TSA and the New "Americanism"

There is a vocal segment of the American political fringe that throws around words like “communism”, “socialism”, or “fascism” in describing the economic or social policies of the current Administration. Right or wrong, they’re entitled to their opinion, and this is not the place for a primer on these different political philosophies. (Disclaimer: I am an independent voter.)

However, to my knowledge, nobody from those fringe elements has drawn similar “-ism” comparisons about how the federal government, through the TSA, is mandating that American citizens give up some of their constitutional rights to support the “greater good” of the State when traveling by air.

Consider that, as Americans, we have the constitutional right to free speech but aren’t allowed to shout “fire” in a crowded movie theater. If we do, we get arrested for causing a panic, and the courts have upheld that restriction on free speech. We citizens accept that.

However, the government does not have legions of federal guards deployed at fixed checkpoints outside movie theaters taping patrons’ mouths shut to prevent someone from shouting “fire” or “bomb” once inside or issue billion-dollar orders for controversial machines that can probe the minds of theatergoers for references to “bomb” or “fire” or “boom!” before they hit the concession stand. Much to the dismay of the MPAA, there is no Pre-Crime Police at movie theaters.

But that’s just what TSA is becoming — albeit somewhat less melodramatically — in how it handles passenger screening.

I, and I suspect many others, have no problem with TSA searching for “bad stuff” on airline passengers — up to a point, for the world truly is a dangerous place. However, as I wrote on Monday, Americans need to accept a certain degree of risk in their lives, and not subject themselves to the misguided belief that everything “bad” can be discovered and prevented through the ongoing relinquishing of a few more individual rights to the State. Such practices transform a routine two hour business flight into a stressful all-day psychologically draining ordeal for passengers and present an image to the world not reflecting the America of opportunity and tolerance but rather an America of fear and angst.

I believe that the “wealth” of Americans is not found merely in money, goods, or services but also within our individual rights as its citizens.

As such, can we not interpret TSA’s current policies as another “redistribution of private wealth” away from individuals to the State under the justification of being necessary for the public welfare? At least that was how the recent bailouts of the American auto and banking industries were justified, weren’t they? Reflecting over the past decade, the redistribution of our individual wealth in the name of homeland security continues to be a truly bipartisan affair.

Many people complain about the “redistribution of wealth” in situations where generally they are powerless to do anything about it — but will they remain silent about the “redistribution of rights” in areas where they can do something about it? I don’t mean ranting in the convenient forums of the blogosphere, YouTube, by the water cooler, but rather in public and made-for-television displays of widespread protests that show American citizen-travellers taking a public stand against this arbitrary, unaccountable, and unnecessary redistribution of their constitutionally-provided wealth. The world should stand in awe as public cries of “Keep Your Hands off My Health Care” pale in comparison to the cries of “Don’t Touch (or Scan) My Junk.”

Since 9/11, we’ve seen the rise of a new political and social philosophy that favors the redistribution of increasing percentages of a citizen’s wealth — in the form of personal rights and hidden costs, both financial and psychological — to a national government for protecting the homeland. Looking back on the past ten years and seeing how the homeland security establishment requires increasing “redistributions” of our wealth to the government as it flails about trying to protect us against every possible new danger, I respectfully suggest that this emerging philosophy of nationalised fear isn’t “communism” or “socialism” but rather a modern, and unfortunate, definition of Americanism.

Clearly this will be a matter for the courts, or perhaps Congress, to decide. Unfortunately, I worry that these institutions will declare that submitting to invasive scanning, screening, and molestation procedures are another necessary redistribution of our individual American wealth to the State as it continues a futile attempt to protect its citizens from Anything Bad(tm). But absent significant and visible public outcry, this fear-based philosophy of the New Americanism will be ensconced and embedded further into law….until the next redistribution is required of us. In that case, as with the past ten years, the only folks who will lose are We The People.

Someone told me yesterday that the one good thing about TSA isn’t that it’s making America safer — rather, it’s reminding Americans that we have rights.

It’s time we exercised them.


RICHARD FORNO is a security researcher in the Washington, DC area.

Illustration by Anthony Freda.


More articles by:
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone