Time Magazine Says TSA Groping Not A Problem & It's All Blown Out Of Proportion By The Internet

from the thinking-critically-not-required dept

One of the complaints frequently leveled at the mainstream press is that they don't do much critical thinking. All too often, it feels like they've simply turned into scribes, rather than people who will help everyone in the community better understand things. Case in point: Time Magazine's Alex Altman has published quite an article suggesting that the anthropmorphized "internet" is making too big a deal of the TSA's "naked or a grope" security procedures. Of course, the internet itself doesn't have "ephemeral obsessions," as Altman implies: people do. Altman could have a point that people are overreacting but let's look at the evidence he uses to support this position. Amusingly, it's actually two pieces of info that we had already discussed and debunked, which Altman and Time Magazine took at face value. First up:
With furor of the full-body scans and invasive pat-downs reaching critical mass, TSA Administrator John Pistole went before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Wednesday morning to explain why the new screening measures are a necessary evil.

Pistole was conciliatory but resolute: If you're going to get on a plane, you're either going to be photographed with advanced imaging technology--the "full-body scans" that render all-too-detailed impressions of travelers' physiques--or endure an uncomfortably thorough pat-down.
We already discussed Pistole's testimony and why he's actually lying. Contrary to what Pistole claims (and Altman bought without checking), the vast majority of people getting on planes in US airports are going through neither full body scans or "an uncomfortably thorough pat-down." Most people are still just going through traditional metal detectors. Even in the airports that have the backscatter naked image scanners, most passengers still just go through traditional metal detectors. Claiming that all passengers now go through either the backscatter scans or get a thorough pat-down is a lie.
While you'd never guess it from the hysterical media coverage, most people are...pretty OK with that. The breathless headlines and expert discussion forums provide a distorted picture of public perception. According to a CBS News poll, 81% of Americans approve of the decision to use full-body X-ray machines to weed out terrorist threats. Sometimes the screams of an aggrieved minority drowns out the rest of the public, and this may be one of those cases.
Except, again, this isn't quite accurate. As we discussed in our post about the poll, if you go and look at what the poll actually asked it phrased the question in a way that leaves out all of the concerns people have about the scanners and only implies that the scanners help security. That's obviously not a fair poll and the results should be discounted accordingly. Does Altman bother to check on all of this? Of course not.

Altman may be right that people are overreacting but he didn't help by simply repeating the claims of Pistole and a weak poll, when both have already been proven to be misleading at best and downright false at worst. Perhaps instead of rushing to mock "the internet" and its mythical "ephemeral obsessions," Altman could have taken some time to actually research the issue and to inform people of the details rather than just repeating the misleading claims from the TSA. That's the kind of thing that would actually build up trust in the press, rather than disdain for the press.

Filed Under: alex altman, backscatter, journalism, privacy, scanners, security, time magazine, tsa


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  1. icon
    Gabriel Tane (profile), 19 Nov 2010 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Please don't fly

    I equate the whole farce to smoke and mirrors. And I'm not going to limit my view to just using a 747 to fly into a building, because the TSA is not trying to prevent just that. The whole reason for the ATI and 'enhanced pat-down' was BECAUSE of the underwear bomber. So why would I exclude that incident from my argument?

    Just like the 3+3+1 rule for liquids. That was instituted because of a foiled plot where someone was going to create an explosive device using gels carried on with them. But that was foiled in the UK, not America. We instituted the 3+3+1 to stop that kind of plot from happening here. Because I'm SO sure that terrorists would try it again after they saw how successful it was there. And that doesn't even take into account the GLARING hole in the logic of the 3+3+1: if I can't make enough explosive with the items I'm carrying, me and my accomplices could surely bring enough separately to combine later.
    "How do you find out how many terrorists have canceled plans because of the screenings?"
    I have no idea. Do you? Until you do, don't tell me that it's working just because something hasn't happened yet. There are many different factors that could be causing that... such as, not the least, the fact that it's a more tactically-sound plan to try a new and unexpected method of attack. You're using a Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc argument. To quote Frank Herbert's character who was paraphrasing Nietzsche: "The noes does not cause the tail!"
    "The primary goal of the TSA is to protect us from someone that would use transportation including planes as a missile or save the lives of passengers."
    I will assume that your poorly structured sentance meant that you believe the primary goal of the TSA is to prevent terrorists from using transportation as missles (including planes), and to save the lives of passengers. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    If I'm right, you are WAY off of thier purpose. Here's thier statement on thier own website...
    We are your neighbors, friends and relatives. We are 50,000 security officers, inspectors, directors, air marshals and managers who protect the nation's transportation systems so you and your family can travel safely. We look for bombs at checkpoints in airports, we inspect rail cars, we patrol subways with our law enforcement partners, and we work to make all modes of transportation safe.
    Sounds to me like their purpose is MUCH larger than just scanning you at the airport to make sure you don't fly the plane into a building. They arn't the Airport Security Authority or the No More Missle-Planes Authority.
    "That ONE terrorist stopped in the screening could save hundreds of lives makes it worth it to me."
    So where do you draw the line for your privacy and the privacy of the THOUSANDS and HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people who would be groped and prodded unnecessarily? What about the rape and assault victims and children who have to be subjected to that? If 1,000,000 people are scarred, is that your balance for a couple of hundred lives saved? And what if no terrorist is ever seen again? How many hypothetical lives do you tell yourself were saved so that you can sleep?
    "List the alternatives you speak of, and keep it in reference to flying a 747 into a skyscraper."
    Again, I refuse to limit the scope of my argument just to make yours sound more relevant. I never mentioned alternatives, but since you asked... I agree with the idea that passengers could be armed with non-lethal items such as stun-guns or a good ol' stick with which to subdue terrorists. Or, and I think I'm echoing a few people here, how about we accept the risks of the world we live in without SUCCUMBING TO TERROR.
    The sheep comment is old, lame, and used by truthers across the globe. I'll keep posting, you keep smacking the cliches.
    Its age, proliferation and list of users does not negate its relevance and applicability. If you'd prefer, I can use a parrot, since you seem to like bring up tired rhetoric of "never again" and "worth it in the end". How about I use “uncaring, heartless sociopath” since you want to try a Machiavellian "ends justify the means" excuse? Or, if none of those are to your liking, how about “mindless knee-jerk reactionary nationalist masquerading as a patriot by playing the 9/11-Card”?

    You keep pointing at cliches, I'll keep smacking the logical fallacies down.

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