“I wish you had taken a less confrontational view of the TSA”

TSAI should have seen this one coming.

Now that the TSA agent who was tragically killed by a lunatic gunman at LAX has been elevated to hero status, readers are wondering if the TSA’s critics — and specifically this site — might have had something to do with this senseless shooting.

Yesterday, I received the following email. I’ve edited it for brevity and to remove the name of the reader:

Reading coverage of the shooting death of a TSA officer and the wounding of others by a deranged shooter who described himself as a “patriot” set on killing TSA and police officers for infringing on his constitutional rights, I remembered stream of bitter and angry letters and comments (some from you) about how the TSA was a curse and worse.

Once or twice I chimed in to try to moderate the language but it made no difference.

Are you wondering now whether your site contributed to this demonizing of men and women who were trying to perform an unpopular and intrusive service, whose rules were at best murky?

I’m not excusing overzealous or mean-spirited TSA officers, but I think that the attitude the media cultivated about the TSA, though obviously not the cause for what happened yesterday at LAX, helped shape the shooter’s fury.

I wish you had taken a less confrontational view of the TSA.

Oh, I see. So if our coverage had been more TSA-friendly, maybe this wouldn’t have happened?

I created this site two years ago as a place where people could turn for news and information about the TSA. We’ve hosted a diversity of opinions about the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems on TSA News.

My TSA stories are all over the map, in terms of tone. My last post on this site called out the TSA for using scripts to prod air travelers into the poorly tested and unproven body scanners.

Earlier this fall, in a column in USA Today, I explained that our patience with the TSA was almost up. I’d say that one was fairly neutral, although I got some hate mail from TSA insiders after it appeared.

And many of this blog’s readers were apoplectic when I suggested that the TSA could sometimes do a good job. They falsely accused me of bowing to the wishes of advertisers.

Trust me, my friends, I’m not afraid to write something negative about the TSA. Not now, not ever.

My co-editor at TSA News, Lisa Simeone, who also publishes the ABombazine site, liveblogged about the shooting as it happened on Friday. Her early headline at TSA News asked “Where’s the TSA?” — a perfectly valid question as the events of that day unfolded.

In response, we received accusatory emails and tweets from readers who apparently don’t understand the concept of a liveblog, and thought we were asking a rhetorical — if not an incendiary — question. I can assure you, we were not.

To link this blog to an obvious hate crime, even indirectly, is as absurd as trying to shoot a TSA agent.

We may disagree with the way in which America’s federalized screeners do their job, but we do not, nor would we ever, incite anyone to violence.

  • Susan Richart

    I note that the Ciancia’s attorney indicated that Mr. Hernandez was a member of the “law enforcement community.” Oy vey!

  • Daisiemae

    OK, so now who was criticizing the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, NJ? I really wish those critics had taken a less confrontational view of the mall.

    Was it fashionistas criticizing the new fall fashions? Was it senior citizens complaining about the behavior of these young people today? Was it cash-strapped families complaining about the cost of clothing their families?

    These detestable criticizers are directly to blame for the murders committed by Richard Shoop yesterday, right? Let’s stone them all right now!

    Because attacking and blaming those who point out the emperor’s nakedness is soooo much more helpful than actually addressing the real problem.

  • Xenophon

    This blog should be even more vituperative. The TSA must be demolished in the press so that it can be dismantled by the government.

  • Xanthippia

    Keep writing, and keep telling the truth about the boondoggle known as the TSA. I don’t think we should be shooting them down like mad dogs in the street, but I do believe we need to disband the agency. It’s ridiculous.

  • sadie50

    More than likely, if the shooter wasn’t a former screener, than someone at TSA did something to really piss him off. I worked for TSA 10 years, and the way many screeners talk down to passengers is appalling. I hate that a TSO lost their life, but I do hope the screeners will think about how they treat people from this point on.

  • frostysnowman

    Next up, the people who insist that if only the TSA agents were armed, this never would have happened. I’m shuddering while thinking about what this horrible situation might mean for the rest of us when we go to the airport in the future.

  • Cogent and entirely accurate comment by “Laudre41” at reddit:

    It bothers me that people aren’t treating this shooting as a terrorist act. From the note he left, it’s likely he had political motivations. This is very likely violence in pursuit of a political objective. If he were muslim/arab/brown all other facts equal, media outlets would be calling this terrorism.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/1pt4vy/suspected_lax_gunman_had_his_targets_clearly_in/

    • frostysnowman

      But white people aren’t terrorists! Except when they are at airport security, where they might be. Unless they shoot people while at the airport. Then they aren’t.

      • frosty, brilliant! The logic of the National Security State in a nutshell.

    • Susan Richart

      I totally disagree with labeling these people “terrorists.” They are nothing but common criminals. Don’t glorify their actions by calling them “terrorists.”

      To the person who believes Chris’s writings, and others like it, egged this young man on, you really do have your head up your nether region.

