The Transportation Security Administration has become God’s gift to YouTube ever since it introduced new body scanners and, for those who opt out, full-body pat-downs in an attempt to prevent future Underwear Bombers.
The latest YouTube videos to arouse the attention of viewers include a shot of Tammy Banovac, who decided to go through security at the Oklahoma City airport wearing her black lingerie. The Oklahoman reported that Banovac uses a metal wheelchair and decided to go through in her underwear because she is always searched and had an “unpleasant experience” two weeks ago at airport security. Her experience was recorded on video. She was subjected to another hour of hand searching and questioning because a nitrate residue was detected on her body. That meant she missed her flight to Phoenix. The video has more than 387,824 views since being posted a day ago.
These kinds of videos, taken by cell phone cameras and posted on YouTube, are a public relations nightmare for the TSA. YouTube is at its best when it captures the comedy of everyday life. I think that’s why it has stayed at the top of the heap when it comes to viral web videos.
Some of the events are staged, for sure, and others are satires. But they capture a citizen revolt in action. The latest TSA controversy started when John Tyner filmed his own encounter with TSA screeners — who were implementing the new pat-down procedures — at the San Diego airport, where he said, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you prosecuted.”
From the chart on the right, you can see that TSA searches have gone up dramatically in the past 30 days and then dipped again, according to Google Trends. Indeed, that trend chart shows that, as long as the TSA screeners behave themselves, this citizen revolt could very well peter out. But one good video, and that could turn around again.
A search for YouTube and TSA on Google yields 12.1 million results. A search on YouTube itself for the letters TSA yields 6,420 results, including the following:
Young boy strip searched by TSA (2,167,037 views).
Meg McLain handcuffed to chair by TSA in Florida (audio interview, 902,062 views).
Three-year-old girl accosted by TSA (69,995 views).
It seems like there are a lot more spoofs than there are real incidents. Frankly, these videos are better than a lot of primetime TV programming, though Saturday Night Live did a great skit lampooning the TSA. They’re both funny and disturbing at the same time, giving us an idea of the swath of humanity that passes through airport security every day. The TSA might very well want to ban cell phones altogether at some point.
Meanwhile, another traveler protesting the new regulations went through airport security in his Speedos as he traveled on Nov. 24, which was dubbed National Opt Out Day as a protest to the new regulations. On his back were the words, “Screw Big Sis,” which is probably a reference to Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security.
National Opt Out Day didn’t seem to get many participants. But the TSA is clearly stuck in a hard spot because it can’t seem to reconcile technology that delivers better security with letting travelers keep their dignity.
Here are the Banovac and protest videos: