Ceci n’est pas une pipe (bomb)

My, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Apparently I’ve been distracted for the last month and a half or so.

So consider this report:

A pilot alerted airport police when he saw a bike with a sticker that read “this bike is a pipe bomb” parked near the passenger ramps of Terminal C at Memphis International Airport, according to the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

This provoked airport security to clear out large portions of the terminal; it was later discovered that the bike was not in fact a pipe bomb. The explanation, apparently, is that “This bike is a pipe bomb” is the name of a band in Florida.

So my question, or possibly concern, is whether this is what one learns in airport security training: that explosives will typically be labelled with helpful signs reading “bomb”, “TNT”, etc. Even accepting the notion that an object can be simultaneously a bicycle and a pipe bomb — an assumption not without epistemological difficulties, I suspect — does it really seem likely that such a hybrid object would be clearly proclaiming this fact? Particularly if it is, in fact, being used in a subversive fashion to destroy portions of an airport?

I mean, really, which of the following seems more suspicious?

  1. A bike with a sticker that reads “This bike is a pipe bomb”.
  2. A bike with a sticker that reads “This bike is not a pipe bomb”.
  3. A bike with a sticker that reads “Cthulhu ’08: why vote for the lesser evil?”

Maybe it’s just policy that any mention of the word “bomb” (or any other term on the No-Fly Words List) requires further investigation. But this seems like too much tempest in too small a teapot.

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