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NO RACIAL PROFILING, PLEASE

I’m more than a little appalled. Sam Harris defends racial profiling in airport security screening. I reject this categorically.

We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it. And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye (after all, what would Adam Gadahn look like if he cleaned himself up?) But there are people who do not stand a chance of being jihadists, and TSA screeners can know this at a glance.

Terrorists are people who have an ideological commitment so fierce that they encourage violence in its defense, even to the point of self-destruction. It is a behavioral property, not a racial one; to argue that one can identify it by so superficial a characteristic as appearance is unjust and ineffective. If we’re going to play the odds game in the United States, for instance, the people we ought to be stopping are white males. These are our terrorists, for instance.

Shall we single out people who look like them for special scrutiny? Of course not, that would be so many people, you might say, and most light-skinned European-Americans are not terrorists, so it would be an incredibly inefficient screening protocol. So why should we focus on people with dark complexions and Semitic features? There are many of them, too, and the overwhelming majority are most definitely not terrorists, and it would similarly be terribly inefficient. We would be harrassing mostly innocent people…but of course, these are innocent minorities, so their rights be damned to give the majority a little more privilege.

Harris also argues that some people are obviously not capable of terrorism, mentioning specifically the elderly — “an elderly couple who couldn’t have been less threatening had they been already dead and boarding in their coffins”. I had not realized that destroying required less guile and cunning and technological sophistication than muscle. I know that I don’t plan on seeing my capacity for nefarious scheming to diminish as I become increasingly decrepit physically, and I’m pretty sure that setting off a bomb in the bathroom doesn’t require vast reserves of youthful muscle.

Harris is right to complain about the superficial show of frisking down a subset of people passing through the security chokepoint — it’s a stupid way to prevent terrorism. It would be far more effective to catch them before they show up at the airport, on the basis of associations and activities, rather than their skin color or the shape of their nose; it would also be better to have more robust recognition of identity at the airport, in order to connect information about threatening behavior to the individual.

But never mind me. Ask a security expert, Bruce Schneier, about profiling. He advocates behavioral profiling (are they acting hinky? Is there something unusual about their activities?) but rejects the stupidity of profiling by ancestry.

  • Whenever you design a security system with two ways through — an easy way and a hard way — you invite the attacker to take the easy way. Profile for young Arab males, and you’ll get terrorists that are old non-Arab females. This paper looks at the security effectiveness of profiling versus random searching.

  • If we are going to increase security against terrorism, the young Arab males living in our country are precisely the people we want on our side. Discriminating against them in the name of security is not going to make them more likely to help.

  • Despite what many people think, terrorism is not confined to young Arab males. Shoe-bomber Richard Reid was British. Germaine Lindsay, one of the 7/7 London bombers, was Afro-Caribbean. Here are some more examples:

    In 1986, a 32-year-old Irish woman, pregnant at the time, was about to board an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv when El Al security agents discovered an explosive device hidden in the false bottom of her bag. The woman’s boyfriend — the father of her unborn child — had hidden the bomb.

    In 1987, a 70-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman — neither of whom were Middle Eastern — posed as father and daughter and brought a bomb aboard a Korean Air flight from Baghdad to Thailand. En route to Bangkok, the bomb exploded, killing all on board.

    In 1999, men dressed as businessmen (and one dressed as a Catholic priest) turned out to be terrorist hijackers, who forced an Avianca flight to divert to an airstrip in Colombia, where some passengers were held as hostages for more than a year-and-half.

    The 2002 Bali terrorists were Indonesian. The Chechnyan terrorists who downed the Russian planes were women. Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber were Americans. The Basque terrorists are Basque, and Irish terrorists are Irish. Tha Tamil Tigers are Sri Lankan.

    And many Muslims are not Arabs. Even worse, almost everyone who is Arab is not a terrorist — many people who look Arab are not even Muslims. So not only are there an large number of false negatives — terrorists who don’t meet the profile — but there an enormous number of false positives: innocents that do meet the profile.

Thorough reform of the security process is needed to make us genuinely safer. Scapegoating ethnic groups is not, however, the answer.

Comments

  1. Louis says

    There is only so much face to palm.

    Harris is simply wrong here. Oh well. Heroes with feet of clay and all that. Just goes to show that being right about one thing is no guarantee of being right about something else.

    Louis

    P.S. As someone who nicely fits the target demographic in appearance, I’ll be looking forward to yet more harassment in the name of “profiling”. Bit of a tan and a funny name? Step this way, sir…

  2. raven says

    Profile for young Arab males, and you’ll get terrorists that are old non-Arab females.

    Sounds like natural selection in action. Who says NS doesn’t work?

  3. pacal says

    Didn’t Harris a while back try to justify torture with a oh so dull variation on the ticking time bomb senario?

  4. says

    It’s not security, it’s theater. The public needs to see The Other being poked and prodded to assure them that the government is “doing something” about those nasty external threats from other countries. Conveniently, this obsession with The Other distracts a lot of people from all the various internal threats to our way of life, like runaway executive power and the growing police state.

  5. says

    I like Harris but he is clearly in the wrong here. What upsets me more than his view is the fact that whether we like it or not, and knowing full well that atheists often chafe at being put into groups, Harris is one of the most public faces of atheism. His comments make all of us look bad. He certainly does not “speak for us”—but to the general public it will be perceived that way. He really needs to think a bit before he goes off on something as outrageous as advocating for racial profiling. Mr. Scheier, whom PZ quoted is not the only source out there who argues that profiling based on looks is ineffective.

  6. robro says

    Indeed. See this piece from the Wall Street Journal by Kip Hawley, former head of the TSA, about the stupidity of the simple-minded solutions already practiced by the TSA.

  7. eean says

    The “ground zero Mosque” was a good litmus test for people who were simply Islamophobic. Sam Harris (and others, like the Anti-Defamation League) failed horribly. To some extent I think Sam Harris uses atheism as just a platform to attack Islam.

  8. says

    Harris also argues that some people are obviously not capable of terrorism, mentioning specifically the elderly — “an elderly couple who couldn’t have been less threatening had they been already dead and boarding in their coffins”.

    Maybe Sam needs to meditate on that more, because terrorist James von Brunn fit the definition of elderly as much as anyone would. Better yet, just lock up all the young people and be done with it–that way all lawns will be safe from being assaulted!

  9. KG says

    We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim – Sam Harris

    So that’s everyone, then. What a dumbfuck Sam Harris is, as well as a racist and an apologist for torture.

  10. madbull says

    I’m brown and gonna be travelling half way across the world soon. Last I checked I became a veggie cos I couldn’t bear to think of killing chicken.Screw you Harris.

  11. mattandrews says

    I know who Sam Harris is mostly by rep. Are these views common for him? I’m starting to get the impression he’s going to be regularly appearing on Fox News as the atheist who backs up whatever fantasy they’re pushing that day.

  12. Janine: History’s Greatest Monster says

    Hey, look, that person is brown, has a beard and is wearing a turban. Never mind that he is a Sikh, he just might be an Islamic terrorist.

  13. gaia says

    I completely disagree with racial profiling and completely disagree with Sam Harris on this, but I think this post (the third quoted point, anyway) is disingenuous. The reason Sam Harris et al condone racial profiling against Arabs/Muslims is not because they think Arabs or Muslims are inherently, genetically, and/or perpetually more prone to being terrorists, but because at this point in history (largely due to the US government’s own actions), it is Arabs/Muslims who have an issue with the USA and therefore have reason to want to attack. Just like the Basques did(do?) in Spain and Tamil Tigers did with Sri Lanka and Chechens did with Russia.

    Of course, it does not at all follow that therefore all Arabs or Muslims hate the US and are potential terrorists, or that Arabs or Muslims are the only potential terrorists. And I am completely against racial profiling for this and other reasons.

    To argue the anti-profiling position, I agree with the first two bullet points (“Profile for young Arab males, and you’ll get terrorists that are old non-Arab females” and “If we are going to increase security against terrorism, the young Arab males living in our country are precisely the people we want on our side”) but the third (listing examples of terrorisms in other countries, at other times, in different political climates) I feel detracts from the argument, by appearing to ignore or simplify current affairs.

  14. says

    Harris also argues that some people are obviously not capable of terrorism, mentioning specifically the elderly — “an elderly couple who couldn’t have been less threatening had they been already dead and boarding in their coffins”.

    Although if they were dead, protocol requires that the TSA search the coffins and at least pat down the corpses. And if the corpse has a swarthy mustache, well, it’s time for a cavity search.
    We must be ever vigilant.

  15. Brownian says

    Sam Harris being Sam Harris again.

    Quite. Given that the entire argument for racial profiling is nothing but the fundamental attribution error with a veneer of OMG brown people are scary, I fail to see why he’s lauded as any sort of thinker by this community at all.

    P.S. As someone who nicely fits the target demographic in appearance, I’ll be looking forward to yet more harassment in the name of “profiling”. Bit of a tan and a funny name? Step this way, sir…

    I made the mistake of forgetting to remove my belt before stepping through the metal detector at Schiphol. I happened to be sporting a luxurious beard and was wearing a Kaunda suit I’d personally designed and had tailored, and what resulted after the beep was the most intimate heavy petting session I’ve had since Grad night (no weapons, and no testicular lumps neither!)

