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United Airlines impose literary standards

By delmoi in MLP
Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 04:04:41 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Like books with bombs on the cover? Well, then you're obviously a terrorist. Yup, a man in Philadelphia was denied his seat on a plane because of the book he was reading.

Personally, this doesn't bother me as much as the incidents involving denial of Arab-Americans, simply because it's so absurd.


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United Airlines impose literary standards | 23 comments (23 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I recall reading about this kind of stuff... (3.71 / 7) (#1)
by Scandal on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 06:04:37 PM EST

Let me think. Where was it?

Oh, yeah. It was in history class in high school: stories about people trying to get through customs to leave East Berlin. At least they didn't subject him to a body cavity search...

Next, we'll hear about an FAA ban on in-flight movies containing any depictions of explosions.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop drinking.


They already do this... (3.25 / 4) (#4)
by SvnLyrBrto on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 06:56:28 PM EST

>Next, we'll hear about an FAA ban on in-flight
>movies containing any depictions of explosions.

I asked a pilot friend of mine about the dreadfully dull (and horribly mangled) in-flight movies once.

Any in-flight movie rated in excess of G is almost always heavily edited and sanitized before being allowed on an airliner's movie screen.

Movies that depict air crashes, hijackings, or anything like that, are strictly verboten.

I don't know the reasoning... The movie will provoke an otherwise peacefull passenger to suddenly hijack the plane???

So no Con Air, Air Force One, The Delta Force, Executive Decision, Passenger 57, or US Marshals if you're flying a US airline. Plus, no Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, South Park, Grosse Point Blank, James Bond of any kind, Go, or Groove either.

Maybe the best you can hope for is a heavily edited Austin Powers.

Thank Bob for my iBook and it's DVD drive.


Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

Well, it makes sense. (3.75 / 4) (#5)
by delmoi on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 07:07:26 PM EST

I mean, people are pretty much forced to see the film wether they want to or not, it probably isn't a good idea to show anything somone might find offensive. Not to mention showing a movie of a plane crashing on a plane isn't the nicest thing to do people who are afraid of flying :P
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Almost Famous (3.75 / 4) (#8)
by kmself on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 07:30:27 PM EST

In the airline version of this movie, a scene was cut -- the band traded its bus for a plane, and there's a spot of turbulence. In the uncut version Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) starts singing a Buddy Holly song.

You don't see that in flight. Might disturb somebody.

And for those born after The Music died, Buddy Holly was killed in the crash of a small plane on February 3, 1959.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

It's so people don't freak out (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by ToastyKen on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 01:48:46 AM EST

In Isaac Asimov's autobiography, he talks about being given a column in an inflight magazine, and the only rule was, "Don't talk about death or plane crashes."

A lot of people have serious phobias of flying, so the airlines don't want to trigger that by mentioning plane crashes. I'm personally very against editing movies for content and wish they'd just show movies that don't have plane crashes in them and leave those movies alone. :P

I can also personally confirm that they do edit the movies, since there's a scene that refers to plane crashes in The Truman Show that I noticed was missing when I glimpsed at it on a plane. (I was specifically looking for that scene, having already heard about the editing.)

[ Parent ]

Rainman (3.33 / 3) (#22)
by Robert S Gormley on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 06:08:16 AM EST

Only one airline didn't edit out the part of Rainman where Dustin Hoffman says "I want to fly Qantas. Qantas are the only airline who've never crashed." No prizes for guessing which airline :)

[ Parent ]
james bond (none / 0) (#23)
by alprazolam on Wed Nov 14, 2001 at 02:28:10 PM EST

i've seen a james bond show in flight before. i believe it was "Goldeneye".

[ Parent ]
Drawing the line (3.70 / 10) (#2)
by Signal 11 on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 06:15:45 PM EST

This, an incidents like it, beg the question of where we draw the line between (a) personal freedoms (whether protected by government or not!) and (b) the comfort and safety of others.

The argument for this is simple - he would be unnecessarily upsetting customers on the plane. United probably wants to avoid upsetting (paying) customers, since business is already way down. So I can see them asking him to keep the book stowed during his flight, to not upset anyone. However, security determined (on the spot!) that the book itself, as was the passenger and his entire cargo, was harmless. Plus, there's no policy that I'm aware of that says someone can't read certain books on flights because they might upset people nearby. I mean, if I pulled out a copy of Steven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, someone might say that hackers are terrorists, and be upset by it. But would I get kicked off the plane, probably not. Probably, the customer in question would either shut up, or if he persisted, be told to shut up, and I would put the book away for the remainder of the flight. This is common sense, and the best way to diffuse social problems, IMO. It's also what millions of people do every day when they see something that upsets them...

