Saturday, January 01, 2011

TSA And A Radio Daze

Tomorrow afternoon – Sunday, January 2, at 6:30 EST – I’m supposed to discuss my latest Guardian article (theme: I refuse to fly while TSA’s fingerbang patdown policies remain in effect) with James Strait, a radio talk-show host out of Philadelphia. (Confession: I know nothing about Philly’s radio scene or Mr. Strait, but his website – where you can listen to him in realtime – refers to the Real ID program as “an attack on liberty” so I’m guessing that, at least where TSA abuse [read: pretty much TSA’s entire existence] is concerned, we’re largely on the same page.)

[EDIT: Forgot to ask: should any of you have the time and ability to easily record the interview and send me a copy, I'd appreciate it.]

I’m sincerely grateful to report receiving, in response to my column, many lovely messages from people from basically said “I feel as you do, and I won’t fly either.” One man, a small-business owner who travels rather frequently as a result, even said he’s been taking private flying lessons and buying a plane although, as he pointed out, piloting himself will cost at least ten times more than flying commercial. He’s fortunate he can afford to make such a sacrifice; America’s fortunate he’s willing to make it. Too many of our compatriots would rather go along to get along – “I may not like the airport gropedowns, but how else can I take the kids to see Disney?” Too many compatriots, unfortunately, feel they have no choice – “I loathe the airport gropedowns but if I don’t fly on business I’ll lose my job.”

Overall, however, much of the response to my column has been surreal; so many stalwart TSA defenders insisting it’s not that bad, it’s no big deal, what’s wrong with adopting submissive-criminal poses and letting government agents feel around in your underwear every time you want to travel, huh?

Some controversies I expect; when I write in favor of legalizing drugs and prostitution, or dismantling certain aspects of the welfare/regulatory state, of course that will generate much disagreement among the so-called political mainstream. But I find it awesome – in the original, terrifying sense of the word – that simple declarations we Americans could take for granted 20 years ago are now considered controversial: “I am owed the presumption of innocence unless and until proven guilty of a specific crime.” “Within the borders of my own country, I am free to travel without government interference.”

But this generates the most surreal controversy of all: “I retain exclusive control over certain parts of my body, and neither the government nor anyone else has the right to see or touch them without my consent.” Seriously, that claim now inspires indignation, controversy, and accusations of prudery?

We here in America have reached the point where high-ranking political appointees seriously propose requiring intimate patdowns and/or potentially dangerous nude-scan radiation photography as a precondition for travel on every form of mass transit. And yet, fantastically, I found myself accused of being some cruel and heartless oppressor of the working classes for using the term “thug” in reference to those government agents who actively and knowingly implement degrading policies of ritualized sexual assault against innocent people.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're with you, Jennifer! If you feel like it, please join us on Facebook:

12:59 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Thank you! I actually joined that group quite some time before writing the piece -- as soon as I learned of it, in fact.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Figures! You fit right in. :-)

1:17 PM  
Blogger Early Light said...

The people pulling the strings are probably more amazed than we at how much they can get away with - nearly 60 percent of Americans have questions about Obama's eligibility to serve as President, yet like sheep, we allow our Constitutional rights to be violated by his administration.

I think that when they saw how much Clinton got away with, they tried their luck with Bush-43, and now they probably feel they can do whatever they want.

But, the last chapter of this story has not yet been written.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Early Light, I've seen many TSA discussions derailed by side-tracks like "Where was Obama born," "who brought down the World Trade Center" or even "what's the best policy to take regarding illegal immigration?" I'm ashamed to admit I've even participated in some of those derailments.

But here is something I've only belatedly realized: regarding TSA, it does not matter. To make an analogy, if it's mid-1930s Germany and we stand watching our country and freedoms being destroyed around us, literally by the day, then frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn who torched the Reichstag; my concern is stopping this out-of-control government.

(That said, I suspect you're right that the powers that be are themselves surprised by just how much they're getting away with.)

1:58 PM  
Blogger James Hanley said...


Mid 1930s is exactly right. And yet no one seems willing to recognize it. Everything is justified in the name of national security, and who are we to question a government that's only trying to protect us? I despair. And I have no idea what the next indignity will be.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Mid 1930s is exactly right. And yet no one seems willing to recognize it.

Worse than that; it's impossible to learn from the mistakes of history because the second you do, TSA supporters accuse you of hyperbole and false equivalence: no, no, the USA is completely different from the USSR! The TSA isn't like the Stasi or Securitate. Don't use the word "Orwellian" and for God's sake don't make any comparison to Nazi Germany, lest your detractors jump on the chance to ignore every argument you've made to focus on minutiae: "The Soviet Union outlawed private property, while America has so much private property, the government gets a sizable revenue stream taxing it!"

2:44 PM  
Blogger James Hanley said...

Ah, Jennifer, you're lucky I'm happily married, or I might be sitting on your doorstep begging for a date. ;)

3:50 PM  
Blogger Early Light said...

Jennifer, I certainly see your point.

However, may I capitalize upon your analogy? There is a fire you want to extinguish - so, do you spray your fire extinguisher at the visible flames, or do you somehow target the fuel, oxygen and heat that make it all burn? Because, if you can remove any one of those three, the fire goes out.

Similarly, Obama, Bush and Clinton are symptoms. You have to identify the puppeteers that give you now a puppet from their left hand, now a puppet from their right hand, but all essentially on the same sheet of music.

Having said that, I repeat that I see your point. I know of agents who have been sent in to derail activist groups by deliberately bogging them down in unimportant details, by spreading ridiculous theories, and so on. Such agents are unnecessary - there are plenty of people who just love to throw grenades and will goof things up without needing to be put up to it.

The job before us is to shut this system down, despite the odds.

But make no mistake about it - I don't just want the TSA goons. I want them all: the government officials on the payroll of foreign organized crime, the finaciers deliberately an cynically profiting from it all... every one of them, each according to his/her crimes.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

TSA and the very idea of nude peeks or physical gropes as a precondition for travel is also a symptom, and some symptoms (like extreme fevers) can of themselves be deadly if not treated immediately.

And, on a strictly pragmatic note, the TSA matter is best addressed on its own because any other matter will only introduce needless controversy.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Keelan said...

I have two items to point out after reading your article...

First, as long as one is still permitted to carry a wire coat hanger onto a commercial jet, any other security is a joke. How they've left such a loophole intact implies - to me, at least - that the real purpose of restricting air travel (and slowly other modes, too) is to separate the wheat from the chaf, so to speak. The terror watch list is over 400k persons in length... and many of those people are pacifists and intellectuals! Many of them are genuine patriots. If TPB can get you or me to act out with the TSA, possibly bringing up the 4th amendment or refusing a pat-down or a "pornoscan" (I love that term, by the way), they can easily add one more person to the list... a list they can quickly round up if (when) the order is given. The "security" is meant only to make the less intelligent among us feel "safe" and to keep them supporting their government masters... and make everyone not in that group a lot easier to pick out.

Second, it's my belief that we have already passed the point of no return on turning the tides of repressive, fascistic behavior by the government in this country back. Wal-Mart is colluding with the feds to get shoppers there to report anything of a "suspicious" nature. Were one available at a Wal-Mart at all, would buying a copy of the US Constitution be considered suspicious? The government itself says so! This behavior is akin to inflationary economies; the price will be driven ever higher until finally nobody buys.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Wayne said...


8:56 AM  

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