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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I no longer travel to the United States, so in a sense I have no stake in the current controversy over the intrusive and abusive genital groping pat-downs to which airline passengers in that country are being subjected by their so-called “Transportation Security Administration” (TSA). The last time I visited the U.S., in 2006, I was selected for “enhanced screening” when boarding every single flight, but at the time this involved only a top to bottom toss of my carry-on luggage, not a crotch grab. But that was enough for me to say, “Never again.”

That said, I have been dismayed to read a torrent of commentary by otherwise reasonable people arguing that beleaguered travellers should not take out their frustration upon the TSA employees chuckling at their naked bodies imaged by X-ray backscatter scanners or getting up close and personal inside their underwear. To my mind, there is no moral distinction whatsoever between the TSA agents groping airline passengers and guards at concentration camps interning political prisoners and other “enemies of the state” held without due process. Both are violating the civil rights of their victims, treating people who have never been accused, no less duly convicted of a crime as criminals, and committing overt acts which, if committed by a citizen upon them, would be deemed assault and battery and/or sexual molestation. Their only defence is that “they are only following orders” handed down to them by higher authority. Well, how has that argument worked out for those who've invoked it in war crimes tribunals in the last six decades or so?

These TSA goons are collaborators with an authoritarian regime which is violating the civil rights of citizens under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and committing crimes of assault, battery, and molestation under the shield of the power of the state. If they weren't doing so, they wouldn't forbid citizens from documenting their acts photographically or in video, nor would they pursue and intimidate videographers who capture evidence of their criminal behaviour.

Tyranny is enabled only by means of collaborators, most of whom are doubtless motivated only by the desire for a job and paycheck, but nonetheless are legally and morally culpable for all of the crimes they commit, regardless of the illegal and immoral orders they are carrying out. Tyranny cannot be opposed by citizens who react to it by “being reasonable”, or who behave like ovine subjects when abused by its minions. When you encounter the uniformed goon with the soiled rubber gloves who tells you it's a felony to photograph his or her badge number, the proper way to look at them is as a collaborator, or concentration camp guard. They are not the first cause of the abuses and crimes ordered by their employer, but they are the willing instruments by which those orders are executed. They are worthy of no moral sanction or sympathy; if they wish such, let them resign and seek gainful employment which does not involve violating the rights of citizens whose taxes pay their salaries.

Now, I'm not recommending that everybody take an in-your-face attitude to the airport goon squad. That depends upon your own appetite for confrontation and willingness to endure the consequences thereof, which may be severe. But as I see it, anybody who's so inclined and willing to shoulder the risk of responding to this assault upon the dignity of the individual by subjecting the minions who inflict it upon the population to the mockery, humiliation, and shame which their actions merit is on the side of the angels. If I had to travel there, and had the free time before the flight to endure some time in the Little Green Room, I think I'd be inclined to take the opportunity to exploit “security theatre” as an opporunity for guerrilla theatre.

History has not been kind to collaborators, nor have those they abused once the illegitimate regime they enabled falls from power. Yes, I'm talking about you, “Laurie”, at MQT. Your protectors are ephemeral; your victims will never, ever, forget.

Posted at November 30, 2010 22:40