Strip Searches Strip Our Liberty

Liberty Lost

Liberty Lost

As the law stands, anyone can be strip-searched when arrested, for any offense, at any time.

Oddly, it was the more libertarian justices of the Supreme Court who declared it so — the ones who usually claim to value liberty over all.

Albert Florence had been stopped for a driving violation. Once taken into custody he was told to “turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks.” He felt humiliated, “It made me feel like less of a man,” he said.

Naomi Wolf points out the absurdity. Justice Kennedy suggested that a 9/11 bomber could have been stopped for speeding. And strip searching him would have prevented the attack? Plans to blow up the twin towers may have been concealed in a body cavity? 

Wolf warns,

Believe me: you don’t want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state that is descending into fascism is powerfully effective in controlling and subduing populations.

Forcing people to undress is the first step in breaking down a sense of individuality and dignity and reinforcing powerlessness. Enslaved women were sold naked on the blocks in the American south, and adolescent male slaves served young white ladies at table in the south, while they themselves were naked: their invisible humiliation was a trope for their emasculation. Jewish prisoners herded into concentration camps were stripped of clothing and photographed naked, as iconic images of that Holocaust reiterated.

While TSA pat-downs are routine in the US, they are illegal in Britain. Wolf believes that the genital groping policy “is designed to psychologically habituate US citizens to a condition in which they are demeaned and sexually intruded upon by the state – at any moment.”


And odd that this level of invasion is deemed necessary when cargo holds are not always routinely checked for bombs. And nuclear and chemical plants are not adequately guarded. All because companies want to avoid costs and delays. Yet we must put up with pat-downs, x-ray cameras and strip searches at the airport?

Meanwhile, a facility is being set up in Utah by the NSA to monitor everything all the time. And recent laws have criminalized protest. Where are we headed, Wolf wonders.

Whether or not a plan has been laid to psychologically subdue the U.S. population, the techniques could become a tool for our submission.

And the fact that such tools are upheld by the libertarian side of the bench leaves me wondering how pro-freedom they really are. Is it liberty for all? Or just liberty for powerful police and powerful corporations?

See entire article @ Naomi Wolf, “How the US Uses Sexual Humiliation as a Political Tool to Control the Masses,” Common Dreams

I’m on vacation. This is a repeat.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 4, 2014, in politics/class inequality, psychology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Ok, you shocked me with the first line! I don’t know what the law regarding strip-searches is here I wonder if it is the same, I hope not.

    Then I read this bit,

    “And odd that this level of invasion is deemed necessary when cargo holds are not always routinely checked for bombs. And nuclear and chemical plants are not adequately guarded. All because companies want to avoid costs and delays. Yet we must put up with pat-downs, x-ray cameras and strip searches at the airport?”

    Invade people’s personal body space, but nuclear plants ‘ahhhhh she’ll be right.” you have got to be kidding me!

    It would be completely humiliating and traumatic to be strip searched. This idea that anyone can be for any minor crime is shocking.

    • The strip searches aren’t routine. But in America if you refuse to go through an X-ray machine, which is often still basically a nude photo (airports are gradually changing that to a nondescript human-looking image), you at minimum get a putdown. And you can’t be subject to a strip search, particularly if you don’t seem to be corporative. But some old folks have had to undergo the searches because they were wearing a diaper that was full, and so the imagery looked like they were hiding something in their underwear.

      Otherwise, Americans have to take off their shoes, belts, jackets, anything metal… And the cargo holds still aren’t checked. At best, it’s theater to make people feel safe.

  2. The word “libertarian” has lost all meaning in the US. Used to be, it stood for minimal government intrusion — a Libertarian would oppose neither abortion nor recreational drugs nor private ownership of assault weapons nor gay marriage.

    Somewhere in the past few decades the far right has co-opted the term and the philosophy, and twisted it to mean “no government at all under any circumstances, except to outlaw homosexuality and hippies burning flags and Mexicans speaking Spanish.”

    I’m a bit of a centrist on most issues, so most of my friends are well to the right or to the left of me on hot issues. Those on the right have taken neo-libertarianism to heart. They are more than willing to bend over (literally and figuratively) in the name of security as long as it’s prefaced with “Al-Qaeda” or “Benghazi”. Contrariwise my liberal friends are only too happy to surrender their Bill of Rights as long as it’s “to keep those religious wackos and gun nuts from making me unhappy”.

    *sigh* can’t we all just get along?

    • Yeah, I think that for political reasons of electability, libertarians these days are basically far right Republicans: Keep the government out of everything but the most personal part of who you are.

  3. It’s amazing how Americans accept the erosion of their freedoms… and still claim to be the freest country at the same time

    It’s really scary… the Snowden files, the Patriot act, TSA search powers, etc.

  4. It’s scary to think of what people accept as “safety measures” that are marketed as something beneficial to some “greater good”. Well, there have been many regimes throughout history that have been using those arguments. We all have to be vigilant to these changes, totalitarian regimes didn’t simply emerge during a night, it’s the small steps towards “control and justice” that so many fail to recognize that pose the real threat to western societies. Little by little the iron fist is tightening it’s grip once again, it’s just so sad.

  5. I have heard about this first time. Thanks for the information.

  6. I hadn’t thought of strip searches in that way. Thank you for bringing up so many important points. It is amazing what we accept as justice when we are told that is what it is. You r right-what good does making someone be naked in these situations? Powerful references to nakedness from the past.

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