Just last week, the Transportation Security Administration had an 80 percent approval rating. Then, after a few days of media scrutiny, its numbers began to crash. As The Daily Caller noted yesterday, the number of Americans who approve of the TSA dropped 16 points in a single week, and is still plummeting.
While TSA administrator John Pistole may have lost the support of the prudish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and seems to be on President Barack Obama’s watch list, the agency does have its defenders, most of whom appear to work at lefty publications.
Oddly enough, the same organizations that once gave the finger to The Man are now shrilly backing him up. Reason Magazine collected an assortment of editorials from large-circulation liberal newspapers suddenly in the business of defending statism. The Baltimore Sun’s, for example, has decided that, “Under the circumstances, it seems a small sacrifice for the citizens back home to keep a stiff upper lip and voluntarily agree to measures that experts believe are needed.”
There is a name for people who tell others that they have a responsibility to shut up after being molested, and many of those names are in a national registry.
Here are the three main defenses of the TSA from those who aren’t actually the TSA.
Republicans did it first
The American Prospects’ Adam Serwer would like to remind you that it’s Bush’s fault:
But conservatives bear a lot of blame for their current predicament. This comprehensive assault on individual freedom didn’t occur in a vacuum; it occurred because conservatives were successful in frightening Americans into choosing security over liberty every time the choice was before them, and because America’s elected officials take being blamed for a terrorist attack more seriously than their oath to protect the Constitution.
After an odd Q&A in which Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum grills Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum, one of the Drums finally offers a sure-fire, and confident analysis:
And now for a political note: this is GOP catnip. For seven years, Republicans insisted that every security procedure ever conceived was absolutely essential to keeping the American public safe, and anyone who disagreed was practically rooting for an al-Qaeda victory. Now a Democrat is in office and suddenly they’re outraged over some new scanners.
Then the Jones twins (not to mention The New Republic’s resident “communitarian,” Amitai Etzioni) tell those worried about civil liberties to STFU and be thankful for the flight.
Did Republicans and the Bush administration develop policies that greatly infringed on the civil liberties of U.S. citizen for the sake of security. No. Haha, kidding — Absolutely. But as Dave Weigel at Slate reminds readers, “… the idea of a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security came from the Democratic Party … It wasn’t until 2002 that the Republican Party latched on to the concept and took ownership of it.”
Are the conservative protests against the TSA much louder now that a Democrat is in the White House. Yes. Does that make complaints about radioactive nipples and molesting any less relevant? No.
“Don’t listen to conservatives. They’re crazy, Tea Partiers or both”
Consider recent headlines from the Democratic Party’s surrogates at Media Matters:
⇼ “Beck’s world: Obama may be unionizing TSA to create ‘private army’”
⇼ “Memo to media: Private screening companies won’t save you from pat downs”
⇼ “Beck pushes Soros/scanners conspiracy — after his own website debunked it”
Notice that none of these headlines (nor the others) address the issues that has been epitomized in song: “Don’t touch my junk.”
Meanwhile, the Washington City Paper’s Moe Tkacik chews on what’s left of libertarian activist Meg McLain, after the site Jalopnik had already finished with the meat of the story. McLain pulled a similar stunt as John “Can’t Touch This” Tyner, except McLain lied when she said the TSA had handcuffed her, yelled at her and then ripped her ticket.
None of the accusations were true and except for sites like Jalopnik making a rightful mockery of McLain, the story died in the media. That is, until Tkacik got a hold of it and spent 1400 words unraveling a conspiracy involving the gun-wielding, anti-government nudists and the billionaire, Tea Party-funding, Koch brothers.
The Nation was the only lefty magazine that shied away from any coverage … until an explosive report came out yesterday by Mark Ames. After taking up the McLain-Tyner bone that Tkacik was gnawing on, Ames shows readers where the other skeletons are buried.
“We could take it all at face value and just trust that they’re all ‘ordinary guys.’ Or we could ask, ‘Who profits?,'” writes Ames. The prolific reporter then connects all the dots so that the protests against the TSA read more like an Oliver Stone script:
In 2001, Rep. John Mica (R-Florida) co-wrote the bill establishing the TSA –> Mica has a chief of staff named Russell Roberts –> Roberts secured private funds to travel –> that money came from the Mercatus Institute –> the Mercatus Institute is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.
