Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Pat Me Down With the Crowd!

Security theater comes to a stadium near you


Ah, the smell of peanuts. The sight of freshly mowed grass. The sharp crack of the bat! And long, totally pointless lines to walk through metal detectors at every ballpark except Wrigley Field.

Bruce Schneier, the familiar-to-Reason-readers coiner of "security theater" to describe much post-9/11 safety measures, explains in the Washington Post just how gratuitous baseball's new government-triggered policy is:

As a security measure, the new devices are laughable. The ballpark metal detectors are much more lax than the ones at an airport checkpoint. They aren't very sensitive — people with phones and keys in their pockets aresailing through — and there are no X-ray machines. Bags get the same cursory search they've gotten for years. And fans wanting to avoid the detectors can opt for a "light pat-down search" instead.

There's no evidence that this new measure makes anyone safer. A halfway competent ticketholder would have no trouble sneaking a gun into the stadium. For that matter, a bomb exploded at a crowded checkpoint would be no less deadly than one exploded in the stands. These measures will, at best, be effective at stopping the random baseball fan who's carrying a gun or knife into the stadium. That may be a good idea, but unless there's been a recent spate of fan shootings and stabbings at baseball games — and there hasn't — this is a whole lot of time and money being spent to combat an imaginary threat.

But imaginary threats are the only ones baseball executives have to stop this season; there's been no specific terrorist threat or actual intelligence to be concerned about. MLB executives forced this change on ballparks based on unspecified discussions with the Department of Homeland Security after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Because, you know, that was also a sporting event.

Thanks to Scott Ross for the tip. Schneier wrote for Reason here, and was interviewed by us here.