America Loves Its Junk

« November 2010 »

Memo to America and the TSA: YOU ARE DUMB.

Today is Topical Thursday here at You Are Dumb Dot Net, so remember to print out this column and rub it all over your skin. The tingling sensation means it's working, unless the tingling sensation is limited to your extremities, in which case you've been drinking too much Four Loko. If it's limited to that one left arm, then something else completely unrelated is going on.

Anyway, today we're going to be talking in general about the big topic du jour, airline security in the post-9/11 era. Which right off the bat is really awesome, because the 9/11 era is now old enough to be in third grade, learning important lessons about how you're not supposed to let strangers touch you in your special place. And letting strangers touch you in your special place is now America's security protocol.

American society at this point is basically a supersaturated solution of vague unease. Nobody's particularly happy about the way things are right now. A lot of things suck, and Apple can only have so many news conferences each year to make us feel better about the future. I mean, the last one was about the fucking Beatles. Come on. My point is, like any supersaturated solution, a slight disturbance can cause that vague unease to rapidly crystallize. Elect a black man President, BOOM, Tea Party.

We're starting to see the same thing happen with airport security. The vague disturbance is the "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested" guy, who took issue with TSA's invasive security measures - first the Nude Ray, then the Package Check. He taped the whole thing, put it on the Internet, and now the unease is starting to crystallize into a backlash against ridiculous security.

And it is ridiculous. Since the beginning, one of the common themes here at YAD is that our society is way too risk-averse, and are willing to accept insanely drastic measures in the impossible quest to achieve Nothing Bad Ever Happening Ever status. So after that guy set his dick on fire trying to blow up a plane, we had to ask ourselves "why wasn't he stopped before he got on the plane", then spend millions of dollars trying to keep other passengers from lighting their dicks on fire.

I'm hoping that they've finally miscalculated, but if they have, it's actually really sad. Because we, as a nation, won't have come to the logical conclusion that terrorism is so rare, and so rarely successful, that the massive, futile efforts at preventing it are a waste of time and money. No, what's happened instead is that the TSA accidentally stumbled across a hang-up even bigger than our hang-up about an infinitesimal chance at being blowed up real good - the fear that someone might see us naked.

The TSA stepped into a minefield of Victorian ancestral memory, fundamentalist morality, a half-finished "Sexual Revolution", body image issues, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. A land where a gunshot wound to the head is seen as less harmful to children than pubes. A country where people are more free to exercise their kinks and fetishes than any time before, but where gay people can't serve in the military. And in this environment, the government unveils machines that take nude pictures of you through your clothes, and if you don't like that, a low-wage drone in a uniform will gently and impersonally cup your scrotum to make sure neither of your balls are made of C-4.

This is going to be fascinating to watch unfold, even though the most likely outcome is that, after decades of increasing acceptance of rampant authoritarian over-reach, this latest authoritarian under-reach will be accepted after some grumbling and a collective "but what am I gonna do about it" shrug. But the crystals are still forming, there's some cultural momentum building, and if the civil liberties types can briefly stand to have common cause with the "penises are the devil's horns" crowd, we might actually end up doing the right thing. For the wrong reasons, of course, but baby steps, America. Baby steps.