    Since then, I make it a habit to talk about my Vespa scooter as loudly as possible while trying not to let my mayo sandwich drip on my David Sedaris novel as I go through airport security. I could be wearing a bomb strapped to my Green Bay ballcap, and security wouldn’t bat an eye.

  16. says

    If you create a bifurcated security system in which some people receive high scrutiny and others receive less security you have created a weakness in your security system. You have announced to terrorists what they need to do to maximize their chances of getting on the plane.

    When they let people pay $100/year for a expedited, lower security screening (I know they did that for a while after 9-11, but I don’t know if that is still in place) they instructed terrorists to 1) get someone with a clean record 2) get the background check for this system while clean and 3) spend $100/year to let this guy get on the plane quickly and easily with minimum scrutiny.

    This is security theater, designed to make white people feel safer because brown people get hassled. Disgusting. I thought we were supposed to be people of reason. This only plays to emotions and prejudice.

  17. mattandrews says

    Another thought: I saw this over the weekend at Friendly Atheist. I realize Hemant’s not popular ’round these parts, but man, did he drop the ball on this. To say his response to Harris was tepid is an understatement.

    It really felt like he knew what Harris was saying was nine million shades of stupid, but couldn’t bring himself to criticize one The Leading Atheists in The World™.

  18. raven says

    Hey, look, that person is brown, has a beard and is wearing a turban. Never mind that he is a Sikh, he just might be an Islamic terrorist.

    Three US Moslems have been killed in hate crime attacks in the last 12 years that I know of.

    Except they weren’t Moslems. They were Sikhs wearing turbans, some sort of Sikh thing.

    I don’t think much at all of Sam Harris. I got about 2/3 of the way through one of his books and decided it was a waste of time. He spends too much time Moslem bashing.

    There are around 225 million xians in the USA, maybe 75 million of them fundie xians.
    There are 2-3 million Moslems, many of them nonfundie Moslems.

    Just which religion is the greater threat to our secular, progressive democracry. Obviously the one, where a significant subset of tens of millions hate the words “secular”, “progressive” and “democracy”, the fundie xians.

  19. says

    ETA: What I said is where you arrive at if you think about security like an engineer and look at systems, etc. Where he arrived comes from thinking about who you don’t like and picking on them. Somehow I feel more comfortable with my approach to security systems design than I do with his.

  20. raven says

    It really felt like he knew what Harris was saying was nine million shades of stupid, but couldn’t bring himself to criticize one The Leading Atheists in The World™.

    Doesn’t bother me. Sam Harris is frequently an idiot.

    He got one thing right. The gods don’t exist. Big deal, this was known thousands of years ago by at least a few. He gets just about everything else wrong.

  21. Muse says

    gaia

    but because at this point in history (largely due to the US government’s own actions), it is Arabs/Muslims who have an issue with the USA and therefore have reason to want to attack.

    Depends how you define terrorist. I’d argue that anti-choice activists are terrorists – and there are a hell of a lot of them too. They are also usually white.

  22. Louis says

    Brownian,

    I flew into Berlin once and had a similar experience. This German Customs/Immigration/Security/Not sure now Officer walked along the long line of us inbound tourists, all of whom were white as snow bar myself and one black guy. He miraculously came to the conclusion that this black guy and myself merited some special attention. With a glove. Clearly melanin = naughty.

    These people have no sense of humour. I made one joke about buying me dinner first, in perfect German too, and not even a titter. That was the most disturbing part.

    Louis

  23. candy says

    Hmmm. Many of the Muslims I know are as white as I am, which is pretty white considering I’m a red-headed Irish-American. Most of the Muslims in my area are Bosniac. Sam Harris sounds like an ignoramus on this issue. As an atheist, I do not wish to be associated with racists. It would, indeed, be nice if he’d given it a moment’s thought, or done some research on the effectiveness of profiling. I’m not ashamed of him, since he and I have no connection, but I’m sort of ashamed for him . . .

  24. julial says

    Look at the payoff matrix for the test and sequelae:
    Test is intended to determine terrorist by profile (or associations or activities).

    Outcome is: If passenger is terrorist and not stopped, then bomb explodes and innocents die.

    ——————–Test outcome
    Passenger——|–Stopped——-|–Not stopped
    Terrorist——|–No Explosion–|–Explosion
    Not terrorist–|–No Explosion–|–No Explosion

    Terrorist and Stopped is true positive.
    Not Terrorist and Not Stopped is true negative.
    Terrorist and Not Stopped is false negative
    Not Terrorist and Stopped is false positive

    How should the outcomes be weighted? If innocents dying is given an overwhelming, near infinite weight then we stay in the first column of ‘stopped’ accepting false positives. If avoiding inequitable application is given overwhelming weight then we stay in the first row to avoid ‘not terrorist and stopped’ and accept some false negatives (BOOM).

    I know the payoff matrix is more complicated than that, but remember, security theater is PR and a jobs program .

  25. w00dview says

    PZ, I’m surprised that you did not give the quote by Harris the comic sans treatment. The first half of his comment in particular, sounds like something out of the mouth of Pamela Geller.

  26. Muse says

    julial – but stopping only people who are brown doesn’t increase the odds of stopping the terrorist.

  27. julial says

    Drat, shouldn’t try to write and program at the same time
    If avoiding inequitable application is given overwhelming weight then we stay in the first row SECOND COLUMN to avoid ‘not terrorist and stopped’ and accept some false negatives (BOOM).

  28. Brownian says

    These people have no sense of humour. I made one joke about buying me dinner first, in perfect German too, and not even a titter. That was the most disturbing part.

    I’ve heard that Germans aren’t all sunshine und smiles.

  29. says

    If Sam Harris is right shouldn’t we be looking for guys like Anders Breivik? Or any of the other ones mentioned?

    Since I think of Sam Harris as an intelligent person who normally thinks and expresses his thoughts clearly I would be interested in any responses he has to this criticism.

  30. Woo_Monster says

    Those brown peoples are so scary, amirite Sam? There should be a lower standard of evidence needed to arrest, search, and convict them. After all, “Every moment spent frisking the Mormon Tabernacle Choir subtracts from the scrutiny paid to more likely threats. Who could fail to understand this?”

    You are just being silly if you think the same standard should apply to white people as to to people with dark complexions. So, if we are pulling over a nice-looking white person like Sam Harris, the police should have to be able to articulate some reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before they frisk him. But, if the cops pull over anyone who looks like they could conceivably be Muslim, then the standard should be much lower. They are much more likely to be teh terrorists, so a gut feeling that they are suspicious should be all that is necessary.

    Why do the hard work of figuring out which behaviors or other factors make one more of a threat when we can just use race as a shortcut. Much easier to just search the Muslims than to figure out how to intelligently profile. Racial profiling doesn’t inconvenience ME, so it sounds like a good plan. After all, there is nothing in the US Constitution about “equal protection” for all people. Race isn’t a protected class is it?

  31. julial says

    #32
    Muse wrote: but stopping only people who are brown doesn’t increase the odds of stopping the terrorist.

    If the proportion of Terrorists is higher in the ‘brown’ population than in the ‘pink’ population then stopping the same number of ‘browns’ as ‘pinks’ would stop more terrorists than stopping an equal number of each. The assumption of higher proportion is not proven.

  32. says

    If the proportion of Terrorists is higher in the ‘brown’ population than in the ‘pink’ population then stopping the same number of ‘browns’ as ‘pinks’ would stop more terrorists than stopping an equal number of each. The assumption of higher proportion is not proven.

    True and it’s boiling down security to just on potential threat. It’s making the security a monoculture.

    It’s not security, it’s theater.

    A good part of any security is theater. The problem is that’s NOT theater, it’s actual racist action that undermines security.

  33. jaybee says

    Is this the chain of reasoning?

    (1) We spent a tremendous amount of money screening passengers

    (2) By most accounts, this screening is wildly ineffective

    (3) Therefore, screening only middle-easterny people will be effective

  34. says

    (3) Therefore, screening only middle-easterny people will be effective

    Sort of like searching for a lost item where the light is better.

  35. says

    Here is how white privilege works:

    Shoe-bomber Richard Reid was British.

    In 1986, a 32-year-old Irish woman, pregnant at the time

    In 1987, a 70-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman — neither of whom were Middle Eastern

    In 1999, men dressed as businessmen (and one dressed as a Catholic priest)…

    I assume the people whose race was not specifically mentioned, the people who were British and Irish and pregnant at the time, dressed as a businessman or a priest, who were not Middle Eastern, were all WHITE.

    White = default

    Race is only worth mentioning when it’s not white.

    In contrast, you have

    Germaine Lindsay, one of the 7/7 London bombers, was Afro-Caribbean

    Just thought I’d point it out. The fellow PZ is quoting is making perfectly good points and I totally agree; it’s just that you rarely see such a perfect illustration of how privilege works. In this case, it’s white privilege.

  36. says

    If you create a bifurcated security system in which some people receive high scrutiny and others receive less security you have created a weakness in your security system. You have announced to terrorists what they need to do to maximize their chances of getting on the plane.

    Very yes. If we screen based on “looking vaguely arabic”, they’ll simply use their “whitest” recruits to smuggle the bombs and guns. Performing truly random tests would be more effective because they can’t be sure there’s a strategy to evade testing.

    I remember reading an embarrassing incident where a pilot refused to allow some passengers on board because they were dressed funny. Was he stupid enough to think that terrorists wouldn’t dress in unassuming “Western” clothes? They want to slip under the radar, not draw attention.

    Of course, as always, the best method is to track them down before they get to the airport.

  37. Louis says

    Brownian,

    How dare you suggested I would be so crass as to generalise about the Germans!

    I was crassly generalising about airport security officers (or whatever this guy was). I was exploring new areas of ignorance and prejudice, not merely clinging to old ones. I’m a prejudice pioneer!

    ;-)

    Louis

  38. julial says

    #39 jaybee
    (2) By most accounts, this screening is wildly ineffective

    I like your reasoning. However, my observation is that
    is ignored by the majority. Perhaps because (2) is based on evidence rather than emotion?

    I think there is also a population who operates on evidence and is very happy to continue on our current course. I call them security consultants.

  39. says

    I think there is also a population who operates on evidence and is very happy to continue on our current course. I call them security consultants.

    Snicker, oh yes they seem to be divided into 2 groups

    1) Those pointing out that the TSA isn’t making us any safer
    2) Those who are offering their services to the TSA to be tweak their profiling lists every few years.

  40. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    I made one joke about buying me dinner first, in perfect German too, and not even a titter.

    Perhaps they’d heard this one before.

  41. says

    I am concerned. Very concerned.

    We have open confessions from some people here that they are some degree of swarthy — and I have to admit, I have met some of those same people, and unforgivably failed to frisk them thoroughly — and yet they are commenting here.

    I will give you one chance to do the right thing on your own, and report to the Radiation and Orifice Penetration Machine for thorough cleansing and internal/external scouring, or I shall have to send the Pale Squad to intern you.

    By the way, now recruiting for the Pale Squad. Only Northern Europeans allowed. Freckles, straight hair, family history of melanoma preferred. NO CANADIANS, please — while you might meet the superficial requirements, your tolerance of the French makes you suspect.

  42. jjgdenisrobert says

    I hate to say it, but left-leaning and secular Jews often exhibit this kind of mindless animus towards Arabs and Muslims. I’ve had otherwise completely reasonable and beloved Jewish friends sicken me with statements about Arabs (they don’t really tend to make a distinction between Arab and Muslim in regular conversation; it’s usually “Arab Dogs this”, and “Arab Dogs that”) which would not have been out of place in Mein Kampf. I understand that there’s a bit of history there, but frankly people who claim to value critical thinking should use a little more of it.

  43. nooneinparticular says

    Sally Strange @41

    You make a good point, in general, but you are wrong about the Korean Air bombers. They were Korean, most of whom are not usually considered “white people”.

  44. Brownian says

    Is this the chain of reasoning?

    (1) We spent a tremendous amount of money screening passengers

    (2) By most accounts, this screening is wildly ineffective

    (3) Therefore, screening only middle-easterny people will be effective

    Well, when you put it that way it sounds kinda silly. What he’s saying we should do is not screen anybody who could not concievably be a terrorist.

    But I wonder what Harris would do with my manager: she’s a sixty-[mumble]-year-old white woman, who speaks with an English accent, has a Spanish given name (pronounced the Dutch way), frequently flies from Canada and the UK to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kurdistan, and wears dupattas and a pakul which she impishly refers to as a ‘Taliban hat’.

  45. says

    Gaia,

    The reason Sam Harris et al condone racial profiling against Arabs/Muslims is not because they think Arabs or Muslims are inherently, genetically, and/or perpetually more prone to being terrorists, but because at this point in history (largely due to the US government’s own actions), it is Arabs/Muslims who have an issue with the USA and therefore have reason to want to attack.

    Nice try. Our biggest terrorist threat comes from inside the United States– radical right wing groups have exploded in the past decade or so. But members of right wing extremist groups aren’t racial minorities, so they get ignored by people like Harris.

    In fact, the last bombing to occur in the US was a Planned Parenthood in… Minnesota? Somehwere in the midwest, anyhow. And guess what? It wasn’t an Arab or Muslim who committed that crime! Who’da thunk it?

  46. ibyea says

    People like Sam Harris have to stop treating the TV show “24” like it’s a documentary, seriously.

  47. says

    NO CANADIANS, please — while you might meet the superficial requirements, your tolerance of the French makes you suspect.

    For a screening protocol, ask them to say the following sentence: “I went out to the house to pout with the mouse.”

  48. Drolfe says

    Harris was already on thin ice with me, this is putting it over the line, it’s just so irrational. Doesn’t expertise matter, Sam? Listen to the experts dummy.

    PZ,
    Nice to see you cite one of my favorite writers on security, but you have a typo in his name. Schneier. Bruce has been right about pretty much everything since 9/11 so it’s no wonder the political establishment ignores him. Right? Cry.

  49. Drolfe says

    I am pretty sure 24 is largely responsible for US torture policy. I am not kidding. How scary is that?

  50. Woo_Monster says

    This line really pissed me off,

    But if their goal is simply to travel safely and efficiently, wouldn’t they, too, want a system that notices people like themselves?

    Sam Harris seems to actually think that I should “want a system” that will treat me more or less suspiciously depending on how dark my tan is. Fuck that. We can do better than that.

  51. Enkidum says

    SallyStrange @41. Agreed with your general point, but one of the odd things about that list of terrorists is that Richard Reid is (a) black (or at least most people in North America would identify him as such) and (b) Muslim. He’s not an Arab, so I guess he has that going for him, but I think Harris would be happy to lump him in with those-who-should-be-profiled.

  52. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    We have open confessions from some people here that they are some degree of swarthy…

    Oh, it’s worse than that. While you were on your last junket, it became clear that there were also women about, some sporting monikers that were not clearly indicative of their gender.

  53. says

    The reason Sam Harris et al condone racial profiling against Arabs/Muslims is not because they think Arabs or Muslims are inherently, genetically, and/or perpetually more prone to being terrorists, but because at this point in history (largely due to the US government’s own actions), it is Arabs/Muslims who have an issue with the USA and therefore have reason to want to attack.

    Gee why on earth would Arabs and Muslims have a problem with the US? *snaps latex glove*

  54. Janine: History’s Greatest Monster says

    I am pretty sure 24 is largely responsible for US torture policy. I am not kidding. How scary is that?

    Cheney and company would have been using torture even if 24 never exited. They used the example of 24 to fool the gullible who have a hard time telling fiction from reality.

  55. AlanMac says

    The security checks do not solve the problem. They just create a choke point and a crowd/tempting target away from the airlines’ high value assets. It looks good to the insurance underwriters. But then again, maybe that is the “problem” the airlines and their underwriters have identified. (Cynical!? Moi?)

    Still, the present system seems to me to have a slight Clouseau/Drebin-esque aroma to it. You have someone who IS a young male from Somalia and someone who IS a grandmother from New York. Solution: Granny’s wearing a mask, tackle her.
    (Yes I understand there is a vast gulf of uncertainty between Haile and Edith.)

  56. Janine: History’s Greatest Monster says

    Oh, but that’s just blowing up sluts, Audley, that’s not like, really REAL terrorism, amirite? Especially not when white dudes do it.

    SallyStrange, you forgot this. They were saving babies!

  57. says

    PZ, your link just goes to the announcements page of the First Monday website. After a little poking around, I found this article, which might be the one you want. “Carnival Booth: An Algorithm for Defeating the Computer-Assisted Passenger Screening System” by Samidh Chakrabarti and Aaron Strauss, from October, 2002. It shows that screening by profile is less effective than random screening, for the reasons you all guess.

    The only Sam Harris book I’ve read is Letter to a Christian Nation, which is nicely non-aggressive and doesn’t get into racial profiling. I guess I’ll stop there.

  58. says

    It’s really weird that I did not know that Richard Reid is biracial. I mean, I read many articles about his attempted shoe bombing. It’s not like I went out of my way to do a research project on it, but I wasn’t totally unaware either. Yet I had the impression that he was white. Well, chalk one up to my own implicit bias–two, in the case of the Korean air terrorists (the ones dressed as businessmen, right?).

  59. christophburschka says

    This profiling would be wrong even if we valued the rights of minority individuals not at all and the risk of terrorism infinitely.

    It is statistically dishonest to compare the number of terrorists by race without taking into account the location of the attacks. Large parts of the middle east are in a state of civil unrest or religious warfare, and are populated by people who aren’t white. That skews world-wide statistics to the point of uselessness. The weekly car bombs in Iraq have jack-squat to do with the risk of terrorism in America and Europe, let alone airborne terrorism. Those car- and suicide bombers aren’t going to suddenly board an American plane; they have no means or reason to. Their war isn’t even with America; it’s chiefly with their own differently-believing neighbors or the government.

