But can we not get carried away with this? Too many people seem to be following the lead of the first commenter, who praises the author's resistance to TSA by saying, with all apparent sincerity,
Rosa Parks would be proud.Airport security theater does deserve some pushback, and I think it would be great if passengers simply refused to comply with gross violations of their privacy that do nothing to make air travel safer. I doubt too many people will resist, though, since not flying is usually not a realistic option for people who have places to be and have already packed and schlepped everything to the airport. TSA has us, literally and figuratively, by the balls.
That said, this is not the great civil rights battle of our time. Passengers are not being hauled out of their homes or tortured or placed in prison without access to legal counsel -- things that actually have happened to American citizens in recent years in the name of security. Nor are people being turned away from the polls or told they can't unionize or being beaten by police officers -- also things that have happened to real live Americans in recent years. What's going on in the airports is simply a form of government humiliation that has hit the professional class.
Updates: This post seems to have generated quite a few links and comments, so I thought I'd elaborate a bit. I am certainly not defending enhanced TSA screenings -- I just don't think they are nearly as egregious as many other things our government has done in the name of security in recent years. Yet the level of public outrage seems to be disproportionate to the egregiousness of the government action. Here's a scatterplot featuring data that I entirely fabricated:
Adam Serwer makes this point nicely:
The amount of freedom Americans have handed over to their government in the years since the 9/11 attacks is difficult to convey. We've simply accepted the idea of the government secretly listening in on our phone calls and demanding private records from companies without warrants. Many shiver at the notion of trying suspected terrorists in civilian courts, and even at the idea of granting the accused legal representation. The last president of the United States brags openly about ordering people to be tortured, and the current one asserts the authority to kill American citizens he believes to be terrorists overseas.
But most of these measures are either invisible enough to put out of mind or occur outside of what most Americans can imagine happening to them. As long as it's just Muslims being tortured and foreigners being detained indefinitely, the price we pay to feel secure seems all too abstract. The TSA's new passenger-screening measures just happen to fall on the political and economic elites who can make their complaints heard. It's not happening to those scary Arabs anymore. It's happening to "us."This story will likely get even more interesting next week as a broader demographic group flies for Thanksgiving.