Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hyperbolic Rhetoric about the TSA screening procedures.

I have to admit, after listening to all of the hubbub over the new TSA screening procedures in the week leading up to SBL and Thanksgiving, I was concerned about taking the flight last Saturday morning.  I was flying from DFW to Atlanta and was not quite sure what to expect.  Would I have to go through what some are calling a "snoop porn" scanner?  Would I have to undergo "groping" by a frisky TSA agent. 

I must say, the rhetoric I heard the previous week on talk radio and television news programs did not come even close to my experience at the airports.  On Saturday, flying out of DFW they had a body scanner, but I saw no one walk through it.  I saw no one getting a pat down at all, let alone getting "groped."  Security seemed to be pretty much business as usual.  Shoes off, jacket off, pockets empty, laptop out of bag, through the metal detector, and on with my business.  No problem.

Leaving from Atlanta Hartsfield airport was pretty much the same experience.  The only difference was that I saw one guy have to go through the scanner.  And why was that?  Here is the conversation between this mid-forties business man and the TSA agent as best as I can remember it.

TSA Agent: Sir, are your pockets empty?
Man: Yes.
TSA Agent: Sir, I can see something in your back pocket.
Man: Oh, you mean my wallet?  (man takes out wallet)
TSA Agent: Sir, your pockets must be empty.  Please place your wallet in this bin.  Now, are your pockets empty?
Man: Yes.
TSA Agent:  Sir, what is that in your front pocket?
Man: (Takes out something I could not see), Oh, this?
TSA Agent: Sir, you pockets need to be EMPTY.  Sir, please step into the body scanner.

That was the only person I saw getting either scanned or patted down, and that was because he was being an uncooperative doofball.  So, in all, the rhetoric leading up to my two flights was incredibly inflated and hyperbolic to the extreme. 

I do not know about all of the issues concerning these new TSA screening procedures.  I am sure there are legitimate concerns on both sides.  But one thing is sure: in order to have a civil and productive conversation about this topic, the hyperbolic rhetoric must be dialed down.  As long as one side is merely yelling "pervert" at the TSA agents, constructive conversation will never be the result.  So, lets put a damper on the inflated rhetoric and start having a real conversation.  I mean really, do you think the TSA agents are getting a kick out of patting down sensitive areas.  Do you really think the TSA agent who looks at numerous metalic-looking naked images on a computer screen is really using these images fodder for sexual perversion?  No, these are just hard working Americans trying to do the best job they can to keep passengers and planes safe.  Are the scans and pat downs the best solution to our security problems?  I don't know, but I know that inflamed rhetoric that distorts the truth will not help the situation.


  1. As it should, your final clause perfectly sums up the entire issue at hand. Of my friends who flew home for break, I heard no horror stories at all or even anything out of the ordinary. Like many issues in the media, issues tend to be blown out of proportion for reasons of shock and intrigue and thus: ratings.

    The extra-friendly 'pat-downs' are one thing, but I personally have never seen anything wrong with the full body scanners. The person viewing the image has no idea or care who you are and no way of finding out if they did feel so inclined. No one seems to have a problem with the same thing in a medical setting, even when the doctor can match the image to your face. Also, great point about the agents' perspective. Any pat-down they do is either nothing more than a methodical procedure or at most, a bit uncomfortable.

    In the end there will always be a give and take with airplane security. At the current level of security, I don't see any problem at all if it prevents even one disaster.

  2. Honestly, as much as I dislike the new procedures, I'm okay with them. The only thing that matters is that it makes us safer, right? I won't enjoy knowing that someone is seeing me, but I much prefer it to say, September 11th. Do the new procedures really help? I don't know. But if they make it harder on the terrorists of our world, then I'd say it's worth it. I just wish it wasn't necessary.