    It’s like assuming a random person in America who looks Chinese is most likely to speak Mandarin, on the basis of a random world-wide sample.

  60. says

    #63: JESUS CHRIST! THERE ARE WOMEN IN DISGUISE HERE? THEY’RE PROBABLY SWARTHY, TOO!

    Clearly I need more effective screening procedures.

  61. says

    @Christoph

    Good point. It’s like the old puzzle my stat teacher gave. You have a cancer screening test with 90% accuracy (10% of the time a result is either a false positive or false negative), it comes up positive for you…how likely is it that you have cancer?

    The gut reaction is 90%, but in the example given, the odds of getting this cancer are so low that it’s MORE likely you were in the 10% of false positives.

  62. dianne says

    By a bizarre combination of privilege and lack of privilege*, I am practically invisible to security types. I’ve mouthed off to TSA officials and customs agents, took largish amounts of liquid through security**, imported fruit from Europe into the US**, and occasionally asked for special privileges like, “Can I go through first, please? My plane’s about to leave.” Not a peek out of anyone. Not even when I snarked the German customs guy.

    I conclude that the next terrorist will probably be someone who looks a bit like me. Not me, of course, because it’ll be someone like me but not stupid enough to boast about her invisibility to security people on the internet. Plus, I don’t want to go boom. But it’ll be a middle aged, middle class, white looking woman who is not wearing a burqa.

    *I’m white appearing therefore low suspicion. I’m female and not either young or attractive, therefore invisible- non-privileged position usually, but means less attention from police types who see me as powerless and harmless. I’m middle class appearing, but kind of careless with my appearance so people tend to not particularly want to look closely at me–kind of privilege and non-privilege: middle class “in”ness combined with aspergish “out”ness.

    **In both cases, I genuinely forgot it was there. They floated right through security/customs, including being searched by the contraband sniffing dog in the second case, without being discovered though. I attribute the first case to inattentiveness on the part of the operator who had probably already decided that I was harmless and therefore didn’t look closely at my luggage. I have no good explanation for my invisibility to agriculture sniffing dogs.

    Or maybe I didn’t do it at all and I’m just making things up to impress my web friends.

  63. says

    PZ:

    By the way, now recruiting for the Pale Squad. Only Northern Europeans allowed. Freckles, straight hair, family history of melanoma preferred.

    Does this mean I finally get to probe Louis?

    Sally:

    Oh, but that’s just blowing up sluts, Audley, that’s not like, really REAL terrorism, amirite? Especially not when white dudes do it.

    Of course not! Silly me, thinking that bombing a health clinic might be a terrorist act! There we go again, makin’ the lady brainz overheat again what with all of this rational thinking and junk.

    Jj:
    Don’t fucking generalize like that. I know plenty of secular/lefty Jews who are no more racist than I am.

    Sally’s right, you need some new fucking friends.

  64. chigau (副) says

    NO CANADIANS, please — while you might meet the superficial requirements, your tolerance of the French makes you suspect.

    I’m from Western Canada. Tolerence of The French does not apply.
    Or tolerence of anything in Eastern Canada.
    (Eastern Canada means anything east of here. Fucking Saskatchewan)

  65. says

    *looks at “Free Will” and “The Moral Landscape” sitting on desk, still unread*

    Well, I’ve already paid for them….

    I can guess where racial profiling fits on Harris’ continuum of morality.

    Ugh.

  66. says

    66. Actually, that’s what I think about the sad case of Omar Khadr, who was wounded and imprisoned when he was fifteen because his father had taken him for a child soldier, against the Geneva Convention (or whatever) that child soldiers should not be held responsible. Now that he has been tortured, sleep-deprived, and imprisoned for 11 years, he will *surely* have a soft spot in his heart for his hosts!

  67. nooneinparticular says

    It might be worth noting that the suggestion of “behavioral profiling” would not have caught the Irish woman who was carrying the bomb to the El Al flight either. She was unaware of the bomb put in her luggage by her boyfriend, who was Jordanian, BTW. No screening process can ever be 100%.

  68. ibyea says

    @Janine
    24=Conservative wet dream.

    I like that show, but c’mon, how can people think anything in it is remotely plausible!

  69. says

    It might be worth noting that the suggestion of “behavioral profiling” would not have caught the Irish woman who was carrying the bomb to the El Al flight either. She was unaware of the bomb put in her luggage by her boyfriend, who was Jordanian, BTW. No screening process can ever be 100%.

    No shit. No procedure is 100%. The point is that a behavioral profiling couples with RANDOM screening would be a better policy than racial profiling.

    the random screening is important because it is the only truly ungameable rubric and is perhaps the best move for gunking up terrorist planning.

  70. dianne says

    Harris also argues that some people are obviously not capable of terrorism, mentioning specifically the elderly — “an elderly couple who couldn’t have been less threatening had they been already dead and boarding in their coffins”.

    I’m very confused by this conclusion. Does he believe that the elderly have no convictions or passion? If I were an 80 year old member of an al Qaeda cell and we were deciding who to send as the suicide bomber, I’d probably be saying something like, “I’ll do it. You kids have a long life ahead of you and my arthritis and congestive heart failure are leading me to feel more than ready to go to the afterworld and meet my 72 virgin husbands anyway” or something like that. Quite apart from the free bonus of looking less suspicious to security people and therefore having a better chance of getting on.

  71. says

    Diane, me too. Well, not the water. I tried to take two 500-ml bottles of water through security and they wouldn’t let me, so I drank both of them on the spot. I declared the fruit and they wouldn’t let me take that either–even though I pointed out that the fruit they’re not letting in came from the U.S. in the first place and that I was going to eat it on the plane. So I gave it to the agricultural inspections guy for *his* lunch.

  72. nooneinparticular says

    A combination of random and behavioral screening would be “perhaps the best move for gunking up terrorist planning.” True, at the airport (or wherever the screening is done).

    But IMO the best move would be to catch them before any attempt is even made. Regular law enforcement strategies seem to work well; almost all the terrorists currently in American prisons were caught this way. The trick is to accomplish the kind of surveillance that would be most effective in this regard without degrading our civil rights, a trick which Bush admin II and Bush admin III (AKA the Obama admin) have failed to do.

  73. Muse says

    <blockquoteI hate to say it, but left-leaning and secular Jews often exhibit this kind of mindless animus towards Arabs and Muslims. I’ve had otherwise completely reasonable and beloved Jewish friends sicken me with statements about Arabs (they don’t really tend to make a distinction between Arab and Muslim in regular conversation; it’s usually “Arab Dogs this”, and “Arab Dogs that”) which would not have been out of place in Mein Kampf. I understand that there’s a bit of history there, but frankly people who claim to value critical thinking should use a little more of it.

    So the point of this exactly was what?

  74. Muse says

    Ing

    To bash liberals and Jews…duh!

    Right – forgot the easy explanation. You know, in a thread that is effectively about the problems with over-generalizing and drawing conclusions about ethnic groups from incomplete data, you’d think I’d have thought about it…

  75. Louis says

    PZ,

    It’s worse than you think. Some of us are not only a bit swarthy, but we’re also NOT AMERICAN.

    Now this Northern European requirement, how much Northern Europeanness is required? A non-zero amount? 100%? Somewhere in between. And out of curiosity, will you be eventually distributing natty uniforms? I’ve noticed this is an important thing.

    Louis

  76. gussnarp says

    Thanks, PZ. I knew I could count on you to be the voice pointing out just how unreasonable the supposedly reasonable Sam Harris was on this issue. Rational skepticism doesn’t mean taking the easy answer because it makes rational sense to you superficially, it means actually figuring whether that solution makes sense and whether it’s right.

  77. interrobang says

    You know, Sikhs occasionally blow up planes too. I insist that planes full of Canadians and Britons still count.

    I’m extra lucky — I have a first name spelled the way Muslims and Jews spell it, although it’s ubiquitous in the Abrahamic religions. I also have a DD chest. Guess who gets pulled out of security lines a lot.

    I fly to California in two weeks… :(

  78. Muse says

    Ing – if’ it’s a liberals do it too thing then why add the slam against Jews…

  79. Muse says

    Right – I always forget the evil part damnit. I’m oretty sure the Jews aren’t the secret ally – I think they are the right out in the open ally.

  80. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    Bobdamnit. Why is it that every time I see this clown something intolerant is coming out of his mouth? How did this asshole get to be so influential among atheists anyway?

    I think we need to take this guy’s horse away. I’m ok with explaining to the agnostics that Dawkins has a worse name than he deserves, but I do NOT want to be associated with Sam Harris.

  81. Rich Woods says

    By the way, now recruiting for the Pale Squad. Only Northern Europeans allowed. Freckles, straight hair, family history of melanoma preferred. NO CANADIANS, please — while you might meet the superficial requirements, your tolerance of the French makes you suspect.

