North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Racial Profiling to fight terrorism - A lost cause ?

Racial Profiling to fight terrorism - A lost cause ?

A former member
Post #: 10
I have been watching with some annoyance, how some of the main stream media has been calling for racial profiling in this country, after the London bombings (Fox News, last sunday) What worries me is their ignorance on the subject of Islamic terrorism and the racial mix of the countries where these terrorists could potentially come from, in the future.

I can tolerate racial profiling, if it actually works and if it can save innocent lives. But my issues with racial profiling are both practical and ethical.
How is this system going to work against terrorists from Chechnya or Iran or Syria or some other country the terrorist could be from, who look caucasian or Oriental (Malaysia/Indonesia/Philippines etc) or African ? Does that mean we are going to profile everyone except people with extreme blonde hair and blue eyes? Who knows if there are people who practice extreme forms of Islam with these features? Can a terrorist not color his hair and wear contact lenses that make his eyes blue? How hard is that ? This just doesn't work.

I think this is the wrong approach to fighting the terrorists. My ethical issue with this approach is that, people seem to forget the fact that a person's race or nationality is given to him/her at birth and it has nothing to do with what the person believes in or what values that person holds. Unlike religious faith, which is a choice a person makes as an adult. To profile some one based on a trait that is not the person's choice seems wrong to me.

I have seen in some of the obectivist news groups that there are Objectivists even in Saudi Arabia, of all places. I think it is wrong to depict this war as a war on people of a certain race or nationality. It is logically wrong and wrong by all standards of reason. This war should be on religion (or the perversion of it) and the folks who practice this medieval form of religion and who are out to destroy the western civilization. Not against people of a certain race or nationality. Let me quote Rand, to further my opinion:

"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage—the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors."

["Racism," Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 179.]
A former member
Post #: 5
I think that when discussing things like "racial profiling", which tend to be emotionally-charged terms, it is important to discuss some concrete situations. So here is one concrete situation: Passengers flying on airplanes. First of all, for objectivists, airports and airlines are (or at least should be) privately owned and operated. So, if an airline wants to make distinctions based on race or national origin, they should be free to do so, regardless of whether they are morally right in doing so.
The next issue is, would it ever be morally right for an airline to make distinctions based on race or nationality. This is more difficult to decide. Here is my thinking on it.
On the one hand, you don't want to make the logical fallacy of ascribing characteristics held by many members of a particular racial group to any individual members of that group you might meet. It is clear that most terrorists that hijack airlines today are Middle Eastern men, but that doesn't mean that you can assume that any particular Middle Eastern man is a terrorist. On the other hand, it seems true that any future terrorist attacks involving airplanes will most likely be Middle Eastern men. (It is highly probable but not certain.)
So, based on the fact that airlines are private companies, and given the probabilities of the next terrorist attack being by a Middle Eastern man, and given the extreme dangers involved, it seems logical to ask Middle Eastern men wanting to ride on an airplane to be subjected to greater security screening. This doesn't mean that other non-Middle Eastern passengers aren't subjected to screeing, just that Middle Eastern men are going to get some extra scrutiny. You could ask why not just subject everyone to the higher level of security screening, but you have to remember that there are costs involved with more security screening, and it may not be worth it to the airline if they have to subject everyone to higher screening. This higher screening, of course, would be voluntary, and any Middle Easterner who doesn't want to submit to the screening wouldn't have to, but the airline, as a private organization doesn't have to let him fly on their airplanes either.
A former member
Post #: 11
I agree with you on the private business bit..I agree that an airline should be able to allow any subset of potential passengers without any threat of lawsuits..They should be able to say "we will only fly people with eye patches" or "folks who talk with a British accent" or whateverelse they please..Whether it's fair or makes business sense is another issue...Private businesses should have the right to serve who ever they please..

My main problem is that since the Govt. shares a lot of responsibility for protecting its citizens from violence, they could be deluded into thinking that just by profiling people who "look" middle eastern we are going to reduce the chance of a terrorist attack...Because like I said, Islam is not a race, it is a religion. And even if you take only the middle east, people there fit all kinds of racial profiles. (If you take all the Islamic countries including Syria/Iran etc.)
Chuck
SmithChuck
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 10
This is a very good example of our government's inability to do ITS job properly, due largely to its attempts to attend to THE CITIZENS' business for them.

Does the government SHARE responsibility for the protection of us citizens, or does it bear such responsibility fully and alone, by virtue of the limited powers vested in it by the founding and ruling documents? We plain folk agree to not man the planes & terminals ourselves with armed citizens (as we are now doing on the borders), and the government agrees to protect our security and other rights for us. International airports may be the perfect example of a location / facility where federales must be operating at peak performance level, doing THEIR job.

In my non-humble opinion, were the g-men not concerned with running the economic affairs of the airports and airlines, there would be abundant resources available for protection of my life and other valuables from intiation of force.

We could discuss for a long time the intricacies of where to properly draw the line between protection of rights vs economic / social meddling. The current situation is clearly far past that line.

Only a wayward power structure could spawn such an egregious misallocation of resources for such an extended period of time.

POWER. GLORY. DAMN E'M!


On the sunnier side,

(to be continued) wink
A former member
Post #: 6
>So, based on the fact that airlines are private companies, ...

Although airlines are privately owned, they are common carriers. A common carrier is "a carrier that is required by law to transport passengers or freight, without refusal, if the approved fare or charge is paid." Black's Law Dictionary, 7th Ed. p. 205. As such, airlines cannot set the terms of carriage to suit themselves, but must do so in accordance with federal law. Therefore, as it stands today the question of whether it is morally right for an airline to make any "distinctions based on race or nationality" is simply irrelevant. They have no choice.

As an airline captain, I am the in-flight security coordinator with the responsibility for the aircraft, crew, passengers, and cargo. As such, I have the authority to deny boarding to any passenger or cargo for cause. Before I make this decision, however, I must notify and discuss the issue with designated corporate officials. We use specific criteria to determine whether we will deny boarding to any given passenger. Our decision is guided by federal law, but my decision is final. If I am wrong, or if the airline uses unauthorized means to make the decision, we are both subject to liability. In short, the decision to deny boarding is quite serious.

Sometimes the decision is easy. If a passenger is intoxicated, for example, I MUST deny boarding to that passenger, but I must also be able to describe in detail all the objective factors which led to that conclusion.

From a purely philosophic perspective, though, Dean's discussion is worth considering just in case we ever live in a country where the airlines really are private companies with the ability to establish their own rules.
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