• 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
    airports.

    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
    took
    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.

    Moreover,
    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)

    So,
    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.

    November
    24, 2010

    William
    L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
    mail
    ], 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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