The Spectacle Blog

On TSA: Liberty-Loving Cons vs. Authority-Loving Cons

By on 11.30.10 | 7:15AM

The controversy surrounding the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its use of porno scanners, pat-downs and feel-ups has split the conservative movement into two camps. It's the authority-loving cons versus the liberty-loving cons.

I'm firmly in the latter camp, along with Mark Hyman, George Will, Charles Murray, and most grassroots conservative bloggers. And we've welcomed into our ranks recently, The American Spectator's esteemed editor-in-chief, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.

This is not surprising, of course. Mr. Tyrrell, after all, is a practicably-minded conservative, not a rigid and inflexible left-wing ideologue.

And so, when he is presented with the facts about the TSA -- which are that it is utterly useless and ineffective at finding and stopping terrorists -- he does what any reasonable and sober-minded person must do: He admits that we must disband the TSA and start over.

We must develop a screening system that actually works and is effective -- and which inconveniences the terrorists rather than the patriotic flying public.

Mr. Tyrrell also is a devotee of liberty who cherishes human freedom and human creativity. Thus he realizes that the porno scanners, the pat-downs, and the feel-ups are an affront to human decency and to human liberty. And so, like most liberty-loving cons he recoils at these sickening acts and demands that we do better.

Unfortunately, not all conservatives agree. Indeed, there are a group of conservatives for whom their blind faith in authority outweighs their love of liberty. I call these conservatives the "authority-loving cons."

Authority-loving cons see the TSA as they want it to be; liberty-loving cons see the TSA as it really is. Authority-loving cons include Max Boot, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Linda Chavez, Marc Thiessen, and Danielle Pletka -- all of whom have argued for the TSA because…

Well, the TSA promises to keep us safe! And what TSA bureaucrats are doing can only help to keep the terrorists at bay! The porno scanners, the pat-downs and the feel-ups all give us "another line of defense," says Boot.

Liberty-loving cons who complain about the TSA are a bunch of whiners. They need to just suck it up, say authority-loving cons. They need to realize, as does Boot, that "body scanners and pat-downs are…part of the price of safety in this age of Islamist terrorism."

All of which begs the fundamental questions: Do these so-called security measure actually work? Do they keep us safe? Have they stopped and detected terrorists? Is there a better way?

The answer to these questions are all very clear: No, no, no and yes, respectively. Yet, authority-loving cons persist in their willful self-delusion. "This is about keeping us safer," insists Pletka. "And if it deters the next attack, I am for it."

There they go again! Assuming that which is demonstrably false.

Ronald Reagan once said that facts are stubborn things. But not, apparently, to authority-loving cons. For them, dreams -- pipe dreams -- are stubborn things. They are things (or ideas) that will never die. The TSA, though, needs to die; and Congress needs to start over.

The Reason Foundation's Robert Poole has proposed a better way: Employ a risk-based screening system that "focus[es] TSA resources on the travelers who should receive the most scrutiny." And newsflash for the TSA bureaucrats: 80-year-old grandmothers from Cedar Rapids, Iowa aren't worth your time and attention; 25-year-old Muslim students from Somalia are.

America can and must do better -- and so, too, should authority-loving cons.

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