First Things hits the fan
The First Things website has an article by a Joe Carter defending the TSA scan-and-grope regime. It is poorly argued and most disingenuous in presenting and responding to the critics of the TSA policies. The author attacks the notion of profiling by throwing around the assorted nationalities that have been involved in hijackings around the world over the past few decades:
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The fact that such an intelligent man can believe that these people can be identified by “profiling” is a sign that we’ve long stopped thinking rationally about this issue.
Of course, this is to mix apples and oranges. The number of Eastern Europeans targeting the U.S. is nearly non-existent (excluding, of course, Bosnian Muslims and Albanians), as are the number of Jamaican, Lithuanian, and German terrorists. These few paragraphs are utterly pathetic and so blind to reality as barely to warrant a response. Statistically speaking, the overwhelming number of terrorists targeting U.S. airliners and other interests are of Arab or Pakistani origin. As for Nigerians, the case of Umar Abdul-Muttalab and the rise of Islamic militancy in that African nation do provide a basis for profiling Muslims, or perhaps any citizen, from that country. Nevertheless, the existence of terrorists coming from outside the Middle East and Central Asia does not preclude the profiling of people from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, etc. Of course, national origin is not the only condition to be considered in a rational profiling system.
Krauthammer claims that “the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known.” Rubbish. Hijackers have been Algerian, American, Arabic, Bolivian, Brazilian, Chechen, Croatian, Czechoslovakian, Ethiopian, German, Indian, Indonesian, Iranian, Jamaican, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Lithuanian, Moroccan, Palestinian, Pakistani, Filipino, Saudi, Sri Lankan, Sudanese, and Turkish. The only narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known characteristic that they all have is that they were men.
Although all of the terrorists on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, Osama Bin Ladin had recruited terrorists from twenty-one different countries, including Thailand and Nigeria. Since the attackers could have been from any of those countries, for profiling to be effective we’d need the ability to identify suspects by their nationality—and to do so by appearance since identification documents can be forged.
How do we distinguish between an African terrorist from Nigeria and an African-American businessman from Atlanta? How do we determine by looking at someone that they are an Al Qaeda operative from Thailand rather than a Thai American student from Los Angeles?
What Krauthammer suggests is that we need to require all brown and black-skinned men—especially those with funny accents—to undergo additional scrutiny. That is how it works in Israel, which is the model that the pro-profiling advocates believe the U.S. should adopt.
Of course, how dare we recognize the fact that most of the Muslim terrorists trying to kill us are not white! Remember Timothy McVeigh?!
They fail to realize that even if we were willing to resort to such race-based screening, the Israel method would not work in America. Anyone who has examined the numbers can see the obvious problems of scale: Israel has fewer than 50 flights a day, the U.S. has approximately 35,000; Israel has seven airports, the U.S. has more than 400; Israel has 9 million air travelers per year; the U.S. has 800 million;.
Now Carter is worried about privacy! What is more humiliating, a few questions about my friends and family, or to have my private areas felt up by a stranger?
The profilers in Israel are all highly trained, college-educated, and speak a minimum of two languages. Could we find enough qualified applicants to fill the positions? Would we be willing to pay the additional cost? Also, Israeli profilers are allowed personal questions about a person’s friends and family, their profession, even their religious observance. How many people who complain about a body scanner would be willing to submit to such an invasion of their privacy?
We should also keep in mind that profiling does nothing to prevent a person from boarding a plane with a weapon. On November 17, 2002, an Israeli Arab passed the profiling but managed to slip past the metal detectors at Ben Gurion Airport with a pocketknife and attempted to storm the cockpit of El Al Flight 581 en route from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, Turkey. Fortunately, before the hijacker was able to gain control, guards that were hidden among the passengers subdued him. Had these air marshal-equivalents not been onboard, we would likely not be hearing about the superiority of the Israeli method of airport screening.
Ah, using the exception to ignore the rule. Is Carter channeling John Derbyshire?
Naturally, the loudest complaints against the changes appear to be coming from the usual privacy fetishists: the privileged elite who believes their most inviolable right is the right not to be personally inconvenienced.
Really? The critics of the TSA scan-and-grope regime are nothing more than a bunch of spoiled elitists? Surely no one else could oppose the collective punishment of all Americans because our government is to infected by liberalism to profile Muslims at our country’s airports?
I suspect there is an inverse correlation between those who have made contributions to the securing of our nation’s freedoms and those who scream the loudest about having their liberty violated. Our men and woman in uniform forgo constitutionally guaranteed rights in order to protect our national security—and they willing do so for years or decades without complaint.
What do the troops have to do with this? This scoundrel realizes he has no refuge in which to go, so he throws the troops out there. How contemptible and cowardly.
They give life and limb for our nation and yet the pampered people complain because they have to take off their shoes for screening at the airport. Perhaps its time to update that corny old saying about perspective: “I cried because I had to remove my shoes, until I saw a veteran returning from Afghanistan who had no feet.”
Of course while Carter smugly denounces the critics of the TSA, he cowardly avoids the truth that it is Muslims targeting us, and that we do need to profile. Profiling is only the first step though. Muslim immigration needs to be ended and reversed. But don’t expect an intellectual midget like Joe Carter to admit this.
Shame of First Things for publishing such a terrible article.
Thank you for writing this excellent critique of First Thing’s staggeringly terrible and wrong-headed article. Truly, the editors of that site have disgraced themselves.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 01, 2010 08:08 AM | Send
In this connection, I would add that it was the recently departed editor of First Things, Joseph (Jody) Bottom, who said to me in 2006, “If we stopped Muslims from immigrating into America, we would be as immoral as the terrorists.” Even though Bottom has now left the magazine, it is evident that his successors are equally fanatic adherents of the anti-discrimination ideology.