TSA: Is Privacy an Ultimatum?

Passport USA

Image by clappstar via Flickr

Scrutiny over the TSA scanners and pat-downs is leading the American public down a familiar road. Talk of replacing the pat-downs with a standardized national ID card (see Alternative to TSA pat-downs), while not on the floor yet, illuminates a similar pattern characterizing post-9/11 America. It presents yet another example of the government taking a public grievance and turning it on itself, as if to say, “If you [the public] refuse option A, then you leave us [the government] no choice but to institute option B.” But this hypothetical, if it becomes reality, is more damaging to our civil liberties than the invasive pat-downs or scanners. Why? First, and one’s opinion on this is purely personal, many view the mandatory issue of a national ID card that carries all pertinent and personal information including travel history, affiliations, and the like, more a gross violation of one’s privacy than intrusive pat-downs. However, some see it the other way, opting to sacrifice one’s personal information over one’s person. This, at least, is the way the mainstream media is framing the issue—personal privacy versus physical privacy. The implication here is that framing the issue this way overlooks and undermines the basic issue of one’s right to privacy.

Hidden beneath this framework is a pattern, whereby the government sets the agenda that provides only an ultimatum to the public, not a dialogue. Consequently, the government imposes an agenda on the people instead of proposing one by the people. And this illuminates the second, more fundamental and subtle, violation of our civil liberties. We must now choose which aspect of our privacy to place on the chopping block, as if the parts do not equal the whole.

Such issues point to the fact that our government is no longer ours and has not been for quite some time. Moreover, so long as the media presents issues in ways that are inherently divisive, they serve to buffer the government from any concentrated public backlash. The ultimatum-type governance presented by the TSA issue is simply another example of the transformation of government by the people to government by the tyrannical minority.

 

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