The fight against the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security's X-ray backscatter body scanners has a new face. John Tyner is a software engineer whose declaration, "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested" has gone viral.
John Tyner is also a bit of a jerk.
The traveler videotaped and then blogged about his encounter with TSA agents at the San Diego International Airport on Saturday. As of this writing, the video already has more than 179,000 hits, and pieces have been aired on CNN, ABC, and other major networks.
But Tyner is hardly the innocent that blog commenters have made him out to be. Take a look at his video:
Tyner didn't suddenly flick on the tape when things got interesting. He was recording this from the get-go. Which means John Tyner was fixing for a fight. And it's no more apparent than in his threats to the TSA agent that he will have him arrested.
A groin check sounds uncomfortable. But an "innocent" need only say, "Hey, that sounds pretty invasive, I'd prefer you not touch my private area." Or something to that effect. Instead, Tyner hauled out the big guns immediately. "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested."
His blog sheds further light on just how much planning went into this video:
I have been reading about the millimeter wave and backscatter x-ray machines and the possible harm to health as well as the vivid pictures they create of people's naked bodies. Not wanting to go through them, I had done my research on the TSA's website prior to traveling to see if SAN had them. From all indications, they did not. When I arrived at the security line, I found that the TSA's website was out of date. SAN does in fact utilize backscatter x-ray machines.
Kudos to Tyner for doing his research before he travels. Flights would be substantially less harried if everyone read up on what not to do before they got to the airport. But in revealing he'd looked up the airport and found there were no backscatter machines, why was the videotape rolling from the minute he walked up to the TSA?
Because Tyner wasn't looking to reveal a problem. He was looking to make one.
Compare his actions with that of a dad in a two-year-old TSA video that's also gone viral this month. Back in 2008 the TSA took a teddy bear from a little girl to send it through the X-ray machines. The 3-year-old, Mandy, burst out in tears (above), but TSA agents still decided to use a wand on her than pat her down while she's kicking and screaming.
Her dad, Steve Simon, a newscaster with a Houston station (then CW39, it's now just 39), took only a 17-second clip on his cell phone. He did take it to the TV station and questioned (rightly) how the TSA could do this to a distraught child. But there was clearly no pre-meditation, and his reaction was measured and useful. Perhaps Simon is simply better equipped to handle the response -- he is after all a journalist who has access to the TV cameras and the forum to bring on a TSA superior to address how kids are treated. But he also used his power, well, for good.
As a dad, Simon could have pulled out his superhero cape, grabbed his screaming 3-year-old, and ran. America probably would have cheered. But he didn't threaten a lawsuit, he didn't act like a jerk. He approached the TSA with a compelling video and said, "Hey, can we do something about this?"
Tyner's video would make more of an impact if he had acted with the same decorum.
The TSA is not going to hear the end of the issue on those body scanners. But if we've learned anything in recent weeks, bullying is not the way to affect positive change.
Do you think Tyner's a hero?
Image via CW39