      • Susan, agreed. Merely pointing out the hypocrisy of designating certain people as “terrorists” — Muslims, Arabs, the swarthy-skinned — while not so designating others who do the exact same thing. I have said till I’m blue in the face that “terrorist” is a political word. (But that statement, too, of course, gets me labeled an “extremist” or “unpatriotic” or other crap.)

  • Daisiemae

    What a bunch of hogwash! Criticism of TSA caused a lunatic to shoot TSA screeners? By that logic, then it must have been criticism of the school board that caused a lunatic to shoot children in Newtown. Next time any parent has the temerity to criticize a teacher or any school policy, we must arrest that parent and throw away the key.

    Movie critics must now be held responsible for the shooting at the Aurora movie theatre in Colorado. Roger Ebert has passed away and can no longer be held responsible for his crimes of criticism, but we should immediately put Gene Siskel in the deepest dungeon possible.

    Who criticized Gabrielle Giffords? Arrest’em quick! And charge them with murder and attempted murder. We can’t do anything about the criticism that led to the Kenyan mall shooting, but we can make darn well sure that no more fashionistas’ criticism of the latest fall fashions will prompt mall shootings in the homeland!

    Now I suppose we will have to arrest the entire Republican party whose favorite past time seems to be criticizing Obama. They must surely be inciting murder with all that criticism.

    Better arrest all the Democrats too. They are surely doing plenty of criticism of their own. Some lunatic will surely be shooting somebody somewhere over that.

    Criticism of the TSA prompted violence towards TSA? Hmm…..how about this: Violence…not criticism…begets violence. Perhaps TSA should look at the violence it has launched against the American public for a cause to this attack on its employees. Did TSA really think it could attack, assault, rob, degrade, and humiliate millions of people daily without somebody striking back?

    History teaches us that violence begets violence which begets more violences which begets more violence. Instead of looking at its own role in creating this atmosphere of violence, TSA is already gearing up to escalate the tension and violence.

    The only way to end a cycle of violence is for somebody to step back and de-escalate. You can bet your bippie that John Pistole won’t be de-escalating any time soon.

    • Jill_Ion

      (Psssst! Gene Siskel is also dead. 🙁 )

      • Daisiemae

        Well, I guess we’re really screwed now, aren’t we? Who are we going to blame for any future shootings at movie theaters?

        I didn’t realize he had passed on too. I used to really enjoy their show.

        • Jill_Ion

          Me too. Uh…we can blame Richard Roeper?

  • jebaker

    What happened yesterday is not about the TSA, it could have happened in any post office, police station or any street corner. It is about yet another mentally ill person expressing his anger towards someone in authority. The ease of a disturbed man obtaining an assault weapon is of great concern, but the target could have been anyone.

    We cannot stop our discussion of the TSA or any other government agency in fear of this sort of thing happening.

  • TestJeff Pierce

    Unfortunately, the TSA is the most interactive of the federal agencies, and became the focus of a mentally ill person. Although violent protest is not warranted, perhaps the mainstream media will look to examine why the TSA might be the focus of the attacker.

    The TSA deserves every bit of criticism and more since instituting unconstitutional scanners and criminal-touching pat downs. Because of their assaults on the private parts of American citizens, the 100% profiling of people in wheelchairs for criminal touching (if done right following protocol), and the complete disregard where inch-by-inch body searches (no matter if less physical than the first years of this obscene violation) are prohibited by the 4th amendment. Courts have consistently ruled that law enforcement officials require reasonable suspicion for the most invasive searches…no reason to throw this away over incredibly, almost non-existent risks.

    Forcing hundreds of millions of Americans – EACH YEAR – to assume a “surrender” pose before freely traveling within the country – yeah, one can see why there is more anger against the TSA than any other Federal agency. In fact, the NYPD only did suspicionless stop-and-frisks on hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers and visitors each year…while the TSA does the SAME EXACT THING over 500 times as much! The Guantanomo prisoners just won a Court decision that their genitals could not be examined when traveling within their prison to meet their lawyers.

    Yet Americans traveling to meet loved ones DO NOT HAVE this right, unlike the prisoners in the largest “terrorist prison” run by the United States.

    Unbalanced people will always find something to focus on – that is on them, not critics.

    • “The Guantanomo prisoners just won a Court decision that their genitals could not be examined when traveling within their prison to meet their lawyers.”

      Minor correction: a higher court overruled that decision. Guantanamo prisoners (many if not most of them illegally held) once again have to endure the same genital groping as air passengers. But at least that highlights where we stand: we’re all regarded as prisoners by our government.

      • TestJeff Pierce

        Sorry I am behind the times….the Obama administration fought that one very quickly. Just like the “NYPD stop and frisk” restraining order was over ruled, I guess Guantanamo prisoners, NYC pedestrians, and airport passengers are all treated the same.

    • Jill_Ion

      Thank you. I wanted to say the same thing, but wasn’t sure of the wording needed to get across the point that TSA’s policies, procedures, and actions are seriously pissing off a lot of people, but that isn’t justification for the shooting on Friday.

