Monday, November 29, 2010

T.S.A. Furor Gives Media a False Positive

The New York Times claims that the media coverage of the TSA has been overblown:
If a squadron of mad scientists surrounded by supercomputers gathered in a laboratory to try to conjure a single news topic that would blow up large, they could not touch the T.S.A. pat-down story.

It began with a Drudge Report link to a video on Nov. 13 of an intrusive pat-down, and then leapt to social media and the rest of the Web. Twitter lighted up, flashing 4,000 posts an hour with cheeky hash tags, and in just the first two days of last week, there were 60 million Google queries for information on the change in the Transportation Security Administration protocol, according to Trendrr, a social media measurement company.

Soon enough, an online protest calling for a National Opt-Out Day popped up, with a call to refuse to submit to scans and to clog airports on Wednesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Cue the media mushroom cloud: by Tuesday, there were print reports about the new scanning technology, heavy-breathing blog posts about the government using the technology to alter or gather DNA (yow), and every cable channel featured wall-to-wall speculation about what would happen when people got to the airport on Wednesday and how many would be carrying lanterns and pitchforks.

“This story tapped right into the central nervous system of the collective consciousness,” said Mark Ghuneim, chief executive of Trendrr. “It was huge.”

But then, in the real world, nothing happened.

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