Training the American Citizen

Erin’s Valediction

Like me, many of you have experienced the frustrating but fascinating job of training a dog. Such wonderful animals, carefree and joyful at their best, sulky and even mean at their worst, but — beginning as they do in a “state of nature” — in need of training.

So, you trained your dog, hopefully successfully, to crap outside, to come on command, to sit when ordered, to not get on the bed, etc. We think that the dog has no free will (or at least that would be the position of anyone who’s not actually owned a dog), and that training is good for both his own health and welfare and our own.

It surprises me not at all that the U.S. government takes the same attitude toward its citizens.

A term first gained currency in approximately 1990:  “sheeple.”  After a slight decline in popularity, it has taken off in recent years, and perfectly describes the fertile field upon which government conditions its citizens — perfectly normal people who “go along” because they’ve been trained to obey government and anyone who has a semblance of authority.

Take only a single look at security lines at airports, and you know what I mean.  So, following are some recent comments that illustrate the trend and its dangers.

From Becky Akers, one of the more outspoken TSA critics:

But if you understand that the TSA’s purpose is to subjugate, control, and intimidate citizens until they degenerate into docile dependents of the police-state, this search makes all the sense in the world. It was not a mistake; we should expect to see many more like it once the brouhaha over this particular one dies.

Governments benefit enormously from searching their subjects — especially when those searches can ensnare anyone at any time in any place. Such random rubbings guarantee that almost everybody will obey his rulers’ decrees. What American pothead will stuff a baggie of weed in his pocket before leaving home if he knows cops will probably frisk him on the street? Likewise, what Chinese Christian totes a Bible with him? Will a Moslem in Saudi Arabia carry a bottle of wine to his friend’s home when invited to dinner?

But searches enhance government’s power far more enormously and insidiously through the humiliation they inflict. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, subjects of even the most despotic regimes usually assume that whomever the authorities bully must have done something to deserve it. No one wants to be pulled aside for a search and implicitly branded a criminal; it’s human nature to feel deeply, excruciatingly shamed at such attention — let alone the potential for either physical or psychological harm and sexual abuse when a stranger manhandles your body.

Most people will do anything to avoid such embarrassment. They try not to stand out from the crowd, and they keep their head down lest they catch an official eye; they dare not protest their own or their neighbor’s abuse; they accept whatever other horrors government dishes out in silence, too.

Prove this by watching the line at the TSA’s checkpoint. No matter how offensively or senselessly the TSA molests nuns, arthritic great-grandfathers, little boys, buxom women, or expectant mothers, no one murmurs a word of outrage.

And then this from a commenter named “Saitek” (edited for grammar and spelling, not content):

The problems we face dealing with the in your face branch of DHS also known as the TSA, isn’t rooted in an agency which is out of control.

The problem, the ROOT problem, is WE THE PEOPLE!! We, as Americans are the problem… Not them!

How so? Because we allow it to happen! How often do you see people following orders by those with appearances of authority, whether it be at an airport check point, or the security guard at the mall?

We have been TRAINED to do the following:

  1. Never question authority or its motives.
  2. Authority has our best interests in mind and would never hurt us.
  3. Authority can be trusted.
  4. Authority knows whats best for us.
  5. Never act against the wishes of an authoritative figure.
  6. If you feel you should speak up, keep your comments to yourself.
  7. You won’t win, so why even try?
  8. What we say, goes. Period.
  9. You will pay for any crime we say you committed, whether you committed it or not, you will pay for it one way or another (lost time, money, aggravation, stress).
  10. You don’t have the right to privacy in your person, car, or home.
  11. We can detain you.
  12. We can embarrass you in front of your peers.
  13. The laws are on OUR side, not yours.

and this doesn’t just apply to the TSA either, this applies to ALL forms of “authority” whether it be government or private security personnel. We as a people have been trained to respect authority and do as they ask. Which is why the US Government can do what they are doing to the American people. We sit here on a forum and … about it…. All complaining how THEY are the problem….

Report from a motorist encountering a Border Patrol “suspicionless checkpoint” in southern Arizona:

As I was coming to a stop at the checkpoint, the resident K-9 handler recognized me and yelled out the following warning to his fellow agents:

“It’s that guy, guys”

Having been duly warned, the Border Patrol agent who appeared to be in training at the primary stop location asked in response:

“What do we usually do? Just f_ck with him?”

Although I couldn’t quite make out what was said, one of the other agents ran up to the back of my vehicle and told the agent at primary to essentially wave me through.

….

What the agent at primary understood and re-iterated for the world to hear was that the primary purpose of internal homeland security checkpoints is to f_ck with people to make them compliant to arbitrary interference in their daily lives.

Arbitrary interference in the form of arbitrary orders from government agents wearing shiny badges on their chests and sporting nifty compliance weapons on their hips or their shoulders. In other words, the primary purpose of internal homeland security checkpoints is to engage in general public obedience training much like pet owners will train their dogs.

….

[This lets us] understand how it is that some random individual is in a position to (legally?) seize people inside the country absent suspicion under threat of lethal force along a public highway for the primary purpose of f_cking with them and messing with their private property. All with the full support of the Department of Homeland Security.

Welcome to Checkpoint USA.

Comments resulting from a personal experience with TSA (posted here a few days ago):

Based off of my experience, these arbitrary rules that we have to mindlessly follow are about one thing: Humiliation. By which I mean to say humility to the security apparatus. If you want to travel in this country, you better damn well be ready to kowtow to any person who is a part of the security state. You better have all of your I’s dotted, papers in order and pockets empty. Even then, you might get hassled anyway just to remind you of who is in control.

….

[...] I came to the conclusion that humility to the state is the actual purpose of these things, not security. If it was about finding bombs they wouldn’t care about paper in your pockets. What could a piece of paper possibly do to throw off the scan? But they told you to take everything out of your pockets, and you left that piece of paper. Now you’re not following orders and that’s a problem. In the case of outright refusal to obey orders by opting out of the scan, or refusing to let them search you, they make sure to get their point across. That way you’ll know better than to question their judgment the next time.

….

A nude inspection is a part of their demands for the simple reason that it’s the ultimate submissive act. You are made to feel helpless to the whims of mad men with your only hope being the security state. The thin line between your safety and certain death. It all sounds like a great idea, except it’s a lie.

Even in Canada:

Hand cuffed to a chair, humiliated with tears streaming down her face, an otherwise law abiding citizen looked up to see a dozen police and security officers around her discussing what they were going to do with her. She didn’t know it, but it was her attitude that was going to ruin her day. We live in a culture of changing values. It sometimes feels like everyday there is a new bylaw or piece of legislation that restricts the way Canadian citizens live their lives, from how many cars we are allowed to park in our driveways to how far out into the wilderness one must venture to smoke a cigarette or partake of another tobacco product. I would like to address a new form of social deviancy that is finding its way onto the evening news. There is no formal name for this deviancy yet, but I will try to name it in this report. The deviancy that I am speaking of is the act of not paying the proper respect to authority figures, with a special emphasis on disrespecting authority figures in airports. I believe that the treatment of travelers in airports is destroying the freedoms guaranteed to the citizens and visitors of this country. This is a topic that should be addressed because it weighs the benefits of increased security at the cost of personal freedom and privacy. After the 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States, the populations of the west seemed to cry out for more security from the governments that are supposed to protect them. The unintended consequence of thinking airports need more security is that airport authorities began to think of themselves as above the law.

….

The failure to obey offends those in positions of authority who demand respect for their positions. From a very early age we are taught that people in authority like parents, teachers, police, and other civil servants are who we turn to for help should the need arise. We are also told that we should respect these people, not for any specific reason, but because they are in a broad sense “the authority”. This is supposed to keep the balance of the law abiding and the law breaking citizens for some reason. I hesitate to say this because I know that it is not true for all civil servants, but for some, they like the power and control that they are given over others. These people are the ones who stress the importance of showing respect to authority, and they do not hesitate to bring the full force of their authority to bare on someone who is not appropriately subordinate.

[This post has been some time in the making, not because of anything profound I had to say, but because I waited to see what might be found from others commenting on the same theme.  In fact, once I started watching, I was -- pleasantly -- surprised by the number of people, both established commentators and those having a relatively small audience, who share this view.  Some might be described as established libertarian, anti-establishment types; others seem to come to this stance regardless their political orientation.  I count myself among them.]

