A new protest event is planned to fight the TSA’s use of whole body imagers and enhanced pat downs, however, this protest could be undermined by the privilege and access required to get into airports themselves.
Anti-TSA activist Ashley Jessica has teamed teamed up with infowars.com to plan a massive anti-TSA protest this November. The aptly titled Opt Out and Film protest is aimed at getting people en-mass to refuse the use of the TSA’s Advanced Imaging Technology (including backscatter technology which some critics claim exposes passengers to harmful radiation and millimeter wave technology which Jessica claims damages passengers’ DNA). The goal of Opt Out and film day is to:
OPT OUT and FILM Week takes place November 19, 2012- November 26, 2012
THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO PEACEFULLY RESIST OPPRESSION AND SEND A MESSAGE TO THE TSA LOUD AND CLEAR
They will no longer use the threat of molestation to intimidate us into going through health damaging body scanners!
We will no longer tolerate them violating our civil liberties and human rights!We will no longer allow the TSA to stick their hands down our pants and touch our private parts!Any TSA agent who chooses to violate our rights and freedoms will be put on display for the world to see!
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
The protest capitalizes on two tactics that have been most successful in generating popular support for those who resist the TSA. First, in general, people who opt out whole body imagers are treated with admiration by many who oppose the TSA. Moreover, the protest aims to create more people opting out than a checkpoint can handle. Second, online videos of the TSA failing to follow protocol often sparks outrage among the TSA’s critics and even among those who often ignore the administration. Thus, a comprehensive strategy to force the agency to deal with more bodies than usual and to film those encounters will likely lead to increased tempers and mistakes. All of this suggests the potential for plenty of film to capture the kind of footage that creates the anti-TSA narratives critics prefer.
This latest resistance effort got a boost when consumer advocate Christopher Elliot
threw his support behind the protest, proclaiming the opt out week as a means to “kill” the TSA’s full body scanners. In a tweet Elliot even declared that 78% of travelers would participate in such a protest.
Of course Elliot fails to mention in his post that his 78% number comes from voluntary respondents to a poll on his website and on an article hosted by Huffington Post travel. Obviously 78% of travelers would not participate in “opt-out” week and to claim so is wildly misleading.
This underscores one of the major weaknesses with opt-out type protests: mobilization. In my own research I have found that large segments of anti-TSA critics, unlike Elliot or Jessica, either do not fly or overstate their actual opposition to the TSA. Evidence of this comes from their ignorance of TSA procedures or statements proclaiming that if the TSA were to touch them they would assault the TSA (instances of assault on TSA employees are rare). Meaning, that even if they do fly they do not adhere to their values of resistance in actual airport spaces.
Moreover, Ashley Jessica and infowar’s opt out and film week, which takes place between November 19, 2012 at 6am and November 26, 2012 at 11pm, smacks of almost unbearable privilege. The protest asks passengers to:
Fly within the United States, OPT OUT of the body scanner and have someone FILM your pat-down;
You can also opt-out of other unreasonable TSA security procedures (i.e. eye scan, drink testing inside the terminal etc.) and film what happens.
There is a clear element of class here that comes with the ability to select to fly during one of the busiest and most expensive travel times during the year, preferably not alone, to have the ability & technology to film your pat down, and to have the leisure time to risk delays as a result of one’s protest. Because airport spaces require capital as a precursor to access, protesting them is a unique activity. Thus, Jessica, Elliot, and Infowars are taking an activity of privilege and protesting it. I want to underscore that I am not suggesting that actions by the TSA do not warrant resistance because of inherent privilege in air travel. However, given that many anti-TSA advocates dismiss those who support or refuse to oppose the agency (calling them plants or slaves online) or overstate the volume of those who resist the TSA; opt out and film week is particularly susceptible to its own unbearable privilege. I am not isolated from such privilege, after all my own research on airport spaces and resistance to the TSA is absolutely open to such critiques.
Will opt out and film be successful? I don’t know. I am sure that if it occurs the TSA will dismiss it as a minor inconvenience and its supporters will triumph it as a grand success. Both citing little evidence. However, unless it becomes a grand act of resistance it will fade quickly. Any history of resistance is also a history of persistence. Airport security, like airports themselves are about the persistence of capital- to flow in a globalized world-without the commitment to opt out beyond one week what incentive will the TSA have to make any change?
For all the complaints about abuses by the TSA, why do they deserve more attention now than the decades of complaints of abuse by State actors against the poor who rarely have consumer advocates or access to privileged activities like flying that are supposed to be free of the indignities of State violence?