Every one of us does things that would be inexplicable to a stranger, hence the saying, ‘It’d be a dull world if we were all the same.’ A mature adult knows that ‘inexplicable’ isn’t the same as ‘wrong’ — you use ketchup, I loathe the stuff but drown everything in Tobasco; you say grace, I’m an avowed atheist; you like puffer-style ski jackets, I like thick denim; you wear a hijab, I wear a flat cap; you have an American flag in your lapel, I have a badge that says ‘KEEP LIBEL LAW OUT OF SCIENCE.’
The TSA’s screening procedure tells them that any time they see something they can’t explain, they should refer that person for a humiliating secondary screening. For people who have something about them that is apt to be outside the direct experience of almost all screeners (people with urine bags, prostheses, disabilities, out-of-the-customary binary gender expression; specialized hobbies or vocations; visible political or religious observances; quirky personal fashion), this is tantamount [to] punishment for not being ‘normal’ — where ‘normal’ is whatever goes on in the narrow experience of J. Random TSO.
‘See something, say something’ and similar programs are the reason that nervous air passengers are allowed to disrupt or even ground flights because they mistake dovening Hassidim for Arab terrorists working themselves up to a suicidal rush or because they mistake a hipster food-photographer’s ‘ATOM BOMB’ tattoo for a sign of suicidal intent.
In other circles, we have a name for the philosophy whose fundamental tenet is, ‘If you don’t do this yourself, it’s probably dangerous’ — we call it bigotry.” —Cory Doctorow
The supervisor says to the cop, ‘He’s free to go. We have no problem, you don’t have to be here.’ Which shows me that the Feds are afraid of local. This is really cool. She says, ‘We have no trouble and he doesn’t want to miss his flight.’
I say, ‘I can take an early morning flight or a private jet.’ The cop says, ‘If I have a citizen who is saying he was assaulted, you can’t just send me away.’” —
Penn Jillette, the louder half of Penn & Teller, recounts his experience with the TSA in 2002. From later in the piece: “Freedom is kind of a hobby with me, and I have disposable income that I’ll spend to find out how to get people more of it.”
Penn is one of the good ones.
(edit: Oops, this is from November 2002, not last week. Thanks, maxistentialist.)
I know, I know. Self-reblog; how gauche. But I originally wrote this several months ago, before porno-scanners were widely deployed in U.S. airports, and before the TSA had added outright sexual assault to their bag of coercion tricks.
If I were not very cynical, I might say that body scanners represent a misguided attempt by a desperate, well-terrorized government to do something—anything—to keep 9/11 from happening again, despite the fact that locking the cockpit door pretty much solved that and besides, the next attack won’t look like the last one, so they must not have thought this through.
If I were a little bit cynical, I might say that our government favors body scanners even though they violate Islamic law because after all, potential terrorists don’t deserve to have their religious views respected.
If I were somewhat more cynical, I might say that our government favors body scanners even though they violate Islamic law because after all, potential terrorists don’t deserve freedom to travel about the country conducting business and visiting their families and contributing to the economy and doing all the other things
white peoplelaw-abiding citizens do.
But if I were really, really cynical—we’re talking total Cynicky McCynicpants here—I might say that our government favors body scanners because they violate Islamic law, so practicing Muslims will be forced to request alternative and often more thorough and invasive screening procedures and that’s just fine, because then we won’t have to do any of that unseemly racial profiling.
My cynicism would truly know no bounds were I to suggest this, but maybe now the TSA’s objective is simply to keep Muslims off of planes entirely.