    Pale? Check.
    Northern European? Check.
    Freckles? Check.
    Straight hair? Check.
    Family history of melanoma? Um, sort of.
    NO CANADIANS? No probs!
    Tolerance of the French? None whatsoever! After all, what did the French ever do for us? LaPlace, Voltaire, the Curies? Mais non!

    Ah, sod it. That’s another job interview I’ve cocked up this year.

  82. jdze says

    I usually agree with Harris’ criticism on Islam but this proposal is just plain dumb. I really hope he realizes how bad idea this is, otherwise he’ll lose quite a bit of my respect for him. I understand that this is about identifying people that are more likely to have radical religious views, but ethnicity is just too unreliable for that in context of airport security.

    Pure-blooded Northern European here.

  83. Brownian says

    We have open confessions from some people here that they are some degree of swarthy

    Yes, but you’ll have to waterboard make me uncomfortable for a few days before I confess to being hirsute as well.

    But IMO the best move would be to catch them before any attempt is even made

    I thought the US did that. Remember the toppling of Saddam Hussein, criminal mastermind behind Hating Us For Our Freedoms? How the Ketchup of Democracy was poured all over the Fries of Freedom?

    Gosh, it’s almost like hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died just because Americans wanted to profile—what’s wrong with my fingers today?—punish some Arabs and it doesn’t even matter which ones.

    But Woo_Monster highlights what is perhaps Harris’ stupidest fucking paragraph:

    Needless to say, a devout Muslim should be free to show up at the airport dressed like Osama bin Laden, and his wives should be free to wear burqas. But if their goal is simply to travel safely and efficiently, wouldn’t they, too, want a system that notices people like themselves? At a minimum, wouldn’t they want a system that anti-profiles—applying the minimum of attention to people who obviously pose no threat?

    Are you fucking kidding me?

  84. AlanMac says

    @dianne #74

    I have no good explanation for my invisibility to agriculture sniffing dogs.

    It has been clearly demonstrated that the dogs do respond to clues from the handler. The handler either unintentionally or deliberately steered the dog away, because he saw you has harmless.The dogs may not be profiling, but the handlers sure are.

  85. jjgdenisrobert says

    Since I started this, let me clarify:

    1. Harris is a secular Jew (well, at least half of him his, on his mother’s side), hence the relevance of what I said. I’ve always wondered how much of his mindless islamophobia was informed by his background.

    2. Yes, conservative Jews tend to hate muslims and arabs. That is not surprising. It seems to me that Conservatives tend to hate pretty much anything that’s not them. My point was that otherwise very tolerant, very open minded people would have a blind-spot a mile wide when it came to Arabs and Muslims, and that they would be able to at the same time decry the de-humanization of women and other minorities while at the same time de-humanizing nearly a sixth of humanity.

    3. I’m not saying or implying that all secular or liberal Jews are like this, only that they often are, and that I find this attitude shocking coming from people who should know better.

  86. Brownian says

    Harris is a secular Jew (well, at least half of him his, on his mother’s side), hence the relevance of what I said. I’ve always wondered how much of his mindless islamophobia was informed by his background.

    Ah. Using racism against the racist, I see.

  87. consciousness razor says

    I realize Hemant’s not popular ’round these parts, but man, did he drop the ball on this. To say his response to Harris was tepid is an understatement.

    Hemant sez:

    When discussing this, keep this in mind:

    Harris isn’t a racist. I don’t think so, anyway. He’s making (what he feels is) a logical argument in favor of profiling. So if he’s wrong, focus on why his argument doesn’t make sense.

    I’ll certainly keep that in mind, asshole. Let’s put it this way: (you don’t think) he’s racist. What you think is (confronting his racist bullshit is) tepid apologetics at best.

    Then again, it might be logical to be a racist, and we certainly don’t want to be illogical. So let’s sit and ponder whether we’ve heard the same shitty arguments a million times before, because we’re all friends here, and good old Sam deserves a hearing.

  88. stabbinfresh says

    Love your blog, PZ, but I don’t see where Sam Harris has advocated racial profiling. He talks about Muslims being profiled. Not Arabs. Do some Arabs happen to be Muslims? Yes. As do some caucasians, blacks, hispanics, etc. No where in Sam’s blog post does he support race profiling. Just profiling is defended.

  89. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    TSA screeners can know this at a glance.

    I can count on my fingers the number of TSA screeners I’ve encountered who struck me as capable of operating a doorknob without a detailed flowchart.

  90. Jules says

    By the way, now recruiting for the Pale Squad. Only Northern Europeans allowed. Freckles, straight hair, family history of melanoma preferred.

    Oh, come on, PZ. I’m about as fair-skinned as they come. My eyes are so light they don’t even show up in pictures. But you’re going to throw me out because my hair is curly? Jebus, you’re a hardass.

    Maybe Harris is too young to realize that old people are still people.

    Seriously. His description of that couple was so fucking disrespectful that I wanted to slap him. And like dianne said, I’m pretty sure that being older and infirm does not exempt one from either deciding to take a suicide mission or being targeted in the way the pregnant woman was by some nefarious plotters who figure, “Meh, they’ll be dead soon anyway.”

    When I saw this piece linked from his facebook the other day, my only response to him was, “Fuck you, Harris.”

  91. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Indeed. See this piece from the Wall Street Journal by Kip Hawley, former head of the TSA, about the stupidity of the simple-minded solutions already practiced by the TSA.

    Even Kip “3-1-1″ fucking Hawley realizes this is idiocy?

  92. unclefrogy says

    All I see is the United States and much of the world lurching toward some as yet undescribed dystopian future.
    Is there any other way to look at things? What am I missing?

    uncle frogy

  93. says

    Stabbinfresh:
    Please. Do you honestly think that the TSA cares that there’s a difference between Arab and Muslim? Do you think Harris cares (protip: read what he’s written.)

    Hell, I’ve got Indian friends that won’t fly anymore, because they were constantly pulled out of line for extra screening. Not Arab, not Muslim, just brown. That’s what TSA does.

  94. chigau (副) says

    stabbinfresh
    Harris says

    …or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim…

    What does a Muslim look like?

  95. What a Maroon, Applied Linguist of Slight Foreboding says

    He talks about Muslims being profiled. Not Arabs. Do some Arabs happen to be Muslims? Yes. As do some caucasians, blacks, hispanics, etc. No where in Sam’s blog post does he support race profiling. Just profiling is defended.

    Ah. So when he said

    We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim

    what he meant was that we should profile everyone.

    Right?

  96. Brain Hertz says

    A few months back, I made my first trip to Israel, and I have to say going through security at Ben Gurion was quite an eye opener. The way they do things really makes the TSA process look embarrassingly amateurish.

    I don’t have time to post much in the way of details right now, but I really think the TSA should have all of their senior people make a trip and talk to all of their counterparts in Israel to find out how they do it, and why…

  97. Brownian says

    Is there any other way to look at things?

    No. We’re all fucked, and there ain’t no amount of yelling at each other on the internet that’s gonna change that.

    What am I missing?

    Serotonin, probably, or whatever it is that makes people get up and go on and have kids and plan for the future in the face of us being completely and utterly fucked.

    I’m missing it too. I take the pills because I think it makes my doctor feel better to think he’s helping.

  98. says

    Love your blog, PZ, but I don’t see where Sam Harris has advocated racial profiling. He talks about Muslims being profiled. Not Arabs. Do some Arabs happen to be Muslims? Yes. As do some caucasians, blacks, hispanics, etc. No where in Sam’s blog post does he support race profiling. Just profiling is defended.

    Either you’re an idiot or think we are.

  99. onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork says

    Needless to say, a devout Muslim should be free to show up at the airport dressed like Osama bin Laden, and his wives should be free to wear burqas. But if their goal is simply to travel safely and efficiently, wouldn’t they, too, want a system that notices people like themselves? At a minimum, wouldn’t they want a system that anti-profiles—applying the minimum of attention to people who obviously pose no threat?

    Are you fucking kidding me?

    Well, yeah…don’t you know that this is the kind of racism that’s good for us?

    It’s for your own good, you know.

  100. jfigdor says

    Racial profiling is dumb and ineffective. But we could base our screening on age and stop screening young children and very old people.

  101. Woo_Monster says

    Needless to say, a devout Muslim should be free to show up at the airport dressed like Osama bin Laden, and his wives should be free to wear burqas. But if their goal is simply to travel safely and efficiently, wouldn’t they, too, want a system that notices people like themselves? At a minimum, wouldn’t they want a system that anti-profiles—applying the minimum of attention to people who obviously pose no threat?

    The more I read this paragraph, the more I dislike it. What is that part I italicized supposed to mean? At “a minimum”, Muslims (and everyone sufficiently dark enough to “conceivably look like” one) want to be racially profiled by security? At a minimum? What does the average Muslim want, mandatory pre-flight background checks if you fail the melanin test? Muslims who want to really “travel safely and efficiently” will agree that all Muslims should be on no-flight lists until they first jump through a set of thorough and stringent hoops.

