Monday, November 29, 2010

Scanners: The TSA and the false left/right paradigm


The Opt-Out protest “fizzled”. Yes that is the official term for what happened over the holiday at U.S. Airports. A Google search for “TSA protest fizzle” yields about 169,000 results. Interesting that so many journalists came up with the same term. “Fizzled”.

Meanwhile, twitter-ers from airports across the country reported that the TSA had actually turned off many of the scanners in order, presumably, to avoid conflict, head off the protests and claim victory.

The recent brouhaha over the Transportation Safety Administration's newly implemented invasive search regime shined a light on a growing crack in the facade of our two-party government. Civil rights advocates on the left have been put in the uncomfortable position of taking sides with the “freedom” activists of the far right. They are both opposing the Obama administrations adoption of new airline security measures that include full-body scanners and humiliating pat-downs. The debate has become a semantic snake-pit- utterly dislodged from reality- with Democrats and Republicans switching sides on “security” issues in an attempt to take the political high-ground.

Thankfully, the resolve of the Republican critics was not tested by an actual airline attack over the holiday- we can only speculate on the level of spinning that would take place in the event of an actual incident. Instead, the FBI trotted out the “Portland Patsy”, 19 year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was arrested for attempting to deliver a a fake bomb that was supplied to him by FBI handlers
 
The cold war between the Democrats and Republicans has become so extreme that they have completely thrown away any pretext of honest debate based in fact. An Orwellian hodge-podge of newspeak (“TSA... ensure(s) freedom of movement for people and commerce.”)and pop catch-phrases (“don't touch my junk”) reduces the discussion to just the type of easily parroted wedge-issue pablum that keeps the independent majority divided and confused.

Can activists at both ends of the spectrum wake up, shake off their thread-bare allegiance to the two wings of the ruling class and work together to protect personal freedom?