Ends, means and dick-measuring devices

With all this hullabaloo over TSA pat-downs and scanners and such, it’s been hard to find a reasonable, informed viewpoint on the matter. Imagine my relief, then, when I saw the Oregon Daily Emerald opinion page — that august dispensary of wit and rhetoric — had tackled the subject. I wonder what those feisty college kids think about the TSA?

Enter ODE columnist Matt Tellam, who manages to simultaneously play the race card and be a misinformed, statist goober. Tellam starts by claiming that the back-scatter machines manage to detect anomalous object while not producing detailed pictures of naked people:

The images the scanners create do not cross “my line.” They are vague, blurry and largely without detail. But they can detect objects on people that could pose a danger. It would be wonderful if scanners were not used at all and TSA employees could simply know which individuals posed a danger. But this is impossible.

First, as my colleague wrote about below, Mythbuster Adam Savage accidentally smuggled two 12″-inch razor blades onto a flight. Second, if the machines produce “vague, blurry” images, I wonder why TSA officials call them “dick-measuring devices?” But I’m glad they don’t cross Tellam’s “line.” Hussy. Let’s move on:

Consider first that the body scanners are used at airports. If the body scanners were being employed at entrances to buildings at the University, OK. But they aren’t. Yes, one might believe that if the TSA is allowed to use the scanners at airports, they could possibly be used at other places of transportation: train stations, bus stations, subways. But airports pose the greatest threat of possible danger. Terrorist organizations do not possess missiles. [Emphasized for lolz.] With airplanes they have the ability to strike anywhere in the world. Trains are relegated to tracks, as are subways. Buses possess more freedom, but they are still relegated to roads. Because of an airplane’s ability to travel anywhere, and because of their destructive capabilities, body scanners at airports are not absurd. They are necessary. If even one terrorist is caught because of the body scanners, then I believe the ends justify the means.


Consider that the TSA’s mission, to protect transportation in our nation, is a monumental task. The scanners make their job easier in many ways, namely in their speed and their efficiency. Furthermore, everyone is subjected to the scanners. I think a lot of the frustration stemming from the scanners is from white people who, while they might not like to admit it, are deeply shocked that they are being subjected to this kind of treatment. White people don’t hijack planes and ram them into buildings. Why should they have to be subjugated as such?

Apparently Tellam doesn’t remember when that white guy crashed his plane into the IRS building in Texas. When was that? Oh yeah, 2010. To be fair, he didn’t hijack that plane; it was his own small aircraft. But perhaps he just suffered from a lack of ambition. Or perhaps …

Perhaps I am a bad citizen of a democracy because, in this case, I do not find the government’s infringement on my Fourth Amendment rights to be unjustified. Perhaps it is people like me who threaten democracy for everyone. Or, perhaps, like the millions of people who ignored the boycotts, I think that in this case the body scanners provide an added measure of security with little interference in my life.

In the dangerous times we live, perhaps the ends justify the means.

Perhaps this would have been a hilariously unpopular opinion during the Bush years, but no one really cares about such things anymore. Perhaps it smacks of obeisance and cowardice. Perhaps if you believe the government is violating your Fourth Amendment rights, but you don’t care, you really are a bad citizen and a threat to the rest of us.

P.S. Perhaps I should move on to bigger, more challenging foes than ODE opinion columnists, but old habits die hard.


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