    The whole message of this paragraph is offensive. Muslims, I thought all you wanted was to take a safe plane-trip? If that were true, you would agree that we should profile you. What, you don’t like being singled out merely because of the way you look. Hmm, perhaps your true goal isn’t just to take a safe plane-ride after all…

    Also, Sam, I noticed your attempt to dismiss your critiques by implying that they are merely being PC police. Fuck you* for that.

    *And another data point against the trolls who accuse gnu atheists of being group-thinky.

  102. Brownian says

    Hell, I’ve got Indian friends that won’t fly anymore, because they were constantly pulled out of line for extra screening. Not Arab, not Muslim, just brown. That’s what TSA does.

    Sure, but could they conceivably be Muslim?

    There you go. Another victory for Liberty™ and Freedom™.

  103. gussnarp says

    @stabbinfresh – Oh that old chestnut. Hating Muslims isn’t racism, because Muslim isn’t a race. Race is socially constructed. What Harris is advocating here is profiling based on obvious visual cues of membership is some broad cultural group and treating people differently based solely on their perceived membership in that group. That’s effectively the exact same thing as racism, whether or not you agree that the target population constitutes a race. Next you’ll tell us that islamophobia doesn’t exist either, because you think it’s reasonable to be afraid of Muslims.

  104. jdze says

    Harris is a secular Jew (well, at least half of him his, on his mother’s side), hence the relevance of what I said. I’ve always wondered how much of his mindless islamophobia was informed by his background.

    Ah. Using racism against the racist, I see.

    Playing the race card makes it difficult to talk about cultural issues of different ethnicities rationally. If it is indeed true that secular Jews have a tendency for hatred of Muslims, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Harris’ views are influenced by his Jewish background.

  105. says

    If it is indeed true that secular Jews have a tendency for hatred of Muslims, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Harris’ views are influenced by his Jewish background.

    OH good we’re making excuses for people’s sins based on our imagined fruedian excuses for them! That’s always fun and productive!

    Oh oh oh oh oh I bet a Jewish man molested Hitler as a child!

  106. eigenperson says

    Since I never had any respect for Sam Harris in the first place, to say I lost all respect for Sam Harris doesn’t mean much. But I lost all respect for Sam Harris.

  107. Brownian says

    Well, yeah…don’t you know that this is the kind of racism that’s good for us?

    It’s for your own good, you know.

    True. But rather than hypothesising about how strawmuslims feel about being blamed for the crimes of those who look like them, why don’t we ask some real non-Americans—fuck me, I can’t type at all today—whites about how thankful they are to be pulled over more often, questioned more often, and arrested more often for the crimes of those who look like them?

    Anyone here been ‘profiled’ by the cops? A cop friend (a white cop friend) once told me that he’d describe me as an ‘Arab’ if he had to put out an APB on me, but I just think the cops hassle me because I’m a heat score. What about others?

  108. stabbinfresh says

    Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart,

    I have read plenty of what Harris has written. He is not a racist as far as I can tell.

    As for your example of “just brown” people getting extra screening, well, that is a problem with the TSA. I thik the point he was trying to make is that the TSA is a joke and it should be improved. Intelligent profiling should be included in the set of tools for any agency that is doing this kind of work.

  109. gussnarp says

    I really hate when people take a superficial stroll through their thoughts on an issue, based entirely on their own perceptions of the media reports on the issue they’ve received, and, because they basically used some form of logic and reason in their thinking, come to the conclusion that they have reached the only reasonable conclusion. Ayn Rand, other libertarians, Sam Harris, Penn Jillette, I don’t understand why people who otherwise seem like rational skeptics can let their reasoning process become a crutch for supporting whatever ideas they already hold, forgetting that all the available evidence must be marshaled and alternative arguments fully considered, and yes, in some cases people’s feelings must be taken into account, before a truly rational conclusion can claim to have been reached.

    I am reminded of the old Sherlock Holmes quote: “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth”, which is in serious need of the addendum: assuming you have considered ALL of the possibilities.

  110. consciousness razor says

    If it is indeed true that secular Jews have a tendency for hatred of Muslims, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Harris’ views are influenced by his Jewish background.

    It’s unreasonable to suggest that secular Jews have a tendency for hatred of Muslims. There is no “Jewish background.” These are individuals with different backgrounds who identify as Jewish.

    You could just as well say people have a tendency for hatred of Muslims, and Harris’ views are influenced by his background as a person. But then you might notice what an idiotic generalization you’re making.

  111. Brownian says

    Playing the race card makes it difficult to talk about cultural issues of different ethnicities rationally.

    The “race card”? Seriously, fuck you hard, you apologist piece of shit.

    If it is indeed true that secular Jews have a tendency for hatred of Muslims, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Harris’ views are influenced by his Jewish background.

    Not withstanding the big fucking If, asshole, this is exactly what racism is.

    So, what’s your background, shit for brains? Because you’d better not think that your own views come about because of you as an individual, and I want to know what ethnic groups we should be blaming your stupidity on.

  112. Brownian says

    No, it’s not the racism that poisons the dialogue, it’s “playing the race card”.

    What a fucking dipshit.

  113. Brownian says

    People forget that the Race Card isn’t the highest value in the game. It’s complacently trumped by the Ace of White Penis

    It’s ’cause white males think rationally.

    It’s only the ethnics and the women who think the way they do because of their race or sex.

  114. nooneinparticular says

    ing @141

    “btw, white people: you do not have the power to decide what is racist or not.”

    Please elaborate. I am not sure I follow your meaning.

  115. says

    Stabbinfresh,
    You obviously haven’t read that much Harris. He wants to screen people that “look Muslim”. If that’s not a fucking dog whistle, I don’t know what is.

    Moron.

    Never mind the fact that focusing on extremist Muslims lends itself to ignoring all of the terrorist attacks that the US has endured that were perpetrated by white dudes. And that quite possibly our biggest threat right now comes from the radicalized right. But you know, whatevs. Only white people are granted the luxury of having a diversity of viewpoints. We can judge all Arab Muslims based on the actions of a few, but we can’t do that to white people ‘cos we’re all so different!

  116. stabbinfresh says

    gussnarp

    Muslims/Christians/Jews/Buddhists/Pastafarians/Whatever opt in or out of their belief system, by definition you can’t be born into it, unlike race.

    Belief systems lead to certain types of behavior that is plain as day in the real world. Hence it is an observable phenomena. If we can observe it we can study it. Why is it wrong to say “Let’s look at the emergent behavior of these belief systems?”

    I have no hatred of religious groups, but I do hate some of the behavior that emerges and is not condemned by those in a position of power in said religious groups.

  117. Muse says

    Playing the race card makes it difficult to talk about cultural issues of different ethnicities rationally. If it is indeed true that secular Jews have a tendency for hatred of Muslims, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Harris’ views are influenced by his Jewish background.

    Citation needed. Please give me your source that secular Jews (as a monolith) have a tendency for hatred of Muslims. No, your anecdotes about your friends don’t flipping count.

  118. says

    Muslims/Christians/Jews/Buddhists/Pastafarians/Whatever opt in or out of their belief system, by definition you can’t be born into it, unlike race.

    Unless you look like a Muslim

    Idiot.

    @Nooneinparticular

    In response to

    I have read plenty of what Harris has written. He is not a racist as far as I can tell.

    A lot of white people do not consider themselves racist…and a lot of POC disagree.

  119. says

    Stupidfresh:

    Belief systems lead to certain types of behavior that is plain as day in the real world.

    You mean, like, far-right xtianity? As in the Hutarees, as in abortion-clinic bombers and shooters? Why aren’t we profiling those people?

    Please keep the name calling to yourself. It contributes nothing.

    Another shit-for-brains tone troll who’s more offended by epithets than by racism.

  120. says

    Playing the race card makes it difficult to talk about cultural issues of different ethnicities rationally.

    Ah, but playing the “playing the race card” card reveals a complete inability to talk about issues pertaining to race, culture, or ethnicity in a rational fashion, period.

    Therefore we can safely disregard the opinion of anyone who plays the “playing the race card” card.

  121. stabbinfresh says

    I don’t know what Harris means by “look Muslim”, you’d have to ask him.

    But why should that imply racism when Muslim is not a race?

  122. says

    Belief systems lead to certain types of behavior that is plain as day in the real world. Hence it is an observable phenomena. If we can observe it we can study it. Why is it wrong to say “Let’s look at the emergent behavior of these belief systems?”

    We’re talking about pulling people out of line for extra scrutiny at airports here. What sort of Muslim “emergent behavior” should we be looking for?
    They don’t get the 72 virgins until after they die, you know. And anyway that would be a lot of extra seats to buy. Maybe single out those who try to bring winged steeds on board? They obviously don’t need those on an airplane.

  123. otrame says

    Freckles, straight hair, family history of melanoma preferred.

    I am about as fair skinned, freckled, and possessed of family members who suffered melanomas as you can get. But, PZ, I can’t pass the straight hair requirement. I realize that you are used to good Scandinavian Minnesotans, but some Northern Europeans are of Celtic ancestry and we tend to have rather curly–not to say down right frizzy–hair.

    Still might make the cut because my grey hair has come in substantially less curly than my original hair (which was, well, think Janice Joplin). So…..

