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Security Theater in science fiction, 1956 edition

September 28, 2011

In his 1956 short story, Let’s Get Together, Isaac Asimov describes security measures proposed to counter a terrorist threat:

“Consider further that this news will leak out as more and more people become involved in our countermeasures and more and more people begin to guess what we’re doing. Then what? The panic might do us more harm than any one TC bomb.”

The Presidential Assistant said irritably, “In Heaven’s name, man, what do you suggest we do, then?”

“Nothing,” said Lynn. “Call their bluff. Live as we have lived and gamble that They won’t dare break the stalemate for the sake of a one-bomb head start.”

“Impossible!” said Jeffreys. “Completely impossible. The welfare of all of Us is very largely in my hands, and doing nothing is the one thing I cannot do. I agree with you, perhaps, that X-ray machines at sports arenas are a kind of skin-deep measure that won’t be effective, but it has to be done so that people, in the aftermath, do not come to the bitter conclusion that we tossed our country away for the sake of a subtle line of reasoning that encouraged donothingism.”

Substitute airports for sports arenas, but otherwise, we have literally skin-deep X-rays deployed that are likely to be ineffective, for the implicit purpose of showing that we are doing something. Did Asimov have a freaking time machine in his basement or something?


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  1. David J. Bianco
    October 3, 2011 at 13:58 | #1

    Of course not. It was Psychohistory. 8-)

  2. Mike
    October 4, 2011 at 22:13 | #2

    No time machine, but he did have Hari Seldon and psychohistory in his pocket.

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