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Friday, November 26, 2010

National Opt-Out Day - Another Failed Boycott

I have written many times before about the risks of organizing a boycott, and I have detailed the many boycotts which have failed in the last two years.

The "National Opt-Out Day" protest, in which air travelers were to opt out of the full body scan in favor of the feel-up, feel-down, feel-all-around hand screening, was intended to tie up TSA lines at airports.

I never was in favor of such an organized disruption, although I agree that current TSA procedures seem mindless and the result of a bureaucratic unwillingness to single out people who may actually pose a threat.  Additionally, the TSA procedure seems futile because not all airports have the scanners, so someone who wants to do harm only need start the trip at a smaller airport with less stringent procedures.

The Boston Herald reports that the result of the failed Opt-Out boycott likely strengthened TSA, quoting one of the great intellects of our generation, someone with the sort of gravitas we normally only see in presidential candidates, whose opinions on a variety of subjects form the core of scientific consensus on all matters large and small:
National Opt-Out Day’s organizers are claiming success, but the apparent protest flop at airports across the country Wednesday — as masses of holiday travellers chose quick body scans over time-consuming pat-downs — handed the Transportation Security Administration a victory that may be hard for opponents of intrusive searches to overcome, observers said.

At OptOutDay.com yesterday, a statement said: “Despite claims to the contrary, National Opt-Out Day was a rousing success. The entire point of the campaign was to raise awareness of the issues of privacy and aviation safety at TSA checkpoints, with the ultimate goal of influencing policy — to ask the question, ‘Are we really doing this right?’ In that, the campaign was a success. It was always about getting attention to the issue.
But William Jacobson, a Cornell Law School professor who has blogged about the airport security debate at legalinsurrection.com, said, “I’m not sure the movement ever had momentum. I think it was somewhat self-defeating because the people participating in it were the ones most inconvenienced by it.”
Jacobson added, “Whenever you have a movement that fails, it actually empowers the entity you’re trying to boycott.”
Your thoughts?  (Remember, there is scientific consensus here.)

Update:  Forget science.  TSA has just made the mistake which could change everything, TSA Groin Searches Menstruating Woman.  Let me guess TSA's response.  "Intelligence information leads us to believe al-Qaeda intends on using menstrual pads to conceal explosives."

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  1. Bandwagons are better than boycotts.

    It's easy enough to be against an idea; much harder to come up with a forward momentum for some idea. When a good idea gains momentum, a la The Tea Party, the bandwagon only grows and grows thrust forward by the mass of positive energy.

    Sarah Palin seems to master each new attempt to tear her down, and does it with great aplomb and joy. I like the energy of that sort of bandwagon. The GOP attempt to boycott her will fare about as well to the proof of your point.

  2. TSA Avoids Opt-Outers by Turning Off Body Scan Machines

    by Stephan Tawney on November 25, 2010

    Tweet this!

    The lack of airport delays on Wednesday wasn’t due to a lack of protesters. Apparently TSA, in anticipation of media coverage of any delays caused by angry passengers, turned off many machines in order to defuse the protest. But the machines aren’t staying off for good; just yesterday.

    Anticipating a nationwide grassroots surge of protests against naked body scanners and aggressive pat-downs, the TSA simply turned off its naked body scanners on Wednesday and let air travelers walk right through security checkpoints without being X-rayed or molested.


  3. It made my stomach curl to hear John McLaughlin say at the peak of the financial crisis that freedom was over-rated. I was anxious to hear how he could justify making such a repugnant claim. He explained that what he meant was that people were willing to bail out failed firms rather than accept the inconvenient pain that would come from allowing mismanaged firms to fail. In other words, if we really valued freedom we would let them fail, accept the consequence, clense the system, and rebuild. But we, rather the Ruling Class, decided to sacrifice freedom rather than be inconvenienced and endure some short term pain.

    This failed Opt-Out boycott seems to be a similar case of people choosing convenience over principle. They are willing to sacrifice their indiviual liberties, and subject their sovereign body to gropings by state agents for a false sense of security, as long as they make their flight on time and aren't deprived of their bag of peanuts.

    It's a sad state. No wonder many of our adversaries think we're a bunch of soft creme puffs who only really care about American Idol and McNuggets. It reminds me of the Romans who a couple thousand years ago believed the way to ensure re-election to the senate was to make sure the peasants had "bread and circuses".

  4. How many people opted out by staying home, professor scientician?

  5. My favorite failed boycott ocurred last year, when the Left tried to punish Whole Foods for apostasy after its CEO spoke out against Obamacare.

