From “Don’t Tread On Me” To “Don’t Touch My Junk”

Are the American people finally waking up to the absurdity of TSA security theater? One can only hope they are.

Charles Krauthammer explains  why the TSA search uproar has resonated so strongly with the American public:

Ah, the airport, where modern folk heroes are made. The airport, where that inspired flight attendant did what everyone who’s ever been in the spam-in-a-can crush of a flying aluminum tube – where we collectively pretend that a clutch of peanuts is a meal and a seat cushion is a “flotation device” – has always dreamed of doing: pull the lever, blow the door, explode the chute, grab a beer, slide to the tarmac and walk through the gates to the sanity that lies beyond. Not since Rick and Louis disappeared into the Casablanca fog headed for the Free French garrison in Brazzaville has a stroll on the tarmac thrilled so many.

(…)

Not quite the 18th-century elegance of “Don’t Tread on Me,” but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.

Don’t touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don’t touch my junk, Obamacare – get out of my doctor’s examining room, I’m wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don’t touch my junk, Google – Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don’t touch my junk, you airport security goon – my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I’m a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?

That riff is a crowd-pleaser because everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives – when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone.

The ultimate idiocy is the full-body screening of the pilot. The pilot doesn’t need a bomb or box cutter to bring down a plane. All he has to do is drive it into the water, like the EgyptAir pilot who crashed his plane off Nantucket while intoning “I rely on God,” killing all on board.

But we must not bring that up. We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety – 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary.

Indeed, as has been noted here and elsewhere many times, what we have been encountering at the airport is more security theater than actual security. Prodded by a government led by politicians who have a strong motivation not to be blamed in the event of another terrorist attack for doing too little, airlines and airport authorities (many of which are quasi-government entities themselves) have implemented security procedures that seem designed primarily to make people think that they’re safe.

Yes, it is true that enhanced security procedures after 9/11 have made it far less likely that commercial airliners will be used as missiles to bring down skyscrapers again. Cockpit doors have been hardened and locked. You’re not allowed into the boarding area of an airport unless you have a boarding pass. And, most importantly, people are now conditioned to view an airplane hijacking not as an 80s-style hostage taking, but as a signal that they might be dead very soon. In some sense, we’re all Todd Beamer now.

Of course, hardening security to prevent another 9/11 is sort of like fighting the last war. As we’ve learned in London and Madrid, though, terrorists can and do find other ways to attack. Forcing everyone to stand in long lines, take off their shoes, and subject themselves to groping by someone who most likely has their job because they couldn’t get into college or the police academy doesn’t accomplish much of anything, and the American people are waking up to that fact.

FILED UNDER: National Security, Terrorism, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Herb says:

    Agreed with this quibble:

    “someone who most likely has their job because they couldn’t get into college or the police academy”

    I think it would be more fair to say that most TSA employees have that job because they needed the work, not because of their failures as a student or cadet. I mean, we can’t pay them burger-flipper wages and expect fine dining results, right?

    We’d be better off with fewer, better trained, better compensated (ie, better motivated) agents.

  2. Tano says:

    Exactly what you would expect from a guy like Kratuhammer.

    ‘…the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter.”

    Uh huh.

    “95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary”

    Thats bizarre. I would say 99.9%. The problem of course, is you don’t know WHICH 5%, or 0.1% is the necessary one. Thats kinda basic isn’t it?

    “…groping by someone who most likely has their job because they couldn’t get into college or the police academy…”

    Once again with this elitist crap. Haven’t you guys got the memo? The working class heroes are supposed to be your friends now. They are the ones who are swinging your way. You want to keep referring to them with such utter contempt, hey, they just might swing back the other way. Where they go, power goes.

    And what is the psychology of calling your genitalia “junk” anyway?
    So much weirdness amongst your ranks…..

  3. Jim Treacher says:
  4. TG Chicago says:

    I’m with Herb. Being anti-TSA doesn’t require personally insulting all their security agents.

  5. reid says:

    – “95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary”

    “Thats bizarre. I would say 99.9%. The problem of course, is you don’t know WHICH 5%, or 0.1% is the necessary one. Thats kinda basic isn’t it?”

    I’m guessing he meant 95% of procedures are unnecessary, not 95% of the applications of them. (If not, then it is awfully dumb.) Even so, it sounds like a case of pulling stats from orifices without any evidence or authority to back it up. There are lots of security experts everywhere these days. Having said that, I have seen the opinions of people like Israeli security officials who do claim that a lot of it is bunk, so I’m not going to argue.

