Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Muslim Profiling Revisited and “Mr. X”—Conclusion
This is a continuation of my previous essay, in which I established some basics about Muslim profiling as a framework for my more direct responses to the latest objections of “Mr. X”.
My articulation in that previous essay was a combination of making explict certain subtle complexities that I had not rendered sufficiently clear heretofore, along with certain elementary logical points that someone of the apparent intelligence of “Mr. X” should already know but for some strange reason stubbornly refuses to factor in. That articulation should provide a general framework for my more specific engagement with the latest objections of “Mr. X”, and should serve to minimize my need to have to encumber my responses with excursions into complexities.
I now proceed with my point-by-point responses to the latest critique by “Mr. X”.
Mr. X writes:
“Both Muslims and non-Muslims come in shades ranging from pale white to pitch black, and they belong to all three of the major races of mankind and every possible mixture thereof.”
This is ostensibly correct, but obfuscates a patently incorrect conclusion. Yes, both groups under consideration, comprised by Muslims and non-Muslims, come in all racial shades. That is the correct part. The incorrect part is the obvious implication Mr. X is making which is his conclusion: that this racial apportionment among the two groups under consideration is equally represented in all respects by both of them. In fact, the vast majority of Muslims are non-white, and the vast majority of white Westerners are non-Muslim. The inequality of comparison on this point is staggering—and so too is the obtuse stubbornness of Mr. X here; all the more so because he seems otherwise intelligent.
Furthermore, there is the cultural inequality: the vast majority of Muslims are non-Western, and the vast majority of Westerners are non-Muslim.
Mr. X goes on:
“That [i.e., Mr. X’s semantically correct but substantively incorrect claim about Muslims and non-Muslims] renders any system of profiling based on color and/or race unreliable at best and totally useless at worst.”
Here, Mr. X is focusing on one factor—
1) the difficulty presented to racial profiling by the existence of multitudes of non-white non-Muslims
—and ignoring or obfuscating a second factor as though its significance is nullified by #1:
2) the facts, again, that the vast majority of Muslims are non-whites, and that the vast majority of Western whites are non-Muslim.
While Mr. X may have an arguable point to discuss about #1 with respect to the multitudes of non-white non-Muslims out there, his avoidance or outright obfuscation of the complication expressed in #2, and furthermore his apparent use of #1 in order to obfuscate #2, is either untenable, incoherent, or cleverly disingenuous.
I.e., the real issue is not whether the racial facts in terms of the two groups in question, Muslims and non-Muslims, are sufficiently variegated as to render any and all attempts at racial discrimination impossible; the issue is that
a) with regard to non-whites, any profiling for terrorism on the basis racial discrimination, presents important difficulties, while
b) profiling for terrorism on the basis of racial discrimination with regard to the white/non-white division presents few important difficulties in terms of the facts we have noted above.
Thus, what could be a reasonable debate about the difficulties of (a) and to what extent it complicates, or even undermines, our pursuit of (b) is pre-emptively rejected by Mr. X by the maneuver of confusing (a) and (b) (and #1 and #2 above) and/or by obfuscating (b) with (a) (and #2 with #1).
Mr. X goes on:
“Dividing the world as you have into Muslim "Browns" and non-Muslim "Whites" (whom you seem to think are best represented by orange-haired outliers like Carrot Top). . .”
Firstly, I already responded to Mr. X long ago that I do not, in fact, think whites are best, let alone exclusively, represented by someone like Carrot Top. And yet he obtusely persists in claiming that I do.
Secondly, as I also already explained to Mr. X long ago, the word “brown” has become in the lexicon of PC MC a symbolism with traction and propaganda effectiveness, even though it may have incoherent ragged edges. Furthermore, it is more and more being adopted by Islam apologists (whether Muslims or non-Muslims) as a collective appellation of Muslims in order to exploit the PC MC axiom of Reverse Racism, by which those who are deemed “white” are handicapped in various ways while those who are deemed “brown” are privileged in various ways—this further complicated by the West/Non-West division of the world by which the PC MC paradigm tends to privilege the latter and handicap the former. In this context, Muslims have become, in the nebula of PC MC which is dominant and mainstream throughout the West, the most privileged non-white and non-Western group in the world.
Mr. X goes on:
“[dividing the world into "Browns" and "Whites"] is simplistic beyond belief and not at all conducive to teaching people how to make "fine distinctions" between different ethnic groups. It’s a child’s way of looking at the world.”
