Jennifer Abel at The Guardian on the TSA

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by Lisa Simeone, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

  2. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    I'll be sure to visit there this evening.
  3. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    I left some comments & sent her an email. :)
  4. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    Thanks, Mike. I saw. I just left 2 more comments.

    It occurred to me that perhaps I should send you my master list of TSA abuse -- I've been compiling it for the past 18 months. The document on my computer stands at 40 pages, and that's mostly just headlines and links, though also some partial text (since links go out of date). It was 52 pages, but I reduced the font to condense it. I've already sent it to my TSA mailing list -- meaning people who give a sh*t and not sheeple -- and can send it to you, too. Surely some of it will overlap with Fisher's list, but there's probably other stuff in there that you guys haven't seen, including accounts related to me personally. I'd have to send it in an email as an attachment, can't post the whole thing here obviously.

    I've put a lot of work into this because I think it's important. Though I'm a journalist, I'm not getting paid for this; it's been a labor of -- er -- not love -- disgust. And there are so many media cowards out there who aren't interested, who are TSA apologists.
  5. LeapingFrogs

    LeapingFrogs Original Member

    I gave her a little love too... Earlier this spring, I advised a friend of mine from northern Ireland to put off coming to visit me until the USA figures out this collassal problem with the airports here. I don't want her or her young daughter groped or irradiated. At first she laughed at me telling me she wasn't scared, of terrorists... in her words "I'm from Belfast!" It took a little convincing, but she won't be back to the US until the TSA changes. Good lass. :D
  6. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    My sister-in-law, an American, lives in Europe, has 2 small children. Hasn't dealt yet with the molestation regime of the TSA, since last time she traveled with them here was last summer. They're coming to visit next week. I tried to tell her what's going on. She doesn't believe it. (Of course it doesn't help hubby and mother-in-law also have the attitude, "as long as it happens to someone else" -- they won't admit it, but that's the bottom line.) She blew me off. I quote: "I don't have issues [sic] with the TSA. I just don't share your concerns."

    This is a woman who won't allow us to post vacation photos on a website because she's afraid some Big Bad Stranger is going to come after her children, but she's perfectly willing to risk allowing them to get molested by the TSA. And this makes sense how?
  7. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    I'm going to bet she thinks those things happen to "other people", so long as you line up, take off your shoes, and just follow the rules, everything's OK.

    Chances are better than not that with all of the changes she likely will run afoul of the rules and get "the full treatment". I bet her tune changes then. Not to disparage the ladies in Diapergate, but I get the impression they were of that mindset. And then they were strip searched.

    Of course, I've heard anecdotally that women with children are now being sent through WTMD only. In that case her beliefs will only be reinforced. Out of curiosity, and don't share if it is too personal, but what is her US entry point, and will she be connecting through it?
  8. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member


    And yes, it's always the "it's never happened to me, therefore it must not be happening" argument. Which is not only willfully ignorant, but ethically indefensible. But I've given up trying to appeal to people's ethics.

    Given that by the TSA's own estimate (yes, I know they always lie, but let's go with it for the moment), only 3% of the 2 million people who fly every day in this country get groped, that's 60,000 a day. Let's say not all 60,000 get abused. Let's be extraordinarily generous and say only 10% (though Zimbardo and Milgram proved that's impossibly low) -- that would mean 6,000 people a day, every day, getting inappropriately groped and worse. The naysayers are, in essence, claiming that it's okay that 6,000 of their fellow citizens are getting abused every day -- again, "as long as it doesn't happen to me." Sickening.
  9. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    It's gross.

    But keep the hope alive. My mom used to be squarely in this camp, and then I lashed out at her.

    I know I've mentioned this elsewhere, so I hope it doesn't make people uncomfortable. I was sexually molested as a child by my own father. Even though I tried to do something about it, she just didn't "see" it. It was pure naivety. She actually organized for local abuse shelters to speak at my school and help others for other reasons, but somehow managed to miss what was going on under her very own nose.

