Among the things that make rights — in particular, that basket of rights commonly referred to as “civil liberties” — actual rights as opposed to privileges, is that they are inviolable and universal. That is, even people you don’t like enjoy these rights, and are entitled to the protection of the same. And even people you do like have to respect these rights, or suffer the consequences for violating them.
Which brings us to the media reaction to the hassle Sen. Rand Paul went through with the TSA goons at the Nashville, Tennessee, airport. From an OpEd Paul wrote about the incident for the Washington Times:
Today, while en route to Washington to speak to hundreds of thousands of people at the March for Life, I was detained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for not agreeing to a patdown after an irregularity was found in my full body scan. Despite removing my belt, glasses, wallet and shoes, the scanner and TSA also wanted my dignity. I refused.
I showed them the potentially offending part of my body, my leg. They were not interested. They wanted to touch me and to pat me down. I requested to be rescanned. They refused and detained me in a 10-foot-by-10-foot area reserved for potential terrorists.
The OpEd goes on to describe the TSA and its procedures as a “blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment,” though it ends on a weak — even impotent — note calling for nothing more than “legislation that will allow for adults to be rescreened if they so choose” so they don’t have to submit to pat-downs.
Anger at the TSA is nothing new, and it’s hardly partisan. People screamed about TSA intrusions under Bush, and they scream about them under Obama. Oddly, at least so far as bureaucrats are concerned, many people seem to object to being groped, electronically stripped, herded, told to shut up and otherwise abused just so they can make an early-morning business meeting or drag the kiddies through the purgatory that is a Disney theme park.
But the Paul incident raises problems for some pundits — specifically, because the victim was a (presumptively evil) libertarian-ish conservative Republican, and the perpetrators were (presumptively angelic) unionized government workers. The result, at least at Gawker, was an odd rant about white, educated libertarians (author Max Read doesn’t seem too well-endowed with melanin himself, though I know nothing of his educational bona fides), followed by a bizarre tantrum about the supposed low stakes and “inconsequential” violations inherent in TSA procedures, so that libertarians should just shut up already about travel restrictions and pay more attention to the war on drugs.
Read then concludes by taking a labor-meathead route to a neo-conservative, law-and-order conclusion:
[T]he act of refusing a pat down, and calling it a “detention,” comes across as an unbelievably petty dramatic fit instead of the imagined noble stand against an oppressive government. Couple that with the fact that TSA agents are union workers, often minorities, just trying to do their jobs, and it’s really difficult to feel like this is a “stand” worth taking at all. Just let them pat you down, guy. Stop holding up the line.
Wow, Max. It must be embarrassing to be you. But it’s worse for your mom, I’ll bet.
Esquire‘s Charles P. Pierce didn’t even try for coherent, simply smirking about the incident and speculating that Rand Paul would have had no objections to a grope conducted by Tennessee authorities because — ha! ha! — ummm …
I guess because Paul necessarily supports civil liberties protections only against federal authorities? Pierce really needs to add a footnote there. Just to clarify.
Jessica Pieklo of Care2 suggests that the universe has a sense of humor, because Rand Paul was on his way to an anti-abortion rally when he was detained, and only people who share her overall views are entitled to have any of their rights protected.
That’s also Steve Benen’s position, at the Washington Monthly.
And Library Grape reads from the same script.
Oh, c’mon. I’m pro-choice, too, but do we really want to go to the position of “if you don’t agree with me, then this is just an exercise in irony and you get what you deserve”? That path seems a little … messy. I guarantee you that few, if any of these bloggers will satisfy even each others’ civil liberties purity tests (and certainly not mine), which is likely to leave us all grabbing our ankles, unprotected because of our ideological imperfections.
Which, I guess, is OK, so long as the violators are good, unionized, blue-collar types. Right?