Aside from once again ignoring the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are non-white, and aside from ostensibly ignoring or confusing the difference between the biological reality of races with the sociopolitical reality of the way racial symbolisms and constructs are exploited, Mr. X is here also once again ignoring my repeated articulations of “granularization” whereby in fact I have called for fine distinctions to be integrated into any profiling methodology, where feasible. What Mr. X cannot seem to get into his obtuse head is that in the context of profiling for Islamic terrorism, there are any variety of situations where fine-tuning—certainly not to the fastidious degree he demands—is not feasible. As my previous essay argued at length and in detail, profiling is not a simplex monolith, but has many distinct levels of operation (at least when it is done rationally). These distinct levels of operation are not dictated by the racist or stupid whims of the methodologist, but rather by our relative unavoidable ignorance in various different ways —ignorance about the dangerous groups and people from whom we are trying to protect our societies; about the various complex features of the culture and ideology of the enemy; and about the physical location and complexity of venues of potential attacks.
Mr. X goes on:
“You’re also naive in thinking that the only "collateral damage" would be an occasional European mistaken for Middle Eastern.”
I never said that. Nor did I ever say, as Mr. X implies here, that collateral damage would be a minor matter about which we should not worry too much.
In fact, I have noted the possibility, for example, of Italians and/or Hispanics being caught up in the net of profiling, insofar as, and wheresoever that level of racial profiling (see my previous essay toward the end where I distinguish between three levels of profiling and articulate the complexities of their utilization) is deployed. I reiterated in my previous essay that collateral damage with regard to non-white non-Muslims is a significant difficulty. The question is, is it such a big difficulty that it should always rule out racial profiling? How exactly does its difficulty serve to rule out racial profiling? Is the problem for Mr. X an ethical problem, or is it a pragmatic problem? If for Mr. X it necessarily includes the latter, he has failed to articulate exactly how that pragmatic difficulty works to effect the impossibility of effective racial profiling. In fact, in a situation of a large public place where multitudes of people are in flux, and where there is a top-level threat of a terrorist attack which could be anything from a suitcase nuke to a chemical or biological WMD to conventional explosives, and where the security personnel do not have the luxury of time but must urgently save lives without a knowledge of whether the attack might be in 60 seconds or 60 minutes or 6 hours—in such a situation, given the general facts about Islamic terrorism and Muslims that we know, it would be unconscionably reckless for those security personnel not to racially profile and in so doing inconvenience or even harm or possibly kill innumerable non-white non-Muslims—solely for two reasons:
1) because of the higher likelihood that the Muslim perpetrators are going to be non-white;
2) the nature of the situation makes it impracticable if not impossible to treat Everybody as collateral damage.
Now, sometimes there will be situations of dire threat where it is possible to treat Everybody as equally suspect. The point is, this is not always the case. Nor will the other extreme always be the case—that we will be able to fine-tune our profiling and thus spare the vast numbers or groupings of people in that situation from the inconvenience or even harm of preventive measures. Indeed, that latter extreme will likely be a rather rare occurrence. And furthermore, there will be situations where the attempt to fine-tune the profiling can actually interfere with and impede the efforts at protecting the public—efforts which perforce require the blunter, cruder levels of racial profiling, or slightly better, Muslim profiling (again, cf. my previous essay, toward the end).
Mr. X goes on:
“No one in your Photo Gallery looks like any kind of European except the actual Europeans from Bosnia (either train that damn eye of yours or poke it out).”
Yeah, go figure. I could supplement that Photo Gallery by a thousand more pictures from the Jihad Watch archives and the archives of other terror watch sites, and still would be hard pressed to render the proportion of “any kind of European” (i.e., white) on a par with that of the brown Muslims—for the simple fact that the vast majority of actively dangerous and/or actively extremist Muslims out there are brown and do not look like Brigitte Bardot or Mr. Bean.
Mr. X goes on:
“The reality is that vaguely "brown" people in the United States are most likely to be Latin American.”
