A Response to Josh Marshall

… who wrote on Wednesday that the new body-scanning security machines that will show an outline of your body to security officers aren’t really that big a deal:

… what is pretty clear to me is the disconnect on the question that I see in the public debate.

We’re willing to ethnically profile, do all sorts extra-judicial surveillance, maintain massive databases of hundreds of thousands of people who have some vague relationship to extremism, torture captives, condemn people to hours unable to go the bathroom on planes, even launch various foreign military adventures, but when it comes to submitting to a quick scan that might show a vague outline of boobs or penises (almost certainly no more than is exposed in most bathing suits), that’s a bridge too far.

Something about that doesn’t compute to me. And what I like about this is that there’s no clear partisan division on this one. Everyone seems to agree. It just tells me that at some level we’re not really serious about this.

For the record, I’ve been against the body-scanners since there was first some discussion of them a few years ago; since then, I’ve sided with the ACLU in considering them to be inappropriately invasive. Marshall plays down the problematic side of the scanners by saying that they expose “almost certainly no more than is exposed in most bathing suits,” but seems not to consider the fact that some of us are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of wearing a bathing suit at the beach/pool in the first place, much less out of context at the airport. If I have a knee-jerk gut-twisting nausea-of-terror-inducing reaction at the idea of a stranger being able to see the outline of my breasts, I can’t imagine how, say, a Muslim woman, or a transgender person (to pick two demographics whom I figure have a stake in this) might feel.

Oh, and I’ve also been against ethnic profiling, extra-judicial surveillance, torture, illegal wars, etc. ever since I can remember, and I was 11 years old when 9/11 happened. Mr. Marshall, some of us are consistent, and some of us are still raising an eyebrow at the notion that showing a TSA agent the outlines of our naked bodies is really a necessary step in aviation security. If we can object to ethnic profiling, extra-judicial surveillance, torture, illegal wars, etc., surely it’s not too much to think that some of us might be taking body-scanning machines seriously, too?

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