"Humiliation" vs Individual Rights

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.

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".
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".)

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.

-- CAV


softwareNerd said...

It would surely provoke debate on the issue if he were to sue the airline and originating airport, for FAILING to profile him, thus making him a target of suspicion.

Gus Van Horn said...


I like the way you think! That would surely take the cake -- but in a good way!


John Phillips said...

How stupid can you get, many muslims, including the lunatic fringe amongst them, are as white as any caucasian. All this type of profiling based on skin tone actually tends to do is to replace the need for proper security and intelligence with a quick fix of no actual value. As all the terrorist will do is pick members who look just like you and me for the job. After all, in the London 7/7 attack all the terrorists were home grown not some foreign speaking aliens. Only good intelligence rather than profiling, or at least not the type of profiling you imply, can pick them out, as was shown with the recent arrests in the UK. Your type of profiling simply leads to the idiot brigade such as in this incident. Especially when apparently the passenger had already been cleared by the captain contacting the ground to confirm his identity and this idiot knowing it beforehand yet still deciding to assaul the passenger. I hope he sues the Airline and the idiot involved for every thing he can get. Then again, I suppose if the passenger attacked had had a heart attack or simialr as a result of the assault you would have simply said it was his fault for possibly being of middle eastern or Asian appearance for what right did he have to fly on an aeroplane full of apparently chicken shit yankees who see threats everywhere but especially in any one who is of a marginally different appearance to them. And imagine, he was using that so un American a device, an Ipod and to cap it all he went to the toilet.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thank you for giving me the opportunity, between your insults, to make a couple of points more clear.

If you think I implied that profiling of prospective airline passengers should be based solely or even primarily on race, you are reading my phrase "various minorities" too narrowly.

Until the Moslems recruit more European-looking terrorists, however, race and national origin can be useful cues that a given passenger should be screened more closely -- by qualified personnel, of course -- which was the whole point of my article.

This more intelligent form of screening (which is what I was talking about) would have made the actions of this passenger far less likely to have gone on with the blessings of the other passengers. And vigilanteism would rapidly wane -- another point I alluded to but apparently should have recognized as a dead horse in need of a more thorough beating.

In the West, Moslems are another minority, though not a racial one. But screening for religion would, I suspect for some odd reason, be a very useful criterion for profiling potential passengers. I dare say it would be more useful than race, even though we would have to worry about the practice of taqqiya. And then we'd have CAIR calling us Islamophobes on top of various others continuing to imply that we're racist for using even those limited tools.

But those would be nice problems to have. As it is, we have idiots like this passenger grandstanding during plane flights -- and idiots like his victim grandstanding aferwards. In the meantime the Moslems still want to kill us. They're getting ready to do just this while the half of us who don't take them seriously carp at the half of us who do.

As for my countrymen being cowards and seeing threats everywhere, the fact that you are doubtless comfortably ensconced somewhere in the West, where you are free to spew forth your venom rather than do as God wills, tells me who the real coward is.

If the Moslems are so bloody peaceful, then go and live among them. Otherwise, stop insulting the people who make up the civilized society that keeps you safe and try making a constructive contribution to the debate about how we should put a stop to terrorism.


Anonymous said...

What a typical racist idiot you are. I DO live amongst "moslems", as you call them, and they've never subjected me to the kind of racism you endorse.

How about profiling for racism? After all, racists have been the cause most conflicts in history. Get people like you out of the sky and I'll certainly feel much, much safer.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for stopping by again to confirm exactly what I said a while ago: "[T]he half of us who don't take them seriously carp at the half of us who do."

And what a half it is. This specimen wrongly calls me a "racist", clearly implying -- sight unseen and incorrectly -- that I'm some kind of pure-blooded Aryan. And to top it all off, I am a "typical" racist. Don't these types abhor stereotyping?


So checking on someone who belongs to a religion whose scriptures preach murder and which has adherents known to be eager to practice said teachings -- just to make sure they aren't a terrorist -- is racist. There is a difference here from the notion of just rounding them all up and gassing them, but clearly such subtlety is lost on this specimen.

Even though this plainly is not based on racism and is premised on the idea that Moslems can and will pass the security check.

If he lives among Moslems as he claims, I have my guess as to why they tolerate him so much. He reminds them of a two-word phrase containing the word "idiot", and I don't mean "idiot savant".

All similar comments will be rejected. Disagree with me if you will, but demonstrate some rudimentary understanding of my argument and some capacity to argue against it on its own merits, please.

Anonymous said...

Good for you to identify one of the religions whose book preaches violence. Now how about the other ones, like maybe all of them except buddhism? The old testament is full of violent things; if you doubt me, check www.theskepticsannotatedbible.com.

Fundamentalists are scarier to me than humanists. They do evil with the approval of their conscience. Remember the inquisition, the crusades, and the witch hunts?

Gus Van Horn said...

Your're telling this to an atheist. Brilliant. BTW, I already link to the SAB, not that I am particularly hung up on religion after having rejected it two decades ago....

The amount of hate mail from supposedly open-minded, "tolerant" leftists that this post has generated -- Like the guy whose comment I rejected earlier today who basically told me he wanted to garrot me -- has been very illuminating, but not intentionally. Not because anyone on the left really cares about ideas, intellectual debate, or anything else for that matter....

You leftists are proving to me that the only thing worse than the fundamentalists -- Moslem or Christian -- would be the nihilists of the left.

The Moslems at least admit openly that they want to kill me. The Christians are deluded, but at least cling to their religion for some of the "right" reasons. But leftists are worse than both. You simply attack everyone like rabid dogs.

Thanks for the info, guys.

Would anyone else care to show me and everyone else how "enlightened" and "tolerant" the left is? At the moment, it is clear that you have nothing to offer but bile specimens.