Thursday, August 4, 2011

SPOT is coming

The Boston Herald reports that the TSA's long-hyped program to identify suspicious passengers is coming to Boston-Logan airport. Justin Raimondo does a great job of taking apart this ridiculous and intrusive program:
[T]he “theory” behind this nonsense is based on the work of Paul Ekman, a clinical psychologist, who originated the SPOT training program. According to Ekman, human facial expressions are not learned behavior, but innate reactions – instincts – which are universal. ...the authors of this scientific paper, [debunked] Ekman’s claims and averred that one would get better results “flipping a coin” than utilizing Ekman’s methods. ...
Ekman’s “Facial Action Coding System” is just the sort of scientistic mysticism governments are inherently in favor of: its presumption of certainty and schematic reductionism is typical of the sort of “systems” favored by government bureaucrats, who love to believe – have to believe – they can understand the infinite complexity of human beings – when in fact they don’t have a clue. Just as some addle-brained “economist” of the modern school thinks he can reduce human economic interactions to a few mathematical formulas, so the “scientists” over at the TSA think they can map the human mind with a glance and a few impertinent questions. Such “scientific” hocus-pocus is laughable – and you’re paying for it, in more ways than one.
 Meanwhile, Bill Foster explains how "training" works at the TSA (and, I assume, at just about every government agency):
The best case scenario is that the BDOs are smart enough to realize that they are dealing with someone with (with respect to you) a “problem.” However I suspect this will not be the case most of the time. As I am to understand it, there are basically three ways these people are trained. 1) In a classroom setting by TSOs and teachers who get the information in “packets” from headquarters. These are the same people who teach every other class on every other subject. From reading the x-ray to sexual harassment in the work place classes. 2) Online courses. The online courses are incredibly dumbed down. What’s more, they are designed in such a way that a student can just click off each page, reach the end, get all the questions wrong and move on to the next online class. There are THOUSANDS of these. My favorite is the one about washing my hands after using the bathroom. I had to take that one about 8 times. Finally, 3) From on the job training. Meaning, from other BDOs who learned from both 1) and 2). My point is, if an actual behavior expert is involved in anyway, it’s at the early point drafting up the class “packet.”
His anecdote of SPOT-like training that he did is hilarious, as usual.