  • Jill_Ion

    No rationale person, including the strongest critics of the TSA, ever wanted a madman to shoot TSA employees.

  • Susan J. Barretta

    “Confrontational view?” At least it’s just a view! It’s TSA and the airlines who have been confrontational, treating the flying public like enemy combatants without reason.

  • P.S. From another source:

    The 23-year-old man who allegedly killed a TSA official at Los Angeles International Airport yesterday was carrying a one-page “manifesto” that included references to the “New World Order,” the Federal Reserve and “fiat currency,” according to a knowledgeable source with ranking law enforcement contacts.

    Paul Anthony Ciancia, who allegedly wounded three other TSA workers before being shot and critically wounded himself, also expressed antagonism toward the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its chief until she resigned in August, Janet Napolitano, the source said. Ciancia’s note called former Secretary Napolitano a “bull dyke” and contained the phrase “FU Janet Napolitano,” the source said.

    Ciancia’s language and references seemed to put him squarely in the conspiracy-minded world of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. The New World Order refers to a longstanding conspiracy theory that today, in its most popular iteration, claims that global elites are plotting to form a socialistic “one-world government” that would crush American freedoms. Often, the root of the alleged conspiracy is traced to the 1913 creation of the Federal Reserve and the adoption of fiat currency — paper money that is not backed by gold, as it was once was in the U.S.
    http://splcenter.org/blog/2013/11/02/hatewatch-exclusive-alleged-lax-shooter-referenced-patriot-conspiracy-theories/

    So I guess our interlocutor is now going to blame the Federal Reserve. Perhaps if the Federal Reserve had been more “temperate” and “less confrontational” in its press releases over the years, Paul Ciancia wouldn’t have gone off the deep end.

  • Of course, I was waiting for this.

    Paul Ciancia is a mentally disturbed man. Just like Jared Loughner. Just like Adam Lanza. Just like the Colorado theater shooter. Just like the Virginia Tech guy. Just like all the other ones whose names I can’t remember in the long, bloody slog of mass shootings in this country.

    I categorically reject the notion that criticizing the TSA had anything whatsoever to do with “inciting” a mentally ill man to commit this crime. If the TSA didn’t exist, Ciancia would’ve found another reason.

    But sure, America, let’s not put the blam where it belongs — on the obscene dearth of mental health care, on a culture in love with violence, on a population that fetishizes if not eroticizes guns, the bigger the better (and why stop at guns? why not bazookas? why not nukes?), on the refusal to deal with the political realities in this country, on the bald, inescapable fact that sometimes, terrible things happen.

    Let’s not blame all that; no, let’s blame those of us who stand up for civil liberties, even the civil liberties of people too cretinous to appreciate them.

    It’s clearly our fault for using “inflammatory” language. Ya know, for calling a spade a spade, for not retreating into euphemism, for refusing to go along with government- and corporate-sanctioned procedures that do nothing to offer security but do a great deal to make a few people very rich. It’s because we’ve been pointing out all that for years that Paul Ciancia walked into an airport and started shooting.

    • Dolt

      Lisa, I agree with you and your list of actual causes that should be the focus of situations like these, however, I would have to say that the TSA is the prime blame. You can not remove the rights from someone and abuse them over and over then just hope they are mentally stable enough to channel their anger and frustrations about it in a proper manor. The TSA and DHS gamble on this daily. This time they happened to lose. To me, this should be the thing repeated back the most. TSA abused mentally unwell person and that person unfortunately became violent because of it. How would this site or any person speaking out against TSA abuse be blamed for that abuse which is spoken against? Seems completely backwards to me.

      • “TSA abused mentally unwell person and that person unfortunately became violent because of it.”

        Except we have no idea if Paul Ciancia ever had any dealings with the TSA. We can’t say that the TSA abused him because we don’t know.

        And again, Ciancia, based on his father’s and brother’s statements, let alone his murderous behavior, is clearly mentally ill. I don’t think we should conflate these issues — the issue of TSA abuse and the issue of mental illness.

    • perlhaqr

      But sure, America, let’s not put the blame where it belongs — […] on a population that fetishizes if not eroticizes guns, the bigger the better[.] […] Let’s not blame all that; no, let’s blame those of us who stand up for civil liberties, even the civil liberties of people too cretinous to appreciate them.

      [T]he civil liberties of people too cretinous to appreciate them.

      Quite a bit of that going around, really. I guess lots of people are selective about the civil liberties they stand up for.

      • Not sure I get your drift. You mean I should be standing up for the “right” of Americans to amass whatever firepower they want?

  • Eric J. Ehlers

    Given that the overall perception of the TSA as presented by the media is generally positive, I have to think this critic’s email is, at best, ignorant.
    We all look for someone to blame. Just because a person made extremely poor decisions with profoundly tragic consequences doesn’t mean that anyone else who said anything is to blame for those decision.