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.