    Tea partiers staged a buycott, some Conservatives went to Whole Foods for the first time, and Whole Foods' income went up.

  6. @C - That which cannot be measured does not exist, or something like that.

  7. It's going to get to the point where menstruating women can't fly.

    It was only a matter of time before TSA started wanting to eyeball menstrual pads. Next we'll be hearing about elderly adult-diaper wearers being humiliated.

    And when TSA gets around to taking the body cavity bomb risk seriously, women wearing tampons are in for an ordeal.

  8. Who flippin' cares? Must we tussle over deck chairs on the Titanic. Food shortages are coming....think whether we can fly for vacation travel is going to mean anything when your kids and grandkids can't get enough to eat? Same question goes to the oh so enlightened "food porn" crowd... are you flipping kidding me?

    The coming food shortages (and commodities as well) is REAL. The sea lanes will require 50,000 commercial sea captains to continue shipping at today's levels--- they are nowhere to be found. The truck lanes in the USA alone will require over 60,000 drivers---- who are nowhere to be found (it is a skilled profession contrary to the mythologies of elitists).

    The water cutoff to the Great Central Valley in California is entering its fourth year. 25 per cent plus of that production capacity is shut off. It is the fifth largest agricultural producing nation in the world on its own merits--- and the PelosiCrats have cutoff the water to save some kind of irrelevant fish (yes, i know we are all "connected" -insert sound of horse flatulence here-). This means food shortages.

    Barney Frank and Chris Dodd's inspired banking crisis means that basic everyday credit is being choked. The answer has been to print money and create a glut of near worthless cash. A Hollywood credit union has begged its clients to withdraw their cash because there is TOO MUCH on hand. But no meaningful lending or borrowing....so what that means kiddies, is that money for basic doing business to deliver foodstuffs and commodities to refiners (not just oil)is getting more and more tenuous. Things are going to grind to a halt....and food will halt first.

    So who flippin cares about Janet Incompetano and Eric Holder and Barry Oholio. They are setting us up for a major panic, to be blindsided, and ultimately railroaded into political bankruptcy because we are continuing to debate the trifling issues of pat downs and other distractions.

    I do not advocate here to put our heads in the sand. I do ask that perhaps we raise the trajectory of our thinking here: limit movement and then limit food. See what I mean? Connect the dots once and for all and begin fighting the local battle to prevent your next door neighbors from being transformed into the gravest of human enemies: a two legged searcher for food and toilet paper (not to mention, salt, coffee, and milk.)

    Sent with the best of intentions with a full belly the day after the best T-giving in family history.


  9. @WilliamJacobson Agreed. So it makes it a little tough to say for sure it was 'another failed boycott' no? Unless, I suppose, it is just the boycotting of the naked scanners being measured. In that case, fair enough. It would be interesting to compare passenger volume to previous years...not scientific because of a myriad of other factors, but interesting nonetheless.

    On another note, did you hear the latest claim that since the enhanced screening 52 terrorists decided not to attack via a US air terminal?

  10. Actually,

    You could say that the boycott was a success before it happened. TSA turned off the scanners.

    Mission accomplished....for one day.....

  11. I just *knew* that the other post couldn't possibly be your last on TSA, professor. I should have followed my instincts and bet you a pizza on that claim of 'no more TSA posts'. Grats on being cited again by Teh Globe.

  12. IMO, it makes no sense to risk a 11,000 fine, a lifetime of harassment on your future flights and probably IRS harassment too. We need to get this into Congress, it's completely obscene to have these assaults on decent people just because they bought an airline ticket. Every law enforcement person in America knows what the answer is to prevent this. Congress needs to put a stop to it and put the ones responsible in jail where they belong.

  13. It seems to me the Opt Out day wasn't so much a boycott as a planned act of civil disobedience. The real boycott is the one I'm personally engaging in: I'm not flying any more. I don't really care whether I'm scanned or groped in the theatrical fakery of the TSA as much as I oppose letting bureaucrats think they can dictate and I'll jump.

  14. Or, Professor, the Opt Out may have been more successful than you think. Many reports of the scanners being turned off Thanksgiving Day.

  15. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a8jGVXOMsw

  16. It's already been said, but the real boycott wasn't those who asked to be searched, but those who aren't flying at all. That the day traditionally held to be the busiest flying day of the year was really much easier than anticipated, and easier than ever before, is a very strong testament to the number of people opting for non-commercial-flying arrangements.