The TSA, Blogger Bob and George Orwell

There’s been a lot of discussion going on at GovLoop about a post I did about the TSA blog. In it, I asked whether the TSA blog was supposed to be propaganda or the unvarnished truth.

GovLoop is an online community designed to be “Facebook for feds”.

I objected to the fact that “Blogger Bob” from the TSA categorically states that no one is being groped at airport checkpoints. This is so far removed from reality to be laughable. Anyone who has opened a newspaper or turned on the news has seen countless reports from ordinary citizens about being felt up at TSA checkpoints.

Blogger Bob responded to my post on GovLoop. He accused me of spreading misinformation. He puts “groping” in quotes as if it’s all a big misunderstanding. This agent of the government is disappointed in me. That’s a bit worrisome, considering the tools the TSA has to make my life difficult.

Friends of Blogger Bob defended him in the comments. One person even texted me privately. They say he’s a good guy. I’m sure he is. I’m sympathetic – being a blogger for the TSA has got to be an impossible job.

I’m a big fan of government blogging. When I worked at NOAA, I set up a blog and advocated for greater blogging within the organization. The scientists at NOAA do fascinating work that deserves greater coverage.

But government bloggers work for the people. They have an obligation to be truthful. They’re not supposed to do propaganda – that’s expressly illegal. When I was at NOAA, the feds I worked with stressed to me that we were public servants. All of us, contractors and feds, united to provide quality, vetted information to the public.

“Our work speaks for itself,” one veteran fed told me, declining to do any PR at all about what they did.

Government bloggers have an obligation to be truthful. When they deny the obvious (no one is being groped) that destroys their credibility. And the Orwellian language is even worse – “enhanced patdowns” for that hand on your groin.

Winston Smith rewrote history in 1984, changing the facts to match the policy of the day. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia…

It’s a dangerous path that the TSA is on. Instead of providing factual information, they give us taxpayers self-serving spin. I hope that the TSA and government bloggers turn away from this future. Because at the end of this long road lies Winston Smith, in a cubicle, sending inconvenient facts down the memory hole.