  6. Tano says:

    “I’m guessing he meant 95% of procedures are unnecessary, not 95% of the applications of them.”

    Maybe, but one hears this constant whine about how outrageous it is that some obviously innocent person is screened, as if the terrorists are going to be showing up at the airport looking like KSM as he just got out of bed. That seems to be the real gripe. I mean, are there even 20 different procedures that we civilians must deal with, such that the “95%” number has any meaning (as in, 19 out of 20)?
    And if so, is it in any sense reasonable to claim that 19 out of 20 security procedures are unnecessary? Really?

  7. Tano says:

    Thank you Jim, that definition is a big help.

    Junk.
    “Seemingly useless rubbish which sits around for months and is inevitably disposed of the day before it is needed.”

    Like I said….you guys be kinda weird….
    🙂

  8. reid says:

    Tano: Yeah, it was a sloppy rhetorical device on his part. To a large degree, I think I agree with the complaints about unnecessary procedures, but it’s irritating that people like Krauthammer and millions (warning: may be exaggeration) of forum commenters are suddenly experts in airport security. Of course, these are the same people that will be the first to tear Obama and the administration a new stat-orifice if there is a terrorist incident.

  9. GenSpec says:

    “groping by someone who most likely has their job because they couldn’t get into college or the police academy”

    Mean spirited. Does everyone need to go to college? Should everyone who isn’t Ivy League caliber similarly be maligned?

    And is it really groping that is taking place? I think the author of this phrase has never been to a rock concert.

  10. KellySMom says:

    Employees of the TSA: Remember the Nuremberg Trials, just because “I was ordered to do so” does not excuse you from your crimes.

    Being ordered to grope, and sexually assault your fellow citizens, being told to harass and demean those “not exactly like you” is not and has not been part of our culture. If your job or the duties associated with your job cause you to violate the basic human rights, and the rights ensured to us from the Constitution, then, you are in the wrong job and need to quit, immediately.

    You all are NOT nameless and faceless, hiding behind a “glint” badge and a uniform shirt. But you are being dehumanized, you are being sensitized to “NOT CARE” about right or wrong, or the injustice of it, you are being conditioned to “follow orders.”

    Think of it for a moment. The guards in the camps during World War Two were “only doing their job, only obeying orders.” WE are not “sheeple” being lead to slaughter.

  11. rodney dill says:

    All your junk are belong to us.

  12. john personna says:

    Boing Boing claims that “Odds of cancer from TSA scanners about the same as terrorist blowing up your plane”

  13. Tano says:

    “Employees of the TSA: Remember the Nuremberg Trials”

    groan. Of course, Nazis….why did it take so long?

  14. wr says:

    Love to hear the TPers screaming about how terrible a violation of their privacy it is to be searched at an airport. Of course, they’re all in favor of torture and constantly scream about how Obama wants to “give” habeas corpus rights to the nasty brown people. And of course, they cheered themselves hoarse as our military rained bombs down on civillians in Baghdad.

    Their flag is incomplete. What it really means is “Don’t tread on me. Tread on that guy who looks different.”

  15. Tano says:

    “Boing Boing claims that “Odds of cancer from TSA scanners about the same as terrorist blowing up your plane””

    The precise quote from the piece at BB is:
    “it’s about equal to the probability that an airplane will get blown up by a terrorist, ”

    So lets think about that. If it is true that the probability of an individual (thats one person) getting a fatal cancer from the scanners, is equal to the probability of an airplane (thats dozens or hundreds of people) getting blown up, then doesn’t that mean that the probability of getting cancer, per individual, is a small fraction of the probability of an individual being a victim of a terrorist attack?

  16. Drew says:

    You know, Doug, you could bring a tad of comedic relief if any commentor who clicked on this post was immediately piped into Chuck Berry singing “I want you to play with my ding-a-ling.”

  17. G.A.Phillips says:

    Don’t grab my junk bro!!!

  18. Jim Treacher says:

    Thank you Jim, that definition is a big help.

    Oh, you’re welcome. Good luck keeping up with the times.

  19. Jim Treacher says:

    Love to hear the TPers screaming about how terrible a violation of their privacy it is to be searched at an airport. Of course, they’re all in favor of torture and constantly scream about how Obama wants to “give” habeas corpus rights to the nasty brown people. And of course, they cheered themselves hoarse as our military rained bombs down on civillians in Baghdad.

    What else did Kos say?

  20. Tano says:

    ‘Oh, you’re welcome. Good luck keeping up with the times.”

    I’m a liberal Jim, I waiting for the times to catch up to me….
    🙂

  21. Taggart says:

    KellysMom has it exactly right. I have to hand it to the TDAY. They’ve brought together the American people than anything else since 9/11. I’m laughing at people whining about “screaming TP’ers”. You’re obviously not concerned about civil liberties. But the rest of us ar unwilling to lick the government’s boots.

  22. anjin-san says:

    I’m curious. Liberals warned about the consequences of the vast expansion of the size and power of the federal government under Bush, and were called traitors for their trouble. What exactly did you guys expect? Or is the abuse of power cool, as long as it is not directed at your or people that you identify with?

  23. Wayne says:

    Anjin
    It is called “within reason”. 911 showed that having weak intelligence agencies who couldn’t even share what information they had can be harmful. There were many reasonable measures like using bomb sniffing dogs that needed to be taken. Unfortunately there was a bunch of B.S. good feel measure that were taken as well.

    Believing that the government should take reasonable measures is not the same as believing they should take any measures they want.

    Many conservatives like me have not condemned Obama for doing many of the things that we didn’t have a problem with when Bush did them. We unlike many liberals have been pretty consistent.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t complain if Obama takes actions that cross the line. For example, if Obama water boards a handful of top terrorist to get information, I will not condemn him. If he starts pulling large number people off the streets and do it to them, I sure will condemn him. Would you?

  24. wr says:

    That’s a lovely sentiment, Wayne. But the people being waterboarded are generally those who are suspected of being terrorists. The Right has decided that when it comes to this crime an accusation is all the government needs to torture, or to imprison forever. So yes, I would critcize Obama for waterboarding people dragged off the street — or anyone else. Because I know that when you give any government unchecked power over people, they’re going to use it. And they’re not going to stop with the people that Wayne doesn’t like…

  25. anjin-san says:

    > It is called “within reason”

    Funny thing about “reason”. It means different things to different people. And there will ALWAYS be people who abuse power. Once Pandora’s Box is open, it is devilishly difficult to close it again. And you always run the risk of a subsequent batch of leaders abusing measures that were perhaps undertaken with good intentions.

    Let me put it this way – I would trust an Abraham Lincoln with near dictatorial powers in a crisis. But how many do we see with his quality of character? Precious few. Then add in the factor that the “war on terror” may well outlive all of us… Well, you should have seen this coming a mile away, and you can’t say you were not warned.

    I really don’t think the abuse of power is what has most folks worked up in this case. It is that it is an abuse of power that might actually affect you and yours, as opposed to people you don’t care for.

  26. anjin-san says:

    > We unlike many liberals have been pretty consistent.

    Yes, you certainly have. But not I suspect, in the way you would like to think.

  27. Wayne says:

    Yes what is “within reason” varies between individuals. However to pretend people who don’t look at things in an absolute way are being inconsistent is bogus.. We never claim that Bush could do anything he so desired. If you can show that we are applying our standards differently with Obama vs. Bush, please give examples. However saying we were for improving security is the same as saying we were for all things that would improve security is bogus.

  28. anjin-san says:

    > However saying we were for improving security is the same as saying we were for all things that would improve security is bogus.

    Yea. I remember the battle cry of the right – “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about”.

    So now Alfred E. Newman is getting a nice pat down search. No one could have possibly seen this coming…

    > We never claim that Bush could do anything he so desired. I

    Unitary executive. Signing statements. Need I go on?

  29. Wayne says:

    Re “Need I go on?”
    Yes you do. Please give specific examples not generalities.
     
    The President has been entrusted with a great deal of power. To do his job he needs to use some of those powers at times. However that doesn’t mean a President can’t abuse those power. It is not all one way or all the opposite  like you seem to be pretending.   

  30. Highlander says:

    YES-YES!!!! Doug you are the man!!!! Finally you and I totally agree!
    As a 63 year old retired airline pilot( who spent most of my time flying international flights). The TSA system is complete and total BS. Brought to you by that blathering idiot and BIG GOVERNMENT closet liberal GEORGE W BUSH.