Wednesday, July 12, 2017

TSA and Book Searches

I try very hard not to get political online, but the latest in Security Theater has me shaking my head.

TSA is now searching passengers' books and magazines in their carry-on bags.

I've had a problem with some of their policies over the last sixteen years. I have a rather large, ahem, bosom. I wear underwire bras for the extra support. Coming home from my grandfather's funeral in 2002, a TSA agent became a little too interested in checking my boobs.

I finally said, "Would you like me to take off my bra so you can check the underwires?"

She turned pink and shook her head.

"No, really. We all watched Flashdance growing up. It's not a problem." I deliberately gave her an evil grin and reach for my t-shirt sleeve.

Her skin goes from pink to beet-red. "That won't be necessary, ma'am." But she stopped feeling me up.

Then there's the over-the-top abuses like dumping a urine bag on a passenger with catheter. My heart goes out to anyone with real medical devices.

But since the last presidential election, TSA has gotten a lot more invasive. It's not just a matter of turning on your electronic devices to prove they aren't bombs. They insist on passengers turning over their social media accounts and passwords so they can examine the apps.

People have been reported for suspected terrorist activity for simply speaking their native language for wearing their native dress.

And now, the TSA (aka the government) wants to know what you read.

Here's my problem--there's no context.

I could have a copy of the Quran because I'm taking a comparative religion class. I could have one of Alter Ego's erotica books because I'm proofing it on my trip. Or maybe I have a copy of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, and some official gets a bug up their ass because both authors have been outspoken in their criticism of the current administration.

This coupled with some of the administration's other actions scare me. Inherent in the First Amendment is the right to read what you want. What happens when the TSA starts banning certain books?

Oh, when the ban comes, they'll claim it's a safety measure, but where does it stop?

I say this as someone who worked in a bookstore a couple of decades ago. Invariably once a week or so, some customer berated me or one of my co-workers for carrying X. My favorite incident was when I was ringing up a young man who was buying Mein Kampf.

The only other customer in the store besides him marched up to the cash/wrap and started chewing me out for selling the book to the young man. My response? "I'd rather have him read it and discover for himself that Hitler is crazy."

Her eyes got huge, and she sputtered a few unintelligible words before she threw down her romance books on the counter and marched out of the store.

I then had an interesting conversation with the young gentleman. He was working on his master's thesis in marketing. The subject was how modern advertising firms use the same techniques that the Nazis did in the '30's.

So how does this tie in with the TSA situation?


Yeah, I know that seems to be the theme this week. But instead allowing your own fear to control you, this is letting other people's fear to control you. You need to educate yourself about real risks and dangers, and not let others' paranoia affect you.

Because if someone is trying to influence you through fear, it's rarely for your benefit.

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