Some whom have followed me for a while may remember my run in with the TSA at the Ft. Lauderdale, FL airport back in November of 2010. Long story short, I opted out of going through the full body scanner, and was pulled aside for an “enhanced patdown”. Because I was uncomfortable with the idea of a government employee (and total stranger to me) touching me in such an intimate way, with no suspicion of criminal activity, I asked a few questions regarding the process. As a result of asking questions, rather than blindly following their orders, I was detained, lectured, taunted, handcuffed, had my ticket ripped up, and eventually I was escorted out of the airport by nearly a dozen police and homeland security agents.
My story was one of the first in a frenzy of TSA resistance featured in the media. During this media blitz, editors of The Nation Magazine decided to publish an article by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, titled TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal. The general idea they try to convey is that myself, John Tyner (the “don’t touch my junk guy”), and everyone else involved in any kind of publicly discussed TSA resistance were, in fact, hired participants in a right-wing domestic terrorism conspiracy. After a written admonishment from Salon contributor, Glenn Greenwald, a second article came out (just as bad as the first). I posted a response to this article when it first came out at the Civil Disobedience Evolution Fund‘s blog; however, the post has since been deleted.
So, here was my response to The Nation Magazine (I also visited their offices in New York City and requested an apology in person… never did get it):
My response to The Nation’s TSA Articles
I was appalled at the absolute strait out lies The Nation found the balls to print about me, and I thought I would finally sit down and respond, both publicly and to the writers/editors at this abysmally written rag.
As there are now 2 articles (one making bold face lies about me, and another confirming their position on those lies); I have decided to start this response with a line-by-line deconstruction of the section that mentions me in the 2nd article. This pretty much sums up their stance in the first article, so I can give the broader answers here.
The Nation: “We also documented the story of the first “victim” of the TSA—a libertarian named Meg McLain”
First line, first lie. I am not a libertarian. I do not claim to be a libertarian. At no point during any interview did I say I was a libertarian. I find party politics of any kind to be repugnant, and ‘libertarians’ are a political party. I consider myself to be a sovereign human being who interacts with people on a voluntary and consensual basis. Politics have nothing to do with me, and I want nothing to do with them.
The Nation: “—who was found to have lied about being sexually molested by TSA agents.”
I never stated, insinuated, claimed, or even came close to accusing the TSA of sexually molesting me. The whole reason I was kicked out of the Florida airport was because I was uncomfortable with the new “enhanced pat-downs”, and I attempted to ask some questions to see if we could come to a compromise that would show I wasn’t a threat but not require me to endure something I was personally not ok with. After asking the questions, the TSA blew things out of proportion, and assumed I had refused the pat down, so I was eventually escorted out for not completing screening. Moreover (and to the great embarrassment of this magazine’s crap ‘journalists’) the TSA never claimed I lied about them sexually molesting me. Because I never said they did.
After my incident became public, the TSA posted up two security videos from my encounter with the TSA. They never outright said my story was untruthful; however, they insinuated it by saying something to the effect of “We’ll let you [the viewer] decide what happened.” The only problem is these two videos do not cover the entire encounter. The portion missing includes a few of the events I had spoken about on the radio that were never captured in the two videos posted (both from cameras angled away from that area). Nothing I said was a lie; however, much of what I said was misquoted, distorted, or even made up by the media.
I attempted to make a clarification after I listened to my original interview (which I had done less than an hour after the incident occurred). This was not to “cover up a lie”, but rather to explain that when I said “nobody else was taken through the advanced screening” or sometime like that, I was trying to convey that nobody else was brought into the secondary screening area I was in. This was not an admission of lying, this was an attempt to clear up something that I misspoke on and could have worded differently to be better understood. But because I was telling the truth, the TSA and police couldn’t even say I was lying when asked point blank. All they said was, “We cannot confirm or deny anything”. It was purely an attempt on someone’s part to sway the discussion of my incident from the real issue at hand to whether or not my story was even real. It was. And if you’re going to take two videos without timecodes or full coverage of the incident as evidence of a “lie”, at least have the intelligence to figure out the lie I’m accused of making.
*I would also like to add that the entire description of my version of what happened is so appalling misquoted, and so far off from what I actually said that I’m really wondering if the “journalist” even bothered to listen to the audio, or if he just read things and made it up himself. I also find it comical that the author was too stupid to realize they based the claim that nobody screamed “Opt Out” by referencing a video with no sound.
The Nation: “Before Tyner, McLain was being heralded by the same right-wing PR network, particularly Matt Drudge and Koch-funded libertarians, who later promoted Tyner to fame and who last year led the PR drive promoting the Tea Party movement. McLain’s ties to the Koch brothers are well-documented in our piece—and Greenwald, for reasons unclear, studiously avoids rebutting any of our evidence.”