    *crosses fingers and goes to stand in the line to probe Louis right behind Dr. Audley (@76).

    Or, wait. You aren’t going to refuse to put me on the Pale Squad because I’m a girl are you, PZ? I’ve never claimed otherwise. My nym is a combination of otra and me in Spanish, which clearly indicates the feminine.

    Oh, and if you thinks women would be no good at probing, I think I need to have a little private talk with the Trophy Wife.

  124. Jules says

    Muslims/Christians/Jews/Buddhists/Pastafarians/Whatever opt in or out of their belief system, by definition you can’t be born into it, unlike race.

    So if anyone can opt in or out, what the fuck does Harris mean when he says anyone who could conceivably look Muslim?

    That’s everyone, dipshit.

    Which makes his whole stupid essay pointless.

  125. Brownian says

    You mean, like, far-right xtianity? As in the Hutarees, as in abortion-clinic bombers and shooters? Why aren’t we profiling those people?

    Nobody’s talking about ‘far-right’ anything. We’re talking about Muslims, as a homogenous group, everyone of which is the same and has their opinions informed by their Islamism, unlike white white male atheists who are blank slates or whatever.

    So stabbinfresh, not being an idiot, would agree that Christians should be prevented from coming within one mile of a facility that provides abortions, unless they get screened for potential threats first, based on an emergent behaviour that’s as plain as day.

  126. nooneinparticular says

    ing@153

    Thanks. I thought that’s what you meant. Extemporaneously written blog posts can suffer from a lack of clarity (on the part of both/either the writer and/or the reader) so I try to avoid throwing poo at people unless I am better sure I understand them.

    Consider

    “I hate to say it, but left-leaning and secular Jews often exhibit this kind of mindless animus towards Arabs and Muslims.”

    compared to

    “A lot of white people do not consider themselves racist…and a lot of POC disagree.”

    Your statement is different in that it does not suffer from being a priori bullshit (it is sadly, a truism), but nevertheless can be read to be a sweeping statement about “white people” in much the same way that jj…’s statement could be construed to be a sweeping statement about “secular jews”.

    As for your original statement;

    “white people: you do not have the power to decide what is racist or not.

    It is of course entirely possible for a white person to recognize racism and although a fair number are racist, even if it is most often a kind of “soft racism” that is so pernicious, not all are. Or at least because we can recognize it, we can try to avoid acting in those ways. We do, in fact, have the power to decide what is racist or not. It’s not an exclusive power, to be sure, but we can -and do- recognize it. Even that which appears on Pharyngula

  127. says

    I don’t know what Harris means by “look Muslim”, you’d have to ask him.

    But why should that imply racism when Muslim is not a race?

    Accepting that “Muslim” is a thing you can look like is racism.

    Can you even define “race” or “racism”?

    I don’t think you have any idea what those words mean. You think “racist” is a synonym for “bad,” don’t you?

  128. says

    But you’re going to throw me out because my hair is curly? Jebus, you’re a hardass.

    But, PZ, I can’t pass the straight hair requirement.

    We cannot compromise on our purity.

    You aren’t going to refuse to put me on the Pale Squad because I’m a girl are you, PZ?

    I didn’t say it because I assumed everyone would realize that a penis is required. It’s always required.

    Obviously, only heterosexual penises, too. Well, homosexual penises are allowed if they are sufficiently repressed and self-loathing.

  129. atheistpowerlifter says

    I like Sam Harris and most of what he has written/said. I don’t think that will change based on this…though I think what he has said here is not rational. Screening people based on skin color or religion is just…stupid. I also agree that most security screening is ‘theatre’ to give an impression that they are ‘improving safety’.

    For me this parallels with Bill Mahar…he has said some stupid irrational stuff about vaccinations and eating meat, but that doesn’t mean I discount everything he says…most of which I agree with. I mention him only because I know others who have totally written him off because of these comments.

    Just my 2 cents…Sam Harris doesn’t represent me, so I don’t really care. He’s just a smart guy who writes about certain topics that interest me. If someone groups me in as having ALL the same views just because we are both atheists – that’s their mistake.

  130. Woo_Monster says

    Obviously, only heterosexual penises, too. Well, homosexual penises are allowed if they are sufficiently repressed and self-loathing.

    Can we only include the wealthy ones though? I still feel like this club isn’t exclusive enough.

  131. dianne says

    I wonder what would happen if I stopped using my “weird but recognizably German” patrilineal last name and went to using my “weird Hispanic but could be Arabic if you squint at it enough” matrilineal last name. Would I get more TSA harassment or would they just assume I’m an ACLU plant trying to get them to do something suit worthy?

  132. otrame says

    PZ@169

    *sigh

    *reminds self that they can’t help it. That “Y” chromosome is a short, stubby little thing and there are bound to be things missing.

    Sorry, Louis, looks like any probing by Dr. Audley and I will have to be unsanctioned by His Grace, the Right Honorable Poopyhead (peace be upon him).

  133. Moggie says

    Audley:

    You obviously haven’t read that much Harris. He wants to screen people that “look Muslim”. If that’s not a fucking dog whistle, I don’t know what is.

    Whistle? Whistle? If this is a dog whistle, it’s plugged into a fuck-off Marshall stack cranked up to eleven. Every dog within a five-mile radius of “nuke ‘em” Harris is fucking deaf by this point; the smart ones saw this coming some time ago, and left.

  134. says

    Can we only include the wealthy ones though?

    Excellent idea! Admission to the Pale Squad will also require a $10,000 donation to me.

  135. dianne says

    That “Y” chromosome is a short, stubby little thing and there are bound to be things missing.

    All sorts of things from factor VIII to G6PD.

  136. dianne says

    Admission to the Pale Squad will also require a $10,000 donation to me.

    But it doesn’t have to be one’s own $10,000, does it? Stealing from non Pale Squad members is highly traditional in Pale Squad history.

  137. Brownian says

    We’re talking about pulling people out of line for extra scrutiny at airports here. What sort of Muslim “emergent behavior” should we be looking for?

    Screaming “Allahu Ackbar” while carrying a Qu’ran and wearing a thawb, I guess. Gosh, it’ll be an impenetrable wall of security no terrorist will be able to breach. I mean, what are the terrorists going to do? Wear Levi’s? Laughable.

    That goes without saying. We need some standards.

    chigau, take off that damn toque, and brush your teeth after eating your maple-doused poutine. We’re trying to infiltrate here. Let’s at least try not to look so Canad—do you really need to build an igloo right now?

  138. platyhelminthe says

    Yeah, I agree Harris is basically wrong here, though having worked in immigration, I know that “treat everyone equally” approach is taken to alarming extremes. This is to the extent that teams are expected to fill racial quotas in screening people(quotas which have no relationship, by the way, to actual racial mix of humans either (a) on the flights concerned or (b) in general. I’ve seen the tick box concerned, and it is truly moronic. Something better must be possible.

    Oh, and by the way – the use of creationist quote marks is pathetically innappropriate here. Shame on you for that, PZ.

  139. says

    I know that I don’t plan on seeing my capacity for nefarious scheming to diminish

    Yes, but you drink the blood of INNOCENT CHILDREN so your vitality will diminish only just.

    Playing the race card makes it difficult to talk about cultural issues of different ethnicities rationally.


    Yes, dude, because only racist white people can be objective and rational, the rest of us non-white people just can’t manage somehow.

  140. otrame says

    And as for the OP, Harris has a bee in his bonnet about this. Well, we all have things that we are a little irrational about. ALL of us. But when that “little” irrationality causes someone to espouse openly racist crap, crap that is almost certainly already being done and which is actually poor security practice, then we need to say so and loudly, just as PZ has done.

    So here is me saying it loudly:

    Sam Harris, I have enjoyed some of your work, especially Letter to a Christian Nation. But you are completely irrational about Muslims. Are they a threat? Some individuals are. So are some individuals of other ethnicities and/or religions. As an atheist, I try to watch myself to ensure that the thoroughly human tendency to be irrational about some things doesn’t run away with me and I hope that when I am irrational that my friends will tell me so. I am not your friend, but I do care about you because you are so often mentioned as a major atheist thinker and I don’t want others to see you and think all atheists are as irrational as you are about Muslims. You are entitled, of course, to your opinion. But on this, you are just flat out wrong. You should listen to your friends when they tell you so.

  141. says

    I know that “treat everyone equally” approach is taken to alarming extremes.

    Really. Because last time I dealt with immigration, they technically asked all of us for our ID, but only the brown ones on the bus had to tell them where we were from. I was too sleepy to be outraged, or I would have been.

  142. nooneinparticular says

    ruteekatreya@181

    How is it that you know the author of that quote is white?

  143. NitricAcid says

    When you’re lined up for screening, make sure you can be seen eating a large bacon sandwich. That way, nobody will think you “look Muslim”.

  144. says

    Oh, and by the way – the use of creationist quote marks is pathetically innappropriate here. Shame on you for that, PZ.

    Oh, I missed this. Dude, those are Cretin Quotation Marks, and it is emminently appropriate that Harris gets them while being a cretinous racist.

