Yesterday protesters held what they called an “Opt-Out” day, where air travelers who were selected to submit to a full body scanner would opt-out of the screening process. The protest has been called a flop, since most travelers opted out of the protests instead of the scanners, leading the TSA to feel as if the public has already spoken.
But just because most people didn’t protest doesn’t mean they are happy about it. It just means most people will shut up and take the abuse if it means reaching their destination on time.
And as disappointing as these protests may have been, a positive note is how this latest erosion of civil liberties garnered at least some outpouring of dissent.
See, the idea of strangers seeing my naked body or having my groin area searched isn’t my concern, although without a happy ending it does seem like something’s missing. No, this latest clash against the TSA is part of an even greater battle: the fight against totalitarianism.
Totalitarianism is one of the biggest threats facing humankind today. If we aren’t careful, our entire world could end up enslaved to a system designed to protect us. When people have no rights and dictatorship reigns, entire segments of the population are left to suffer (see Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or today’s North Korea.)
Body scanners aren’t the problem. Face recognition cameras on every street corner aren’t the problem. Having an orbiting satellite that can read all of our thoughts directly wouldn’t be a problem, so long as the control over said device was left open to the public. In this fight against totalitarianism, technology isn’t to blame.
The real issues emerge when we have government agencies imposing regulations with little to no accountability to the public.
If the TSA were enforcing democratically agreed upon measures, then they wouldn’t be cause for concern. Just like if the information gleaned from all the wiretapping and ubiquitous surveillance were made freely available in the public commons, then we wouldn’t be at risk of losing our freedoms.
Instead, so long as organizations like the TSA go unchallenged, we are heading towards living under shadowy overlords ruling our every waking moment.
Modern technology can already be used quite readily be used for enslavement, putting entire populations under the control of a tiny minority. As many alarmists will attest, certain forces are working diligently to strip humankind of power with each passing moment.
Our new technology can also be a great liberator, especially when it channels the will of the people. And this is precisely what we will need to do to fight totalitarianism:
Harness the community building power of the Internet, coordinate at the speed of instant messaging, and take the power away from these secretive defense agencies and place it back squarely in the hands of the general public.
Power to the People!