Now, virtually every corporation has a clause that basically says "we have the right to refuse sale to anyone"... and I doubt United is excempt from that - my greyhound bus tickets that I got a few months ago say the same thing, as do the movie theatres, etc. This is basically a "the constitution does not apply here" legal statement. And it is true - private property, the owner can ask you to leave for any or no reason.

So I'm split here. On one hand, United definately made a bad judgement call - and it is not morally defensible. But yet, you really don't have many alternatives to a lot of economic goods that businesses sell. In an ideal world, you could just get a refund and take another flight, but due to monopolies and economic circumstance, that often is either a poor option, or a non-option. United may have been the only option for this kid (or other options may have been prohibitively expensive). On the other hand, going after United would directly impact my rights as a private citizen, and that of other law-abiding businesses engaged in legal commerce. I should always, always, have the right to kick someone out of a place I own, or deny them business. If I don't want to sell my car to someone (for any reason), I shouldn't have to. I fail to see how we could morally justify holding a business to a different standard.

So really, my stance on this is... "Bad United, but what can you do?" It seems any move you would make against them would be an attack on freedom... simultaniously, they have already attacked freedom! The only option that an ardent capitalist would support would be a boycott of United, or a letter-writing campaign, to provide economic incentive for companies to keep certain rights. But the problem with that is that people in a capitalistic economic are self-centered and greedy (Ayn Rand and his theory of objectivism goes into this in some detail), and unlikely to organize for political cause. It's viewed as autonomous to the system - and therefore irrelevant. There's no mechanism built into our economy to encourage/force people to be political, in fact, it's often discouraged. So the only remaining option, really, is government involvement which, ironically, is the very thing that the constitution protects against!

So what's a concerned citizen to do, eh?

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

and... (3.33 / 3) (#9)
by Danse on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 07:57:19 PM EST

The only option that an ardent capitalist would support would be a boycott of United

As another poster pointed out, even if it worked, it would just lead to United filing for Chapter 11 and the government bailing them out with our tax money.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
The Corporation does not de-apply the Constitution (4.80 / 5) (#16)
by localroger on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 01:14:27 AM EST

Now, virtually every corporation has a clause that basically says "we have the right to refuse sale to anyone"... and I doubt United is excempt from that - my greyhound bus tickets that I got a few months ago say the same thing, as do the movie theatres, etc. This is basically a "the constitution does not apply here" legal statement. And it is true - private property, the owner can ask you to leave for any or no reason.

You are seriously misinformed. Corproations cannot refuse service "for no reason whatsoever." For example, they cannot decide to refuse you service because you are Black, or because you are wearing a turban. (The only reason they can refuse you service for not wearing shoes is an overriding sanitary consideration.)

Private property gives the property holder certain rights, but not the rights of a minor god. Once you introduce the public to your place of business (a "public conveyance") you take on certain responsibilities. You don't get to pick "which public" you will entertain unless there is a legal reason you can cite (intoxicated, belligerent, disruptive, etc.) for denying them access. You must give everybody a chance no matter how they are dressed or what piercings they have or what language they are speaking.

If your private property is not a public conveyance, this doesn't apply; you can deny anyone access you want for whatever arbitrary reason. But not if you want to do business there with "the public."

Now, United stepped so far over the line here that both feet are in midair just like Wile E. Coyote before a long fall. This wasn't a misunderstanding, it was a bureaucratic scramble run amok. The problem is that EVERYBODY has been given the utmost authorization to detain in the wake of 9/11, but NOBODY has been given authorization to clear. So after repeated assurances, repeated supplications, repeated inspections, and repeated cooperation far beyond what I'd have endured before calling a lawyer, at every point there was one flunky too paranoid to let it go. The situation is not acceptable, though in the current chaos I can appreciate how it came about.

It cannot, however, be allowed to stand.

If this kind of bullshit is allowed to continue, then the terrorists won. They destroyed everything that made our country great. I don't think it has happened yet, but there is still a great danger of this which we haven't passed. I don't think IBL cares very much whether we become an intolerant Muslim theocracy or an intolerant Christian theocracy, so long as the bikini-clad women aren't cavorting on sunlit beaches where impressionable and potentially recruitable young men can be seduced by them.

And the essence of our culture, of course, is that they should -- and that many other things the Taliban hate should be allowed to happen with impunity. If we can't deal with those things in the midst of our current crisis, then we might as well arm the bombers with white flags.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Feh (3.42 / 7) (#3)
by J'raxis on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 06:38:37 PM EST

Well, if he’s really an American he’ll just sue them. :)

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]

This is so silly...sad...and scary! (2.20 / 5) (#6)
by symbiotic on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 07:17:02 PM EST

Whoever did not feel comfortable with this guy reading his book should have been taken of the plane. And if it was the airline making that decision without a complaint from another passenger, they should be sued! This just helps fuel the madness.

What a mess (4.75 / 8) (#7)
by EdFox on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 07:23:34 PM EST

First off, all you lefties put your baseball bats away, I'm in no way defending what the screeners, National Guard, Police, or United did. The whole business was stupid and yes, wrong.

After the events of September 11th, airport security has become a very confused profession. Everyone--me included--fell upon the poorly trained, awfully paid, totally unchecked, unsupervised, can't even speak English for Pete's sake!, screeners and assigned a huge amount of the blame for letting the 19 madmen get on the flights to them. "Security" has always been a standing joke in the aviation industry. It was widely joked that somebody could probably toss a .45 into the "metal" basket next to the magnetometer, pass through without setting off a beep, recover their gun from the basket which the screener didn't even bother to look at, and walk away.

After the 11th, they have tried damn hard to at least give the appearance that all that has changed. There have been widespread calls to federalize security; the Senate version of the Aviation Security Act even includes such provisions. This, if implemented, will result in the firing of all screeners. Desperate to appear vigilant and save their jobs, screeners have gone totally wacko with useless measures to "increase security".

The event noted in the post is just one of many such incidents. Tweezers, nail scissors, and files are pounced upon and taken away. They snapped the little file off of my nail clippers. People are checked, re-checked, wanded, and re-wanded. I have personally suffered the indignity of having to take my shoes (yes, shoes) off and run them through the x-ray.

Screeners, police, and national guard units at airports--totally unprepared and untrained--are also reading the same articles on Israeli security that we all have. These articles include such details as profiling, random strip searches, and hours long questioning sessions if there is the slightest hint of suspicion that are a staple of Israeli security. Desperate to save their jobs, they are implementing this "knowledge", with disastrous results.

Yes, we need to implement Israeli-style security. They are the only nation that has successfully defended their airline despite being surrounded by thousands who would happily die, plant a bomb on some acquaintance, or strap TNT to their children to see an El Al aircraft blow up. However, we do not need untrained idiots trying to be Israeli Operatives after reading something from USAToday.

The reason Mr. Godfrey was questioned was because some screener saw the bomb on his book and freaked. Is this a test? Am I going to get fired like all those guys did after people got knives through?

Once he freaked, the die was cast. The national guard, the police, and others fell upon Godfrey with a vengeance, questioned him, and sent him on his way. An overreaction? Yes. Justified in light of recent events? Probably.

Airports and airlines are tangled bureaucracies that would make Rube Goldberg proud. Somebody heard that some guy with a bomb was questioned. The fact that it was a picture on a book was lost in the shuffle. It was decided by somebody that this person was not going to fly. The hapless peon sent out to tell this to Godfrey was probably ordered to say anything, just tell him to buzz off. Wrong? Oh, ya. And a vast overreaction too.

Mr. Godfrey goes away then comes back. He's noticed and remembered. Damaged goods. More questioning. Another breathless decision. He's back! Hell no, he ain't flying! Wrong again.

Is this all United's fault? No. It was the screeners who dragged Godfrey off for questioning.
Will heads roll? Maybe. Finding who decided to toss the poor guy off two flights will be difficult.
Should all new security measures be rescinded because they pose a danger to civil liberties? Fuck no.
Should these screeners' nightmare come true and all screening be federalized? Yes.
Will there be a flurry of lawsuits? You bet. From the article Godfrey seems to be taking it all in stride but the damn lawyers will have the guy screaming from the rooftops in no time. The insurance will cover it.
Should there be a boycott against United? Sure, go right ahead and call for one. I seem to recall a lot of yelling on K5 recently about not hurting hundreds of thousands for the actions of a few, though. More will lose their jobs, UAL will go chapter 11, congress will bail them out, and you'll pay for it.

What should have happened? Federal screeners should have questioned the guy. The bomb is provocative and he also set off a few other buttons with his lack of a job or school. He'd be held up for a half hour or so then declared innocuous and let on the plane. End of story.

Re:What a mess (3.40 / 5) (#10)
by truth versus death on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 10:00:52 PM EST

Justified in light of recent events? Probably.

No. It was not.

The bomb is provocative

The image of a bomb on the cover of a book can be provocative, dependent on viewer. But the image of a bomb on the cover of a book is no legitimate basis for the treatment Mr. Godfrey received in this situation.

and he also set off a few other buttons with his lack of a job or school.

He never should have been asked about these things.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
No absolutes (3.60 / 5) (#12)
by EdFox on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 12:06:06 AM EST

I find myself walking a thin tightrope. While the specific event was egregious, the concept is justified.

There are no absolutes in a field such as aviation security, where an unarmed man can be vastly dangerous. The image of an upraised fist with a bomb was provocative, that much we agree on. Such provocation--an item, the method a ticket was purchased, etc--is in many cases the only flag a potential problem can be identified by. What do you do in a situation such as that? You ask questions. Find out if the guy is worthy of deeper investigation.

By their own words, the authorities labeled Godfrey innocuous. That should have been the end. By his own words, Godfrey understood that his lack of a job and such could label him "with nothing to live for". Seen in hindsight, that's ridiculous.

Airports, however, are not equipped with hindsight detectors.

It was profiling. Profiling is the only truly effective method to ferret out potential problems in true aviation security. This is why the Israelis use it so extensively. Before you trot out Franklin, be advised that you've already lost in every court on Earth. The lives of the many vastly outweigh the inconvenience of the few.

[ Parent ]
Re:No absolutes (2.83 / 6) (#13)
by truth versus death on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 12:36:28 AM EST

Profiling is the only truly effective method to ferret out potential problems in true aviation security.

What is the profile of a terrorist?

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
I do not know. (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by EdFox on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 01:04:07 AM EST

Personally, I do not know.

I understand, however, that ascertaining that fact is likely not the intention of your question.

Experts at the FBI and the Department of Justice--which will be tasked with airport security should the Senate version of the Aviation Security Act be passed--can develop such a profile. They can train their agents in its application.

[ Parent ]
Gosh! (3.20 / 5) (#15)
by EinsteinsProdigy on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 01:12:05 AM EST

Don't labels just make you people feel all warm and fuzzy inside?


Aren't stereotypes just grand?

"Sure, it would be nice if Europeans agreed on a single language, but that's about as likely as Unix users agreeing on a single text editor." -Eloquence
[ Parent ]
Let me revise that (2.66 / 3) (#17)
by truth versus death on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 02:48:08 PM EST

Profiling is the only truly effective method to ferret out potential problems in true aviation security.

Please support this absolute with references and other evidence.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
He WAS a terrorist! ;-) (1.66 / 6) (#11)
by xriso on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 10:30:53 PM EST

OK... how to build a bomb ... yadda foreword yadda ... "Alternative" bombs ... page ... 43.

Take your sack of flour (good thing I got that one on board!), pour out contents. Ok...

What am I doing? Oh, just reading Bombs for Dummies! Can you help me with this sack of flour? Just dump some in the back there and shake it around a bunch so there's lots in the air. What do you mean you won't do it? Wai--what are you doing? Hey!!! I paid for that seat! @*$&!
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)

Warning, bad taste. (2.00 / 2) (#21)
by Robert S Gormley on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 05:57:47 AM EST

For added benefit, the flour could be used as "white powder" to stir up more Anthrax hoaxes.

[ Parent ]
posing for the paraniod (2.50 / 2) (#18)
by prime on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 09:27:13 PM EST

all this seems like to me is an effort by the airline to calm the hearts of those, still not recovered from the tradegy. I mean really how intimidating of a terrorist could he/she be if they have to read a bomb making book on the airplane[\prime]

Yet another reason to check in early, folks! (3.40 / 5) (#19)
by Kasreyn on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 12:35:17 AM EST

The old rule, give yourself an hour? Let's add in a bit so our timeline is:

half hour, getting to the airport (this is the number for where I live),

half hour, waiting in lines and checking in IMMEDIATELY, go through the metal detectors etc,

One hour questioning by idiots because metal buttons on my coat made their doohickey go bleep,

and get on my flight on schedule!


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
United Airlines impose literary standards | 23 comments (23 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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