Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

The TSA conundrum

As readers of some of my past StumbleUpon reviews will have noted, I have come down squarely both for and against the “TSA backlash.” There is good cause for this. On the one hand, I am firmly convinced that the TSA offers airline customers a Morton’s Fork: Suffer yourself to be exposed to radiation via full-body scanner, taking it on faith that to do so is harmless; or endure an intrusive “enhanced” pat-down that leaves far too much latitude for abuse. On the other, I have always found the timing of the backlash suspicious, given that the scanners have been in use since 2007 — although they weren’t mandatory until recently — and have noted that the “journalists” who brought the issue to public attention may be acting with interests other than those of the public in mind.

'TSA touches their balls'

At least someone is enjoying this.
[ Image Source ]

In itself, the backlash is neither a left- nor a right-wing issue. People who believe in rights of privacy and individual choice are on both sides of the political fence; as I said in a previous commentary, this is one issue on which progressives and libertarians can and do agree. Any institution, public or private, that attempts to force people to undergo humiliation and possibly jeopardize their health has strayed far from our principles, and will be ecumenically denounced.

Why, then, did this avalanche of rebuke arise from Matt Drudge and conspiracy theory/pseudoscience site operator Alex Jones, and within a few days cascade from every libertarian/Republican/conservative “news” site on the internet? Typically, these parties cry out in unison only when the astroturf call goes out, telling them to manufacture yet another “grassroots” public cause for private political and economic advancement. Like the Tea Party itself, these “libertarian” causes always seem to be directed by two puppetmasters in Wichita, Kansas, who are resolved to use their multi-billion-dollar war chest to bring down the Obama presidency and to abolish all legal and regulatory restraints on corporate activity.

This has made me distrustful of such furors. Accordingly, I have questioned whether the hysteria among right-wing “journalists”/propagandists is not meant as a red herring. Certainly, the timing is interesting. Just as the Supreme Court prepares to decide whether to disarm American consumers against corporate fraud and misprision by removing their right to file class-action lawsuits, and Congress mulls deficit-reduction recommendations that threaten further harm to vulnerable economic minorities, all eyes are on the TSA.

Also, even though it was the Bush administration that instituted the TSA security measures, it is the Obama administration so loathed by the men in Wichita that is now responsible for and identified with the TSA. To the extent that the TSA is discredited, one might infer that Obama would be discredited as well.

Now, I have not yet commented on another possible motive for this backlash, although I did read of it recently, and probably should have. Airports aren’t compelled to use the TSA for security; they have an option to use private security instead. And if sufficient pressure is applied to them, they will make this choice, to the vast enrichment of the operators of such private security corporations.

Putting it all together, then, I still stand firm on both sides. I am suspicious of the TSA, and I am equally suspicious of those leading the reaction against it. I object to the TSA’s intrusions, but I do not imagine that the intrusions would be any less with private security doing the intruding. I will be continuing to watch developments in this discussion, and trying to get a better idea of who stands to gain most from what, and to what extent each side is attempting to mislead the public, and for how unsavory a purpose.

But I will also watch Congress and the Supreme Court, where the decisions that shape our lives are made. For in the end, those decisions will affect many of us far more than whether a public or private employee offers flyers a Morton’s Fork.

Originally published as a review of a thenation.com article on the TSA backlash.

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