Here’s what happens when you put the TSA and Knee Defenders in the same story

What does the TSA and the Knee Defender have in common? They’re both incendiary topics on this site.

I’m putting them together today for a good cause.

The TSA needs no introduction. We started off today’s discussion about the controversial federal agency, with its pat-downs and full body scanners, by suggesting the government partially de-fund the agency and dress security guards in polo shirts.

Details are in Charlie Leocha’s takedown of the current agency’s practices, and it’s a must-read.

Then our knowledgebase team, led by Judy Nagy, released our exhaustive frequently asked questions about the TSA, which answers questions like these:

• Do I have to obey every uniformed person I encounter at a TSA screening area?
• Is it true that American passengers love to bring guns and other dangerous weapons on the plane? Isn’t that why we have the TSA?
• Do TSA agents have access to extensive information about me at their fingertips?
• If I have a disagreement or argument with a TSA agent, will I be added to some kind of no-fly list?

We’ve researched the answers. You may not agree with every one of them, but there they are. Remember, you can always suggest more Qs and As by emailing me directly. I won’t be offended.

Oh, but we couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Today’s the day we’re giving away Knee Defenders to five random new underwriters. If you haven’t signed up as a supporter of this site, this is the time.

What’s that? You don’t like the Knee Defender? Yeah, we heard that last year when we gave away these devices, which allow you to stop someone from slamming their economy class seat into your knees.

Related story:   TSA watch: Are screeners preying on sick passengers?

We were assailed by flight attendants who noted that their airlines ban the Knee Defender. And we were attacked by a credit card shill, who seemed apoplectic that someone else might be able to limit his seat’s recline. Ironically, that person never travels in economy class. Too funny.

All these criticisms have been duly noted and dismissed.

The Knee Defender is an icon of the underrepresented, oppressed economy class passenger. Its function could just as well be achieved with a rolled up in-flight magazine or a portable tool kit. (That’s right, one aircraft engineer confided that he adjusts the economy class seat in front of him when he flies.)

My Knee Defender doesn’t travel with me. It sits on the shelf, always reminding me of who I’m representing: the voiceless passengers squeezed into the back of the plane who face countless surcharges and upsells and are stuck with substandard service.

That’s what the Knee Defender means to me. Truth be told, good manners can do the exact same thing as the Knee Defender. A polite “excuse me” and a request to lean forward just an inch, so we can share what little space we have, almost always works.

That’s why I love the Knee Defender. It is an important symbol of oppression. It stands for what’s wrong with air travel and it motivates us to fight for what’s right.

We are struggling to free ourselves of the TSA’s unconstitutional body scans and pat downs, just as we are fighting for our rights to a little more personal space.

Won’t you join us?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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