Media Progressives, State Power, and the TSA

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As one who
grew up reading the Chattanooga Times most of my life, I
have come to understand the so-called Progressivist mindset which
takes an out-and-out religious view of state power (or state power
in the hands of the “right” people). While the newspaper itself
claims to be secular, there is no doubt that over the years, it
has promoted the Religion of the “Progressive” State and State Power
both in its news columns and on the editorial page.

These days
the old Times and Free Press now are owned by folks
in Arkansas and the editorial pages are run by the old editors,
but the Progressivism remains. I especially was curious to see how
the editorial writers of the Times side of the TFP would
handle the outright sexual assault that is occurring at the nation’s

No paper excoriates
the “gulf” between the wealthy and poor (except it champions George
Soros, the billionaire champion of the hard left) than the TFP,
and no paper is more politically correct when it comes to the usual
feminist canards of sexual assault and the intrusions of state power
into private exchange. Here is an editorial page that professes
to worship at the shrine of “good government” to a point that is
utterly predictable.

So, I decided
to do a search of its editorials to see if it had any editorial
commentary on the airport assaults, and I will say that the editors
exactly the stand
I thought they would take. The editorial writers
that are quick to demand that Americans’ privacy be protected from
“predatory” private enterprise suddenly declare that when we are
bowing to the state, there is no privacy.

Even the title
of its November 18 editorial is telling: “New, useful tools against
terror.” Yes, in order to fight “terror,” the government must terrorize
airline passengers. Furthermore, as readers will see in this editorial,
literally EVERYTHING the government says is taken as absolute truth,
and any dissension by mere mundanes is wrong and plays to terrorists.
Don’t take my word for it, as the opening paragraph says it all:

The U.S.
government is required by law and by custom to balance the competing
interests of public safety and individual privacy. The latest
skirmish over the issue is taking place at the nation's airports.
The introduction of full-body scanners at many sites and the promise
of more to come have prompted a noisy debate about the images
produced by the machines. Privacy advocates call them invasive
and demeaning. Federal officials say they are a necessary adjunct
in the war on terror. On balance, the latter appear to have the
stronger case.

Why is the
government’s case the “stronger” argument?

Scanner opponents,
in fact, call the images a "virtual strip search." That
might be so, but the new technology also provides security personnel
with an enhanced ability to detect items and materials that can
be used by terrorists to destroy an aircraft in flight or otherwise
create havoc. Many experts agree the new scanner might have helped
detect the type of bomb concealed in the underwear of a would-be
terrorist on a Detroit-bound flight last Christmas. That threat
was not detected by screens in use then, but the bomber's mission
ultimately proved unsuccessful.

No, the “experts”
can tell you that the so-called Underwear Bomber’s apparatus would
not have been detected by the porn scanners. Furthermore, the idea
that travelers
have to be humiliated
by TSA goons because someone unsuccessfully
tried to sneak a bomb in his underwear is becoming a tiresome mantra,
but when a newspaper is promoting State Power, any mantra will do,
I guess.

But, the editors
are not satisfied with giving us the “Underwear Bomber” line. No,
there is much, much more:

The question,
of course, is whether the utility of the machine outweighs the
perceived or real intrusion of privacy the scanner images create.
The TSA, mindful of the delicacy of the issues involved, has done
as much as possible to minimize such dangers.

The image
produced by the scanner, according to those who have viewed them,
is detailed enough to detect various explosives, weapons, plastics,
powders and other devices that can pose a threat. The outline,
though, is vague and faces are blurred.

the images are viewed by personnel at a distance from security
stations where the scans are made. That makes it impossible to
match a specific image with a particular person. Once viewed,
scanned images are neither saved nor stored. That should
provide a measure of comfort for those concerned about privacy.
(Emphasis mine)

Yes, try telling
that to the
man whose urine bag
was breached. Try telling that to the woman
whose breasts
were exposed
by laughing TSA agents (none of whom were disciplined
— but the husband who complained was arrested).

For that matter,
don’t forget that TSA agents do
not use “sterile” gloves
, which means that it is very likely
that they can spread infections (not that anyone at TSA would care).
What I find ironic is that no one at the Times (which always
is out front on supposed environmental and health matters) finds
this to be a problem. Yes, the same newspaper that constantly is
demanding new state “protections” against predatory private enterprise
takes a powder when the state engages in unsafe health practices.

Let’s be honest.
The entire editorial is nothing more than a glorified TSA press
release bolstered by the Religion of the Progressive State that
characterizes most editorials on that page. In fact, much of what
was in that press release — er, editorial — was not true. Images
HAVE been saved. Furthermore, the newspaper that trumpets every
perceived environmental and health threat (when it comes from private
enterprise) suddenly parrots the government’s line that the radiation
coming from the porn scanners is “safe.”

Of course,
the TFP would not be complete without its “Worship the Obama administration
— or else” dictate:

If would-be
airline passengers prefer not to be scanned, there is an alternative
— what John Pistole, the TSA administrator, candidly admits is
a more invasive patdown than those depicted on TV or in the movies.
TSA agents will manually search an individual's entire body, including
breasts and groin. Those who don't like the new scanners or the
idea of full-body patdowns have another choice. They can travel
by some means other than airplane. (Emphasis mine)

the TFP is on the record as endorsing what legally is sexual assault
as an alternative, with the qualifier: If you don’t like it, you
don’t have to fly.

So, we see
the end game of Progressivism and its propagandists. It is this:
State power is good. Submit. Private enterprise is evil. Government
always protects you. And so on and on and on.

24, 2010

L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit
his blog.

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