29th June 2011
Jonah Goldberg calls for jihad.
The backdrop of my favorite science-fiction novels, Frank Herbert’s Dune series, is something called the Butlerian Jihad. Some 10,000 years before the main events of the story take place, humanity rebelled against “thinking machines” — intelligent computers — controlling people’s lives. The revolution was sparked because a computer decided to kill, without the consent of any human authority, the baby of a woman named Jehanne Butler.
I bring this up because I’m wondering why we can’t have a Reppertian Jihad. Its namesake would be Lena Reppert, a 105-pound, 95-year-old Florida woman. Her daughter claims Reppert was forced by airport security to remove her adult diaper in compliance with a body search. Reppert is dying of leukemia. She did not have another clean diaper for her trip.
Sign me up.
The Transportation Security Administration belatedly denied forcing the removal of the diaper. Sari Koshetz, a spokeswoman for the TSA, insisted that the agency was sensitive and respectful in dealing with travelers, but she also told the Northwest Florida Daily News that procedures have to be the same for everyone: “TSA cannot exempt any group from screening because we know from intelligence that there are terrorists out there that would then exploit that vulnerability.”
That’s apparently why Drew Mandy, a 29-year-old disabled man with the mental capacity of a two-year-old, had his six-inch plastic toy hammer yanked from him by TSA on his way to Disney World. Mandy used the hammer as a security blanket of sorts. But the TSA agents insisted it could be used as a weapon. “It just killed me to have to throw it away because he’s been carrying this, like, for 20 years,” Mandy’s father told WJBK in Detroit. What his dad doesn’t understand is that if Islamic terrorists can’t have plastic toy hammers, no one can.
Government employees eventually learn that if they use common sense they get reprimanded by drones higher in the hierarchy, so eventually they all become drones.
It seems the first commandment of the TSA is that every mind must be trained in the likeness of a machine. “Garbage in, garbage out,” is how computer programmers explain the way bad inputs determine bad outputs. Likewise, if TSA workers are programmed not to use common sense or discretion — surprise! — TSA workers won’t use common sense or discretion.
Why not? One reason is we’ve institutionalized an irrational phobia against anything smacking of racial or religious profiling. Once you’ve decided that disproportionate scrutiny of certain groups is verboten, you’ll have to hassle everyone equally. Thus we’re told that a 95-year-old woman’s diaper is just as likely to be the front line in the war on terror as a 22-year-old Pakistani’s backpack.