TSA Furnishes Pictures, but Where's the War?

At one time, even fake pictures of Americans being harassed was enough to drive us to war.

The great Thanksgiving "Opt-Out Day" protest against the TSA's airport sexual assaults seems to have fizzled; the TSA chickened out and mostly turned off the porno-scanners.  Instead, Americans have been expressing their contempt in a more visually-appealing way: showing up in bikinis and underwear, even stripping voluntarily rather than being forced to.  They're getting arrested for indecent exposure.

It's amusing to see travelers demonstrating absurdity by being absurd.  It's utterly unsurprising to see the TSA doing the same: despite showing up in (rather sexy and NSFW) lingerie, a wheelchair-bound passenger still wasn't allowed onto her flight.

But what a weak, milquetoast response!  A century ago, something similar was said to have happened to American travelers and the result was a shooting war.

Sterner Stuff and the Spanish-American War

At the turn of the last century, Cuba was struggling for independence from the Spanish Empire.  Many Americans sympathized with the Cubans and wanted American intervention but President McKinley felt we had better things to do.

The major newspaper magnates of the day, Hearst and Pulitzer, strongly supported the idea of a war and used every opportunity to drum up American patriotic anger.  Wikipedia records

Reported government strip-searches
drove our ancestors to war.

...the Olivette incident, where a young and innocent-looking woman named Clamencia Arango was taken into custody aboard the New York bound ship Olivette by Spanish officials, under suspicion of delivering letters to rebel leaders stationed in the city. She was taken into a private room and searched. A passenger and reporter working for Hearst named Richard Harding Davis reported the incident, but was later appalled by the sensational claims which accused Spanish officials of sexual harassment. The headlines were as follows: "Does our flag shield women?", "Indignities Practiced by Spanish Officials On Board American Vessels" and "Refined Young Women Stripped and Searched by Brutal Spaniards While Under Our Flag on the Olivette".

Hearst published the accompanying cartoon, which can't help but remind us of the TSA and the modern photos in the links above.

However, this was a cartoon; it turned out that the "incident" had not even happened - Ms. Arango was searched in private by a policewoman according to strictly proper procedure.  Yet the cartoon is remembered to this day, and in combination with other incidents, America was primed to respond to the sinking of the USS Maine with a declaration of war against Spain.

So on the one hand, we have our forefathers driven to fury and readied for war on the basis of a strip-search that did not, in fact, take place.  Hearst even admitted the truth in his newspaper in a clarification but the damage was already done.

On the other hand, we have an ever-growing heap of actual videotape showing TSA indignities, predation, and searches that meet any possible Fourth Amendment definition of "unreasonable," conducted on a regular policy basis in full view of the public.  And the result?  Nothing!

People still fly.  Rep. Ron Paul has introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act, which attempts to reign in this bureaucracy gone amok.  Lawsuits have been filed, and of course publications like this one are attempting to awaken Americans to their danger.  That's pretty much it, unfortunately.

Waking America up seems to be an unreasonably hard slog - who would have thought that Americans, in all seriousness, would put up with the sort of airport strip-searches that have been the stuff of cartoons for years?

Where are you, America?  Where is the American spirit?  Has, finally, the tyranny of bureaucracy won, and the American dream of freedom and liberty come to an end?  As the Drudge headline put it a few days ago: The Terrorists Have Won.

To be fair, it took a bit more than the supposed strip-search to drive America all the way to war, but there was plenty of anger along the way.  If enough Americans go to http://www.house.gov/, enter their ZIP code to find out their rep's name, and melt down the switchboard, we might be able to force a change.  It would be more peaceful than a full-blown shootin' war, but that's the direction we seem to be moving towards.

Read other Scragged.com articles by Hobbes or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

Melting down phonelines won't work. Remember the 'Bailout'?
They don't care what the people think. Get that into your heads once and for all.

December 2, 2010 12:58 PM


If you recall, it worked for the Amnesty for illegals that Bush/McCain were pushing in 2005/2006. Same with his Harriet Myers pick for the Supreme Court.

Both of those were set to fly right through until conservative callers melted the phone lines down, egged on by talk radio. Bush backed down.

Is it just Democrat politicians that don't care what the electorate thinks?

December 2, 2010 1:03 PM

Nah, you don't get it. By backing down and showing leniency, TSA is creating enough goodwill with travelers so that we all tolerate them.

The worst thing for TSA would be to continue strong-arming people, being belligerent and patting-down nuns and grannies. The American anger, if it continues long enough, WILL do them in. It's just a matter of how long it takes.

Someone in the TSA marketing department figured out that they need to be more quiet and gradual in their bringing this about.

Some smiles and a few "never mind that"s for old people will go along way towards making sure they can do this forever.

Keep the hate alive.

December 2, 2010 1:10 PM

This is a very interesting subject, but I'm also curious to hear Scragged voice an opinion on the current wikileaks flap. What is the conservative opinion?

December 3, 2010 7:27 AM

Hi Werebat,

You want to read this:


December 3, 2010 7:32 AM


You are too kind. Thank you!

December 3, 2010 2:40 PM
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