    Fast forward to Scope n Grope. I went home to visit her for Christmas. In spite of my weekly flying, I had successfully avoided it until then. I almost vomited when I went to board my flight, and I couldn't shake the feeling that had been the same as a kid when I got home. I broached the subject and got a, "Well, you know how the media blows everything out of proportion. Janet wouldn't let that happen" (we're Arizonans, and have politically supported Napolitano in the past). I decided it was time for a dose of reality, and I told her that it wasn't "the media", that I had had my testicles fondled, the same way Dad used to.

    You could see the shock of realization wash over her face. It was no longer something that was happening to "other people". It had happened to her son, and as an old Southern family, it was the same as if it had happened to her. She's changed her tune, though she still falls for all of TSA's nonsense - id check at the gate? Great! They'll catch all those people sneaking through! - liquids out, look what a good soldier I am!

    For her part, though, she has written letters to Napolitano, Pistole, and her Congressmen on this issue. At least she's figuring it out.

    Coming through Dulles, your sister may just get a taste on her way out. What a great sendoff!

    Anyhoo - back OT, it's important we support Abel because apathy up to this point has killed our movement. People need to know that they are not alone in this, and that people do support them when they speak out against TSA. A groundswell is growing, and we need to keep the pressure up.
  10. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    Yeah, the only way some people learn lessons in life is when they're smacked in the face by them. If my sister-in-law gets hauled aside, and if her children are touched, she'll go ballistic.

    And re moral support and we're not alone, yes, that's why I keep hammering away at it, despite how disheartening and infuriating it is. We need moral support and we need to support each other. I'm not going to stop agitating about this issue.

    Terribly sorry about your own history of abuse. It's one that, alas, you share with millions of others.
    barbell likes this.
  11. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    Oh, I know I'm not alone. I share it because 1) maybe it will help others come forward and 2) when I say TSA is sexually abusing people I know, because I know what sexual abuse is. It isn't about sexual gratification as so many TSA apologists like to diminish the claim to. It is about power and control.
  12. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    You needn't worry - it takes a LOT to make me uncomfortable and what you've inspired in me is sympathy, not unease. If anything, your past hardship has made you that much more of an effective spokesman against the TSA.

    Oh, also, goddamn that TSO who fondled you the way as was done to you as a child.
  13. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    There were 3 of them. "Just following procedure..."

    It's not so much that they did, it's that the procedure is exactly what was done previously, "Just checking the area to see how you've grown." Now they're "Just checking the area to clear it." It's no different.
  14. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    They are disgusting pigs. I take that back -- pigs are actually sensitive, intelligent creatures.

    The TSA is a criminal organization, with Pistole and Napolitano at the top of the list.
  15. lkkinetic

    lkkinetic Original Member

    I agree with her commentary (indeed, it sounds like she's done a mind-meld with me!), and with all of the observations above, and have amped up my activism accordingly.

    However ... I want to draw your attention to one comment on the article that I think we have to take seriously if we are going to persuade others with our arguments:

    I'll offer one example from my own experience. I was invited to an event that I attend annually, and declined because it would involve air travel. The organizer asked me to connect in by video web link and talk about TSA policies. A writer/journalist friend of mine who agrees with us on the TSA (and has a list of liberty-supporting credentials longer than my arm!) made precisely the hyperbole point that the commenter above did -- she said that in her discussions, particularly with those who travel infrequently, dramatic and inflammatory language prompted people to disagree out of a belief that the accusations are overstated.

    So if our objective is to achieve meaningful change through persuasion, we have to be attentive to our rhetoric, and to how we frame our evidence and our arguments given the different audiences we hope to reach.

    As an economist, I am naturally inclined to make empirically-grounded cost-benefit types of analytical arguments. Those arguments are persuasive with some ... but if you believe the data on the distribution of different Myers-Briggs types in the population, more than half of the population is persuaded, or dissuaded, by emotional arguments. That's the rhetorical battleground, and I think it's a tough one -- the type of emotional rhetoric that Jennifer is using in this article will appeal to those emotional thinkers who are already predisposed to agree with her, but I think they will repel those who are not emotional thinkers and those emotional thinkers who are not already predisposed to agree with her.

    From a persuasion/rhetorical perspective, I think that last group of people are our target audience: how do we structure and phrase our arguments to persuade the emotional thinker who, for whatever reason, does not come to the issue predisposed to agree with our position?
  16. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    lkkinetic, I agree -- sort of. I did precisely this -- presented rational arguments using empirical evidence -- for a long time. I deliberately toned down the emotion, often didn't even use my own words but simply quoted others, including many security experts, and even used humor to get my point across.

    It didn't work.

    The fact is that denial is a powerful thing, and humans are well-equipped, even eager, to engage in it. People who don't want to be persuaded won't be persuaded. People who don't want to see what's right in front of their noses (paraphrasing Orwell*) won't. We can appeal to reason all we want, but those who don't listen to reason won't be convinced. In fact, it's precisely the naysayers, not us, who are being carried away by emotion. Their irrational fear, bordering on paranoia, that A Terrorist Is Hiding Around Every Corner is what allows them to ignore this rampant abuse.

    This isn't the first time Jennifer Abel has written about the the TSA. She was excoriated at the Guardian the first time because it was only shortly after the new procedures, and the Brits had no idea what was going on. And frankly, using accurate language rather than euphemism is the opposite of "emotional." It's simply telling the truth. That's why euphemism is so pernicious. If we accede to it -- using "enhanced patdown," for instance, instead of "grope" or "sexual assault" or the clever "gate rape" -- we are ceding the terms of the argument to the TSA, which is precisely what they want us to do. That's how all oppression works (again, Orwell, and plenty of other dystopian writers). Doing so hands them a victory right out of the gate.

    Since I've repeated rational arguments and supplied ample evidence so often, at blogs, in letters to the editor, discussion threads, various sites all over the web, I've learned that it doesn't matter. The people who don't get it won't get until it happens to them (or their family members) personally. Therefore, I've adjusted my approach. It still employs reason, but now also includes sarcasm, mocking, and reverse-ridicule. These, too, are potent weapons.

    *"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."
  17. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    P.S. A quote by a past monster is appropriate:

    "The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it."
    -Josef Mengele
  18. lkkinetic

    lkkinetic Original Member

    Yes, precisely. Evidence + rational arguments will not persuade most of the people we are trying to persuade ... but neither will emotional statements that some can dismiss as melodramatic and overstated. The more I think about this rhetorical challenge, I think that we need to think in terms of a rhetorical portfolio, a quiver of rhetorical arrows, each one with a different tactic. Evidence + rational arguments is one, sarcasm and reverse-ridicule is another, emotional appeal (children, elderly, do you want your wife to experience this, what has become of this country, etc.) is another. And, Lisa, in your contributions to the comment thread on Jennifer's article, I think you used all three of these effectively, and have provided a good example of appealing to the emotional thinker without using rhetoric that can trigger a dismissive response.

    Another rhetorical challenge here is that the consequences of these policies are so multifarious -- cancer risk, public health risk, privacy, Constitutional, moral, financially irresponsible, authoritarian -- that no one comment on an article can encompass all of the objections. So we target, we specialize, we "divide and conquer"; Mike has been making the public health point very effectively and persuasively in several comment threads, for example. In my writing on my blog I focus on the rational argument + evidence for the financial irresponsibility of spending tax money this way, since that's the core interest for that audience.

    This is why I think social media is such an effective tool for us, because the rhetorical battlefield here is so complex.
  19. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member


    Also, "emotional" language can be useful precisely for the shock value: to jolt people out of their complacency. It has to be used judiciously, of course. And the shorter, more succinct it is, the more powerful. Witness the Mengele quote above.
  20. Doober

    Doober Original Member

    Hate to say this, but hopefully one of her kids will fall victim to the TSA - then she'll go berserk and be calling for heads to roll. However, she will then understand.

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