Deviant Security Theatre Roundup

New TSA Slogans:

  • If We Don’t Get Off, You Don’t Get On

  • We Love Your Fly, And It Shows

Alex Tabarrok reminds us that we tell children that their body is their own, they have the right to say NO, and that there are parts of their body that are private.

Authority figures, for example, may also use threats of violence to engage in abuse against adults, for example, “you will be blown up unless you let me touch your genitals and take naked pictures of you.”

Boing Boing brings us a children’s book, My First Cavity Search: Helping Your Child Understand Why He May Pose a Threat to National Security. Illustrated cover is priceless.

Tyler Cowen thinks an arbitrary and punitive TSA is good for consumers who remain willing to fly because it’ll cause other passengers not to fly, thus reducing congestion and improving the overall travel experience. I assume he’s being facetious. And of course this would be a very short-term view, as fewer passengers would ultimately mean fewer flights, fewer flight options, and equalized crowding on the flights themselves (airports would remain uncongested in the medium-term until airports began shuttering terminals as has happened in St. Louis as airlines have pulled back service there).

He also points to this musing on the sociology of the TSA:

Throughout my career — both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney — I’ve observed a consistent inverse relationship: the more petty a government officer’s authority, the more that officer will feel a need to swagger and demand that you RESPECT HIS AUTHORITAH. Your average FBI agent might search your house based on a crappy perjured warrant, invade your attorney-client emails, and flush your life down the toilet by lying on the stand at your mail fraud trial. But he doesn’t feel a need to vogue and posture to prove anything in the process. He’s the FBI. But God above help you when you run into the guy with a badge from some obscure and puny government agency with a narrow fiefdom. He and his Napoleon syndrome have got something to prove. And he’s terrified that you’ll not take him very, very seriously. When I call FBI agents on behalf of my clients, they’re cool but professional and nonchalant. When I call a small agency — say, state Fish & Game, or one of the minor agency Inspector Generals — they’re hostile, belligerent, and so comically suspicious that you’d think I was asking for their permission to let my client smuggle heroin into the country in the anuses of handicapped Christian missionary orphans. They are infuriated, OUTRAGED, when a client asserts rights, when a client fails to genuflect and display unquestioning obedience. They are, in short, the TSA.

On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times editorializes: “Shut Up and Be Scanned” .. anyone actually still subscribe to the LA Times, wanna cancel?

Of course, it’s unclear that the TSA has ever caught a terrorist.

Megan McArdle recommends writing your airline when you choose Amtrak over flying because of the TSA. But that only works when the TSA isn’t scoping out the railways. Still, sound advice because the airlines are in a much better position to press the government for change than are individual passengers. But there’s a long way to go, airline executives show way too much genuflection towards government that is imposing undue costs on its business. Glenn Tilton, Chairman of United-Continental — whose sole accomplishment in nearly a decade was getting someone else to take over running the airline — has nothing but contempt for complaining passengers.

Glenn Tilton.. said it’s obvious passengers are upset but their security “is really the predominant interest.”

“I am personally aware of customer frustration because I’m getting e-mails to that effect,” Tilton told reporters at an Aero Club luncheon in Washington. “Clearly a number of people have put together an effort to make sure that we are aware of how they feel about it.”

Still, he said airline operations had not been affected by passenger cancellations to date and he praised the TSA’s screeners. “We know how difficult their job is,” he said.

Congressional leadership are apparently exempt from standard security procedures when flying commercial.

In the grand tradition of song as a form of protest, one suggestion I’ve seen is to sing during enhanced pat downs:

Chorus from Men at Work’s “Down Under”
Chorus from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”

You might also want to consider singing “Back in the USSR” as well.

Or consider “I Know What Boys Like”

I haven’t given much credence to concerns about radiation, I’m not convinced there’s been sufficient testing but I also know that ‘the dose makes the poison’. Still, Bruce Schneier points out that even though backscatter x-ray machines are expected to increase change of death by only 16 ten millionths of one percent, that’s still more than the risk of death from terrorism. And he points to Nate Silver on inconveniences of air travel pushing people to driving which is far more dangerous, and statistically attributes the equivalent of four full 737s a year in additional traffic deaths.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The job of good government is to balance competing needs – in this instance security against personal freedom. I don’t understand how our government can even formulate the equation when it is exempt from the rules – congressmen aren’t required to submit to the inspection and TSA staff presumably simply flash their badge.

    Also, good government has checks on its omnipotence and operates in public, subject to scrutiny by the citizen concerned and by all citizens generally. In this instance, citizens cannot answer back and cannot record what’s going on. Onlookers cannot record what’s going on. There is absolutely no check on potential abuse and no ability to prove actual abuse.

    Many people in this country, and most people abroad, were outraged by the treatment meted out to allegedly terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo: I think perhaps the majority here thought it was probably ok because they were terrorists – they must be as they were arrested as such. However, there are strong similarities between that regime and what the TSA is moving towards today: and anyone who complains vociferously is arrested. Will we think that’s ok as he must be a terrorist because he was arrested by the TSA?

    I come back to a question of balance. There can be few who think there should be no security and few who are unwilling to do what is reasonable to prove to the authorities before we fly that we are not carrying a bomb or a weapon. But the authorities have to devise a method of allowing that to happen without humiliating us or making us believe we live in a police state.

    For years, the attitude of the TSA has been worse than any others I experience. For example, I regularly travel through LHR. There, the staff are professional and diligent, but also friendly and chatty. They say please, they make eye contact and they smile (sometimes). They have a job to do and I respect that. With the TSA, they are rude, they shout at passengers, they throw their weight around and garner no respect at all.

  2. I say that males getting groped by TSA should get erections right before going through security and decline to get scanned…then see how closely the TSA agent gropes him! My guess is it wouldn’t be quite as close.

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