Does anyone else sense something strange is going on with the apparently spontaneous revolt against the TSA? This past week, the media turned an "ordinary guy," 31-year-old Californian John Tyner, who blogs under the pseudonym "Johnny Edge," into a national hero after he posted a cell phone video of himself defending his liberty against the evil government oppressors in charge of airport security.
While this issue is certainly important—and offensive—to Americans, we are nonetheless skeptical about how and why this story turned into a national movement. In fact, this whole campaign feels a bit like déjà-vu: As the first reporters to expose the Tea Party as an Astroturf PR campaign funded by FreedomWorks and Koch-related front groups back in February, 2009, we see many of the same elements driving the current "rebellion" against the TSA: Koch-related libertarians, Washington lobbyists and PR operatives posing as "ordinary citizens," and suspicious fake-grassroots outrage relentlessly promoted in the same old right-wing echo chamber.
So far, all we know about "ordinary guy" John Tyner III, the freedom fighter who took on the TSA agents, is that, according to a friendly hometown profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune, "he leans strongly libertarian and doesn’t believe in voting. TSA security policy, he asserts ‘isn’t Republican and it isn’t Democratic.’ " [Emphasis added.]
Tyner attended private Christian schools in Southern California and lives in Oceanside, a Republican stronghold next to Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base on the West Coast.
At least one local TSA administrator wondered if Tyner hadn’t come to the airport prepared to create a scandal. Tyner switched on his recording device before even entering the checkpoint—and recorded himself as he refused to go through the body scanner. Most importantly, Tyner recorded himself saying, "If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested!"—which quickly morphed on blogs into the more media-savvy tagline, "Don’t touch my junk!"
According to the Union-Tribune, when asked if the TSA was set up by Tyner, the local administrator coyly replied, "I don’t know that it was an actual set up—but we are concerned that this passenger did have his recording [on] prior to entering the checkpoint so there is some concern that it was an intentional behavior on his part."
Tyner scoffs at the suggestion of a set up. "I can’t set up the TSA side of this action," he said. In an interview with The Nation, Tyner said he doesn’t belong to any libertarian organizations and did not have any contact with anyone mentioned in this article until after he posted his encounter with TSA agents.