Sex, Lies, and the TSA

November 2010

I’ve mostly been trying to stay away from this whole TSA debacle, but the whole thing is just such a perfect shitstorm that it’s been hard to ignore. There’s obviously a lot being said, so I won’t repeat the arguments about what a joke the whole thing is. There is one point that’s been missed, however, or at least I haven’t found it noted anywhere. I don’t know if I would call it “lying,” but the TSA is at the very least bending the truth about the support they enjoy from the majority of Americans on the new scanners.

In an attempt to make it sound like the backlash is coming from a very vocal, very small minority, they are citing a CBS News poll that says 80% of Americans support the new scanners. One problem: the poll was taken starting on November 7th, well before the real backlash started. Below I’ve marked up a graph of the percent share that the #TSA hashtag has had on Twitter:

It’s not just Twitter, either. Search volume for TSA has tripled since November 14th after being flat up until that point.

The worst offense is actually the headline on the TSA’s homepage, which they are flashing across the top, breaking news style: “Poll: Most OK with TSA full-body scanners (”

I’m not sure who would consider a poll from January to be worthy of a headline now.

Maybe the TSA does get this whole “internet” thing after all. They’ve realized that most people won’t actually bother to click through, or take the 30 seconds to think critically about the headline. It’s all about the sound bite. Even if it’s bunk.

Okay. Back to work.