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The Lesser of Two Evils: To scan or not to scan?

November 28, 2010

In discussion last week, we read an article about the measures that TSA is taking to ensure our traveling safety at airports all over the nation. The media has taken quite a liking for stories about passengers that find creative ways to go around the full-body scans, or travelers that are suing for “harassment” or “molestation”. Some feel violated by these full-body scans, while others do not contest. We connected these scans and pat-downs to Mill and how he sees something as a “nuisance” once it gets in the way of someone else. Would Mill agree with these full-body scans- would he see the benefit outweighing the cost of invasion of privacy, or would he think they were too much of a “nuisance” towards someone’s emotional wellbeing.

As a class, we determined that Mill likely would be in favor of the scans, that he would not have a problem with them. We came to this conclusion because, while the scans and pat-downs have been problematic for some and their execution may have been inappropriate in some instances, overall, the scans and pat downs are ultimately beneficial. In this situation, the body scans could help eliminate possible threats to the overall safety of a plane, its passengers, and, ultimately, our nation. By not having these body scans, we could potentially be making room for terrorist attacks which would lead to emotional pain, death, and blows to our economy. Because these costs are greatly outweighed by the benefits of the body scans, Mill would say that we should pick the lesser of the two evils and allow for the body scans.

Even if you’re uncomfortable with someone in a room watching the monitors from the scans seeing you semi-nude, the scans are still allowing for more protection for our nation. Mill believes in the freedom to do whatever you want so long as it doesn’t harm or bother someone else, but once it starts to harm of bother someone else, it becomes a nuisance. In this case, while the scans may be a nuisance, they do more good than harm in the long run.

  1. joshuacy permalink
    November 28, 2010 10:17 PM

    While I cannot vouch for Mill, some people do find the scans and extra-close pat-downs enough of nuisance to infringe on their well-being.
    Some passengers are worried of the effects of x-rays on their body. Frequent travelers, often exposed to the radiations, would be especially at risk.
    Others are truly psychologically disturbed by the aggressive pat-downs. Technically, the action is sexual assault, if it was committed by someone other than a “protector of public safety.” The Fourth Amendment guarantee: ” The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and these mandatory measures are a direct violation of this right.
    So, while I agree that Mill, if ill-informed, would agree with the TSA’s measures, I cannot possibly condone their actions.

  2. Madeline Smith permalink
    November 29, 2010 4:36 AM

    I think it’s also important to note that people make the choice to take an airplane. This is not a required search for random people on the street at any given time without notice. This is when people buy a ticket and voluntarily go through a very intense security process. This is a rough comparison but it’s like a scary movie- if you can’t handle it, don’t go. Some may find a horror film very emotionally and mentally disturbing, but they can choose not to deal with it. This is another point I think Mill would use in his defense of the new scans.

  3. crorey permalink
    November 29, 2010 11:47 AM

    Although many people may consider the full-body scans to be a “nuisance,” I do not believe that Mill would agree with this being a nuisance because you don’t have to go on the airplane. You could drive to your destination. No one is forcing you to take the airplane. On top of that, the full-body scans protect the safety of the people. Mill would definitely rationally agree that full-body scans are not a “nuisance.”

  4. greguff permalink
    November 30, 2010 6:48 PM

    I figured I needed to post this funny spoof on the new exorbitant airport security just in case no one has seen this yet. After flying home for Thanksgiving break I had the opportunity to first hand experience these new body scans. Although I felt they were a little much, I felt the process was expedient and not a big deal. However, I was oblivious to the fact of the damage they can to do ME instead of the goal for protection. The general public may believe that these body scans are useful and help prevent against terrorists, which may be true, however, alike myself people need to understand the detrimental affects these body scans have upon everyone who goes through airport travel. In the above comments, Madeline and Crorey mentioned people make the choice to take an airplane and you can take a car instead, yet some places in this world it is impossible to get to without an airplane. In addition, some professions require people to travel and through the air is the fastest and most conceivable form of travel.

    Based on all this, I therefore believe Mill would consider these scans to be a “nuisance”. Mill states that “he must not make himself a nuisance to other people” and “if he refrains from molesting others in what concerns them..then without molestation he can carry his opinions into practice at his own cost” (Mill, 620). If these scans only served to protect the people and have no side effects or issues, then these scans would not be considered a nuisance. However, experts claim these scans are now found to emit dangerous amounts of radiation, and could potentially increase the likelihood for skin cancer ( These body scans will not cause immediate danger, yet if we do not do replace these scanners then effects will start to be prevalent.

    Mill would be for the protection of society, yet the scans have effects that are unaccounted for and are could be potentially harmful. The scans are unnecessary and even if you opt out, the pat down is not a desirable alternative. The scans are ultimately making people apprehensive to travel and deterring people to fly to different places. Thus, Mill would consider these new body scans a “nuisance”.

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