Sunday, August 20, 2006

Anyone for Terrorist Profiling?

My father forwarded an article from The Patriot Post which I dutifully linked so that you could read it on your own. I won't dignify it by making a copy. It includes a list of crimes committed by Islamic radicals and a call to profile Muslim males to fight terrorism. This makes a certain amount of sense and I don't deny that such things should be considered when deciding how to focus limited anti-crime resources. But, it seems to imply that we should focus on male Muslims and stop bothering innocent, law-abiding white Christian folks.

I know this seems to make sense. But consider what what it means if you are a law-abiding, Middle-eastern immigrant Muslim male who is singled out every time you travel or are stopped by law enforcement. I know many such people and work with them. They resent being singled out for this unwanted attention due to the actions of a very, very small percentage of people.

The last two times I've gone to South Padre Island we were stopped briefly at the INS checkpoint on the way home (along with everyone else) and after a glance showed we were white we were waved through. A friend of mine who is Indian and other than having dark skin and being short doesn't look even remotely hispanic spent over two hours in a hot interrogation room at the same checkpoint on his way home from vacation with his wife. Based on what? Profiling? If anything he's even more law-abiding than me. He speaks with a British accent. Why was he subjected to such extended attention with absolutely no, zero, nada grounds for suspicion beyond the color of his skin?

The other problem with this argument is that it seems to ignore that two of the worst incidents of terrorism in the U.S were perpetrated by white, working class male U.S. citizens. Prior to 9/11 the largest mass murder in the history of the U.S. was perpetrated by the Mormons at Mountain Meadows (on September 11, no less). I personally witnessed the damage done by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City.

So, I'll augment the list in the Patriot Post with my own list that hopefully gives some historical perspective.

1) The attempted assassination of Andrew Jackson was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male?

2) President Abraham Lincoln was murdered by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

3) President James A. Garfield was assassinated by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

4) President William McKinley was assassinated by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

5) President Theodore Roosevelt was shot by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

6) The attempted assassination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

7) The attempted assassination of President Harry Truman was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen, c) Puerto Rican nationalists?

8) President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

9) The attempted assassination of President Richard Nixon by flying an airliner into the White House was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

10) The attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, female U.S. citizen?

11) The attempted assassination of President Jimmy Carter was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

12) President Ronald Reagan was shot by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

13) The assassination of former president George H. W. Bush was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen, c) agents of Iraq?

14) The attempted assassination of President George W. Bush was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen, c) an ethnic armenian citizen of Georgian (former U.S.S.R.)?

15) The largest mass murder in the U.S. prior to 9/11/2001 was committed on 9/11/1857 by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) white, male U.S. citizens?

16) The federal building in Oklahoma City was blow up with a fertilizer bomb by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

While militant Islam is certainly a very dangerous threat, it is not the only one. But the bigger problem is that our Constitution guarantees protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Simply being male and Muslim is not justification for a search any more than being black or Jew or any other arbitrary criteria. I'm a firm believer that the test of our constitutional form of government is best defined by whether we are willing to uphold the law of the land even when it may be more convenient not to.

Reference:

Wikipedia's list of presidential assassination attempts.

5 comments:

lma said...

Indeed. And if you're interest in what some of those white, Christian, "law-abiding" folks hope to bring about in the United States, read Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg.

Me, I worry about them a lot more than I worry about the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

lma

Saint'n said...

Ironic that the consequence of your argument is that white US males are more of a threat than Islamic men, which is just another example of racial profiling. Thus, you have actually done nothing but reassert the difficulty racial profiling presents to all human beings. By employing it to argue against it you strengthen the case for racial profiling, rather than weaken (I am not unaware of the possibility that this was all tounge in cheek, and indeed, I hope it was).

You should read Nietzche who discusses the necessity of over-generalization to human survival. Our minds are logically flawed as a means of survival. For example, when faced with a wolf in the wild, we need to assume that as it is a wolf, it is dangerous, and therefore fight or flight needs to occur. We do not have the luxury in this situation to analyze that particular wolf to ascertain whether it poses a danger to our safety. This ability in the human mind has led to survival, and has been passed through generations of human beings through the process of evolution. Thus, sugesting that avoiding racial profiling is like suggesting we avoid the need to procreate -- it is a biological urge that is incredibly difficult to control.

I admit that it is a problem, I just think it is silly to condemn it without a sophisticated analysis of its origins, and even worse to simply reverse it and apply it to white US males, in an attempt to argue against it.

No hard feelings, eh. I just needed to get this off my chest (and to take a break from work).

Arizona Expositor said...

I travel a lot between Phoenix and San Diego along I-8, and there are two INS checkpoints. One outside of Yuma, Arizona and the other in the mountains east of San Diego. I hate them and I think they are ineffective, waste of money, and slow me down while I am trying to get to my destination.

One time they asked me my citizenship, I said "Minnesotan" (with the accent on the "o") by mistake it almost cost me two hours but I recovered and got out US.

Bull said...

This was done tongue in cheek. Profiling is actually highly effective if done correctly. The Israelis have highly effective profiling techniques that allow them to focus limited resources. The real point is that it is probably possible to construct a list of criminals to bolster whatever profile you want.

By profession I find bugs in computer chips. One rule of thumb is that when you find a bug you'll probably find more in the same area. This is sort of like profiling. BUT, I still have to do random searches elsewhere to find bugs that aren't in that cluster. I think the analogy is that profiling, when done correctly, is a legitimate, effective screening technique. But, people seem to think it should replace random searches of "white grandmas." It shouldn't. Random searches keep the process honest.

I hear what you are saying saint'n. But, our evolved instincts are often incorrect in the modern world. For example, our preference for sugary and fatty foods. The way our mind works is often highly flawed when dealing with a modern, technological world. Etc., etc. I think we agree on this.

Anonymous said...

Well Ima, we can always hope that the "Christian Exodus" movement really happens, and then only the poor bastards in South Carolina have to worry about the fundamentalist nutters.