Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

So, the risk from a backscatter radiation machine is roughly equal to the risk from terrorism.

The Federal Government, via the FDA, tells us that the risk of the backscatter machine is "minuscule".

Therefore, in the Federal government's own risk terminology, the risk from terrorism is "miniscule".

Why are we spending all this money on a "miniscule" threat? Why are sexually molesting the population over a "miniscule" threat? (Rhetorical.)

(I say "sexually molesting" on the grounds that if I personally performed those same actions on a stranger, that is what it would be called. It would continue to be called that if I tricked this person into giving "consent" for false reasons. A doctor has a compelling reason. I do not grant that excuse to the TSA. I also do not think I am being unduly inflammatory, I think it's just plain fair.)

Yes, but we'd much rather kill ourselves than give someone else the satisfaction of killing us. My diet and inactivity is likely to take five good years off my lifespan? Meh. There's a tiny chance I might end up in a violent struggle for survival someday and somebody might get the better of me? Jesus, what an awful thought! Pass me the nachos and a Coke while I sit on the couch watching this video on handgun tactics.

As a thought experiment, can you imagine if diabetes was an unstoppable dude who came to your house and beat your ass in front of your wife and kids? I can think of people I know who would suddenly be a lot more afraid of diabetes than they are now.

Yes, but we'd much rather kill ourselves than give someone else the satisfaction of killing us.

Who is the "we" and who is the "someone else"? "We" is a bunch of random people I don't know. And "someone else" is a bunch of random people I don't know.

Terrorism can in both small and very large ways effect entire nations. backscatter radiation? Not so much. It's illogical to compare the two and make judgments on based solely on the death rate. You don't need to kill people (all of them) to influence them.

Erosion of civil liberties can in both very small and very large ways affect entire nations.

I'm actually way more worried about that, and I think that's the rational answer.

(Edit: Implicit in the way I phrased that, BTW, and I'm now making explicit, is that I agree you have a good point and you shouldn't have been downmodded. I believe the secondary effects of civil liberties erosion outweigh the secondary effects of terrorism as the situation now stands, but I agree that your point must absolutely be considered to make a decision based on all the facts.)

When essentially the entire country is united except the political forefront, the effects have reached the entire nation. Once the government gets too distanced from the populace, it loses relevance and becomes the enemy.

How many violations before the populace decides on another Tea Party?

So then perhaps the best way to protect a nation from terrorism is not to be influenced by it.

I hesitate to say "of course", because it sounds trite, and the underlying issue is serious. But this is precisely what we did in the UK during the IRA (Irish terrorist organisation) years. And we were encouraged to do that by the media and government. And as stiff upper lipped Brits, we did so with pride :)

I myself saw the outcomes of three of the bombs personally -- by which I mean still smoking -- and picnicked on the Regent's Park bandstand on the Sunday which was blown up on the Tuesday; the bomb would have been there at the time.


None of this changed my behaviour at the time, nor did it appear to do so for anyone else, other than being vigilant for strange packages.

So yes, the correct response is not to be influenced by it. In other words, do not give up your way of life because of murdering cowards.

I completely agree with this statement.

Overreaction to terrorism is part of what makes a terrorist attack a special threat. Ironically, the wasteful measures we take to prevent damage from possible future attacks are social and economic damage caused by terrorism. Getting rid of these stupid machines and reclaiming some of our civil liberties would reduce the real damage caused by 9/11 -- a real, historical, non-hypothetical terrorist attack.

It would also set a precedent for dealing sanely with terrorism in the future. The more a terrorist attack disrupts our society and undermines our values, the more money and freedom we will part with in response to one, and therefore the more it will disrupt our society and undermine our values. That's a vicious cycle we can avoid by accepting risk and not treating terrorism as a special, incomparable threat.

Isn't this the same utilitarian argument that would restrict all of diets for the sake of healthy, roads for the sake of safety, and civil rights for the sake of efficiency?

I think the point JoseFresco is making, which is a little lost in his reply, is that an event like 9/11 in which 3000 people died had a much bigger impact upon America and the world than the 3000 people who died in on year of a particular form of cancer.

The prevention of terrorism is more than just the prevention of immediate deaths related to the incident itself.

Protecting civil liberties are crucial, and I'm not in anyway agreeing with what the TSA is doing. As a side point, it's worth remembering that terrorism is a world issue and if you look more internationally some Western Countries don't even enjoy the level of civil liberties and freedoms that America does even now.

In the UK you can't even refuse a Back-scatter scan and have a manual pat-down instead (which applies to US citizens returning home from a visit to London too, of course).


> Terrorism can in both small and very large ways effect entire nations. backscatter radiation? Not so much.

Currently terrorism is effecting an entire nation with backscatter radiation.

Don't know why this was downvoted, other than people just not agreeing with him.

I just voted it down to zero but it might up again soon...

The main thing that justifies the downvotes is that the argument is both wrong and mostly rhetoric rather than argument. As other have said, the installation of vast control mechanism by no means is something with an insignificant effect on the country.

If he had actually made the argument that someone else credits him with, that terrorism's effect is disproportionate to the deaths, then he'd have argument (not sufficient but a real argument). But he didn't make that argument - instead rhetorically (and ultimately dishonestly) dismissed concerns about reaction to terrorists. Down voting seems justified in this case.

I can't speak for everyone, but one reason is that there is also a cumulative effect from these "small things". A progressive eroding of civil rights also affects a nation in "big ways".

Isolating one effect of one loss, and comparing that to the complex effects of terrorism is not a fair comparison.

"Why are we spending all this money on a "miniscule" threat? Why are sexually molesting the population over a "miniscule" threat? (Rhetorical)"

There are companies that are selling these things are and are making fistfuls of money, some of which goes right back into political campaigns etc. In other countries that would be called corruption. In the USA, it's legal.

Think about it - why does the government go on to spend huge amounts of money and piss everyone off? Was there a cause that means we now suddenly need these sensors and groping procedures? Was there a terrorist attack that I missed? Were there politicians campaigning for this who then got elected - I guess I missed that too?!

Kids can certainly forget about putting on sunscreen now, as you're way more likely to get skin cancer from the airport. Either that or they get sexually molested.

The terrorists have very clearly won right now.

Hrm . . . I could turn that logic on its side too: if you say people should not be that worried about terrorism, then why are people so worried about the health effects of backscatter radiation. IMO, a logical person cannot have it both ways.

One is more or less out of our control.

The other is within our control. Why voluntarily subject yourself to more risk?

If the risks are indeed roughly equal, I would like to point out that only one of these two risks costs us money.

Also, being blown up doesn't hurt nearly as much as cancer does.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact