SAY IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT

Posted in Rants on January 30th, 2012 by Ed

This has been a minor news item at best, but I've derived a good deal of enjoyment from the not-quite-infamous Rand Paul TSA incident. For the unaware, Paul Jr. refused a patdown search at Nashville International Airport (as subsequently released security video footage shows). Eventually he was turned away at the security checkpoint. While he was calm during the incident, he turned into a great big ol' drama queen afterward and blew the incident beyond any reasonable proportions. The speed with which the Paul Sr. campaign turned this into a talking/debating point – Trampling the 4th Amendment! Tyranny! Loud Noises! – suggests that the entire incident was premeditated and staged for political effect. The campaign hysterically described the event as Paul Jr. being "detained indefinitely."

“The police state in this country is growing out of control,” Ron Paul’s campaign said. “One of the ultimate embodiments of this is the TSA that gropes and grabs our children, our seniors and our loved ones and neighbors with disabilities. The TSA does all of this while doing nothing to keep us safe.”

Wow, what a compelling controversy.

The TSA is of course a signature issue for the paranoid Liberty-loving Pauls, and the bedraggled agency has become a lighting rod for criticism from conservatives of all stripes in the past few years – surely you recall the enthralling "Don't touch my junk!" brouhaha from 2010. It's the kind of don't-you-dare-inconvenience-me hissy fit that stands in for a serious discussion of political issues in this country. The rich irony, of course, is that the TSA is direct creation of the right-wing histrionics that followed 9/11. On the one hand they demand the illusion of security provided by wars, technology, and lots of people in badges performing searches (badges being the Authoritarian-Follower personality type's version of a favorite blankie). On the other…you know, privacy and The Constitution and I'm a Very Important Person who doesn't have time for long lines at the airport.

These apparently contradictory urges actually make sense as long as we recognize that right wing suburban America does want more airport security, just not for themselves. Why is the TSA inconveniencing all of us with searches? Why don't they just pull the brown people out of the line and search them since we all know who the real terrorists are anyway? People like Rand Paul want a TSA that accomplishes the primary task of government as people like him see it: making white people and people with money (to the extent that the two groups do not overlap in his mind) feel safer. It's the best of all worlds, an America in which the the people with badges keep their eyes on the colored folks while good God-fearing patriots like Us are left to enjoy our freedom.

I can't read Rand Paul's mind, but let's say there is smoke suggesting fire on this issue. You may recall his statements against the Civil Rights Act during the 2010 campaign, or perhaps Ron Paul's various statements suggesting some problems with race issues (note that his "plausible deniability" argument regarding his newsletter evaporated last week thanks to some good investigative journalism). Maybe the Pauls are true Libertarians, or maybe they have some racist tendencies, or maybe they're just garden variety modern conservatives who demand total freedom and total security simultaneously – for themselves, of course. Everyone else is fair game.