For Now At Least, The TSA Wishes Holiday Fliers “Happy Thanks-groping!”

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79It’s the news story you can’t avoid: since implementing their new pat-down procedures, the TSA has become a focal point for a fed-up public.  Critics rage about the intrusiveness of the procedure and how these aggressive new measures won’t stop determined terrorists so much as hassle law-abiding citizens.  Some believe the pat-down serves primarily to coerce people into using those new privacy-robbing full body scanners.

Judging from the volume of chatter on the internet, the TSA may have underestimated the public response.  As of yesterday, a Google search for “TSA Pat-down” returned 4,900,000 hits.  Everyone’s heard the shameful anecdote about the veteran flight attendant with the prosthetic breast.  And the chatter on talk radio only seems to be building.  Steadfast or not, this nascent agency doesn’t seem ready for the controversy, particularly in our Web 2.0 enabled world of today.

Today, everyone has a phone in their hand that records photos and videos.  So now we can all witness a TSA Agent strip-searching a young boy at Salt Lake City…

Today, everyone has a Twitter or Facebook account where they can post their personal experiences.  So now TV producers and magazine editors can quickly find human interest stories on the topic.

Today, anyone can start a free Tumblr blog, so now ordinary people can form national ad hoc repositories to express either their outrage or amusement over their TSA experiences.

The reality is that today, it’s no longer possible for any government agency to totally control any story, whether it’s a student uprising in Iran or Venezuela or a citizen protest here in America.  The tools of dissent are too widely available and wired into a viral, international network.

So will this rising hue and cry, magnified by the heavy Holiday air travel season, impact or even alter government policy?  From a specifics standpoint, it’s too early to tell.

But speaking generally, it already has.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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