Some people have proposed protesting the TSA body scans and pats by refusing the body scan and electing for the full body pat down in public view. Presumably the goals are to call attention to the humiliating nature of the procedures and to slow down travel, thus making people angry.
Like Thoreau and King, I do think that civil disobedience and its relatives are legitimate and often morally commendable means of protest. However, the protests should be calculated to win public support and focus the outrage of the public on the target of the protests rather than on the protesters.
As I write this, the protest is planned for the day before Thanksgiving-a rather busy travel day. While this will provide the protesters with a large audience, the members of this audience (their fellow passengers) will most likely be more concerned about getting to grandma’s house than with the injustice of the scans. I suspect that more people will be angered at the protesters slowing down the process than at the government for implementing such invasive and unwarranted procedures. However, I could be mistaken-perhaps there will be a groundswell of support for the protesters and this will be known as the Pre-Thanksgiving Miracle Protest of 2010.
This is a matter of legitimate concern. After all, a protester has an obligation to consider the impact of his/her protest on others. If this impact is morally unacceptable, then the protest should not take place. If it is, then the protest would be (obviously) acceptable. In the case of the travel protest, there is the legitimate concern that the protest might significantly slow down travel. At the very least, the TSA will probably need to put more people on pat down and this will mean fewer people to handle the other tasks. Also, as with any protest, there is the possibility that things might go wrong. Perhaps a tired and annoyed TSA agent will slip and give a fellow a full groin grope, leading to a punch to the face (which would not be unreasonable-touching another man’s junk without permission is a punchable offense) which would probably be followed by an exciting security lock down. Or perhaps an angry passenger will start something. Or maybe everything will go smoothly. In any case, the protesters need to consider what effect their actions will have on others.
I happened to be thinking about this while running and my running attire (shirtless and short shorts) gave me an idea for another type of protest: men going through security in Speedos and women going through in bikinis. I assume that TSA would still have to pat such almost naked people down-after all, bureaucracy is really big on mindlessly following rules.