United: woman in Marvel "Black Panther" hat is a threat to passengers, but man in "Rope. Tree. Journalist" shirt is just sharing his opinion

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/10/14/united-man-in-marvel-black.html


How much for people asking to bring Jim Crow laws back?


If you have a white T-shirt and a Sharpie in your luggage, a suitable remedy is to demand that United give you the passenger’s name so you can quickly whip up a first-amendment-protected garment reading “I intend to pour gasoline over Wayne Fashman in seat 34B and set him on fire”


In all fairness, that constitutes enough of a specific threat to be outside of first amendment protections.

Also, is there any US airline that isn’t a total dumpster fire?



Maybe the person who complained about the hat is simply a salty DCU fan who just can’t understand why their favorite comic book franchise is unable to gain traction and would rather not have to be subjected the crowing of the Marvel fans with their big, fancy, multi-movie interconnected stories.

Besides Superman could have totally beat Thanos in the first five minutes.


You get a lot of selection bias in situations like this. All cases where a man with a ‘Black Panther’ cap isn’t told to remove it or a guy wearing a shirt as offensive as this one is told to cover it won’t be news (at least not here on BB). It’s a big company with lots of employees so there is bound to be events like this. Staff who make decisions more based on “what is going to cause less trouble” than what is fair. In situations like this the unfortunate truth is that anything you do may get you fired, because that is the easiest response for the company, expecially now that stuff can get viral on Internet. Telling that white guy to cover it may cause just as much trouble if he is some kind of “influencer” who get a bunch of supporters to complain to United.

By all means, one should point out inconsistencies in policy, just not scream so loud people get fired.




The correct response to that shirt should be … vocal mockery of the inhabitant’s idiocy. I’m pretty sure that I could verbally wind him up enough (while staying calm) that he gets himself tossed from the flight.


Where’s the line? He’s obviously implying (even if jokingly) that journalists should be lynched and killed. Is it because “journalist” is a class of non-specific people? What if the shirt had read something like “I like to screw stewardesses”? There’s another group of non-specific people, but I doubt he’d be allowed to fly with that.

Interesting fact: stewardesses is the longest word you can type using only your left hand.


Where’s the incentive for a company to change their policies if everyone’s going “Shhhhhh, don’t say racism too loudly!”?

If people are not following existing policy, and individually erring on the side of bigotry, how is protecting their job by “not making a fuss” going to influence their future choices?

And this article isn’t a “scream”, by any stretch of the imagination.


Lynching is political violence and is, therefore, terrorism.

This man is a terrorist.

United lets terrorists fly on their airplanes.

This should be the message to them.


For a long time, the three “non-dumpster-fire” airlines have been Southwest, JetBlue, and Alaska, but I’m not sure if any dumpster fires have been lit lately that I’ve missed.


I think there’s some “path of least resistance” in these sorts of things. It’s easy to remove a hat. It’s easy to push around a brown person. Big guy with threatening shirt is scary. And he’s white. Plus there’s a discourse community of hand-wringing white guys whose “free speech rights” are constantly “threatened.” The community of randos who are skeered of a Black Panther hat is not well organized.

Basically in this we see the typical chickenshit enforcement of bias, discrimination, and state/informal terrorism aimed at keeping representative others at the bottom of the social pecking order. Business as usual. In every sense of those words.


This gets to the heart of it.

They justify the policy by saying that it removes “scary” people to make people comfortable. “Our goal is to provide safe and comfortable travel for all of our customers…” If people can be “so scary” it’s not then enforced, then they’re not doing that.

If it’s an "only protecting the comfort of white people" policy, then they deserve any bad press coming their way.


I guess that depends on your definition of dumpster fire.

Southwest requires Social Security numbers to joing their frequent flier program.

JetBlue violated their own privacy policy by giving their passengers records to the DHS as test data for the Total Information Awareness program, and a contractor then leaked that data. They were not held to account because no individual passenger could demonstrate harm that came from the leak. They also argued that many web site privacy policies are null and void because the site offers a free service–if the user isn’t paying for the service with something of tangible value (e.g., money instead of their data), then there’s no contract.

I liked Alaska, but the routes they fly that I routinely use have been taken over by Southwest and JetBlue.

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Good question.
Uh… which day is it?
What time is it?
Which way is the wind blowing?


No, not really. It’s in terrible taste, United would have been well within reason to tell him he’s not allowed to wear it on their flight, and the wearer is a genuinely terrible person who deserves to be shamed*, but it’s not a true threat.

*assuming that he’s capable of shame, which is far from certain


From Ken White

Only “true threats” are unprotected—threats conveying “a serious expression of intent to an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.”


We can even assert that violence is justified. Such advocacy is only unprotected when it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.Imminent is the key word here. Saying “Go beat up those protesters over there” probably qualifies; ugly rhetoric in general does not.

My take would be that including the seat number implies that you intend to do it during that flight, making it imminent.