Steyn’s inadequate take on the Transportation Safety Administration; and, is the universal frisk regime merely an extreme application of neoconservative principles?

(Note: in my reply to Daniel S., I make what seems like a way-out argument: that the insane universal frisk policy in airports is merely a logical and consistent application of non-discriminatory principles to which mainstream conservatives are themselves devoted. Then I defend and explain the argument.)

Daniel S. writes:

In his latest Corner entry about a TSA outrage, Mark Steyn refers to an earlier entry of his about the 85 year old, wheel-chair bound woman who was mistreated by the TSA:

American air transportation is doing a grand job of accustoming freeborn peoples to behaving like a bovine compliant herd. So no one speaks out, stands up, or exercises simple human judgment and the dying kid gets treated like garbage. But at least everyone complied with the Bureau of Compliance federal regulations, and that’s what matters, right?

What Steyn fails to address is why this is so. Why do Americans, those who supposedly reside in the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” so timidly and passively embrace such humiliation and violations of human dignity from the state? How did the tenets of liberalism and its doctrine of non-discrimination lead to the creation of the TSA regime in the first place? Mark Steyn and his associates at National Review seem unable or unwilling to engage such a line of questioning.

LA replies:

For decades neocons and mainstream conservatives have told us that America consists of nothing—nothing—but abstract universal principles, chiefly the principle of equal freedom (a.k.a. “equal rights”) for all human beings, with its corollary of non-discrimination toward all human beings. Then the conservatives turn around and complain about a government agency which came into existence to enforce non-discrimination in a more thorough and invasive way than ever before, treating all Americans as though they were equally likely to be terrorists, because the alternative would be discriminatory. Never once have these conservatives criticized or even identified the principle of non-discrimination on which TSA outrages are founded. Instead, they have only complained about the risible or horrible excesses of the non-discriminatory regime: “They’re patting down little old ladies in tennis shoes!” Or else they have complained about the absence of unprincipled exceptions to the non-discriminatory regime: “The TSA should focus on young Muslim men!” Well, yes, the TSA should focus on young Muslim men. But the conservatives have never admitted that the TSA, by declining to focus on young Muslim men, was consistently executing the conservatives’ own philosophy.

LA continues (9:00 p.m.):

What I said above may sound off-base: can the insane searching of everyone in airports really just be a consistent and extreme application of neoconservative universalism and the resulting anti-discrimination policy? Here’s a reason for believing that it is. With one or two exceptions, I have never seen a mainstream conservative criticize the universal frisk and scan & grope policy as an instance of a good thing, non-discrimination, carried to a bad extreme. No. They always complain in terms of non-conceptual arguments such as the ones I mentioned above, “Why are we searching little old ladies from New Hampshire in tennis shoes? Why are we searching little babies, and sick people?” They do not mention the obvious point that the universal scan and grope policy is merely non-discrimination carried to an extreme, because that would highlight the fact that the policy is, indeed, about non-discrimination. And once non-discrimination is made the topic, people might also start thinking about how non-discrimination is the reason we are allowing Muslims into this country at all. And then the non-discrimination principle itself would start to be questioned and challenged.

For example, if our airport screening policy is a logical application of the principle that we must not discriminate against anyone, especially against Muslims, and if that policy is wrong and insane, perhaps the fact that we are letting Muslims mass-immigrate into this country is also an application of the principle that we must not discriminate against anyone, especially against Muslims, and our immigration policy is also wrong and insane. Neocons and mainstream conservatives instinctively know that nothing even remotely touching on such questions can be allowed. So they rigorously avoid any rational discussion of the underlying principle of the universal frisk regime and instead talk about the outrage or absurdity of frisking little old ladies in tennis shoes.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

Tonight I took my mother to Dulles airport. She needs a wheelchair to get through the airport, and they took us through a line that specialized in old ladies in wheelchairs. The TSA cadre consisted of large black women who meticulously searched every single old lady. The TSA employees were quite polite, and appeared to take pride in their work. Nevertheless, I stood there and watched this preposterous farce and thought, what a waste of everyone’s time and money.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 28, 2011 04:37 PM | Send

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