Profiling vs. Pragmatism

Ore : 10:27 AM

This is another oldie that's nevertheless been rankling for some time:

From among the nuttier sections of the right wing (ie Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter) often come calls to round up all Arabs or to use ethnic and religious profiling to guide airport security (eg, cavity searching every Mohammed, Fayrouz, and, yes, even that many-armed-god-worshipping Apu, while giving a pass on good white Christians and their lessers such as Samoans and poor people).

Criticisms of said mindset are often met with dismissal that they are born of mushy liberal notions of fairness and political correctness and civil liberties that, frankly, toots, have no place in our new post-nine-one-one, tair-fueled Homeland. That, like it or not, the person most likely to smuggle a gun on a plane bows down to Mecca five times a day.

Except, of course, when that isn't the case.

See, the thinking liberal's take is (or at least should be -- I know mine is) that not only is our approach (in favor of random searches, against sweeping internments) fair, it is pragmatic.

The problem with profiling is that it sets up false senses of security -- demographic comfort zones that, if one is to be serious about keeping our skies safe, one cannot afford to fall in to. Profiling automatically tells you that, while this group is suspect, this other group is safe.

But running an effective security operation means worrying less about likelihoods and worrying more about everything -- including, and sometimes especially, exceptions to those probabilities. If your job is to search boarding airline passengers, sure, you can tie up all your manpower and resources shaking down the stoner Lebanese-American college student, the Persian-American housewife, or the Pakistani-American cab driver, while letting the old Chinese-American lady or oh-so-precious little white boy (you know, the one with the teddy bear?) go. But what if those wily hajjis are actually harmless passengers?


And say the eliminationists and exclusionists get what they always wanted: blanket internments of every Koran-loving dusky in America. Fine. They're all locked up, safe and snug in their own little Manzanars, and America can go back to being not-skeered.


A few months later, some extremist Christian Identity white guy flies a Cessna loaded with explosive fertilizer into a chemical plant in Hoboken, NJ or the refinery in Martinez, California. Boom. Hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of people are dead, and we're back at square one. Nothing accomplished except the double bonus of making us less safe and weakening our Republic.

Fellow centrist Democrats, liberals, greens, whoever: good sense and the truth are on our side. When we rightfully decry the xenophobic right-wing jackasses who call for Arab concentration camps or airport profiling, we are not only being consistent in yet again standing up for justice, we are also speaking truth to power about what it takes to do everything we can to keep our country safe.

P.S. Feel really icky about the second link. Please forgive.

posted by teh l4m3 at 10:27 AM | Permalink |

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Comments for Profiling vs. Pragmatism
Two words. Oklahoma City.

(it's always fun to watch right-wingers try to 'splain why bombing a daycare center in the heartland is somehow NOT a terrorist act. It always comes down to the race of the attackers . . .)

that the elf/alf and arabic-muslim pops. have been the focus of nearly all domestic surveillance and like operations says much, much more than the dragon lady and frau coulter ever could.

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