Friday, November 19, 2010

One Man's Junk...

The controversy over the TSA's scan and grope procedures has lead to some interesting developments.

First, is the unlikely alliance in opposition to the TSA from groups usually on opposing sides of most issues. Consider this e-mail that I received today:

First it was taking off our shoes. Then it was no liquids. Now, the TSA has instituted airport security procedures that completely cross the line.

New body scanners that amount to an electronic strip search. Extensive pat-downs of passengers' genitals and breasts. A search one mother described as a "sexual assault."

We need to make it clear to the TSA that security can't be used as an excuse to violate Americans' privacy, especially when it's clear that a determined terrorist could get around the existing procedures--and less invasive security alternatives exist.

Sounds like something a Ron Paul supporting libertarian group might send out, right? Try President Obama's 2008 campaign promise is being fulfilled: he is uniting the country after all.

The other development of note is the now widespread use of the word "junk" to refer to male genitalia. In the past, use of the term in that manner was rarely heard as part of the public discourse. Now, it's everywhere. Today on Twitter, I noticed that such diverse sources as Mike Nelson and Craig Westover both employed it. If only Learned Foot was still blogging...

It's in the mainstream media as well. The title of Charles Krauthammer's Washington Post column is Don't touch my junk. Count the references in this Eric Felten column in today's Wall Street Journal:

He was talking about John Tyner, the young man from Oceanside, Calif., who surreptitiously recorded his run-in with the TSA and posted it online. Mr. Tyner chose not to subject himself to radiation from the X-ray machine and was taken aside for a "standard pat-down." The TSA agent explained to him how the "groin check" part of the pat-down would be executed. It was then that Mr. Tyner "accosted" the poor TSA agent by saying the immortal words, "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested." For shame, all of you who cheered. For shame.

Shame on those of you who have bought the "Don't Touch My Junk" T-shirts that entrepreneurs made available this week. Shame too on the Tea Party types who mocked the inviolable authority of the TSA by replacing the Gadsden Flag's "Don't Tread On Me" with Mr. Tyner's impertinent slogan. And treble shame on the blogger Iowahawk who demeaned not only the TSA but Frank Sinatra by recasting "Come Fly With Me" as "Comply With Me." (The lyric "Once I get you up there" became "Once I get all up there.") You should all be aware that the TSA is not amused.

"If you touch my junk..." may have garnered all the attention, but it is not the most important thing on Mr. Tyner's recording. A TSA supervisor told him that if he was uncomfortable, he could be escorted out "and you don't have to fly today." Mr. Tyner asked how "sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying." After a bit of back and forth, the TSA supervisor played the trump card: "By buying your ticket you gave up a lot of rights."

Public discussion of junk touching has reached new heights.

One of our readers--Bob from Inver Grove Heights--has even worked it into song:

Hello, Chad. I guess I’m not yet quite as resigned to the latest airport “security” tomfoolery as you are. Before I submit like a sheep, I made up this little cri de coeur on my way to work this morning (to be sung to the tune of “Don’t Fence Me In”):

I’ll put my change in the pan, take your wand and do a scan,

But don’t touch my junk.

I’ll leave my liquids behind, stand forever in your line,

But don’t touch my junk.

Take my shoes, take my belt, take my watch and keys,

Hassle me about my metal hips and knees,

Be a bureaucratic jerk, but I ask you please,

Don’t touch my junk.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we wish safe travels to everyone flying the increasingly surly skies. May you arrive at your destination safely and may your junk not be touched.