PUBLIC relations was born in the United States with its father being Edward Bernays, the grandson of Sigmund Freud. As a result the US is extremely good at projecting itself as this, that and the other.
But in recent years, no matter the excellence of the spin, the US is getting a bad name. And one of the agencies responsible for this is the Transport Security Administration.
The TSA was set up in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Its responsibilities are ostensibly to provide security for airlines and to screen passengers.
It does such a ham-handed job that it is universally hated. But it seems to revel in being disliked and, in fact, often tries to make itself more unpleasant than it needs to.
There are a huge number of TSA staff at every US airport, be it small or big. At Columbus airport recently, on a day when the first flight was leaving at 6am, the number of TSA staff who arrived for work beginning at 4.30am far outnumbered those on the airline counters.
One would have to wonder why so many staff are needed – but flying to, and within the US, a few times provides the answer. They are extremely inefficient and operate like some kind of goon squad.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, the staff at the international airport just waved me and my baggage through when I came off an international flight. But when I re-checked in for a local flight, I was asked to do everything but take off my clothes.
How much good does all this apparent security do? The TSA claims it has been responsible for stopping innumerable terrorist plots but so does every single unit of government that has been set up after the September 2001 attacks.
The way in which the TSA goes about its job needs to be seen to be believed. I watched a woman go through the process of being frisked. Exactly why she was singled out, only the almighty knows. In full view of all the others, she had to suffer the ignominy of being felt up by a bulky TSA female officer. In the end there was no reason for the body check.
I watched also as two TSA staff appeared at the gate where one of the flights I was on was departing. People come to the gate after having cleared security – which, incidentally, is run by the same TSA. Why then is there a need for another check of documents by the TSA at the gate? The airline staff do a check anyway.
But, no, these goons often turn up, probably because they have nothing else to do. At times they do not even bother to look at one’s passport the right way.
The impression is that there is very good security all around. Yet in Los Angeles in November, a man was able to open fire inside the airport and kill one person, having smuggled in a gun. He was apparently targeting the TSA – now why would he do that?
But there are too many TSA people around, earning too much money, for the department to ever be dismantled. These goons are going to be around for the foreseeable future.