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Against Security: How We Go Wrong at…
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Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of…

by Harvey Molotch

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The book actually begins with a chapter on how badly designed toilets—especially public toilets—are, and how that disproportionately disadvantages people who are poor and/or female. This does fit with the general theme: we get what we design for, and by ignoring human factors and presuming evil we are designing our public spaces to be ever more difficult to deal with for people of good faith, yet no safer against people who pay attention to the brittleness of “hardened” security measures. Nor are we safer against natural disasters, preferring to fight the waters with levees (that we then don’t fully maintain) to consider measures like a planned retreat from rising sea levels. It’s a depressing book, despite Molotch’s chapter-ending recommendations for, essentially, being nicer to each other and designing spaces and institutions based on trust—at this point, it’s just so hard to imagine things like “let responders on the ground make more of the decisions.” ( )
1 vote rivkat | May 21, 2013 |
Molotch offers a fresh, provocative perspective, absent the diatribes we almost always hear whenever security is the topic. He successfully explains the problems with our current approach, starting with a foundation about the real trade-offs we need to understand. More security might, at best, mean more safety. It also means other type of risk can increase, as our very way of life is eroded in the process. I've read a number of commentaries with similar arguments, but none were this thoughtful. ( )
  jpsnow | Oct 13, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 069115581X, Hardcover)

Remember when an unattended package was just that, an unattended package? Remember when the airport was a place that evoked magical possibilities, not the anxiety of a full-body scan? In the post-9/11 world, we have become focused on heightened security measures, but do you feel safer? Are you safer?

Against Security explains how our anxieties about public safety have translated into command-and-control procedures that annoy, intimidate, and are often counterproductive. Taking readers through varied ambiguously dangerous sites, the prominent urbanist and leading sociologist of the everyday, Harvey Molotch, argues that we can use our existing social relationships to make life safer and more humane. He begins by addressing the misguided strategy of eliminating public restrooms, which deprives us all of a basic resource and denies human dignity to those with no place else to go. Subway security instills fear through programs like "See Something, Say Something" and intrusive searches that have yielded nothing of value. At the airport, the security gate causes crowding and confusion, exhausting the valuable focus of TSA staff. Finally, Molotch shows how defensive sentiments have translated into the vacuous Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site and massive error in New Orleans, both before and after Hurricane Katrina. Throughout, Molotch offers thoughtful ways of maintaining security that are not only strategic but improve the quality of life for everyone.

Against Security argues that with changed policies and attitudes, redesigned equipment, and an increased reliance on our human capacity to help one another, we can be safer and maintain the pleasure and dignity of our daily lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

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