The Pointless Abuse of a Travelling Mother By TSA

A few thoughts before we look at the event cited in this entry’s title…

Studies indicate that roughly 30% of people have what is called an “authoritarian personality,” signified by three correlative traits:

  1. Authoritarian submission — a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.
  2. Authoritarian aggression — a general aggressiveness directed against deviants, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.
  3. Conventionalism — a high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities, and a belief that others in one’s society should also be required to adhere to these norms. (Source: The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer)

You can spot this syndrome easily enough, especially in these days when an entire “news” network is designed to cater to that personality. Lately I’ve been seeing it in some people’s comments regarding the TSA’s pointless and Draconian screening of American citizens in airports.

An author who’s one of my Facebook friends posted this as his status:

So tired of all of the body scanner bitching. Scan me. Pat me up and pat me down. I don’t care as long as I don’t get blown up. This is the world we’ve made for ourselves, and it’s not changing anytime soon. If you don’t like it, don’t fly.

That’s very much an authoritarian statement (though not evidence in itself of an authoritarian personality, I don’t know the guy well enough to pin that on him).

Someone else replied to his post:

I agree. I rather be safe. Unfortunately, this politically correct world is what it is.

Woven firmly through both statements is an assumption that what is being done is just fine because those in authority have decided it’s what must be done.


The writers are annoyed that a public debate is going on as to whether the measures in place are acceptable according to the precepts of a free society, moral in how they treat human beings (feeling up crying children, humiliating cancer survivors by making them publicly remove prosthetic breasts), or even effective in finding threats. The first calls it “bitching,” the second denigrates it as “politically correct.”

I’d call it, rather, correct politically. This is a crucial debate, because not only is our safety at risk, but so are our basic assumptions about what those in power can and can’t do to us as individuals. We can’t simply blindly accept what we’re told.

We also get the “If you don’t like it, don’t fly” argument. In later comments the initial writer says:

…it is not an unreasonably search if it is voluntary. No one is forcing you to submit to the search. It’s a byproduct of wanting to board the airplane…if some TSA agent came up to you on the street and forced you to submit to a pat-down, that’s a 4th amendment violation. If they say “if you want to board this plane, these are the conditions under which you will be allowed to do so,” and you agree, it is not.

By this logic, you have no Constitutional rights because the government has decided there’s a condition in which it is allowed, for no reason other than your choice to travel, to rescind those rights. To the authoritarian, if those in control think they have reason to strip you of freedoms, then it must be okay. We have to maintain order, safety, control. Other people may cause problems.

Of course, I’m betting if either of these folks got stuck in security for no reason for an hour and missed an important flight they’d be bitching with the best of them. But if other people are humiliated or inconvenienced or wronged, that’s just the price we all pay in “the world we’ve made for ourselves.”

The video below shows one of the many victims of TSA’s authoritarian procedures, and of the country we’ve allowed to be made for us in the past ten years. For her written account of the incident, visit this page.

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