Thursday, February 11, 2010

Satire in Real Life

BoingBoing reports on a bit of official preposterousness that is particularly inane - and inconvenient and possibly traumatizing for its innocent victim:

Nicholas George, a senior in Middle-Eastern Studies at Pomona College, was detained, handcuffed, and intensively questioned by the TSA while trying to catch a flight back to school from Philadelphia. The TSA guards found English-Arabic flashcards in his luggage and said that because Osama bin Laden spoke Arabic, "these cards are suspicious." The FBI was called in, and an agent called him a "fucking idiot" when he asked why he was being held. After being asked if he was a communist or a Muslim, he was released. He was not read his rights at any time.
I figure the least disturbing explanation for this incident - and also, the least insulting to the TSA - is that the student got caught up in an anti-government satire. You know, a full-blown production put on to make fun of the U.S. government and airport security systems. Here's how I imagine it playing out:

TSA supervisor: "You know who did 9/11?"

Student: "Osama bin Laden."

TSA supervisor: "Do you know what language he spoke?"

Student: "Arabic."

TSA supervisor: "Do you see why these cards are suspicious?

Student: "OK, I get the point. TSA guys are morons. Can I go now?"

TSA supervisor: "What?"

Student: "That's the point of this whole game, isn't it? You want me to think the TSA is staffed by a bunch of illiterate racist morons, aren't they all so stupid, let's all point and laugh at them, ha ha ha? Like that time a few years ago, when that guy wasn't allowed on board a plane because his T-shirt had a picture of a gun on it? Well, I get the point. Very funny. Can I get on my plane now?"

TSA supervisor: "You're not taking this very seriously, young man. I represent the United States Federal Government."

Student: "You want me to take it seriously? Okay, then let's talk seriously. My aunt's a government bureaucrat too. She works for Health & Human Services. She's got a master's in public health. She takes her job very seriously. I respect her a lot. You want me to take it seriously, really? Well, take my brother Bob. He's a Marine. He volunteered to go fight in Afghanistan. You know why? Not because he wants to go blow up 'Ay-rabs', as you probably think, but because he respects what the U.S. military is trying to do over there and he wants to lend his skills. I respect the hell out of him and he's probably got more book smarts than me. Does he fit into your little pre-conceived notions of what a big stupid US army guy should be? No, I'd guess he probably doesn't."

TSA supervisor: "You--"

Student: "So yeah, if you want me to take it seriously, I really don't appreciate the way your silly little satire tars people affiliated with the U.S. Government with such a broad brush. It's unrealistic and it's kind of offensive."

TSA supervisor: "Listen, you fucking idiot. Satire doesn't have to be realistic. If you found the TSA guy who nailed the passenger who was wearing that T-shirt with the gun, and told him he was being unrealistic, do you know what he would have told you? He'd have told you that you were missing the fucking point."

Student: "But--"

TSA supervisor: "You think Monty Python practiced strict realism? You know that Python bit where the guy goes to the doctor's office, and when he gets there the nurse stabs him in the stomach for no reason, and the doctor makes him fill out all this paperwork while he's bleeding to death? Do you think that was realistic?"

Student: "But the difference is, the guy who got stabbed in the Monty Python bit was played by one of the Python team. They didn't set up a hidden camera so that they could stab a random guy off the street. I, on the other hand, do not wish to be a part of your little play, and may I remind you that my flight is boarding in less than 15 minutes and I would rather like to be there."

TSA supervisor: "No. I don't like your attitude. If you think I'm doing a fairly good job making the TSA look stupid now, I'll be doing an awesome job making fun of the TSA when I toss your Arabic-studying ass in a detention cell."

Student: "If I miss my flight, so help me I am calling the ACLU."

TSA supervisor: "Really now. Did Allen Funt get the ACLU called on him when he did Candid Camera, involving people in jokes without their knowledge?"

Student: "Allen Funt didn't intimidate people who'd been minding their own business, so that the organization he worked for would look like a bunch of incompetent asses."

TSA supervisor: "Fine then. Involve the ACLU. Maybe that's what I want. Because then, this whole satirical little scene will make the news. I'll get some publicity. People from coast to coast, and in other countries, will read about my idiocy and will have one more reason to believe we TSA guys are morons. How will your government bureaucrat aunt feel, when the American people see one more data point to confirm their notions that government bureaucrats are surly, incompetent fuckwads? And your brother in Afghanistan. How will he react when people's stereotypes of the men and women protecting America are pushed a little more in the direction of ignorant, racist imbeciles?"

Student: "You know, they're both adults. I think they can handle it."


flotron9 said...

This is one of the only posts I've read anywhere that justly documents and responds to this shameful episode in the ongoing crash and burn of American culture.

Let me know if you want me to delete the Tweet.

Anonymous said...

this whole tsa thing is a dog and pony show , not allowed to "profile" . against thier religion to look at them through scanners. so we'll just bother the folks paying the bills so they see thier tax dollars at work.

Jacques Beau Vert said...

Cute :)