You Have the Right to Remain at Home


I was on a short domestic trip last week and sure enough, at the security line just ahead of me, somebody started freaking out at a pat down and doing the “don’t invade my privacy” routine and my only thought was, “couldn’t you have anticipated this before you got in line and stayed home, because the rest of us have places to go and friggin’ things to do!”

Don’t get me wrong, what happened to my fellow Pixiq contributor George Lepp and his wife at a recent checkpoint is not right and in an ideal world, it wouldn’t happen. But it seems to me that when people are willing to stuff explosives in their skivvies and blow themselves up in an airplane full of people just to make their point, then we’re not in an ideal world…or even Kansas,Toto. We’re through the looking glass.

And yes, airport security is flawed, violates our rights, is basically political theater, and should be improved. And don’t even get me started on air cargo security.

But as any security expert will tell you, really improving security would mean profiling passengers (like El Al does) and, well, you know, that’s going to cause tons more outrage than botched body scans and people poking your privates.

So, we’re left with a flawed and imperfect system. But there are a few alternatives. Ones that I wish folks would consider before they get in the security line ahead of me.

1. Drive. These days, if a gig is 500 miles or closer, I drive. I can take more equipment, I can listen to a nice book on tape, and nobody fondles me (against my will, anyway!). I don’t like getting my body scanned any more than the next guy (although it’s not the thought of my naked X-ray being leaked that scares me, it’s what those X-rays are doing to my naked body!).

2. Charter your own jet, boat, or tourbus. If the situation at the airports is really that odious, put your travel dollars where your outrage is and go private….works for the super rich, why not us?

3.  Stay home.  Throughout the ages, travel has been fraught with danger and inconvenience. Highwaymen, bandits, grifters, pickpockets, and ne’er do wells have always been dedicated to fleecing the traveler….today’s scoundrels have raised the stakes because they literally want your hide.

But we’re a society that is used to getting our cake and eating it too. We want our privacy but we want our security too, we want more and better infrastructure but we don’t want it to raise our taxes, and we want to fly all over the place but we’re not happy with the process that may, just may find the lunatic with the C-4 in his boxer shorts who wants to bring our plane down way ahead of schedule.

You just can’t have it all. You can join organizations like Flyers Rights to press for better security measures at airports, you can write to your congresspersons, you can picket outside the airport (I think).

But please, don’t wait until you’re the person ahead of me at the evil scanning machine to make your stand.

Just stay home.

I, for one, could really use the extra space in the overhead….and don’t worry, I’ll bring back plenty of pictures so you can see what you’ve missed!


This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Bob,
    No artifical joints in this 73 year old body. but Gator aid Powder in my backpack earned the full treatment at DIA and Miami. I was traveling with a church mission team to Petit Goave , about 60 km. south of Port au Prince.
    on the return I earnd an oncore for having a wooden picture frame in my Checked luggage.

    Ps your composition hints got a few good shots for show and tell here

    1. Jerry: Nice shots, and good on ya for doing good in Haiti. Glad you made it back with your Gatorade intact! Bob

  2. Bob,

    normally I’m on board with you (pun intended), but here I think you’re a little off- base.

    specifically the quote where you say
    “But we’re a society that is used to getting our cake and eating it too. We want our privacy but we want our security too, we want more and better infrastructure but we don’t want it to raise our taxes, and we want to fly all over the place but we’re not happy with the process that may, just may find the lunatic with the C-4 in his boxer shorts who wants to bring our plane down way ahead of schedule.”

    The problem with that argument:
    The new TSA standards invade our privacy in many, many ways – but do not, in reality, provide any real increases security! Take a look at this article by a journalist from the Atlantic:

    The Journalist was able to board a plane while wearing an Osama Bin Laden shirt, with a fake boarding pass, no form of Identification, a hezbollah flag, large containers of liquid, AND pocket knives!

    This is why people are getting upset – not because we want our cake and to eat it too. its security theater – not real security. Meanwhile, we have our privacy invaded for nothing.

    That being said, I agree that the protestors shouldn’t hold up innocent bystanders in all this. It can be inconvenient and there are other options!

    P.S. those leaked body scan photos are out of date – from old machinery. The modern TSA scanners create images that would make your site a little more X-rated than I’m sure you’d like it to be. For those curious, do a google image search of “TSA Scanner”

    1. Nick: I’m with you on that….see the third paragraph…I even use the term theater.

      But we know all that before we go to the airport.

      And as you say , we want real security, but we’ll never get it, because as I mention in the fourth paragraph of the post, what we’d need to do to get real security is even more invasive (albeit MUCH more effective) than anything that’s going on now.

      Hey, why do you think I’m developing mostly local projects in my new videographer persona….I’ve had it with airports in general…although i wouldn’t mind a nice detailed naked Xray as a momento of my traveling days! Bob

  3. It seems we all agree that what is going on at the airport is all theater designed to make us “feel” safer, but doesn’t not actually make us any safer. If that is true, then I would rather not have my privates touched or be bathed in radiation for the sake of theater. I think I have a right to travel AND to modesty.

    1. That you do…but to effect change, I submit that it is better work through channels and organizations like Flyers Rights than to throw hissy fits in the security line. I think, with the blogger who didn’t want his junk touched, the point is made so we don’t need any more melodrama in the security lines than we already have.

  4. It’s true, after all, civil disobedience never accomplished anything. Oh, wait…what?

    Sorry that fighting to preserve freedom in the face of unreasonable regulation is inconvenient for you.

    1. Bryan: It’s true, I prefer my freedom fighters and my jihadists to stay out of the airports altogether. It’s stressful enough to fly these days without it becoming a political battleground.

      I lost some friends in 9/11 from the town I lived in, and it’s easy to forget what kind of people we’re dealing with here. And I fly constantly, so I’m more inclined to cut the overzealous, but generally well meaning TSA folks a break while they work it out new techniques for dealing with the new ways this stuff is coming at us.

      But like you, I will draw a line in the sand when it comes to cavity searches, which is the latest places the bombers are hiding things. That’s when I retire and watch from the ground.

      In the meantime, I’d rather get groped than zapped with Xrays or whatever rays they are. But either one is still preferable to blowing up in mid-air, as far as I’m concerned. It’s the lesser of three evils.

      Do you fly much?

      I’m a member of Flyers Rights and have been “fighting to preserve freedom” in a much more effective way.

      Actually, when it comes to flying, I’d prefer to fight for more real professional security and less groping, but again, that means profiling and that’s a no-no.That’s the only way we’d get a modicum of real security in the air, but it ain’t gonna happen. So we’re left with gropes and scans.

      You pays your money and you takes your chances. But to expect the full menu of civil rights in the air is, um, not realistic in this day and age, I’m afraid. I lament it to, but I’m enough of a realist to deal with it, and hope for the best.

  5. I fly a lot. I’m also a recently retired army officer, with friends in the Pentagon on 9/11 and friends lost since. Irrelevant to the issue, though.

    Those willing to give up essential freedoms for temporary safety deserve neither.

    No one should quietly accept the security theater that masquerades as actual security. These things don’t make flying safer. When has a new, more invasive security measure caught anyone? Silence to that, I’m afraid.

    As for your “more effective” fighting for freedoms, I’m not seeing any results, so I have to question your conclusion that it’s been more effective. Make noise, make taking freedoms hard, don’t accept the constant encroachment quietly. That’s how to effect change.

  6. Bryan Broyles writes:

    “When has a new, more invasive security measure caught anyone? Silence to that, I’m afraid.”

    Bryan: Call me an optimist (you’d be the only one), but I prefer to phrase that:

    “Have any planes gone down since the new measures have been enacted?”

    Look, I’m on your side. I’m protesting it through supporting Flyers Right and letters actually written to my representatives.

    In addition to invasive and ineffective airport security, I also don’t think the government should be telling us who we can marry, what a woman can do with her own body, be allowed to torture and run a gulag on foreign soil, nor have the ability to stop, search, and question you out on the street simply on the grounds of looking….foreign.

    But I like to choose my battles, and where and how I fight them, and that last one especially is where I expected the outrage. But it doesn’t affect most of us, so it slips by.

    All that being said, I still don’t think it’s reasonable to expect your full menu of human rights at an airport checkpoint because of what’s going on in the world. I’m not endorsing security theater, I’m simply saying that, until they get it right (or at least, better), our outrage at the erosion of personal freedoms might be better directed at other places.

    Like flying to Arizona and indulging in some civil disobedience once there. For that, you’d have my full support….even if you held up traffic that I was stuck in….

    1. You ask if any planes have gone down since the new measures were enacted? I ask if any had gone down over the previous eight years.

      If more invasive measures do not make us safer (and it would seem that they don’t) they are unwarranted.

  7. Bob, take your own advice.

    If you do not like it that people at airports object to being molested by the authorities, you too have the right to stay home and not fly.

    Nobody is forcing you to wait at airport security, either.

    People have a right to complain about the way they are treated, and are unlikely to take (or appreciate) your advice on the matter.

    Personally, I applaud everybody and anybody who risks arrest, fines, imprisonment and bullying to make this kind of airport security theatre a less desirable experience for the perpetrators and passive onlookers.

    1. Yes, everybody has every right to protest. What you guys seem to be missing (did you read the post thoroughly?), is that I am complaining too. But going through the airport is enough of a hardship as it is. Rather than inconvenience my fellow sufferers, I choose to complain through other, more effective ways.

  8. Bob
    A very easy end to the discussion, All the Against screenings take flight A. Those For security take flight F
    let them put their butt where their mouth is. Then we will see how many are just complaining to hear their voice


    1. I like it!

  9. Jerry Hanes:

    Interesting. I’ve noticed that those on “your” side of the argument take for granted that those protesting this protest ALL security. Or that those who don’t object are “for” security. Easy strawmen to help with your otherwise unwinnable argument, I guess.

    I’m against intrusive, potentially dangerous, searches in the name of security. Especially where experts have said, repeatedly, that these scanners are no harder to defeat than the other current measures.

    So, to sum. Not safer, less free. Winning combo.

    1. Bryan: Not Safe, Less Free, What’s Your idea that is better and more do-able? Come up with something quick, before the Thanksgiving crunch, and you’ll get a medal!

      1. Easy. Profiling, of the non-racial type, is far and away the best security that we don’t do.

        Easier: Scan all luggage and cargo (still not being done).

        Still more: Want draconian? No carry-on luggage at all, no coats, no jackets. Scan 100% of checked baggage. You walk on with what you can carry openly in your hands…exceptions for medical necessity, like diaper bags, which will be hand inspected (won’t take long, since there won’t be many).

        Air Puff testers…at least as secure as subjecting travelers to radiation that is highly suspect in its effectiveness, not known to be safe and particularly bad in cumulative effect.

        1. Bryan: I’m with you….please see the fourth paragraph of my original post.

          But I don’t think it would be “easy” to implement…It requires trained professional security personnel, which takes time and money, and the minute you say “profiling” you are in for a world of hurt.

          Scanning all luggage and cargo without a way of doing the passengers, easy, but not so effective.

          The Draconian method was briefly put into place by the Brits a couple of years ago…would mean the end of travel photography as we know it!

          Air puff testers: You know, I thought the same thing. I’ve seen them in use very sparsely for a few years now and wondered why they don’t use them more? Probably because the former director of the DHS is not on the board of directors of the company that makes them(!).

          Have a great holiday.

  10. Bryan,
    Years in the Auto workers union taught me you make the most progress by inconviencing the smallest number of people,
    I realize there is a middle ground between “enhanced and none ”
    I would rather the protesters be in another line, I have done my share in the past so I’ll sit this one out and not take up any more space on Bob’s site.

    Hope this works for you.

  11. Bob
    Sniffers are great they may have a drawback but I do not know what it is. May be the wrong Company making them.
    Only had one experience with them, at Gulfport, Biloxi after a Katrina Rebuilding trip. A kinda neat machine , quick too
    Happy Thanks giving, be thankful for where you live.

  12. Bob,
    Your posting has really stirred up a hornet’s nest! This whole issue of air travel security is ridiculous, especially when no one is checking the cargo in the plane’s hold.

    I can visualize OBL sitting in his cave in Pakistan with a “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging behind him as he poses for photos and videos. If the point of “terrorism” is to keep your enemy in a constant state of panic and anxiety, he seems to have accomplished it.

    If a terrorist is determined to get on a plane with an explosive device, he/she will find a way to do it. It’s as easy as flying out of a small rural/regional airport where security is lax. Once they fly into a major hub, there’s no additional screening before boarding a larger jet, where they can carry out their mission.

    If cavity searches are the next step in this security theater, I’ll be sitting air travel out (no pun intended), if only to preserve my dignity.

    I assume that you’re flying out of Newark or Philly, both of which are nearly unbearable, even on a good day. I’m a 3-1/2 hour drive from Dulles and 3 hours from Charlotte. Like you, I’ve taken to driving to gigs that are less than 500 miles from home. I’ve totally given up on flying with a video crew and equipment. I simply arrange for a local crew, show up on location to direct the shoot, burn the footage to a DVD and get back on the plane home.

    I drove up to Jersey a couple of weeks ago to spend Thanksgiving with my relatives and while driving the NJ Turnpike past Newark Airport, all I could think of was how vulnerable that area is. Between the airport itself, a major port, ground transportation hub, and a dozen refineries and chemical plants all within a 20-mile radius, it’s what the military calls a “target rich environment.” Can we do anything to protect ourselves?
    I doubt it, at least not without seriously hampering commerce and travel.

    What a bunch of wussies we Americans have become. We need to take a lesson from the Brits who underwent the German blitz: carry on!

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