A Tip of the Hat to Popehat

Lynne Kiesling

I’d like to offer an enthusiastic hat tip to Popehat for writing the blog post that I had worked on all weekend in my head, but couldn’t pull off that incisively. Over the weekend the Volokh Conspiracy’s resident authoritarian and author of TSA policies, Stewart Baker, wrote a bizarre post expressing his bewilderment at widespread opposition to the TSA, particularly among women. Perhaps his attempt at sexualization of the TSA screening experience, and his confession of his performance anxiety and his Michael Chertoff envy, were some ham-handed and clod-footed attempt at humor. If so, they show Baker’s tone deafness while implementing authoritarian policies that erode our civil liberties with little, if any, benefit arising from the security theater he has helped bring into being.

Popehat says with wit and style what ran through my mind while contemplating Baker’s post:

But there are no real women in his analogy; he dismissed them with a hand-wave: “I can’t explain the women who hate TSA with a passion, though I’m not sure how many there are. Anti-TSA sites and comments have a distinct whiff of testosterone.”

That would be a surprise to, say, Amy Alkon, who was threatened with a lawsuit by a TSA agent for having the temerity to complain about having fingers thrust into her during a search. It would be a surprise to women harassed over their breast milk by TSA agents too stupid or careless to know their own policies, or these women forced to remove prosthetic breasts, or this woman forced to expose her gastric tube to gawking polyster-clad subnormals, or this rape survivor cupped and groped and probed by TSA “professionals,” or this woman told to remove her nipple rings, or any of these women. I’m pretty sure they aren’t critics of the TSA because of some sort of surge of testosterone.

And yet I’m being unfair — to the women. Women don’t just criticize the TSA because some of them are getting groped and harassed and abused. Women, as much as men, love liberty. Women, like men, love America. Women love America, and they’re skeptical if the proposition that, if America is in such grave danger that we must surrender rights to save it, we should be surrendering rights to the sort of people who get recruited by ads on pizza boxes. Women — as you’ll know if you’re in a relationship with one — question things. Among the thing they question: why should we trust the TSA’s statement that these measures are effective, or necessary? Why should we accept the logical fallacy that these measures work because there have been no more terrorist attacks on planes? How do we know this isn’t merely more security theater? Why is the TSA steadily increasing its power over more and more avenues of American travel? How can we possibly yield to an agency that openly believes that it is entitled to unquestioning compliance from Americans? How is the canine obedience of government demanded by “national security conservatives” reconcilable with actual conservatism? What kind of Americans would we be if we just said “sure, Department of Homeland Security, whatever you say?”

I have posed those questions here, several times, from several economic and moral perspectives. Of course the wasteful, invasive, ineffectual, violating TSA procedures affect both men and women, but I appreciate Popehat’s giving voice to the unwritten blog post in my head.