Well, I have to fly home soon. So what should I go for, an unnecessary blast of radiation that broadcasts me in all my natural glory, or possibly (though inadvertently) causing a scene by opting out and getting felt up by a TSA employee?
Pundits? Any thoughts?
“I don’t consider the full-body scanners an invasion of privacy,” Adler said. “I think a bomb detonating on a plane is the biggest invasion of privacy a person can experience.”
This has to be some extension of Godwin’s Law or something, but I’m really getting sick of people taking any negative thing that exists in the world, and immediately comparing it with fiery, violent, highly improbable death.
Person A : This bicycle helmet looks stupid.
Person B : No it doesn’t. I think getting your head smashed open on pavement is what REALLY looks stupid.
It’s not a perfect analogy (after all, it probably does look stupid to die in a bike accident, but I’m not so sure “stupid” is really the operative word), but just like my desire to not die in a bike accident has very little to do with looking stupid, my desire to not get blown up on an airplane has very little to do with “privacy”. Trust me, if I ever die on a plane, I’m not going to be yelling “THIS IS SO EMBARRASSING!” as I plummet to my doom.
And, of course, the elephant in the room here is the almost comically obvious false choice — i.e., you either beam naked pictures of yourself to some lightly educated desk jockey in a control room, or YOUR PLANE EXPLODES AND YOU DIE. If that choice were accurate, it would make sense to point out that posing for digital images of your reproductive organs is, in fact, probably not worth certain incineration. But it’s not accurate, so that argument is at best misleading, and at worst, completely irrelevant. The fact is, I’ve flown on many planes in my short life so far without ever posing for naked pictures for anyone, at any time, and none of my planes have ever been blown up — something that’s true for 99.999% (probably more, but I figured 5 significant digits was enough to make my point) of airline travelers.
The refrain from some of the TSA employees who have complained on the various Facebook protest pages I read (they’re complaining about the protest, that is) has been that it’s their job to do whatever they can to protect people, and if this helps a tiny bit, then so be it, and you should all shut up and do as you’re told and stop implying that you find this whole routine so very, very wrong. But of course, these people are government workers, so their job is to enact policy, not define it. If the TSA’s priorities (safety and security) were, by definition, the priorities of the country as a whole, we’d just let TSA pass laws and run our lives. Obviously we’re looking for some kind of balance, and TSA people getting mad because people won’t “just get in the damn machine for two seconds” (when presented with a legal, operationally inconvenient alternative) is like me getting mad because my company’s customers prefer incredibly bland marketing emails with stock pictures of old white people sitting around conference tables instead of the cool, badly drawn Adobe Illustrator art I come up with. I can tell them they are all idiots, but in the end, I work for them, even if I am totally right and they all have terrible taste and should make less money than me. (ed. – OK, that’s about enough of that.)
And in the end, all government workers — local, state, federal, security, whatever — ultimately work for the people, albeit often very indirectly. If people as a whole weren’t okay with traffic tickets, we’d elect people to get rid of the speed limit. If we think food or drugs are over-regulated, we’ll elect people to loosen the rules. Many times, we do exactly that.
In the case of the TSA, if we think these dudes are weirdo perverts just looking for chances to see full frontal nudity of yours truly, or to grope my wife in front of large swaths of holiday travelers, or that they’re simply throwing 25 units of privacy (PUs, if you will) away in exchange for 1 unit of safety, eventually all this pushback will turn into a political issue for the White House and Congress. At that point, between the two of them, either the policy will be changed voluntarily, or eventually, a law will be passed the undercuts the TSA’s authority to make these calls.
Of course, that doesn’t help me in two weeks. Maybe I should write something funny on my chest — any suggestions?