The Anti-TSA Backlash: It Ain’t Just a Right-Wing Thing

Well, it seems Homeland Security and the TSA are classifying the anti-TSA backlash as a “domestic extremist” movement. A DHS memo from Janet Napolitano referred to the individuals who tried to “interfere with” the new airport security regime by objecting to it or opting out, along with public commentators and organized movements which encouraged such behavior, as “domestic extremists.” She called on the government to investigate individuals and movements associated with the anti-TSA backlash.

And now MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is dismissing the anti-TSA movement as a bunch of right-wingers. Monday night (Nov. 22) Matthews did a segment on the new back-scatter body scan machines. One of the guests, Ginger McCall of the Open Government Project and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, cited evidence that the machines are ineffective at detecting low-density materials like the powdered explosive carried by the Underwear Bomber, and simply create an “illusion of security.”

Matthews, outraged, demanded her explanation as to why the government would deliberately do something that didn’t work. McCall responded that it might have something to do with the fact that a lot of money was changing hands. When challenged further by the aghast Matthews, she elaborated that former DHS Secretary Chertoff had ties to the companies that manufacture the scanner.

This sent Matthews on a rampage for the rest of the segment, sputtering demands for names and documentation as McCall, attempting to talk in the face of his machine-gun interruption, tried to explain the concept of a revolving door between government agencies and private industry.

It’s pretty obvious, despite Newt Gingrich’s hysterics about Matthews as some sort of ultra-leftist, that the latter is really just a managerial centrist. The quickest way to provoke Matthews’ ire is to suggest that privileged interests have some sort of structural influence over the political system, or that there might be some sort of permanent, institutionalized relationship between big business and big government.

The kind of “dirty business” that he found so offensive in regard to DHS is standard practice among “defense” contractors: the manufacturers of weapons systems colluding with the uniformed services to rig tests and ensure the large-scale purchase of the systems. Apparently Matthews has never heard of the Military-Industrial Complex — either that, or he regards Eisenhower as a “conspiracy theorist” in the same category as David Ickes or Lyndon LaRouche.

Tonight (Wednesday) he continued with a segment on the backlash against the new TSA procedures — the body scans and “enhanced pat downs” — and rather disingenuously suggested it was just an orchestrated movement by Republicans pandering to the paranoid Right. The Republicans, he said, were becoming “soft on defense” and “soft on terror.”

Odd, that’s the first I ever heard that Glen Greenwald was a Republican — or that all those folks at Alternet are right-wingers.  Jeez, you think the ACLU’s getting money from the Koch brothers?

The same line is being promoted at The Nation (“TSAstroturf,” Nov. 23):  the whole anti-TSA thing is just a bunch of angry white males with paranoid anti-government views.  For every Republican who cares about civil liberties only when there’s a Democrat in the White House, it seems, there’s a liberal who only objects to police statism when it’s done by Republicans.  Of course this is the same The Nation which argued in the ’90s that imperialism wasn’t so bad when it was being done for liberal ends in the Balkans, and whose editor (Katrina van den Heuvel) celebrated the resurgence of faith in government after 9-11.  (Odd, by the way, that someone who equates fear of government to being right-wing should have such a convergence of views with Samuel Huntington, who lamented the increased difficulty corporate elites had in governing the country because of the post-Vietnam/Watergate loss of trust in government.)

These people are being disingenuous in implying that the only political alternatives are plain, vanilla-flavored managerialist liberalism and the Right, and that anyone who isn’t one must be the other.  As far as I’m concerned, this issue is the dividing line between the genuine Left and liberal goo-goos.

The opposition to the post-9//11 national security state is not a right-wing movement. It unites civil libertarians of left and right. The anti-TSA backlash isn’t about right versus left. It’s about liberty versus tyranny.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory