Knowing All About The Buzz – UPDATED

Just too funny… actually, too insufferably rude… to pass up:

Earlier this week, a female traveler found a TSA “notice of inspection” in her luggage reading “get your freak on girl.” The note was in response to a vibrator discovered in Jill Filipovic’s suitcase. Well, the agent who scrawled the note has been identified and removed from screening, the TSA announced on Wednesday.

At least the note didn’t contain a phone number. Or if it did, the article didn’t mention it…

UPDATE: yes, the traveler is in fact the blogger at Feministe. I’d say that TSA agent really picked the wrong person to harass!

AFTERTHOUGHT: the longer I think about this, the angrier it makes me. TSA puts everyone at a disadvantage just by the nature of its activity… I’d say a warrantless search would put anyone at a disadvantage, wouldn’t you? … and inserting a quasi-official note about the presence of a personal but in no way illegal item is just outside the pale. This is the kind of BS that makes me unwilling to fly any more. Can you imagine what it would be like when TSA had to deal with my boot?

  • “Take it off.”
  • “Sorry, I can’t walk at all if I take it off.”
  • “Take it off or you don’t fly.”
  • (Steve takes the boot off, and scoots on his butt to a point at which he is allowed to put it back on.)

No, I don’t think so. Better that I simply don’t fly.

UPDATE: no one could say it better than Jill at Feministe herself:

It’s easy to scape-goat one individual here, but the problem with the note is that it’s representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the U.S. government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day. The invasion is inherent to the TSA’s mission, regardless of whether a funny note is left behind — the note only serves to highlight the absurdity of all this security theater. As much as this is a funny and titillating story, when I put the note on Twitter for what I thought was a relatively limited audience I was hoping it would open up a bigger conversation about privacy rights (or lack thereof) in post-9/11 America. It unfortunately hasn’t done that, and instead has turned into a media circus. I would imagine that the TSA agent in question feels the same way I do at this point: I just want this story to go away. The note was inappropriate, the agent in question acted unprofessionally when s/he put in in my bag, there should be consequences and I’m glad the TSA takes these things seriously. But I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why ‘security’ has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake.

Exactly so. This is a civil liberties issue, specifically, a privacy issue.

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  • MandT  On Wednesday October 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I’m vibrating with laughter!

    • Steve  On Wednesday October 26, 2011 at 10:55 pm

      MandT, I admit the whole thing makes me laugh, but Jill has it right: it is, at ground, a civil liberties issue, a privacy issue. One incident is funny; a nationwide policy is offensive.

  • NTodd Pritsky  On Wednesday October 26, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    I love Jill. I hope she gets an endorsement deal out of this…

    • Steve  On Thursday October 27, 2011 at 12:13 am

      NTodd, I know I’m being cranky, but ever since I was forced into this gigantic boot if I want to take even one step (with the boot alone, I can take 5 to 10 steps; with the boot and a cane, I can cross a street), I have become loudly intolerant of needless harassment of cripples. Jill isn’t as such a cripple, but the harassment is of much the same nature: using a position of privilege or power to invade someone’s space. It’s like a healthy person making a mad dash to get into the grocery checkout line before a cripple does (and you’re damned right I’ve had that happen, typically a couple of times a month).

      Endorsement? I hope she gets a sum from suing the agent!

  • NTodd Pritsky  On Thursday October 27, 2011 at 8:48 am

    We sure enjoyed being the focus of 7 TSA agents–the entire Burlington staff, it appeared–at 5am as we were headed to the Left Coast with our first (and thus far, only) air travel with Sam. He was 3 mos and we brought some individual serving bottles of formula to augment breast feeding (impractical to carry pumped milk, unclear how easy it would be to nurse). I had the formula in my carryon, which is totally legal but I forgot to notify security, so when they found contraband liquid, it necessitated ripping all my stuff apart, multiple scans, much swabbing for explosives.

    We shan’t be flying ever again unless it’s to escape back to Ukraine from whence my family fled tsarist pogroms. We prefer Amtrak.

    • Steve  On Thursday October 27, 2011 at 8:58 am

      NTodd, if Chuck Schumer gets his way, TSA will search trains as well. Besides, Amtrak travel is soooo expensive and soooo sloooow… and there are a lot of large cities to which it doesn’t go at all.

      TSA is presumably a permanent feature of airline travel. I can’t imagine, from a political standpoint, how it could ever be stopped.

      And the TSA will be, as we used to say back in my college days about whoever we didn’t like at the time, the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

      • NTodd Pritsky  On Thursday October 27, 2011 at 9:03 am

        I know, Chuck’s a fucktard. We’ll enjoy the freedom while we can.

        Amtrak is certainly slow, but much cheaper than air. Even taking the long route to DC, for example, which is 13 hours (we can skip across the lake to get a 5 hr trip, but it’s a little more hassle), is generally about 1/3 the cost of flying even Low Rent Air. And much more pleasant, while taking you right into Union Station.

        Eastern seaboard appears to have more service and stops, so it’s a great alternative for us. If only we, you know, had invested in rail–high speed or otherwise–instead of cutting taxes for the rich and setting trillions of dollars on fire in the Middle East, eh?

        • Steve  On Thursday October 27, 2011 at 9:56 am

          NTodd, if you think Amtrak is cheap, you obviously live in a small state in a region of small states. I do not know the politics of the matter, but Texas is deplorably ill-served by Amtrak by comparison to any place in the Northeast.

          Sometimes I literally cry when I think of how America has spent its resources over the past 30 years. You know all those dystopian futures you find in s/f novels? I won’t live to see the one the US ultimately sees realized, but I’m increasingly certain that it will happen. And it will happen because from the Greatest Generation forward, we have seen the growth of the Greediest Generation.

          Meanwhile, I’d be grateful if I could catch a train in Houston that went anywhere I actually want or need to go for a fare I can actually afford. Hey, it happened the summer I taught in Austria (1978), and I was already too old to qualify for student fares. There is nothing impossible about what I ask; it’s just that in America, TPTB aren’t interested in seeing their monopolies face competition from newer and more sustainable technologies.

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