So now let's take one more look at the TSA hysteria, and re-evaluate if we should continue to simply accept the surface narrative, or consider what we might learn by looking beneath the surface. Because everywhere you look, the alleged victims' stories often turn out to be false or highly suspicious, promoted by lobbyists posing as "ordinary guys," and everywhere the cast of characters is always the same: drawn from the cult-ish fringes of the libertarian movement, with trails leading straight to the billionaire Koch brothers' network of libertarian think-tanks and advocacy groups.I find these connections to be very interesting because they illustrate just why these news stories are not representative of the majority, yet they intend to lead the majority into thinking they are majority-held opinions - much like what we saw during the past few years and the most recent elections.
We could take it all at face value and just trust that they're all "ordinary guys." Or we could ask, "Who profits?"
One person who seems to have the answer is Rep. John Mica, the Florida Republican who is set to chair the Transportation Committee. Mica co-wrote the bill establishing the TSA in 2001, just over a month after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC. A little-known provision in that bill allowed airports to "opt out" from the federal agency's security umbrella and to instead hire private contractors. As Media Matters pointed out recently, the whole reason why the TSA was formed was because private contractors paying airport security minimum wages were considered a big part of the reason why the 9/11 terror attacks were allowed to happen. Since the formation of the TSA, not a single terror attack originating from an American airport has taken place. But apparently that's not nearly as relevant as the complaints of a few libertarians.
The links between Mica, the libertarians, the Kochs, and the TSA scandal are only now emerging, and we hope more journalists will dig deeper. So far, we have learned:
- Mica's longtime chief of staff, Russell Roberts, lists the Koch-backed Mercatus Center as the top sponsor of Roberts' privately financed travel expenses, according to Congressional travel disclosure forms. Roberts stated in his form that he participated in discussions related to "transportation policy."
- In 2005, Mica reportedly came out in favor of backscatter X-ray machines, or "porn scan" body scanners, which he now opposes.
- Immediately after the launching of the "National Opt-Out Campaign" by Washington grassroots lobbyist and "ordinary citizen" Brian Sodergren, Rep. Mica sent out letters to the heads of at least 100 airports across America advising them to "opt out" of the government-funded TSA program and hand over the job to private contractors. One of the first airports to sign on to Rep. Mica's privatization program, Orlando's Sanford Airport, happens to lie in Rep. Mica's district. The airport also happens to be a client of Rep. Mica's daughter, D'Anne Mica, who is listed as a partner in two lobbying/PR firms consulted by Sanford Airport. One of Ms. Mica's PR firms, "Grasshopper Media," boasts of its "history of success in organizing strategic and comprehensive grassroots campaigns." In other words: astroturfing.
While so far there is no "smoking gun" linking Rep. Mica to the anti-TSA campaign, there is clearly enough evidence to call into question the official version of events as a "spontaneous" outbreak of anti-TSA hysteria carried out by "ordinary guys" that it claims to be. Instead, there is plenty of evidence of a coordinated campaign for purposes that are only just beginning to emerge—a campaign with a profit motive and a political objective. What we should not do is assume that, in the midst of the worst recession in decades, when untold thousands of families are being thrown out of their homes in fraudulent foreclosures, that the biggest most pressing issue facing Americans is the "porn scan" at airports.
- According to a recent AP article, "Companies that could gain business if airports heed Mica's call have helped fill his campaign coffers. In the past 13 years, Mica has received almost $81,000 in campaign donations from political action committees and executives connected to some of the private contractors already at 16 U.S. airports." ("Airports Consider Congressman's Call to Ditch the TSA")
But don't ask us, ask Americans themselves: a recent CBS poll found that fewer than one in five Americans object to the TSA's use of scans and pat-downs. Nevertheless, like the Tea Party libertarian protests that "erupted" "spontaneously" in February 2009, the protests against the TSA, and the media coverage of the spectacle, grips the nation.
Its only a matter of time before these astroturf organizations find another trivial story to promote to national emergency...