Monday, September 10, 2012

The 9/11 Memorial, Revisited

Cross-posted at

Last December I wrote about my visit to the 9/11 Memorial in NYC and noted that the Security Theater on display was a perfect, though unintentional, symbol of how our country has responded to the 9/11 attacks: endless security and paranoia.
This manifests itself in several different ways:
  1. Security guards or cops ever 10 yards or so
  2. NYPD security cameras every 10 yards or so
  3. An airport-like security checkpoint.  Once you go past several dozen security cameras, you get to this checkpoint where you go inside and put your coat, belt, and any electronics into bins to be x-rayed (though not your shoes).  Like the airport you go through the metal detector and collect your belongings.  I was able to get a picture of the scene from outside the building, though once inside you see signs telling you not to take pictures. 
As we approach our annual arms race for our nation's true patriots to identify themselves through cheap signaling rather than substantive or thoughtful discussion of our countries direction, a number of reports have been in the news citing the construction and maintenance costs of the 9/11 memorial, coming in at $700m and $60m respectively, with $300m coming from the federal government.

When I wrote the post about my visit to the memorial, I wondered if the over-the-top security (including the airport-like screening) was a temporary measure or permanent.  Based on this yahoo article, it seems they are permanent.
The foundation plans to spend at least a fifth of its operating budget, or around $12 million per year, on private security because of terrorism fears. Visitors to the memorial plaza pass through airport-like security, and armed guards patrol the grounds.
What an epic waste of money.  What a sad commentary on our collective lack of self awareness that we voluntarily resign ourselves to self oppression in order to make ourselves more 'secure' and preserve 'liberty' and 'freedom'.  Security is often at odds with liberty and freedom, but for some reason adding checkpoints, heavily armed guards, and warrentless civilian surveillance makes people think their freedoms and liberties are being preserved.  

Even putting all that aside, as I noted last December:
I'm really curious as to why all this security is needed, the memorials themselves are quite striking, but they really don't seem to warrant the excessive security leading up to them.  It seems to me that the purpose of such security should be to protect human life or valuable assets.  In this respect, the memorials don't pose a potential threat to human life any greater than any other part of the city [would it be so surprising to start seeing checkpoints throughout the city in the not-too-distant-future? Does it take anything but the gradual conditioning to the erosion of civil liberties?], and while I'm sure the memorials cost a good amount of money, there are certainly just as many valuable assets in other parts of the city that don't have this level of security.  For example, the Guggenheim had precisely zero security.  No guards, no metal detectors, no paranoia.  Yet the building itself, as a historic landmark alone, I'm sure is quite valuable.  But there it is right on the corner of 5th and E88th for anyone to walk up to.

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