Sunday, October 01, 2006
Via Matt Drudge comes a somewhat morbidly interesting story about yet another incident that should be touted as just one more example of why government profiling and respect for the private property rights of airlines is sorely needed for safe aviation.
But instead, since sensitivity trumps individual rights -- which few seem to understand or give a damn about anyway -- we'll likely see exactly the opposite lesson taken by government officials in the West.
Seth Stein is used to jetting around the world to create stylish holiday homes for wealthy clients. This means the hip architect is familiar with the irritations of heightened airline security post-9/11. But not even he could have imagined being mistaken for an Islamist terrorist and physically pinned to his seat while aboard an American Airlines flight - especially as he has Jewish origins.Certainly, this episode should sound familiar, and the news article briefly recounts why: Passengers have already twice forced flight delays due to suspicions about fellow passengers who looked like terrorists to them. ("Asian" is currently the term in fashion among the left-wing British press for "from a Moslem nation".)
Yet this is what happened when he travelled back from a business trip to the Turks and Caicos islands via New York on 22 May. Still traumatised by his ordeal, the 47-year-old is furious that the airline failed to protect him from the gung-ho actions of an over-zealous passenger who claimed to be a police officer. He has now instructed a team of top US lawyers to act for him.
The London-based interiors guru, whose clients have included Peter Mandelson and the husband-and-wife design team Suzanne Clements and Ignacio Ribeiro, said he felt compelled to speak out to protect other innocent travellers from a similar experience.
"This man could have garrotted me and what was awful was that one or two of the passengers went up afterwards to thank him," said Mr Stein. He has since been told by airline staff he was targeted because he was using an iPod, had used the toilet when he got on the plane and that his tan made him appear "Arab".
Before I continue, I want to note that the article does indirectly bring up a very good point: There is a legitimate danger of vigilanteism. Stein's fear that he could have been "garrotted" is not in the same league as worrying that "the sky is falling down". People like Stein indeed face such a risk. But why? And how might we best lower this risk?
To understand this, we must recognize that the implied fear of vigilanteism is completely ripped out of its context, namely that many people who look like Stein are in fact dangerous. Furthermore, our governments are being prevented from effectively monitoring them by regulations that prevent "profiling" various minorities. Worse still, the legal climate for airlines to refuse service to such suspicious characters -- or even demand compliance with such reasonable requests as certain types of dress -- is hostile at best. And when the government fails to do its job of protecting individual rights, ordinary citizens become more likely to take the law into their own hands.
And so we have someone who, from his activities in the cabin and description as a "hip" (i.e., leftist-looking), darkly-tanned person of Middle Eastern descent, could plausibly appear to be a terrorist. Since government agencies do not profile and airlines would be sued to kingdom come for "discriminating" against such passengers by doing so, there is no good reason for any suspicious passenger to think that he is not dealing with a terrorist! [Note: Image of Seth Stein at right is taken from Arcaid.]
Yes. The particular passenger who "arrested" Stein may have been too high-strung. And yes, what he did (i.e., impersonate a police officer) was illegal. But this entire episode could have been prevented by a proper recognition of property rights by the government as well as an unleashing of the powers of law enforcement from the absurd constraints of multiculturalism. Why? Because Stein would have been more believably pronounced "safe for flight" before he ever boarded the plane.
But with this impending lawsuit, it looks like it will be the airlines and their passengers who suffer -- unless they make an uncompromising stand for their rights. For now, all the customers of these airlines will have not only the spectre of terrorism to worry about when they board a flight, but also the threat of a lawsuit when they land if they act against such a perceived threat!
This lawsuit bears watching. Especially by the airlines and anyone who flies frequently. And Mr. Stein should seriously consider dropping it for both his own long-term safely as an airline passenger and that of his fellow Westerners. As it is, events portend a sky safeguarded more for potential terrorists than for innocent passengers.