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August 20, 2006

Terror Alerts Causing General Racist Reaction

-- by Dave Johnson

President Bush recently changed his definition of who "the enemy" is from bin Laden and the al Queda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 to "Islamic fascists" in general, sending the right after Islam in general and Middle Easterners in particular. The other day I wrote about how the Right's amplification machine was picking up the signal on this, calling for "racial profiling" of Middle-Easterners, even though not all Muslims are Middle Eastern. Of course, never mind about Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph and others of domestic origin.

Let's be clear what "profiling" means - it means singling out all people of a certain racial appearance for harassment and intimidation. And let's be clear about what complaints about "political correctness" and "multiculturalism" are - they are racist phrases demanding domination and privilege for those of European descent.

The Right is also heavily promoting books like, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam,

When PC propagandists assure us that jihadist terror doesn't reflect "true," "peaceful" Islam, they're not only wrong, they're dangerous...
... reveals all the disturbing facts about Islam and its murderous hostility to the West that other books ignore, soft-pedal -- or simply lie about.

This book is a unique guide to the bloody teachings and history of Islam, and to the Crusades that still stand today as the Western world's most sustained and successful defense against the warrior hordes who were inspired by those teachings.

and The Life and Religion of Mohammed, sold with
"Mohammed: the ugly truth about the founder of the world's most violent religion." and "With Islam on the march everywhere and Muslims streaming into the U.S. in record numbers, the candor, common sense, and solid Christian faith of this book are needed more than ever."
Today the Right is promoting a story about a "mutiny" aboard a British flight in which fearful British passengers refused to let a plane take off because there were two dark-skinned, Arabic-speaking men aboard, encouraging people to follow this example and start taking matters into their own hands. As I write this the lead post at the "respectable" right-wing hub Towhhall has the very popular TV and radio celebrity Bill O'Reilly writing,
Of course, the sane way to protect Americans in the sky is to stop looking for nail files and begin profiling people who might actually cause terror damage. That is not "racial" profiling, that is "terror" profiling. Most of the recent terror activities have been perpetuated by young Muslim men.
Now take a look at this right-wing blog post, British Air Passengers Mutiny and the comments it solicits, the post blaming "politically correct touchy-feely multiculturalism" for the passengers' reaction.

This one, like many others, make the appeal for people to take matters into their own hands.

It appears that if “we the flying public” are going to be safe, no one but ourselves is going to save us. The hell with political correctness! We need more mutinies of this nature. It’s our money paying for these trips and, ultimately, our lives that are in jeopardy. If the airlines and our “PC” brethren don’t like it, I say “Then follow your own rules!”

I now doubt that anything will bring the so-called “moderate Muslims” out from their hiding places, in order to speak against their suicidal and homicidal brethren. But, at least a few, or many, more of these mutinies might just get the airlines to step up and listen. Contrary to politically-correct opinion, profiling is a good thing—at least if you want to have your best chance of remaining alive.

Or take a look at this one that goes after those who resist "profiling," writing,
One mustn’t risk offending anybody, after all, even if tippy-toeing around the obvious truth leads to hundreds or thousands of dead civilians.
This one says "'Asians,' of course, is UK mediaspeak for Muslims." It goes on to make the typical victimized claim that there will now be
"calls by Muslim leaders and their willing Leftist stooges for some kind of institutionalized and nationwide "education" (i.e. propaganda) campaign to prevent this sort of thing."
The comments at these MAINSTREAM hate sites talk about having the "guts" to go after "towel heads" and praising the "Second Amendment," asking for "Arab-free flights" and saying things like, "Arabs and Muslims need to feel the pain." "They [Muslims] Mshould all be banned from flying and have to pay for their own extremists directly by not flying, the extremists and moderates have caused all of this murder and chaos." "I have been reading the articles and comments for over a year and have to say they have woken me up to the reality of Islam."

Is this just a conservative build-up to the election -- or the beginnings of something worse?

Watch your backs.

Update Lawyers Guns and Money noticed this, too. And Mahablog. Glenn Greenwald.

Posted by Dave Johnson at August 20, 2006 7:52 AM

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Out of the hysteria hanger and on the runway: mutiny is a good thing. The larger issue, here, is that when even airline employees refuse to adhere to the newly-established safety rules, how are passengers supposed to protect themselves and their loved... [Read More]

Tracked on August 21, 2006 9:03 AM


Comments

Let's be even clearer as to what "profiling" means - it means concentrating more on people of a certain racial appearance at the expense of security. Most Muslims in the US are not of Arab descent. Take someone like John Walker Lind and turn him into a sucide bomber. Does he fit the profile? Are we going to have to declare our religious beliefs before we get on the plane? Cause othewise I don't see how you profile a John Walker Lind. Here is an Airline Pilot's views on the subject.

Which data points are we supposed to use? Formulating some religious-ethnic template becomes extremely unreliable. Most of the world's Muslims aren't Arabs. Not all Arabs are Muslims. Nearly half of Lebanon is Christian. Iranians aren't Arabs. Neither are Turks. Plenty of Syrians have red hair and green eyes. The Bali bombers weren't Middle Eastern, they were Asian. And the blabbermouth reactionaries who scream for ethnic profiling were mum when USA Today reported that al-Qaida was actively recruiting white Chechens.

Here is a view from a weblog devoted to security issues

The problem with computerized passenger profiling is that it simply doesn't work. Terrorists don't fit a profile and cannot be plucked out of crowds by computers. Terrorists are European, Asian, African, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern, male and female, young and old. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was British with a Jamaican father. Jose Padilla, arrested in Chicago in 2002 as a "dirty bomb" suspect, was a Hispanic-American. Timothy McVeigh was a white American. So was the Unabomber, who once taught mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. The Chechens who blew up two Russian planes last August were female. Recent reports indicate that Al Qaeda is recruiting Europeans for further attacks on the United States. Terrorists can buy plane tickets -- either one way or round trip -- with cash or credit cards. Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 plot, had a frequent-flyer gold card. They are a surprisingly diverse group of people, and any computer profiling system will just make it easier for those who don't meet the profile. Behavioral assessment profiling is different. It cuts through all of those superficial profiling characteristics and centers on the person. State police are trained as screeners in order to look for suspicious conduct such as furtiveness or undue anxiety. Already at Logan Airport, the program has caught 20 people who were either in the country illegally or had outstanding warrants of one kind or another.

Posted by: Molly Bloom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2006 9:53 AM

All this hair-splitting!

Ninety-nine percent of white Americans (and 100% of the repugs target audience) can't distinguish between an arab, a sikh, a iranian, an indonesian or a peruvian. Because ALL THEY SEE is a brown person. And that's all they need to know.

The people who advocate "profiling" just want all the brown people off their plane. Guess terra ain't so bad after all, huh, bubbba?

Posted by: richard [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2006 11:08 AM

I agree with pretty much all that has been said above with regard to the racist motives of the wingnut Right. I also agree that racially profiling for terrorists is inherently stupid.

That being said, I don't have a problem with calling the enemy "Islamic extremists" or some such (just not "Islamic fascists"). Notwithstanding McVeigh, Islamic extremism poses a substantially more difficult problem than the domestic militia movement. And while the Bush-Cheney admin. has screwed things up, the threat they exploit is not fabricated out of thin air.

Posted by: space [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2006 3:06 PM

I am curious as to whether there have been any legitimate academic studies about the actual effectiveness of racial profiling as a stategy, and also as to whether or not active racial profiling results in people becoming less attentive to behavioral cues.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen(Hugo Zoom) [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2006 1:03 AM

To my surprise, the NYT has a pretty good article today on how US Pakistani communities differ from British ones. The core insight, I think, is that they have been somewhat less marginalized and dissed by the mainstream society. Consequently, they don't develop into enclaves of seething hostility. And they haven't become sources of suicide bombers.

Our right wing nut cases are doing their best to change that. Guess they want to live in a bunker state the rest of their lives. I don't.

Posted by: janinsanfran [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2006 4:39 AM

Jonathan Versen(Hugo Zoom),

Here's a nice introduction...

http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/racial-profiling-is-fundamentally.html

Posted by: Bribes [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 22, 2006 6:54 AM

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