As I have repeatedly argued, profiling methodology should not be monolithically simplex. There will be situations where casuistic modifications will be appropriate—example, places in the Southwest of the USA where a considerable flux of internationals may be less likely to present itself, and thus the vast majority of browns there will be Hispanics and thus, depending on the precise concrete situation of course, the level of racial profiling may be less utilized than the slightly more fine-tuned level of Muslim profiling. Nevertheless, to the extent that more and more cases of brown Muslims sneaking across the southern border from Mexico into the USA occur, this might well tend to moderate such casuistic modifications. At all times, needless to say (and I already argued this in the comments fields of the previous 3-part essay White Muslims: Honorary Browns as well as touched on it in the first part to this present essay), our profiling personnel should be trained to “granularize” their racial profiling such that they become better at being able to distinguish, for example, an Egyptian from a Mexican. This will never be an exact science, and the factor of concrete exigencies must also be noted, whereby it is not always possible to have the luxury of time to spot those differences, but sometimes it might be a matter of seconds. Nevertheless, it is a worthy and useful adjunct to our profiling methodology. Its limited usefulness, however, should not be perverted into a club by which to beat racial profiling out of existence, as Mr. X would have it.
Mr. X goes on:
“. . .what good is a profiling system whose collateral damage far exceeds its positive identifications?”
This rhetorical question begs the question, because it carries the assumptive conclusion that in fact the collateral damage exceeds its positive usefulness sufficiently to nullify any purported usefulness. This conclusion needs to be argued, not simply asserted axiomatically from the start.
Secondly, his conclusion brutely ignores the complexities of different situations of danger which I articulated at length and in detail in the previous essay (and which I touched on above). Bottom line: we must be prepared for certain types of dangerous situation where various features of that situation dictate that we use a broad brush in order to protect the public. Mr. X would want to officially and institutionally interdict pre-emptively our capability to do so.
Mr. X goes on:
“The poor understanding you have of these issues is emblematic of the general ignorance you displayed in our discussion. You proved to [have a] lack knowledge about the science of race and pigmentation. . .”
Mr. X is here referring to our discussion in the comments field to the third part of my 3-part essay, White Muslims: Honorary Browns. Let us see if his accusation holds water.
First of all, in his first comment there, Mr. X made the claim that “your White/Brown racial dichotomy has no taxonomical validity and finds no support in the scientific literature. Europeans, West Asians and North Africans all belong to the same race (Caucasian) regardless of their relative differences in pigmentation, which are more a product of environmental adaptation than divergent biology.”
“I may not have made clear in my essay that I am not speaking of "race" primarily in scientific terms qua the object, but rather I am dealing with "race" as a mythological construct, so to speak, that has real effects in the real world to the extent that people more or less believe in them in varying ways. As such, it could be "scientific" in the realms of disciplines such as Sociology and Psychology.”
I.e., I already, long ago, explained to Mr. X that the racial issues I was dealing with in that particular three-part essay necessarily include, if they did not actually focus on, aspects that are less strictly to do with biology/anthropology and more generally to do with how racial issues have acquired various meanings and exploitative uses for sociopolitical purposes, as in effect “mythological constructs”, including most importantly the whole mess of the PC MC paradigm (about which I have written at great length in a number of essays here on this blog). Thus we see that Mr. X persists obtusely in a red herring and/or a straw man in this regard—continuing to milk a position I am supposed to have and/or a deficiency in my position which I already laid to rest in my response to him long ago. Needless to say, Mr. X in the context of that discussion we had never responded to that particular point of my response, other than to take the breezy drive-by pot shot—“it’s a big mistake to feed people’s ignorance about race by treating it as a "mythological construct" and trading in simplistic stereotypes.”—though he never expanded on that and explained sufficiently why it’s a “big mistake”. Meanwhile I, of course, did respond to him again with a patiently and respectfully detailed articulation of my position in light of this, according him the intellectual respect he obtusely persists in failing to accord me.
Let us continue examining other accusations Mr. X makes about me, about how I “proved to have a lack of knowledge” about this, that and the other thing—the next thing being:
“. . . about the histories of Greece and Cyprus, about the ancestry of Cat Stevens. . .”
