Thursday, November 25, 2010

Anti-Scanner/Grope Civil Disobedience

The other day, as my class was discussing Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" a student raised the concern that Thoreau's method was not very practicable as a means of changing the law. I mentioned the possibility of refusing to go through airport scanners as a means of stopping their use. I later learned of Opt-Out Day, the day before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving morning, I saw a report on Fox News gloating that Opt Out Day was "a bust" because travellers accept the judgement of the government, that these measures are "necessary" to "keep us safe" against (in a clip of Cong. Peter King speaking) "an enemy that's out to kill us." This AP story takes the same line.

The TSA is bragging that there were virtually no delays on Opt Out Day because the public accepts their policies. Meanwhile, traveler on their Twitter accounts blogs are indicating that this is basically a lie. There were no delays because a great many of the scanners were turned off. (See also this.) As usual, the mainstream press takes the government line, but there are a few local stories about local airports that give the same impression.

A lot of protesters are ticked off that the government did not give them the opportunity to opt out.

If this is so, the campaign of civil disobedience was a success of sorts: it provoked the TSA to back off for one day.

It was also a devastating admission on the part of the TSA.

If, as TSA chief John Pistole alleged (see "update" at the end of this article), the Opt-Out Day idea was "irresponsible" then turning off the scanners was much more so, and for all the same reasons. Imagine turning off security measures on the busiest flight day of the year, measures that are "needed" to "keep us safe," simply in order to avoid some slow-downs and some embarrassment to themselves!

It actually shows that they do not believe their own alarmist propaganda: they don't believe that, in any straightforwardly literal sense of the words, that this is necessary to keep us safe.

1 comment:

Will S. said...

The emperor has no clothes, indeed!

Too bad so few will see that, alas.