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    National Opt-Out Day – Another Failed Boycott

    National Opt-Out Day – Another Failed Boycott

    I have written many times before about the risks of organizing a boycott, and I have detailed the many boycotts which have failed in the last two years.

    The “National Opt-Out Day” protest, in which air travelers were to opt out of the full body scan in favor of the feel-up, feel-down, feel-all-around hand screening, was intended to tie up TSA lines at airports.

    I never was in favor of such an organized disruption, although I agree that current TSA procedures seem mindless and the result of a bureaucratic unwillingness to single out people who may actually pose a threat.  Additionally, the TSA procedure seems futile because not all airports have the scanners, so someone who wants to do harm only need start the trip at a smaller airport with less stringent procedures.

    The Boston Herald reports that the result of the failed Opt-Out boycott likely strengthened TSA, quoting one of the great intellects of our generation, someone with the sort of gravitas we normally only see in presidential candidates, whose opinions on a variety of subjects form the core of scientific consensus on all matters large and small:

    National Opt-Out Day’s organizers are claiming success, but the apparent protest flop at airports across the country Wednesday — as masses of holiday travellers chose quick body scans over time-consuming pat-downs — handed the Transportation Security Administration a victory that may be hard for opponents of intrusive searches to overcome, observers said.

    At yesterday, a statement said: “Despite claims to the contrary, National Opt-Out Day was a rousing success. The entire point of the campaign was to raise awareness of the issues of privacy and aviation safety at TSA checkpoints, with the ultimate goal of influencing policy — to ask the question, ‘Are we really doing this right?’ In that, the campaign was a success. It was always about getting attention to the issue.

    But William Jacobson, a Cornell Law School professor who has blogged about the airport security debate at, said, “I’m not sure the movement ever had momentum. I think it was somewhat self-defeating because the people participating in it were the ones most inconvenienced by it.”
    Jacobson added, “Whenever you have a movement that fails, it actually empowers the entity you’re trying to boycott.”

    Your thoughts?  (Remember, there is scientific consensus here.)

    Update:  Forget science.  TSA has just made the mistake which could change everything, TSA Groin Searches Menstruating Woman.  Let me guess TSA’s response.  “Intelligence information leads us to believe al-Qaeda intends on using menstrual pads to conceal explosives.”

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    It's already been said, but the real boycott wasn't those who asked to be searched, but those who aren't flying at all. That the day traditionally held to be the busiest flying day of the year was really much easier than anticipated, and easier than ever before, is a very strong testament to the number of people opting for non-commercial-flying arrangements.

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