Cable news reached an all new level of self-satire and hackery this week as various daytime "serious" anchors mindlessly repeated the phrase "touch my junk" over and over. Years of journalism training, internships and advanced education and they're repeating "touch my junk" in the context of a videotaped airport security fracas.
And, speaking of journalistic integrity, "touch my junk" was featured between repeat airings of the brain-shrinkingly stupid commercial for abstinence featuring "The Situation" and Bristol Palin, both of whom are famous for their, you know, virginity. But good job, anyway, cable news people. Nailed it. You must be very proud.
Meanwhile, the TSA airport security segments on cable news have been prompted by two sources.
First, a blog entry by a would-be airline traveler who rightfully refused to submit to both a naked backscatter scan and, subsequently, a manual pat-down at San Diego International. The blogger videotaped much of the process and, as is heard on the video, exclaimed, "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." The full description of this confrontation can be found at the blogger's website.
Second, and not surprisingly, the broader TSA body scanner story has been egged on by a week's worth of screamer headlines and "Big Sis" snark from Matt Drudge because, as Mark Halperin famously put it: "Drudge rules our world." ("Big Sis" is Drudge's too-clever nickname for DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.)
Before I get into why this is so twisted, I should mention here that, in theory, I actually agree with Drudge about the body scanners and some of the (often purely cosmetic) increased security measures at airports.
The full body scanners, also known as millimeter wave scanners, are an obvious and very creepy violation of privacy and, despite what Homeland Security and the TSA are suggesting, the freakish naked images can, in fact, be saved and leaked. Not surprisingly, there is also untold health issues involved with being bombarded from head to toe with radiation. And, oh yeah, the scanners really wouldn't have stopped terrorists like the Underwear Bomber because the scanners aren't very good at picking up "low-density materials like plastics, chemicals, and liquids -- precisely what the underwear bomber had stuffed in his briefs," according to Mother Jones magazine.
Ultimately, and for all of these reasons, vocal opposition to the naked body scanners transcends ideologies and political affiliations -- lately at least (more on that presently). But the opposition isn't making much of a dent in terms of rolling back this unconstitutional security measure: a new CBS poll released today shows that 81 percent of Americans favor the use of the scanners. Sad.
It's not a stretch to suggest that the post-9/11 fear-mongering and massively exaggerated anti-terrorism hysteria created this supermajority of acquiescence to flagrant government overreach and violations of privacy and personal dignity.
And who's to blame for the fear-mongering? People like Matt Drudge, of course, who aided in the effort to scare the crapola out of us about the so-called "terrorist threat."
Drudge, along with Rush Limbaugh, Fox News Channel and the highest ranking Republican officials in Congress, demanded that all of Washington buy into the notion that you can't have a Constitution if you're dead. How do we know this? Well, because they actually said it. Over and over. A few examples for the record:
"You have no civil liberties if you are dead." -- Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS
"None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead." -- Senator "Big John" Cornyn, R-TX
"Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead! If you are dead and pushing up daisies, if you're sucking dirt inside a casket, do you know what your civil liberties are worth? Zilch, zero, nada." -- Rush Limbaugh
I should note here that all of this was said at a time when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, so big government and dangerously over-the-top violations of constitutional rights and civil liberties were a-okay with the far-right. Now, in 2010, these very same Republicans are insisting that "Big Sis" and the "little black man-child" are forcing us to "grab the ankles" and submit to Muslim fascist Nazi policies. Never mind that all of these policies were invented by Republicans and ballyhooed by Drudge in an atmosphere of manufactured fear during conservative control of, well, everything. In fact, Janet Napolitano's predecessor, Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael "Shirt Off" Chertoff runs a security consulting firm whose clients include the manufacturers of the naked body scanner machines.
Throughout the duration of the Bush years, any opposition voices to these policies were shouted down as being "terrorist sympathizers" who are undermining American security and endangering the troops, while evildoers were lurking under our beds like jittery suicide-toe-monsters ready to spring forth and crash airplanes into our feet. In those years, "patriotism" was defined by the speed and vigor by which we gave up our civil liberties in lieu of a lot of extra security (to paraphrase the famous and overused quotation). You might recall how, for example, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in a fitting display of both childish pants-peeing and authoritarian manipulation, totally fell apart during a speech -- publicly sobbing over the opposition to President Bush's demand for illegal wiretaps, explaining how another September 11 was inevitable unless the government was allowed to eavesdrop on American citizens.
Most Americans are still trapped in this nationwide panic room despite the reality of the so-called "terrorist threat." Again, 81 percent support for the body scanners, even though, contrary to the Bush Republican bed-wetting, there is no terrorist threat. It simply doesn't exist as a serious danger to you or your family.
Let's compare and contrast. Your odds of dying from cancer are about one in seven. Your odds of dying in an airborne terrorist attack, according to the very liberal Wall Street Journal, are one in 25 million (your odds of being hit by lightning are one in 500,000). Yet throughout the Bush years, the federal government spent twice as much on anti-terrorism measures as it spent on disease prevention. Hell, you're more likely to kill someone else, be convicted in a court of law, sentenced to death and legally executed than you are of dying in a terrorist attack (odds of death by legal execution: one in 58,618).
Who ginned up these completely lopsided through-the-looking-glass priorities?
Certainly not liberals. The post-9/11 maxim "either you're with us, or you are with the terrorists" wasn't the concoction of Michael Moore or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Janet Napolitano. It was entirely the purview of the Drudge-ruled wingnut universe of fear and cowardice. And make no mistake: "cowardice" is precisely what it was -- cry-baby cowardice masked by flag-waving machismo in support of a military-industrial-security complex that earned billions in profits on investments ranging from the invasion and occupation of Iraq to the production and deployment of the naked body scanners. Rather than standing firm and upholding American values, the far-right embraced cowardice in the face of a virtually nonexistent threat.
In a free society, there aren't any guarantees of absolute safety. If you insist on 100 percent foolproof protection from acts of terrorism, you should probably go ahead and lock yourself in an underground bunker and leave the rest of us alone. And when you're detained and forced to either submit to a naked body scan or, heaven forbid, have your "junk grabbed," thank a Republican. Thank George W. Bush and his cheerleaders Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh.
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