Friday, February 24, 2012

Shut Up and Be Scanned: A Necessary Evil

We all know that nudity finds itself all over the internet, on television, and in movies, but did anyone expect to find it on airport security screens? The answer is no. The Los Angeles Times addresses this issue in their article “Shut Up and Be Scanned” found in the editorial section of their November 17, 2010 issue. The article points out the necessity of the new technology found in airports all over the globe, and it challenges those who oppose their use. These new scanners take x-ray pictures of each passenger as they pass through security in order to detect any hidden objects that may not be picked up by the regular metal detectors. The pictures are then screened by one of the airport security officers sitting nearby. The issue that arises comes from the clarity of the photographs because the passengers are, in essence, nude. As fliers become more and more uncomfortable with this idea, and the technology becomes more common, the article satisfies an ever growing dispute between those who support the use of the scanners and those who do not. The remaining airline passengers who are on the fence regarding the subject are easily persuaded, through the use of several rhetorical tools, that these machines are a necessary evil in combating the ever pressing issue of terrorism. By using relevant, interactive forms of rhetoric, diction, and vivid imagery to create a sense of obligation, the Los Angeles Times effectively convinces fliers that resistance to using the full-body scanners is foolish and they are indeed a necessary precaution.

“Shut Up and Be Scanned” does not stand alone in its argument. This is apparent as the author brings in interactive forms of rhetoric such as pictures, links to harmonizing and opposing articles, and videos to clearly make his point and convince the reader of the necessity of full-body scanners. For example, the pictures used within the article are ones that make the issue seem silly and of no importance. The images are not graphic or distinguishing, as those who oppose the use of the scanners make them seem, so the reader immediately gets a sense of reassurance that their identity is safe on the slim chance that the images leaked out. Also, by introducing articles from those who oppose the use of the scanners, the reader sees that the opposition uses fear to motivate people to not use the scanners. By making this point clear, the writer shows that this fear is not based on any real fact and is therefore not trustworthy. Using harmonizing and opposing articles makes the author appear to be fully aware of the subject on both sides of the argument, and he can therefore make an educated decision. The audience is more likely to trust an author who knows more about the subject than they do and one who appears to be making a logical argument rather than an irrational one. He continues by also including a video recording done by a flier who was searched by the new TSA regulations. After refusing to use the scanner, Tyler Turner appeared foolish by putting up such a fuss over a simple search. He threatened the airport employee by saying “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”  Fifteen minutes of this kind of arguing and a civil lawsuit threat could have been avoided if Turner would have simply walked through the metal archway. The use of a video in the place of a long descriptive paragraph makes the situation seem more real to the reader. Seeing is believing, and in this case seeing is agreeing. By actually watching what happened, the audience can better understand the immaturity of Turner and his argument. Searches may be slightly uncomfortable, but not something to protest, especially in the way Turner did. This helps the writer’s argument by once again making resistance to these procedures seem silly and too much of a hassle. In the end, using the scanner would have been a much easier task.
The writer’s diction in this piece is critical in convincing the reader that not only are these new scanners necessary, but they also more convenient than the alternative. His distaste of the opposition becomes apparent with words such as “overblown” and “shrug-worthy” as he describes issues such as the complaints about safety and the fears of exposure. This disdain automatically gives the audience a sense that the opposition is acting in a petty, irrational way which in turn gives the writer of this article much more authority. By starting the paper with charged words like “groped” and “sexual molestation” to describe the pat downs that can be used instead of the scanners, and by using other words like “evil” and “suicide bombers” to reinforce the need of the scanners with the rise of terrorism, the author prepares the reader to feel exactly how he wants them to. These words lead the audience to begin their reading with a mindset that airports need increased security, and the alternative to using the scanners is undesirable. Readers are then led to the conclusion that using the scanners is the easy and safe way out of the predicament.
Throughout the article, the writer continually uses phrases that create images to make readers feel awkward or exposed. When the TSA patdown procedure is described, an uncomfortable feeling arises in the reader. No one enjoys having “a hand run up the leg to the crotch in front and back” (or any sort of intimate touching from a federal employee for that matter). With “a more invasive pat-down technique that some have likened to sexual molestation” as the alternative to the scans, walking through the scanner for a few seconds seems like a breeze. By making the reader imagine themselves in this position, the writer reinforces that it’s not a big deal to use the scanners in comparison to being “groped by a federal employee” when there is “no area of the body unexplored.”  The writer acknowledges that the searches are uncomfortable, but they are still within reason. There are no anal probes, and once there are, society then has the right to step in. This point, made by the writer, is one that really drives the issue home and creates a mental picture that invokes extreme feelings of exposure and discomfort. Through the use of this rhetorical strategy, the writer successfully makes the reader feel that all this can be easily avoided by simply using the new technology.
The new methods may be on the extreme side, but we are living in an extreme world. It’s not pleasant to be unwillingly photographed naked, but it’s even more unpleasant to be sexually molested as you are making your way through security. The writer of this article manipulates the audience’s opinion to conform to his own and realize that these new developments are for the better. He does so by creating mental images with disturbing phrases. The writer also effectively uses videos and pictures to make the issue seem more real to the audience. Finally, his word choice influences the reader to be on his side of the argument by making those who oppose the use of the scanners seem childish. Although airport security scans are unpleasant, they are a necessary evil when there are terrorists hiding plastic bombs in their underwear where the regular metal detectors cannot find them. They are keeping the world safe. It was clear that the writer felt that acceptance of this new procedure is the only logical course of action and one that everyone should simply go along with. Using tools such as outside resources, word choice, and imagery, the writer of “Shut Up and Be Scanned” effectively makes resistance to these new methods seem silly. Yes, the scanners are a little much, but they are needed to compete with the ever rising level of danger in our airports.


  1. I really like how you approached this issue, and especially how summed it up in your conclusion. The scanning is our current most effective way to provide the safety needed, even though it is a necessary evil.