x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Against Security: a look at public safety far removed from reality

This book is a triumph of marketing. Looking from the cover, it would seem to delve into the world of security in the post-September 11 world, a rich vein of perceived versus genuine public safety.

Against Security
Harvey Molotch
Princeton University Press

This book is a triumph of marketing. Looking from the cover, it would seem to delve into the world of security in the post-September 11 world, a rich vein of perceived versus genuine public safety.

But if ever there was a book not to judge by its cover, it's this one. Molotch tackles the issue from an academic's perspective - he's a professor of sociology at New York University - by judging authorities such as the Department of Homeland Security against the standard of what is reasonable to urbane city-dwellers when it comes to measures like full-body scans. Such authorities, of course, have to operate on the rule of taking every possible step.

And, despite the publishers' best efforts, it's not security against terrorism that is much of his focus. He says public toilets, for example, could be made safer and more user-friendly by being unisex, a proposition so deeply ensconced in the ivory tower and removed from reality that it defies parody.