Why is all this happening with the TSA searches? Why now? It’s a good question. There’s some confusion about whether or not the body scan or the invasive pat downs are separate issues, which is giving Will Saletan an excuse to say that people should just acquiesce to the scanner and stop throwing fits. But the problem is that they escalated the amount of groping you have to endure if you say you don’t want to be scanned. Plus, there’s a problem with framing this as a choice, as Lindsay notes.
Saletan purports to be an expert on applied ethics, yet he is blind to the sexualized coercion implicit in the “choice” between allowing a stranger in another room to see your naked body vs. having your junk touched.
She expresses a concern that a National Opt-Out Day would be used not to stop the searches, but to privatize the searches. That’s a distinct possibility, but I think it’s true regardless of how people protest. If opt-out days actually are organized effectively, they can be used as protests against whoever the hell is groping people in airports, so I’m coming around to the idea that it might be a good idea. My main concern is that opt-outers will be seen by non-opting-out passengers as the enemy, and the point of the protest could be lost. But the problem of backlash is true of any protest.
Anyway, more Lindsay:
Ostensibly giving passengers a choice between a scan and a pat-down makes the invasion of privacy seem more acceptable. It gives the passenger the illusion of control. We’re so busy playing “scan or grope?” that we forget to ask why we’re paying for scanners the TSA can’t even justify with a cost-benefit analysis.
This is the way it works. Invasions of basic privacy are tied to “choice”, to make it easier for people to blame the victim. You’re seeing this in action here with some people saying, “Well, you don’t have to fly,” and certainly with the “choice” between the scanner and the groping. But, as Lindsay explains, that doesn’t quite work, since sometimes you’re groped after the scan, and some airports don’t have scanners, making the grope mandatory. The “you don’t have to fly” thing is also bullshit, but it’s precisely the kind of bullshit women have been putting up with for millenia when it comes to restraints put on our freedom of movement and association. If you get raped, well, it was your choice to go out without supervision/and drink/wearing that. Obviously, restrictions on woman’s access to abortion and contraception are justified by saying you had the choice to keep your legs shut. And so on. This is why “women’s issues” are inseparable from police state issues, or letting a bunch of assholes work as a voluntary police abuse force of rapists.
So why now? There’s another reason for the false choice. Lindsay again:
My theory is that the agency wants to bully people into submitting to their very expensive and unpopular new toys…..
The new body search procedure seems designed to make the scanners look attractive by comparison.
When you tell people, get the scan or we’ll grab your genitals, you’ll take the former. Why is it so important that people take the former? To save time, for one, which is why the protest being suggested is to jam up the works by having people in large groups demand the pat down. But I suspect there’s another reason, as well. (Via.)
The companies with multimillion-dollar contracts to supply American airports with body-scanning machines more than doubled their spending on lobbying in the past five years and hired several high-profile former government officials to advance their causes in Washington, government records show.
L-3 Communications, which has sold $39.7 million worth of the machines to the federal government, spent $4.3 million trying to influence Congress and federal agencies during the first nine months of this year, up from $2.1 million in 2005, lobbying data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show. Its lobbyists include Linda Daschle, a former Federal Aviation Administration official.
Rapiscan Systems, meanwhile, has spent $271,500 on lobbying so far this year, compared with $80,000 five years earlier. It has faced criticism for hiring Michael Chertoff, the former Homeland Security secretary, last year. Chertoff has been a prominent proponent of using scanners to foil terrorism. The government has spent $41.2 million with Rapiscan.
You know you’ve fucked with privileged people when USA Today suddenly starts engaging in the investigative journalism of government corruption that you usually only find in places like The Nation.
Point is, there’s a lot of money to be made by selling scanners to airports. And there’s a revolving door between people who work in high levels of government and those profiting off selling these devices. It’s in the financial interest of these corporations that are lobbying the hell out of this to have you told that you use their products or you have your junk touched.
Yep, we seem to have reached that stage of capitalism where sexual abuse is being used as a threat to get people (taxpayers in this case) to spend money to pad corporate profits. I wonder, once wingnut America figures that one out, if they’ll calm down with the outrage? I mean, the free market is why you have to submit to the groping! Suggesting your privacy comes before their profits is just as good as saying that you’re a dirty commie, didn’t you know?