Driving to buy a turkey this morning, I was treated to NPR news, which featured a leading report stating that most Americans approve of the new body scanners being used at US airports. The story was also the top headline in the Wash Post print edition today, leading with “Most support full body scanners.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/22/AR2010112205514.html
The two stories are based on an opinion poll carried out by the Washington Post and ABC News, but when one actually reads the question that was asked it is clear that the spin on the story is quite misleading. The pollsters asked “The TSA is increasing its use of full body digital x-ray machines. Which comes closer to your own view: (A) They improve the ability to spot weapons and explosives and reduce physical searches, and (B) They invade privacy by producing images of a naked body and don’t provide enough added security to justify this.” 64% of those polled endorsed A and 32% B, but consider the questions. While it is for certain that the B supporters oppose the practice, the question in A is about the technical capability of the system, not about whether one supports the use of the machines. Even I, an opponent of the practice, would have to agree with A while selecting B for reasons unrelated to the technology. If they were to ask “Would stripping passengers naked and physically examining their orefices improve the ability to spot weapons and explosives” most people, based on the nature of the question, would similarly have to agree.
The problem is that NPR and the Washington Post are integral parts of the status quo, like it or not, and it is impossible to imagine that they would take the lead in opposing a major government counter-terrorism initiative. In this case, it seems to me that they are clearly shaping the polling questions and then spinning the story to come up with the conclusion that they prefer. I spend most of my waking hours talking to an emailing fellow conservatives and I have never seen outrage like that which is currently being expressed about TSA and its activities. TSA is basically saying, “Shut up. We know what is best for you.”