Society of the spectacle
Security theater refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No-one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards. Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at US airports in the months after 9/11 -- their guns had no bullets. The US colour-coded system of threat levels, the pervasive harassment of photographers, and the metal detectors that are increasingly common in hotels and office buildings since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, are additional examples.
But even as we do all of this we cannot neglect the feeling of security, because it's how we collectively overcome the psychological damage that terrorism causes. It's not security theater we need, it's direct appeals to our feelings. The best way to help people feel secure is by acting secure around them. Instead of reacting to terrorism with fear, we -- and our leaders -- need to react with indomitability.*
Well, except that fear is so useful....
Anyhow, now that air travellers are being subjected to "full body search", what next? Cavity search? Why don't we just give up the idea that peasants should fly, and make all the airplanes "First Class" only? I mean, how could a CEO or a CFO or a CTO or a CIO be a terrorist? Wouldn't that simplify things? Since that's where we seem to be headed, as a society, anyhow.
NOTE * Too true, but makes the assumption that our rulerz are acting with the good of the entire country in mind. Sure, Churchill, but the current crop? Highly unlikely.