Homeless Woman Exposes our TSA is Really a Security Theater

TSA Pre-Check Line
TSA Pre-Check Line

Fayetteville, AR –-(Ammoland.com)- We live in an era that has adopted security theater as a psychological crutch to sustain the illusion that life is not quite so fragile as reality keeps telling us. To get on an airliner, we have to show acceptable papers, submit our luggage to radiation and our bodies to groping—much like prisoners on suicide watch, deprived of our shoes and belts—to gain the privilege of being packed into shrinking seats to breathe whatever exhalations the children nearby wish to share.

Getting the idea that I don’t like commercial flying? A piece of news that I’ve run across recently reveals that perhaps I’ve gone about things the wrong way. It turns out that all the impositions that I named are not necessary after all. If I were a sixty-six year old woman, I could simply slip on board. Or so it is in the case of one Marilyn Hartman, a homeless woman who recently managed to get to London without the burdens of tickets and travel documents, capping years of such achievements.

Marilyn Hartman, a homeless woman who recently managed to get to London without the burdens of tickets and travel documents, capping years of such achievements.
Marilyn Hartman, a homeless woman who recently managed to get to London without the burdens of tickets and travel documents, capping years of such achievements.

One attempt was to get to Hawai’i, and she explained it to police by saying that she thought she had cancer and wanted to go someplace warm to die. She did not have cancer, and that incident is offered as evidence that she is mentally ill by Joe Eskenazi of The Guardian, though in the depths of winter, her reasoning doesn’t sound all that insane to me.

Eskenazi claims that “Marilyn Jean Hartman hasn’t really revealed serious weaknesses in airport security.” His focus is on the treatment of the mentally ill in this country. But hold on a minute. Yes, she’s an older white woman who doesn’t look menacing, though that hasn’t always been a protection against abuses by the TSA. Still, Eskenazi is missing a point here when he claims that Hartman hasn’t provided us a lesson on the limits of security.

Is Hartman mentally ill? Speaking as an ordinary person using the term in plain English, rather than the specialized sense of psychological experts, I’d say yes. She believes that she has been targeted by “a vast Illuminati network dedicated to a decades-long mission” against her. According to her, Barack Obama has known about this for a quarter of a century—that goes back to before he was even a state senator, for those keeping score—but did nothing to help her.

Since I’m not sending a bill to an insurance company or sitting in official judgment, I’ll draw what I think is the obvious conclusion here. What lessons can we learn?

Eskenazi sees this as an example of how we fail to take care of the mentally ill in this country, and I agree with him, but as a gun-rights supporter—and as someone who likes to come at topics from odd angles—I have a different take. Regarding how we deal with someone like Hartman, what if we were to choose to give her something useful to do? Claims to the contrary, she has spent years testing the weaknesses of our airline security. Give her a job. She’s demonstrated practical expertise that many in the TSA lack.

But more than that, she illustrates that our efforts at security theater are misplaced. People intent on doing harm—and people whose minds work differently from the norm—will find ways around the measures that we impose on the rest of us. Whether we’re talking about controls on drugs, guns, or travel, the theatrical measures that we take to create the appearance of safety only affect the people who generally aren’t doing wrong. We aren’t being kept safe when our enforcement agencies go after the methods used in yesterday’s crimes.

What does work is to focus on the things that motivate people to harm others. In other words, address the causes, not the symptoms. That’s good advice when we’re talking about treating mental illness, rather than dealing with the aftermath in the rare cases when a disturbed person commits violence, and it’s good advice when terrorism is the subject.

But busywork is easier in these circumstances than real solutions, and that’s why we so often are bogged down in debates over gestures of the theater.

About Greg CampGreg Camp

Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc

  • 20 thoughts on “Homeless Woman Exposes our TSA is Really a Security Theater

    1. Considering that the TSA has failed every IG inspection done on them over the last 16 years – THIS is what exposed all that as security theater?

      It wasn’t the failure of the TSA to find even the things they say they are looking for – like handguns and knives.

    2. Wild Bill
      Modern airliners may be crowded but they do not spread airborne viruses and germs. Actual contact with armrests and touching seats and clothes is the vector. But the cabin air comes from the overhead air vents which has gone through a 300 degree + air cycle machine and is drawn down to floor mounted exhaust registers.
      But in the days 50 years ago, travel was weeks or months long and infected people either died or recovered before they traveled from Asia or Africa or even South American jungles.
      Health quarantines are expensive and we’d be better served with an off-shore collection point for all international travel where everybody citizen or tourist would have to pass a medical check. To that end faster DNA blood tests to detect pathogens will be necessary. Computers and doctors can clear travelers or put them up in a hotel/hospital or reject them and send them back where they came.

    3. Flew with some friends to Minneapolis a while back…. one of them had arrived at the airport a bit late… they were calling to board our craft, and no Paul. Two of us walked back to the TSA circus to find him there, boots off (it was winter), they were going through his backpack for the THIRD time, asking him pointed questions, double checking his tickets, ID< etc, meanwhile, last call to board, one of us ran ahead to the gate to say TSA is just finishing up with him to they held the plane. I grabbed his boots, he his other stuf, we sprrinted back to the jetway, ran down to the craft, they slammed the door on our hehinds, we threw ourselves in the seats, and the instant the bucles said CLICK we rolled.

      Imagine, then, our shock ahd hilarity when, at the motel in Minnesota, we were getting ready to head to supper when Paul found his large folding pocket knife.. IN THE BACKPACK THEY HAD SEARCHED BY HAND THREE TIMES.
      What a ridiculous scenario, and an incredible waste of our time and tx dollars.

