Why Chicago lost the Olympics: we are safe, but no longer friendly.

Folly does have consequences, as described in “Chicago’s Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame?“, Michelle Higgins, blogging at the New York Times, 2 October 2009 — Excerpt:

Did Chicago lose the chance to host the 2016 Olympics because of airport security issues?

Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be “a rather harrowing experience.”

… The exchange underscores what tourism officials here have been saying for years about the sometimes rigorous entry process for foreigners, which they see as a deterrent to tourism. Once the news came out that Chicago lost its Olympic bid, the U.S. Travel Association didn’t miss an opportunity to point that out, sending out a critical press release within hours.

“It’s clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination,” Roger Dow, U.S. Travel’s president, said in the statement released today. “When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a ‘pretty harrowing experience,’ we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system.”

This problem was discussed About security theater, a daily demonstration that Americans are sheep, 25 January 2009.  It is re-posted below.

From About Obama’s coronation“, Fred Reed, 23 January 2009 — About security theater:

The whole business looks remarkably like malign vaudeville, like mummery intended to accomplish two things.  The first is to persuade the foolish that the nation is At War. Actually only the president is at war.

The second, and I would like to be wrong about this, is to train the public to obedience. The formula is simple: Keep’em scared and you can do anything. It works. Americans are rapidly becoming accustomed to Soviet-style surveillance, to the state’s power to search and spy without restraint, to being barked at and ordered about by low-level federal employees. People deserve what they tolerate.

The terrible thing about security theater IMO is that Reed’s second conclusion is almost certainly true.  Worse, we know it and do nothing.  The American people are being domesticated, like sheep — and  we do nothing.  

What would the Founders say if they saw what we have become?

What is “security theater”?

Security theater consists of security countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security.  The term was coined by Bruce Schneier for his book Beyond Fear, and has gained currency in security circles, particularly for describing airport security measures. It is also used by some experts such as Edward Felten to describe the security measures imposed after the September 11 attacks. Security theater gains importance both by satisfying and exploiting the gap between perceived risk and actual risk.
— From Wikipedia

Some articles about security theater

  1. Theater of the Absurd at the T.S.A.“, New York Times, 17 December 2006
  2. Security Theater“, Zach Phillips, Government Executive, 1 August 2007
  3. The Airport Security Follies“, Patrick Smith (commercial airline pilot), op-ed in the New York Times, 28 December 2007
  4. The Things He Carried“, Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, November 2008
  5. TSA Screening Is Security Theater“, 60 Minutes, CBS, 12 December 2008

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Some of the posts on the FM website about the American spirit, the American soul:

  1. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy, 1 March 2006
  2. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  3. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  4. The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
  5. We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
  6. This crisis will prove that Americans are not sheep (unless we are), 8 January 2008
  7. About security theater, a daily demonstration that Americans are sheep, 25 January 2009
  8. Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal, 23 April 2009
  9. Are we citizens? Or peasants?, 21 May 2009
  10. A famous guest speaker visits the FM site to tell us that we are not weak — we are strong, 8 June 2008
  11. A great artist died today. We can gain inspiration from his words., 26 June 2009
  12. A wonderful and important speech about liberty, 23 July 2009

7 thoughts on “Why Chicago lost the Olympics: we are safe, but no longer friendly.”

  1. The first time I traveled abroad and re-entered the U.S. after 9/11 (at Dulles), in the Summer of 2002, I was struck by how menancing immigration was. There was a big creepy DHS flag with a Black Eagle or something on it. I noted the differences between Chinese immigration (where I went) and U.S. immigration. Besides the creepy flag, there were terrorist warning signs (report suspicious behavior), a color coded threat level sign, and glowering immigration agents all of whom were armed (you really need a gun to look at my passport?), not to mention that it took forever. In China, the agents had no guns and were friendly, and immigration took about 30 seconds. However, I recently had the opportunity to enter U.S. immigration at JFK two weeks ago, and it was very smooth with no issues, including no issues for my wife, who is a green card holder.

    Obviously, I cannot speak to tourists, but I think it has improved somewhat, and there may be huge differences between airports.

    However, the security theater of the airport security check continues, with Chinese security as ridiculous as U.S. security (oh, I can’t take the water? What about the matches that you didn’t notice?)

  2. US Immigration and Customs are the most obnoxious I have ever encountered. (Only the old Soviet I & C came close). The US know it since they have friendly I & C posted at airports in Canada ostensibly to speed up the process – the reality is otherwise: no Canadians would fly to Orlando if they had to put up with the local US I & C.

    back in the ’60s, I remember one night entering The Netherlands at 3am with camping gear on the roof of our car. The lone customs official asked for our help in taking down the gear. After doing that, he took everything apart to inspect it and then neatly put everything back together. he then politely asked us to help him put the gear back on the roof of our car and helped us to secure it. My Dutch travelling companion then remarked that in The Netherlands customs must put back neatly whatever they take apart. Can you imagine US Customs doing that?

  3. One of the charming things about Americans is their need to be loved by the rest of the world. The effect various from country to country, but America has quite a negative brand image in many places these days. From what was a generally positive image, during the Bush era I saw a number of instances of companies like McDonalds that went out of there way to portray themselves as local and by implication not American.

    That has settled down now but linking your product to America is often still a net negative. You see far few companies do it. It’s also surprising how many ordinary people express distaste in a quite unconscious way when you mention something American.

    This wouldn’t make much difference except for the Chinese and in particular Indian engineers and scientists contemplating working in the US.

    Turns out selling breakfast cereal to Colin Powell was alot easier than selling America to the world.

  4. here may be huge differences between airports

    I think this is at the individual officer level.

    A primary characteristic of US I&C is that local officers, the ones at the gates, seem have a lot of authority to allow or deny entry above and beyond that exercised by the I&C officers of other nations/regions. And they use it for reasons that often seem arbitrary, trivial, or even nonsensical: there are lots of anecdotes, but I don’t know about any studies.

    There may be airport I&C depts that are better run and thus the officers seem better as a group, but even in the better run airports, we have encountered officers behaving badly.

  5. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Chicago has always been the absolute worst of all I&C departments. I can tell anecdotes that even I don’t believe ;-)

  6. Interesting spin and it is one the local media have not talked about at all. The sunday Trib was full of BS about why we lost and none of it was the above. Personally, I thought it was all a big hustle. A small handful of already wealthy insiders were going to get wealthier at the public’s expense. The poor and middle class taxpayers would have been stuck with the bill. Ticket prices would have been so high that only the wealthy could afford to go. Local public support for the games was tepid. I thought that was the reason for failure. I never gave airport security a thought but it makes sense.

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