Since the Republicans — with the help of those Revolutionary-War reenactors in the Tea Party — scored big in the 2010 elections, they’ve been bringing up the U.S. Constitution a lot. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner pushes the GOP “Pledge to America” promise “to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored…” Congresswoman Michele Bachmann wants a “Constitutional Conservative Caucus” and classes on the Constitution for Congressional freshmen. When they talk about Obamacare, they increasingly argue that it has to be repealed because it’s unconstitutional. Etc.
You can get some sense of conservative seriousness about the Constitution from the first big civil liberties issue since the election to inflame rightbloggers: the newly enhanced security screenings at airports, which sometimes involves the touching of junk.
The new procedures — which involve full-body scanners that show travelers’ parts in disturbing detail and, when a flyer opts not to be thus scanned, invasive pat-downs — were inspired in part by the underpants bomber apprehended in-flight last December. You may recall rightbloggers were then outraged at the incompetence of the Obama Administration in not catching the guy before he boarded.
(When President Obama pointed this out — and also said that he’d instructed the TSA, “You have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety, and you also have to think through, are there ways of doing it that are less intrusive?” — the video of his statement was circulated under headings like “Obama Tells Americans: Stop Complaining About The TSA, Get in Line and Get Molested Like Everyone Else.”)
There had been complaints about the system before the recent incidents. The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the ACLU, among others, have been on the TSA’s case about invasive searches for years, and were early critics of the new system.
But the firestorm was really set when traveller John Tyner threatened a TSA screener with arrest if he managed to “touch his junk” during a pat-down, and recorded the incident with his phone. The TSA (which seems to have become very pro-active about defending itself in such cases) made things worse by announcing an investigation of Tyner.
As you might expect, a lot of liberals don’t approve of this stuff either. Prominent leftblogger Jane Hamsher said “it’s the TSA that should be investigated, not Tyner.” Jen Phillips of Mother Jones approved of “public backlash to the ‘submit or we’ll grope you’ policy,” while pointing out that “for years, women have complained about agents copping a feel.” And members of the New York City Council, not the most conservative deliberative body in existence, are trying to ban the scanners in their jurisdiction.
But the rightbloggers have been particularly vociferous, not to mention focused on the money shot:
“DON’T TOUCH ME THERE, YOU FREAK!” “Keep your filthy mitts off of me.” “… your wife, teenage daughter and elderly mother are having their breasts and genitals groped…” “OMG… TSA Forces Woman to Cut Off Her Nipple Rings With Pliers (Video)” (Further down: “This happened before the new TSA groping procedures.”) “TSA=Total Sexual Assault.” And, our favorite: “TSA Sexual Assault Leaves Cancer Survivor Covered In Urine.”
It’s as if they’d been saving up all their civil-liberties outrage for years, until the junk-touching government agents unleashed it.
That isn’t exactly true, of course. Rightbloggers have complained about breaches of civil rights at the airport before. For example, at RedState (which has been all over the enhanced TSA security case), author Nikitas3 complained in May that “Whites are Profiled at Airports.”
That is, “airport screeners do not want to be seen as profiling Muslims,” said Nikitas3, and thus were “focusing equally on the huge law-abiding majority — like white people, including businessmen, college girls or caucasian grandmothers in wheelchairs — as it does on the tiny minority of dark-skinned, Middle Eastern males speaking in Arabic accents in their 20s and 30s… Americans now are being told that full-body scanners are the only way to keep air travel safe, when in fact racial profiling is a vastly more effective way.”
This has become a popular rightblogger (and right-wing in general) alternative to enhanced screenings.
“Screw it, profile,” said The Angry White Guy, “it works for El Al in Israel and they don’t have to cop a feel or see you naked.” “I have never had an issue with racial profiling,” said Stand Up for America, believably. “Perhaps if people of arab descent were profiled as they should be at this point, those who are not a threat to us would stop being so tolerant of those who are.”
“So why don’t we have profiling to check for terrorists?” asked Conscience of a Conservative. “They do it in Israel and with great success. Here is a video of Ann Coulter discussing her point with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News.” “Mohamedanism and the Left once again converge in this perfect storm of political correctness,” said Counterculture Con HQ, “where EVERYBODY is frisked, patted, probed and scanned so that those most likely to bomb a plane (guess who) not be profiled.”
A more scholarly approach was taken by Selwyn Duke at The American Thinker. “The profile here is very specific, as it’s a rare person who will sacrifice his life to destroy an airplane,” he said. “Protestants aren’t doing that. Catholics aren’t doing it. Nor are Buddhists, Taoists, Zoroastrians or Hare Krishna. In our age, this is a method of people who 100 percent of the time are Muslim jihadists and 99 percent of the time are non-white.” Also, “Cervical cancer rates are five times higher among Vietnamese women in the U.S. than among white women… Now, should doctors be prosecuted for taking these statistics into consideration when delivering medical care?”
“It seems the government considers it okay to subject passengers to all sorts of inconveniences and even invade their body privacy,” said neo-neocon, “as long as the offenses are borne by everyone equally and no demographic is singled out, even if it would be reasonable to do so.”
We wonder why those soldiers detained white jihadist John Walker Lindh in Afghanistan back in 2001. Obviously he was just a bystander.
Many of pro-profilers mention Israel, which makes us wonder if they’ve seen conservative Michael J. Totten‘s description of that system: “And Israeli officials profile. They don’t profile racially, but they profile. Israeli Arabs breeze through rather quickly, but thanks to the dozens of dubious-looking stamps in my passport — almost half are from Lebanon and Iraq — I get pulled off to the side for more questioning every time. And I’m a white, nominally Christian American.”
If this gets around, it may cool rightbloggers’ ardor for Israel-style security.
Meanwhile all sorts of civil rights abuses are going on outside the airports. Spend some time at libertarian Radley Balko’s excellent blog and, in and among the scanner stories, you can read stuff like this: “Officials in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania county take a couple’s children from them because the mother failed a drug test given shortly after she gave birth that was given without her consent. The reason she failed: She had eaten a poppy seed bagel.” Of course there’s plenty of other info out there about the pain and suffering caused by America’s war on drugs, which makes the TSA thing, awful as it is, look pretty weak.
But we wouldn’t suggest you feel optimistic that those Constitutionally suspect abuses will fuel a wave of rightblogger outrage as the TSA has. For one thing, it provides no excuse to call for profiling — as black citizens are in this regard pretty much profiled already. For another, the guys in the tricorners and knee-breeches aren’t likely to relate, just as they wouldn’t relate to indefinitely detained and tortured prisoners, or to Americans of a certain ancestry or appearance who would become marked men and women under their preferred security system. Because keen as they are on the Constitution, they think it only applies to themselves.