One of the consequences of Americans’ increased concerns about terrorism and the rise of an enormous American security state has been a corresponding (if not casually related) rise in entertainment about that security state. We don’t just have shows about cops anymore. We’ve got shows and movies about intelligence analysts, and field agents, and the politics of intelligence. Apparently, even Claire Danes is getting in on the market with a starring role in a Showtime series about a Department of Homeland Security analyst in a vaguely Khost-like situation.
What I’m curious about is whether the popular backlash against the Transportation Security Administration will affect any of this popular enthusiasm for terrorism-busting shows. My sense is that it won’t. Americans haven’t been particularly concerned on a broad level about the expansion of the surveillance state as long as it doesn’t touch them, be it physically, or in the form of inconvenience. I do think a lot of the folks behind National Opt-Out Day are concerned about both civil liberties and a sense of physical violation and inconvenience that comes with airport security. But I don’t think that this protest, even if it changes policies, which I hope it will, is necessarily going to be part of major shift in either our politics or our entertainment. Even if folks were going to make the connection between TSA screeners and the snazzy terror-fighters on their screens, I think we’ll still collectively enjoy seeing whether we can beat the bad guys too much to turn off the TV every time the Department of Homeland Security comes on-screen.