Here, Mr. X is referring to his correction of my point about Cat Stevens being Greek, when in fact, according to Mr. X, Cat Stevens is of Cypriot extraction. The reader can consult that comments field to see how I “proved to have a lack of knowledge” about this. In fact, what I did “prove” was that, I acknowledged, tentatively (and not without some difficulty disentangling some of his incoherence in this precise regard), even if only for hypothetical purposes (pending verification as well as pending clarification of Mr. X’s incoherence in this precise regard) that okay, Cat Stevens is Cypriot and not Greek; but the salient point is that this is not relevant to the overall logic of my argument in the essay in question to which Mr. X took offense: particularly this part:
“Cat Stevens aka Yusuf Islam, is himself of Greek extraction, and Greeks tend to occupy a kind of taxonomic limbo between White and Brown, even if that limbo becomes somewhat artificially and officially resolved by deeming them Whites. Put another way, a Carrot Top or a Conan O’Brien or a Brad Pitt would not be able to pull off the physiognomic transformation managed by Cat Stevens, no matter how long and bushy their beard and how correct their kufi.”
One could just as easily substitute “Cypriot” for “Greek” in that excerpt and the logic remains just as cogent.
As an added bonus, I also noticed at that time that Mr. X affects to possess an unusual talent for granularization, claiming to be able to easily tell the difference between a Cypriot and a Greek. I thus pointed out to him that:
“BTW, for a person as aware & knowledgeable of such fine physiognomic differences as those between Cypriots and Greeks, you seem otherwise oddly resistant to incorporating that kind of awareness & knowledge into a profiling methodology. I mean, if you are so good you can spot the difference between a Cypriot and a Greek at an airport, then surely you can tell the difference between, to pluck one example out of a fez, a Jordanian and an Austrian at an airport.”
However, the thrust of most of his objections to my argumentation has been that it is impossible to tell the difference between, for example, a Jordanian and an Austrian at an airport, let alone between an Egyptian and a Mexican, etc.
Or he accepts the viability of granularization, but otherwise emotionally wishes to obfuscate it because he wants to avoid the collateral damage of innumerable non-white non-Muslims who hail from Muslim milieus around the world: we have Filipinos who may be either Muslims or non-Muslims, as well as Indonesians, Thai, Indians, and various black Africans, etc. This is a genuine problem for profiling, but it does not necessarily rise to such formidable dimensions that we should pre-emptively and impulsively reject all racial profiling in any and every context, as Mr. X would demand.
Mr. X goes on to claim about Cat Stevens that “before his "transformation" he [Cat Stevens] could’ve been one of the Beatles”—and provides some links as proof of this:
The first link takes us to a photograph that suffers for being excessively washed in white tone. By itself, one may grudgingly concede that Cat Stevens at that age, and if his actual appearance was sufficiently like that photo, would have just as hard a time passing for a Muslim as, say, Paul McCartney at roughly the same age. Nevertheless, the discerning eye can detect something “oriental” about his physiognomy even then, some almost indefinable je ne sais quoi “spice” about his eyes, etc. Furthermore, people’s physiognomies change as they grow older; sometimes that change results in certain ethnic aspects of their heritage becoming more pronounced. It is an arguable fact that Cat Stevens now is ostensibly more capable of pulling off a Muslim look with his beard and headgear than he was as that youthful pup in that photo—and more capable, furthermore, than Paul McCartney could now at roughly the same age, or Lennon or Harrison were they alive (let alone innumerable multitudes of other whites we could adduce). (Ringo Starr may be another story, partly to do with his Semitic background.) The second and third photos which Mr. X links show Cat Stevens at a later stage of growth, but still fairly young. The same things could be said as I said above.
Again, Mr. X contradicts himself when he claims I am stupid for not being able to tell the difference between a Cypriot and a Greek and claims he has this remarkable ability, and then turns around and thinks it is stupid and impossible to try to tell the difference between a Cypriot and an Englishman of Irish extraction!
Furthermore, Mr. X’s obtuse use of these links are based on riding crudely roughshod over the important fact that the third part of that 3-part essay dealt largely with the propagandistic ideological aspects of the mythological construct of racialism with regard to Islam, not with concrete profiling methodology per se, which was more touched on in the first two parts, but really more adequately covered in the several other essays linked in that 3-part essay (which was less about profiling methodology per se than about the mythological construct and how it has created the odd concept of the “Honorary Brown”).
At any rate, according to the more specific delimitations of the profiling methodology aspect, the existence of white Muslims continues to present such a tiny proportion of Muslims overall—both in the general pool as well as in the sub-pool of terrorists/extremists—that to treat them as exactly equal in incidence as non-white Muslims would be not only flawed and silly, it would be positively reckless to our safety concerns.