Ames’ theory, however, is flawed. He forget to mention that the Koch brothers were on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas, 1963.
Unless they are soccer fans, most Americans are not rouge anarchists hell-bent on breaking down the terminal gates. As Jalopnik rightly noted, “instead of spurring change at the TSA, McLain’s outrage will only raise the hurdles for people who have real issues.” So too will Tkacik, Ames and MMFA’s.
“Nothing to see here but naked people and the Internet’s ginned-up anger”
For the left, opposition to the TSA doesn’t just take the form of naked Tea Partiers or Glenn Beck. The ginned-up hysteria over now having to travel for both business and pleasure can also be pinned on Master of the Internet, Matt Drudge.
Politico’s Ben Smith says Drudge’s deliberate and relentless attacks on Janet “Big Sis” Napolitano resulted in two things: 1) A nationwide fear over intrusive government inspections of personal space and (2) more gender-equality in describing anti-government sentiment.
There’s no doubt about who won on this issue: Matt Drudge chose it and drove it, illustrating both his continued power and his great sense of the public mood, and it now seems a matter of time until he gets results. But the moment is also, a smart Democrat notes, representative of how this administration (and to be fair, everyone in public life) continues to wrestle with “populism as narrated by the Drudge Report.”
After comparing molestation to the hysteria over Shirley Sherrod, Smith pokes holes in his own argument. It’s an impressive feat considering his case consists of two very short posts.
“[Drudge’s] ‘Big Sis’ campaign,” says Smith, “has been running for many months.”
So although Master Drudge has been trying for sometime to gin up — sometime laughable — hysteria, it seems no one on the internet really listened until, you know, there was an actual problem. Smith almost says as much when he tepidly concedes that “perhaps it would have exploded in any event … it’s certainly true that the Web has many underestimated corners.”
Just because the mysterious Web is underestimated, doesn’t mean it can’t be blamed though. As Time’s Alex Altman snidely commented:
Some dramas seem tailor-made for the Internet’s ephemeral obsessions, and the kerfuffle over the Transportation Security Administration’s new airport screening procedures is a perfect example. It’s got all the ingredients to feed a media circus … While you’d never guess it from the hysterical media coverage, most people are…pretty OK with that.
… Except when they’re not. Now the pesky public has a place where they can easily upload video, report their Kafka-meets-Catch-22 experiences, and generally have their voice heard when other media outlets report that the adult are having a civil conversation.
“[Senators at a recent hearing ] were deferential to Pistole, lauded TSA’s vigilance, acknowledged the difficulty of balancing security and privacy–and registered their concerns once again,” said Altman.
What Alman didn’t report was that during the Senate committee hearing, Pistole was very clear on how vague the TSA will be now and in the future.
“Last Wednesday at a Senate hearing, Pistole refused to describe the pat-down policy because the hearing was public,” reported Slate’s William Saletan. Pistole’s later remarks made clear that the TSA “won’t tell you what we’re going to do until we’re about to do it.”
You’re going to touch us in new ways, but you won’t tell us where or how. So stop talking about “educating,” “communicating,” and “partnering” with us. You aren’t communicating. You’re concealing. You want to surprise us. In return, you can expect us to react the way you’d react to an unexpected groping.
As for the hysteria that a few annoying internet users are concocting, the Technology Liberation Front sees this as slightly more positive than Alterman:
Without the internet, we would have been at the mercy of the news media to get the word out about citizen frustration. Complaining would have been relegated to writing your congressman. And organizing a wide-spread protest would likely have been impossible. … Instead, we’ll hopefully see Americans engaging in peaceful civil disobedience comforted by the knowledge that they’re not alone.
So even if the company kept by those who vigorously object to TSA’s dirty photo shoots and unhappy endings include hypocritical Republicans, conspiracy theorists and InternetKing666, it nice to know there’s someone out there defending civil liberties. Because it seems liberals won’t.