I have no idea who any of these people are, with the exception of John Tyner, whom I heard of and met online well after both our incidents occurred.
Now here are some additional quotes from The Nation’s original article that give more detailed lies to it’s readers.
The Nation: “McLain is an occasional co-host of a libertarian radio show out of a libertarian quasi-commune located in Keene, New Hampshire.”
I do not believe Free Talk Live is a libertarian radio show. It is the show a friend of mine hosts, and I enjoy the discussions and subject matter, so I sit in as a co-host from time to time. I have no idea where this quasi-commune thing came from. I live in a damn house with a roommate and a dog. Since when is that a commune? Because I have a roommate? Because once in a while we share our food? Really? Thats just flat out stupid writing intended to be offensive for no reason, and with no basis.
The Nation: “As reported in theWashington City Paper, the libertarian “Free Keene” movement where McLain makes her home is yet another libertarian project tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, the prime backers of the Tea Party campaign, through the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University.”
How exactly is Free Keene tied to these guys I’ve never heard of? Does it go any further than ‘the Koch brothers have mentioned it once’? If they do have some financial ties with Free Keene, I would like to know, cause I am poor as crap and don’t make a dime off that website.
The Nation: “By her own account, McLain was down in Florida visiting a pair of traveling libertarians who were spreading the word of libertarianism in what they billed as “Liberty On Tour,” funded at least partly by Koch-backed organizations like “Students for Liberty.”
The Nation: “George Donnelly, a libertarian colleague of McLain’s who writes that he “loves” her traveling libertarian friends in Florida and “learned a lot” from them, also happens to be one of two men behind the WeWontFly.com, one of the main websites pushing the “National Opt-Out Day” movement. The domain was registered on November 3, 2010, five days before McLain’s fake airport incident. Donnelly provided McLain with the funds to return back to her libertarian commune in Keene, New Hampshire, after the (fake) incident.”
You know why I was in Florida? The trip was an f-ing birthday gift from my mother, so I could visit a boy I had a crush on. I was going to see a boy I liked. Thats it. And it actually didn’t work out that well for me in the end, in case you’d like to rub some salt in that wound too.
Before I had booked the trip, I checked on the TSA’s website to determine which airports had body scanners, and Ft. Lauderdale was not listed. I had actually gone to the airport assuming I had done my due diligence to ensure I wouldn’t have to encounter one of these machines. When I was chosen for the body scanner, I honestly had no intention of not going through screening; however, I WAS very nervous and uncomfortable with both the options the TSA were giving me, so I attempted to ask a few questions to remedy my discomfort. What happen as a result of those questions was not only unintended, it was downright frightening.
I didn’t even know if the friends I was visiting were still in the area, and I could have easily gotten stuck sitting outside the airport with no money, and nowhere to go. I was lucky enough to get ahold of them, and they rescued me from the horrible incident. I was asked to call in to Free Talk Live shortly after and tell the story of what had just happened to me, so I did. I never expected it to be put in the media spotlight, as I didn’t think it was that big of a story.
It wasn’t until the next day that I even “met” (online only) George Donnelly, who had heard me on FTL the night before, and made the audio into a video for his website. While I didn’t mind him doing that, I didn’t want the attention of the media (The Nation’s article is a glaring example of why entering the public eye is a horrible idea). I did the first few interviews simply as a way to raise funds so I could get back home, by promoting a chip-in that many people were kind enough to donate to. However, after the media started, I began getting thousands of emails. While many of them were less that friendly, much more of them were from victims of TSA abuses writing to tell me about their experiences and offer their moral support. It was these hundreds of heart breaking responses that made me continue responding to media after raising the money to get home. These people were hurting, and they had no voice to express that. I didn’t want to be that for them, but I had to do something. If nothing else, shed light on the issue. I was fully aware that it meant more long hours, headaches, and enduring more of the most hurtful and mean things ever said to and about me.
This whole thing was never an intention. I never sought out fame over a situation I never wanted to be in to begin with. I haven’t gained anything from it. And I sure as hell was never asked to do it, or offered payment for it. I have had weeks of stress, hate mail, heartbreak, and a massive loss in productivity, which has taken a financial toll on me. I marvel that The Nation would be so brazen and heartless to make up an entire story about a nice young girl from a little town in Oregon, and turn her into some key player of a domestic terrorism conspiracy, which now puts me at risk for any number of horrific consequences including government investigations, personal attacks, and other such nightmares. All this without making one effort to contact me to confirm the facts.
So all I have left to say to The Nation Magazine is:
Your journalistic integrity is an embarrassment, and you should be ashamed.