In a more perfect world, it would be shocking that the Transportation Security Administration detained a comic book artist based on art he was carrying with him.
Sable wrote of his experiences: "Flying from Los Angeles to New York for a signing at Jim Hanley's Universe Wednesday (May 13th), I was flagged at the gate for 'extra screening'. I was subjected to not one, but two invasive searches of my person and belongings. TSA agents then 'discovered' the script for Unthinkable #3. They sat and read the script while I stood there, without any personal items, identification or ticket, which had all been confiscated.
"The minute I saw the faces of the agents, I knew I was in trouble. The first page of the Unthinkable script mentioned 9/11, terror plots, and the fact that the (fictional) world had become a police state. The TSA agents then proceeded to interrogate me, having a hard time understanding that a comic book could be about anything other than superheroes, let alone that anyone actually wrote scripts for comics.
But I can't honestly say it is shocking, because shock would imply that I am surprised as well as appalled. But it is not, in fact, even a little surprising. We already know that our ability to fly without harassment is governed by people completely incapable of understanding Magritte's 80-year-old simple point:
That is to say, a depiction of the thing is not the thing itself. Hence we tolerate being bullied by people who feel that Decepticon T-shirts and pendant-sized "gun" charms are threats to airline security.
Freaking out over a comic book is the same. The fact that a person is carrying a modern comic book does not mean that the person poses a threat of taking over the plane via anatomically improbable women, ennui, and derivative dystopian imagery.
To be blunt, this idiocy continues because we tolerate it. And by "we", I must explicitly include myself. I told this story before:
Several years ago I flew to Oakland in order to appear in court in Santa Rosa, where my client was involved in a regrettable misunderstanding resulting from the government’s hasty conclusion that he had improperly possessed a firearm of the sort characterized by some as a machinegun. On the way through security in catching my flight, I was pulled aside for a search — perhaps random, perhaps not. The TSA agent opened my brief bag and dropped my case binder on the table. It flopped open to a page showing a full-color photograph of the alleged machinegun.
The three TSA agents assisting with my search fell silent.
“This,” I thought, “has long day written all over it.”
I got lucky — my TSA agents grasped the distinction between a thing and a picture of a thing in no more than 15 minutes.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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