The media should admit it has a way of blowing things out of proportion. Anyone remember balloon boy, the planned Quran burning or more recently, the L.A. Missile Crisis?
I finally read something addressing journalism’s struggle to fit in as many TSA horror stories as possible before the holidays. Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast wrote about the recent coverage and called it exactly what it is: perfect fodder in the holiday travel season.
“I don’t understand how a sexual assault can be a condition of my flying,” he tells the agent.
Then you have the urostomy bag man. And the passenger who was asked to remove her prosthetic breast at a checkpoint. The headline for that one: The TSA horror story to trump them all.
And that’s exactly what’s going on. We’re looking for the next TSA horror story to trump the last one. We should be asking the questions, “How often is this happening? Where have these policies failed? Where have they worked?”
Oh and how many passengers end up with additional screening because of confrontational and uncooperative attitudes like Don’t touch my junk dude.
But do these incidents indicate what’s really going on at airport checkpoints?
Anyone who’s traveled since 9/11 has gone through the checkpoints and dealt with rigid, unfriendly TSA agents, but recent media coverage seems vastly out of proportion.
We’ll take the five incidents Kurtz mentions in his piece and we’ll throw in an extra 250 for all the ones that may not have been reported by the news.
Whether one or 250 passengers felt degraded or treated badly is a reason the policies should be addressed. I talked to a friend who said maybe better training for TSA agents in both sensitivity and the human anatomy/medical conditions could help (She also calls TSA agents Totally Suck Agents).
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates 621 million people traveled by plane in the last 12 months.
As Kurtz said, “We all identify with bedraggled passengers, having removed their shoes and belts, having dumped their drinks and packed their tiny toothpaste tubes, being oppressed by a rigid and inflexible system. But that doesn’t mean the excesses are widespread.”
And even with the 250 complaints it doesn’t become a statistically significant occurrence. Even with 25,000 complaints it would be .004 percent of passengers who go through the checkpoints every year.
So I guess the question isn’t, how the media played a part in this. How didn’t they?
* While we’re talking about TSA. How about this for a horror story: TSA Officer plays cocaine pranks on passengers