It took days to clarify my thinking on the new TSA procedures.
Just seeing the accounts from a few victims, including "Don’t Touch My Junk," caused a mild case of "shock and awe."
So now. Being viewed naked and/or inside-of-the-bra-and-panties intimate touching are part of the price of a plane ride. One thing was clear immediately: that is unacceptable to me. Therefore I am no longer able to travel by air. Another big shock in itself.
From shock, I went into analysis overdrive. It seemed impossible to rest until I could get a handle on the complex of thoughts and emotions roiled by this very peculiar situation.
Perspective finally arrived. My conclusions were surprising and shocking, even to me. Bear with me, please, while I set them forth, step by step.
BTW I was getting ready to post a long, long diary. It was too awkward. Instead, the whole piece will be in three installments over the next 3 days.
A Leaden Echo
With the Best of Intentions
A Leaden Echo
Reading a number of articles, diaries and blogs about this subject and participating in some discussions, one thing has been very comforting. Lots of other people on all facets of the political spectrum feel just as horrified. Most are equally convinced these draconian measures provide no increase in safety in any way commensurate with the obscene demand imposed on the public.
Slinkerwink had more on today’s Rec List.
But the head of the TSA has shown that the bureaucracy and political leadership of the current administration have their fingers firmly stuck in their ears.
He called for the public to be "partners" in this. Don't want to be scanned and/or fingered, you won't fly, but
"We want to be sensitive to people's feelings about privacy," he said.
You just can’t make this stuff up. Such a wooden response to public outrage was disturbing in itself.
At the same time I’ve kept feeling like there was some important aspect of this that I couldn’t quite get a handle on. Some resonance or dim familiar echo.
The echo came up when some commenters stated that these procedures must be less for safety than to abash Americans and normalize mindless obedience. I hate to think that this could be true, yet given the irrationalities in the scheme, it was difficult completely to dismiss.
The echo came up when commenters wrote that the "enhanced pat-downs" (talk about Newspeak!) were more like prison searches than any normal security measures. I, too, had been feeling as if the shades of the prison house were now reaching out to touch us all.
(Speaking of Newspeak, they are also now referring to them as "Love Pats."
"I'm wildly excited that I can walk through a machine instead of getting my dose of love pats," Sen. McCaskill said.
Gag me with a freaking spoon!)
The echo came up when some commenters reported that posted photographs of naked travelers called up images from the death camps of the Hitler era. That flash happened with me too. Clearly, the U.S. is very far from being Nazi Germany, so why is this a non-unique reaction?
I started exploring around the web to see if I could rationally clarify a sense of outrage that should not require any explanation, according to all my instincts –- but to high-up TSA officials and some others, apparently it does.
TSA’s position, of course, is that travelers are not being coerced into naked screenings because they can always choose to travel some other way.
But just glancing at a few definitions of the word "coercion" shows this is poppycock.
Chosen almost at random, this happens to be from the Clark University website. The page is about sexual coercion and intended to warn about date rape, but edited down, it sheds light on coercion of any sort.
Coercion is the use of...manipulation to persuade someone to something they may not want to do... To consent to something...means you confidently agree to do it based on your own free will without any influence or pressure.
Clearly, most of the travelers who submit to these searches are hardly consenting in that sense. They are gritting their teeth and enduring it because for one reason or another they feel that they must.
In addition, TSA applies a second level of coercion under the false colors of offering a choice: Travelers who decline the naked screening can now have a more intensive and intrusive experience.
Another definition, Wikipedia. (Emphases in quotes are generally mine.)
Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, intimidation or some other form of pressure or force...In psychological coercion, the threatened injury regards the victim’s relationships with other people.
Such as: if you don’t cooperate, you will lose your job, which requires you to fly.
You won’t get home for Christmas.
You may not make it to your father’s deathbed, or his funeral.
Air travel is for many a normal part of daily life, on which our livelihood and/or relationships have long depended. Threatened exclusion from that normal part of daily life constitutes extreme coercion, no mistake.
BTW that poll where 81% of respondents said they were perfectly okay with the new scanners? Details here. It was conducted by CBS News between Nov. 7 and Nov. 10. Respondents were asked:
"Some airports are now using full-body digital x-ray machines to electronically screen passengers in airport security lines. So you think these new x-ray machines should or should not be used at airports?"
The assertion is made that "a majority" of both men and women said yes, but does not provide the statistical breakdown by sex.
The question as asked did not reveal that TSA officials would essentially be looking at – and potentially storing and transmitting -- naked pictures. It asked nothing about the acceptance of intimate fingering as an alternative or supplement to the x-rays. It asked nothing about health concerns.
These kind of polls are very sensitive to the specific question asked. Moreover, there was apparently no effort to determine how many respondents actually used air travel with any frequency. Inevitably, very few if any who answered this abstract question had any experience or much knowledge about the totality of the new procedures they might face, including the threat of feeling-up.
To continue...bear with me...