The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s awesome Instagram account, which primarily shares photos of crazy items the TSA has found while screening airline passengers, is not new, but it did see significant new attention on the Internet this week. Whoever is running it has made an effort to include wild finds from many different airports across the U.S., including several from San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport. At SFO the TSA confiscated a brush dagger and a bullet-knife, child’s play compared to the novelty bomb belt, throwing star, seven pounds of weed, and 81 more pounds of weed (pictured) taken at OAK. Wow, you’d think that last one would’ve just slid right through, huh?
The TSA’s photos offer a fascinating look at human naiveté, stupidity and stubbornness. They expose some very weird parts of the black market. The TSA’s Instagram is great, but I can’t help but notice an alternate purpose that it serves: scaring us into liking and trusting the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security by giving us the impression that “threats” are much more frequent than they actually are. The Instagram gives the illusion that the TSA is constantly confiscating tons of weapons, many deviously disguised, in every airport. A few hundred or thousand weapons is certainly many weapons, but it’s not so many when one considers that the TSA screens 600-700 million passengers every year. That means the TSA finds ~3 firearms for every million people it screens. The TSA’s posts are entertaining, but whether they intend it or not, and whether we realize it or not, they serve another purpose too. Thoughts?