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Kids Will Be Kids Department

At last, a non-sensational, rational article about teenage sexting.  Well worth reading, especially if you have or have had teenagers.  Sample content:

Sexting is not illegal.

Two adults sending each other naughty pictures, dirty language? Just garden-variety First Amendment-protected speech.

A November 2009 AARP article, “Sexting Not Just For Kids,” reported approvingly on the practice for older people, too. In women’s magazines and college students’ blogs, coy guides include pragmatic tips like making sure to keep your face out of the photo.

But when that sexually explicit image includes a participant — subject, photographer, distributor or recipient — who is under 18, child pornography laws may apply.

“I didn’t know it was against the law,” Isaiah said.

That is because culturally, such a fine distinction eludes most teenagers. Their world is steeped in highly sexualized messages. Extreme pornography is easily available on the Internet. Hit songs and music videos promote stripping and sexting.

“Take a dirty picture for me,” urge the pop stars Taio Cruz and Kesha in their recent duet, “Dirty Picture. “Send the dirty picture to me. Snap.”

In a 2010 Super Bowl advertisement for Motorola, the actress Megan Fox takes a cellphone picture of herself in a bubble bath. “I wonder what would happen if I were to send this out?” she muses. The commercial continues with goggle-eyed men gaping at the forwarded photo — normalizing and encouraging such messages.

“You can’t expect teenagers not to do something they see happening all around them,” said Susannah Stern, an associate professor at the University of San Diego who writes about adolescence and technology.

“They’re practicing to be a part of adult culture,” Dr. Stern said. “And in 2011, that is a culture of sexualization and of putting yourself out there to validate who you are and that you matter.”

Also read the “Related Content.”

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Up to Old Tricks Department

An article from yesterday’s NY Times detailing how more liberal Bush2-era authorizations permitted the FBI to cast a wider net and investigate a broad range of otherwise legal activities in an effort to “find” criminal or terrorism planning, support or tendencies.  Troubling:

The manual … says agents need “no particular factual predication” about a target to open an assessment, although the basis “cannot be arbitrary or groundless speculation.” And in selecting subjects for such scrutiny, agents are allowed to use ethnicity, religion or speech protected by the First Amendment as a factor — as long as it is not the only one.

An assessment is less intensive than a more traditional “preliminary” inquiry or a “full” investigation, which requires greater reason to suspect wrongdoing but also allows agents to use more intrusive information-gathering techniques, like wiretapping.

Still, in conducting an assessment, agents are allowed to use other techniques — searching databases [or blogs?], interviewing the subjects or people who know them, sending confidential informers to infiltrate an organization, attending a public meeting like a political rally or a religious service, and following and photographing people in public places.

Over a four-month period, the FBI opened 11,667 assessments as of late 2009, and there’s apparently good reason to believe the rate has continued since then.  Any of this sound familiar to those of you over sixty?

The activities have continued under Obama/Holder.

While we’re on the subject, this article recounting warnings by the ACLU’s D.C. legislative counsel, Chris Calabrese, that various technical and legal intrusions on civil liberties are posing as great a threat to American constitutional protections as anything in the past seventy years.

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Cool Atmosphere Department

Really cool time-lapse auroras over Norway, here.

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It was almost our last session.  In the meantime, she did move to London.

As I was coming to a stop at the checkpoint, the resident K-9 handler recognized me and yelled out the following warning to his fellow agents:

“It’s that guy, guys”

Having been duly warned, the Border Patrol agent who appeared to be in training at the primary stop location asked in response:

“What do we usually do? Just f_ck with him?”

Although I couldn’t quite make out what was said, one of the other agents ran up to the back of my vehicle and told the agent at primary to essentially wave me through. The agent at primary turned his attention back to me and with a dismissive gesture stated:

“All right…get out! Go ahead!”

This entry was posted in Air Travel Security, Civil Liberties, Law, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Training the American Citizen

  1. If you haven’t seen it yet, I just finished Three Felonies a Day and figure you’d like it (though it might be hard on your blood pressure). I can loan you my copy if you don’t want to buy your own.

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