Magazine article Reason

Uncertain Futures. (Editor's Note)

Magazine article Reason

Uncertain Futures. (Editor's Note)

Article excerpt

MOST PEOPLE I'VE asked can't remember the first time they had to show a picture ID in order to get on a domestic flight. I can't even be certain of my own first time, although I definitely remember doing so in June 1995, when my family and I had the nauseating experience of flying out of Los Angeles International Airport on a day when the Unabomber (remember him?) had pledged to blow up an airliner leaving from there. The papers were filled with stories about "altitude-sensitive detonators" that made the plane's ascent more nerve-wracking than any takeoff should ever be (the landing, as I recall, was only slightly less stressful).

That no one seems to remember when a relatively recently introduced and now-ubiquitous practice got its start is disconcerting. It's a testament to how quickly we can become conditioned by new rules forced on us, to how institutional structures rapidly remake us into very different people. Americans, after all, long prized their right to travel more or less anonymously; it even used to be a point of pride in comparison to the more stringent protocols in Europe.

Now, notes Associate Editor Brian Doherty in this month's cover story, we flash IDs as naturally as we flash smiles--not just at airports but in all sorts of situations. (See "Suspected Terrorist" on page 22.) Less than two years after the 9/II attacks, such behavior already has become that most dreaded of realities, "the new normal. Doherty reports on the interesting, quixotic federal case brought by multimillionaire John Gilmore, who is suing the government for the right to fly without having to show an ID. …

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