showed that when undercover government agents tried to get fake bombs through checkpoints at major airports like LAX and Chicago O’Hare, the TSA missed 60-75 percent of the bombs. (Private security agents, by contrast, missed fake bombs only about 20 percent of the time.)
In fact, despite the extensive rigmarole to which we’re subjected every time we fly, the TSA has never caught a single terrorist, and internal TSA documents have revealed the agency itself does not believe terrorists are targeting planes anymore.
Of course, the TSA has caught plenty of big bottles of mouthwash.
What we’re dealing with — what Corden perfectly skewered — is called “security theater,” which is to say the real point of the TSA is not true security but rather the illusion of security. It doesn’t make us safe, but it’s supposed to make us feel safe, as security expert Bruce Schneier explains:
Security is both a feeling and a reality. The propensity for security theater comes from the interplay between the public and its leaders.
When people are scared, they need something done that will make them feel safe, even if it doesn’t truly make them safer. Politicians naturally want to do something in response to crisis, even if that something doesn’t make any sense.
That dynamic is why we get groped and scanned and harassed for no real reason. Our government believes we prefer feeling safe to being free, and it sends out petty tyrants like Cordon’s TSA agent to duly provide that feeling by rubbing their rubber-gloved hands all over our bodies.