(c) 2010 Richard Forno. Permission granted to reproduce freely with
There is a vocal segment of the American political fringe that throws
around words like "communism", "socialism", or "fascism" in describing
the economic or social policies of the current Administration. Right or
wrong, they're entitled to their opinion, and this is not the place for
a primer on these different political philosophies. (Disclaimer: I am an
However, to my knowledge, nobody from those fringe elements has drawn
similar "-ism" comparisons about how the federal government, through the
TSA, is mandating that American citizens give up some of their
constitutional rights to support the "greater good" of the State when
traveling by air.
Consider that, as Americans, we have the constitutional right to free
speech but aren't allowed to shout "fire" in a crowded movie theater. If
we do, we get arrested for causing a panic, and the courts have upheld
that restriction on free speech. We citizens accept that.
However, the government does not have legions of federal guards deployed
at fixed checkpoints outside movie theaters taping patrons' mouths shut
to prevent someone from shouting "fire" or "bomb" once inside or issue
billion-dollar orders for controversial machines that can probe the
minds of theatergoers for references to "bomb" or "fire" or "boom!"
before they hit the concession stand. Much to the dismay of the MPAA,
there is no Pre-Crime Police at movie theaters.
But that's just what TSA is becoming -- albeit somewhat less
melodramatically -- in how it handles passenger screening.
I, and I suspect many others, have no problem with TSA searching for
"bad stuff" on airline passengers -- up to a point, for the world truly
is a dangerous place. However, as I wrote on Monday, Americans need to
accept a certain degree of risk in their lives, and not subject
themselves to the misguided belief that everything "bad" can be
discovered and prevented through the ongoing relinquishing of a few more
individual rights to the State. Such practices transform a routine two
hour business flight into a stressful all-day psychologically draining
ordeal for passengers and present an image to the world not reflecting
the America of opportunity and tolerance but rather an America of fear
I believe that the "wealth" of Americans is not found merely in money,
goods, or services but also within our individual rights as its
As such, can we not interpret TSA's current policies as another
"redistribution of private wealth" away from individuals to the State
under the justification of being necessary for the public welfare? At
least that was how the recent bailouts of the American auto and banking
industries were justified, weren't they? Reflecting over the past
decade, the redistribution of our individual wealth in the name of
homeland security continues to be a truly bipartisan affair.
Many people complain about the "redistribution of wealth" in situations
where generally they are powerless to do anything about it -- but will
they remain silent about the "redistribution of rights" in areas where
they can do something about it? I don't mean ranting in the convenient
forums of the blogosphere, YouTube, by the water cooler, but rather in
public and made-for-television displays of widespread protests that show
American citizen-travellers taking a public stand against this
arbitrary, unaccountable, and unnecessary redistribution of their
constitutionally-provided wealth. The world should stand in awe as
public cries of "Keep Your Hands off My Health Care" pale in comparison
to the cries of "Don't Touch (or Scan) My Junk."
Since 9/11, we've seen the rise of a new political and social philosophy
that favors the redistribution of increasing percentages of a citizen's
wealth -- in the form of personal rights and hidden costs, both
financial and psychological -- to a national government for protecting
the homeland. Looking back on the past ten years and seeing how the
homeland security establishment requires increasing "redistributions" of
our wealth to the government as it flails about trying to protect us
against every possible new danger, I respectfully suggest that this
emerging philosophy of nationalised fear isn't "communism" or
"socialism" but rather a modern, and unfortunate, definition of
Clearly this will be a matter for the courts, or perhaps Congress, to
decide. Unfortunately, I worry that these institutions will declare that
submitting to invasive scanning, screening, and molestation procedures
are another necessary redistribution of our individual American wealth
to the State as it continues a futile attempt to protect its citizens
from Anything Bad(tm). But absent significant and visible public outcry,
this fear-based philosophy of the New Americanism will be ensconced and
embedded further into law....until the next redistribution is required
of us. In that case, as with the past ten years, the only folks who will
lose are We The People.
Someone told me yesterday that the one good thing about TSA isn't that
it's making America safer -- rather, it's reminding Americans that we
It's time we exercised them.
OPT OUT ON NOVEMBER 24.
Previous Comment: (15 Nov):
TSA and America's Culture of Zero-Risk (c) 2010 Richard Forno.
Permission granted to reproduce freely with credit.
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