    4. The goals for security:
      People want FEEL SAFE. Schools and airports, bureaucrats want to “do something” so they can remain in office or retain their job.
      Since we can’t profile dangerous people the government is missing the point, just medicate the sheep so they feel safe.

      1. @Jim Macklin, Yes, and that is just security in the traditional sense. A lot of flu gets passed around in the confines of an airplane. It could be anthrax, a new variation of tuberculosis, airborne ebola, or any number of fatal tropical viruses. All those diseases that we used to get the “overseas” course of shots for are coming to the U.S. The Feds don’t talk about those either.

    5. The TSA isn’t there to provide real security. It is there to provide the appearance of security, and to get people used to surrendering more of their freedom in the sacred name of public safety.

    6. Maybe a class or two in security or intelligence is in order. The “theatre” you see is a layered response, as are fencing, security cameras around installations, alarmed doors on ingress/egreas points at al. If we only point at the statistically small number of failures and shout “see, it doesn’t work!” Well, frankly, you’re not only missing the point, but engaging in “theatre” yourself, drawing conclusions from anecdotes, placing causation on statistically insignificant incidences.

      Cute article, hardly hard hitting or scientifically accurate or significant. Keep trying, you’ll learn more and maybe find something worthy of praise. If you want hard hitting journalism or reporting, Google Brendan Keefe channel 11 news Atlanta…you will learn and grow. Otherwise…its a puff piece.

      Matt, Virginia

      1. Matt, it only failed once before TSA’s arrival on the scene to “save the day”. So the fact that this woman was able to get past your feckless TSA, does prove the writer’s point. It also isn’t the first nor last time TSA has failed. Remember the test where they failed to find 95% of prohibited items?

        As a more personal example, my wife had a pocket knife in her pocketbook for several years before TSA found it. That included a number of pat-downs of her, too. I also had an incident where they saw a metal item in my carryon. There refused to tell me what they thought they saw, but after searching my bag, never found what they saw in the x-ray machine. I believe the nefarious item was my mechanical luggage scale that I have had in that bag for about a decade or more to ensure my checked bag is under the limit on the return trip. One would believe they would search until they found the item that they were searching for if they were really concerned about safety.

        1. Respectfully, it failedMANY times prior to 911…growing up in the 70’s hijackings in the US and abroad did happen…and more than once. Also, contraband was trafficked through carry ons and baggage.

          One incident, is a good example, but not a trend or rule, Also, no security system is perfect, but more agressive layers of denial.

          Thanks. Matt

          1. Matt, hijackings abroad have nothing to do with the TSA or any other USA government entity. You also indicate that since the 70s, pre-TSA, security was working, with the exception of 9-11. Again, this and other breaches of TSA security also show their failures.

            I am not suggesting that we don’t have some type of security, only that the TSA isn’t accomplishing what the public was told they were designed to do. I don’t believe groping me and my wife and assaulting the elderly and children protects the flying public. Posters here, including myself have all mentioned personal failures in their screening. So if in this handful of posters and travelers there have been that many failures, it is really doing what it was designed to do? Or is it that it is doing what it was designed to do, make the general public believe they are making us safer?

            It’s kind of like the anti-rights politicians wanting to make us safer by disarming us. Obviously if no one has legal access to firearms, there will be no crimes committed. Ironically, we have news reports of TSA agents committing the types of crimes they are supposed to be stopping, i.e., smuggling drugs, etc., just as we have reports of police dealing drugs and firearms. Safer for who?

      1. Travel by private plane. Just like your car but faster. It helps to be rich.
        I’m going to spend $2 and eat a hamburger later this week.

    7. Clark I think you missed the point. I agree with Greg airport security is a pain and inadequate, On a recent fishing trip to Alaska I used my backpack as a tackle box and carry on. On my return trip neglected to remove my 14′ filet knife from my carry on and place it in my checked bag. Walked right through security with it. Not a word was said about the knife in my carry on. I can see them missing a small pocket knife, but a 14″ knife! what else do they miss on a daily basis!

      1. WHAT? And with that knife at your fingertips you didn’t take the opportunity to high jack the jet and slam it into a national monument full of people somewhere? Why…why…so NO ONE DIED? Golly gee…what a criminal you must be.

    8. Greg: I am sure the airlines would be perfectly happy if you hit the road instead of flying for your travel needs. No one is forcing you to fly on a commercial airliner.

      1. Mr. Kent, I’m guessing that you got his main point: TSA is almost completely “security theatre”.

        No one is “forced” to take commercial airlines. By extension, no one is “forced” to drive on the road. So, perhaps you wouldn’t be distressed at finding “security” checkpoints (e.g., Project Viper (?) in the Texas/AZ area, drug checkpoints in NH, drunk driving checkpoints all over) where your trip is interrupted to check your papers. (It would be a wet drive to London, that’s for sure.)

        The fact that flying from NJ to CA to see your Aunt Agnes is more convenient than driving or taking a train (where they have their own “security”) doesn’t negate that airplane travel is much more of a chore than a pleasure, even without TSA.

        Oh, and everyone knows that you’re Superman. The glasses are not much of a disguise.

        1. @ Rick
          You don’t get him. He’s a troll !
          He complains about everything and
          everyone ,Who’s not 100% perfect.
          superman he’s not.. superfool more like it

        2. Rick: Nice try at a straw man argument. Pretty good for a twelve year old. Next time have an adult assist you with your response.

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