According to a Feminist Peace Network blog post promoted today in Alternet's newsletter, Playmobil now offers an airport "Security Checkpoint" toy complete with traveler screening equipment, and two ever-watchful TSA employees. The jokes, they write themselves. Do you have to wait in line for three hours before you can play with it? Does it come with liter bottles of spring water that only get thrown away? I mean, come on. Is the Shooting Fish in a Barrel playset sold separately?
The FPN blogger, Lucinda Marshall, isn't laughing. She describes recently being stopped at airport security for what the agent described as a "routine" test of her laptop.
"And she's right, it has become routine, a much too routine standard operating procedure designed to make us believe that the usurping of our privacy and human rights is normal and necessary if we are to be secure and free," she writes. "My youngest son barely has a memory of when you could get on a plane without having to take off your shoes first. He was in 4th grade on Sept. 11, 2001 and within days his school was decked out in American flags and 'I Support President Bush' signs appeared everywhere. For him this is normal, the way things are supposed to be. And that is no accident. What is particularly disturbing about the normalizing of this notion that it is unpatriotic to question measures that supposedly defend us from acts of terror is the use of entertainment to hawk the message."
The checkpoint toy, she writes, along with "sanitized" military video games -- not to mention the Internet's Homeland Security Channel and the "Army Experience Center" at the Franklin Mills (PA) Mall -- is "blatant police state propaganda."
Maybe so. Just (at least) one quibble: a quick call to Playmobil confirmed that the checkpoint toy was discontinued in 2007. (Due, I'm guessing, to lameness. Do kids really want a playset that only serves to remind them of their parents at their crabbiest? Sounds about as fun as the Playmobil DMV.)
Note: Yes, you can still find the toy at Amazon ... sort of. It's there, but a click or two reveals that the only listed vendor doesn't actually exist. Screen that! (That said, the comedy -- deliberate, I'm sure -- in the user reviews borders on genius performance art. Let's hope the listing continues to fly under the radar.)
But still. Does Marshall have a point? Or (as with guns, Barbies, etc., some say) should we throw up our hands and say “toys will be toys?” And, whether or not they’re getting them from Playmobil, what messages are kids -- many of whom, remember, are growing up with their lives an open Facebook -- getting about privacy vs. safety? Should it or should it not feel normal to them to take off their Crocs in order to get on a plane to visit Grandma? What do you think?