  145. says

    Stupidfresh:
    That’s right, no one ever stereotypes a racial minority in the US. No one assumes that a person of Arab or Middle Eastern or even Indian descent is a Muslim extremist just ‘cos they’re not white. We’re all so fucking rational just like Sam fucking Harris.

    Goddamn fucking moron.

    (Also, what Sally said.)

    Otrame,
    Crap dammit! I’ll have to resort to politely asking, I guess. Louis, would it be okay if I probed you a little bit?

    Moggie,
    Sorry, it’s my legendary gift for understatement.

  146. AlanMac says

    @PZ #47

    …your tolerance of the French makes you suspect.

    Well, where I am in Toronto (and all of southern Ontario) is at the same latitude as Provence and the French Riviera. Coincidence, I think not, mon ami.

    (oops)

  147. says

    Dammit. Racist cretin would have been better.

    How is it that you know the author of that quote is white?

    Because the post is defending a ridiculously privileged position, and invoking memes primarily used by racist white people to protect their racism.

  148. says

    But there are people who do not stand a chance of being jihadists, and TSA screeners can know this at a glance.

    Bullshit. Racial profiling is notoriously unreliable and TSA personnel are notoriously incompetent. Not a good mix.

    Beyond that, there are so many things wrong with this, it’s just plain stupid. First, it’ll mean targeting law-abiding citizens for how they look. Second, it ignores the fact that plenty of christian groups would love to blow people up. Thirdly, I can’t help but notice how convenient it is that this just happens to target those weird, brown people.
    I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t be bothered.

    Tsk, Sam. Tsk, tsk. You should know better.

  149. chigau (副) says

    Brownian
    I have no interest in “infiltrating”.
    They should be begging to join our Club.
    and please, no one builds an igloo after Easter.
    Quelle déclassé!
    (oops)

  150. gedwarren says

    One problem with racial profiling is it can lead security forces miss glaring evidence that they’ve got the wrong man. Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazillian, was shot in the head seven times at Stockwell tube station on the London Underground by the London Metropolitan police in July 2005 after he was misidentified as one of the fugitives involved in the previous day’s failed bombing attempts.

  151. Brownian says

    I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t be bothered.

    Don’t forget that it pretty much instructs terrorists of whatever flavour that they can avoid detailed screening by looking insufficiently Muslim.

  152. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    Really. Because last time I dealt with immigration, they technically asked all of us for our ID, but only the brown ones on the bus had to tell them where we were from. I was too sleepy to be outraged, or I would have been.

    Is it that bad in Canada (if you’ve ever been to canuckistan) ?

    Because my Indian/Bengla friends all say they never had any problem here but had lots in the US – one of them was detained and expulsed from the US for talking back to an immigration agent while looking arab.

  153. Sili says

    . I realize that you are used to good Scandinavian Minnesotans, but some Northern Europeans are of Celtic ancestry and we tend to have rather curly–not to say down right frizzy–hair.

    Hey! It’s not our fault that St. Patrick pbuh didn’t get all of you snakes driven out.

  154. Anri says

    But why should that imply racism when Muslim is not a race?

    Do we really have to say this every friggin’ time this topic comes up?

    *sigh*

    Ok – yes – congratulations, Socrates, Islam is not a race and therefore people who hate Moslems are not techincally racists.

    The correct term for them is bigot.

    Of course, you’d have to be really stupid to –
    – wait, scratch that. No, I know some deeply stupid people and they get that trying to say “He’s not racist, ’cause the people he hates aren’t a race hur hur hur!” is beneath them.
    So, you’d have to be pretending to be stupider than actual stupid people to think this would be a good rhetorical point.

    So, as has been said in every thread on this topic, when you see ‘racist’, replace it with ‘bigot’ and ask yourself two questions:
    a) does that make the subject better in your eyes?
    b) didn’t you actually know that before I said it?

  155. says

    RAcist is perfectly accurate, considering that although the subject is technically a religion, in reality it is meant to be applied to all people of certain ethnicities.

    Is it that bad in Canada (if you’ve ever been to canuckistan) ?

    Never been.

  156. alexandra14c says

    I’m kind of surprised by how much people’s panties are twisted up about this. He does have a point that most people can agree on, that TSA is a sham all of that. Profiling in terms of not making children take their sandals off and messing with an elderly woman’s colostomy bag makes good sense. If we’re going to stick with this system of security that is mostly just for show, owning up to it and profiling isn’t a horrible idea.

    I feel like Harris says inflammatory things for funsies. Like that torture can sometimes be justified, though he must know that it isn’t effective, and that we should use racial profiling at TSA checkpoints, even though he must know that that’s not the most effective way to enhance security.

  157. nooneinparticular says

    alexander@199

    I think if you were a brown person and were constantly harassed for that fact whenever you wanted to fly home for Xmas* you might have a different opinion. Hell, you don’t even have to be someone whose run afoul of TSA to find Harris’ opinion offensive. If you’ve ever committed the crime of Driving In a White Neighborhood While Black, you might have a different take on it.

    *see what I did right there?

  158. Brownian says

    Do we really have to say this every friggin’ time this topic comes up?

    Now that you mention it, it is kind of weird that people who just love to fap to the thought of how ‘rational’ they are treat every sociological argument as if they were C students writing a speech: “Webster’s defines ‘racism’ as…”

    To sum up, racism is a land of contrasts.

  159. says

    I feel like Harris says inflammatory things for funsies.

    Well, there are plenty of people who say that sort inflammatory stuff because they sincerely believe it.

    You really think Harris is trolling everyone?

    In other words, he’s not stupid, he’s just an asshole who thinks that bigotry is high-larious.

    Man, he’s worse than I thought.

  160. says

    Any terrorist group that wants to strike against air travel, and is even the tiniest bit competent, isn’t going to use passengers to smuggle bombs or weapons on board aircraft. There’s too much chance of failure at this point. Instead they’d do something like fire mortars or antitank weapons at grounded aircraft and terminal buildings, or set up machine guns near the end of runways and try to shoot the planes down.

  161. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    “an elderly couple who couldn’t have been less threatening had they been already dead and boarding in their coffins”

    Y’what? It’s hard to think of a better container for explosive material than a corpse in a (nominally, I guess) box. It gets put in a great place for an explosion within most planes.
    Sheesh, people that know nothing about engineering…

  162. madscientist says

    The TSA already engages in racial profiling although they pretend not to. They really shouldn’t because there is no “muslim look”. Hillary Clinton looks every bit as muslim as most female muslims I’ve known from Serbia. Racial profiling is just plain stupid – it is the ignoramuses’ quick and easy solution.

  163. lotharloo says

    As a brown middle-eastern I’ll have to say you are missing the point PZ.

    Terrorists are people who have an ideological commitment so fierce that they encourage violence in its defense, even to the point of self-destruction. It is a behavioral property, not a racial one;

    First, you are the one who is equivocating muslim and brown. Not Sam Harris.

    Second, this is not about profiling deranged people. The fact that there are mentally unstable white, or black people does not mean that they should be profiled. Sam Harris is very clearly outlining an ideological component here: looking Muslim and not looking Middle-eastern.

    Third, profiling is not equal to suspecting a whole race of being terrorist. You are using a similar logic to MRAs when they think feminists suspect all men of being rapists. Profiling simply reflects the fact that the majority of threats of terrorism comes from a particular ideology with individuals of particular race. Profiling simply addresses this uneven distribution of would-be terrorists.

  164. alexandra14c says

    @200, I’m married to a brown man with a big bushy beard, and before that relationship I often got searched as a single woman traveling alone because of those incidents where a boyfriend gives his girlfriend a secret present bomb. I’ve traveled with scientific equipment that makes TSA upset, I’m used to the searching.

    Harris’s point is just that there’s no real reason to be PC about the searching, we all know it’s a sham. He talks about how he accidentally carried on a bag with ammo onto the plane without TSA detecting it, while a child was forced to take his sandals off. If we’re going to use this stupid system, why not at least go all the way with it. TSA is doing the profiling is happening anyway, we don’t have to search all of the old ladies out of solidarity with the “terrorists” we’re pretending to be looking for with the stupid system we have in place.

    @202, no I don’t think he’s trolling, but I think in the context of his full blog post this is a whole lot less inflammatory than it has been made out to be when quoted in the atheist blogosphere today. He writes things in a way that is especially easy to quote and completely demonize out of context.

  165. says

    This is all so unpleasant. I’m very disappointed that Sam Harris, with whom I agree with on a great many points, could be so far out in right field with this.

    My earlier comment @80 was really in jest, but now I’m finding myself a little apprehensive about reading his work.

    Being busy is the sole reason I haven’t tackled “The Moral Landscape” yet, but (to anyone who may have read it) is there overt prejudices in that book for which I should prepare myself?

    A heads-up would be appreciated…

  166. says

    First, you are the one who is equivocating muslim and brown. Not Sam Harris.

    What exactly does “looking Muslim” mean? If you have seen the photos of the 9/11 hijackers, you know they were in unremarkable Western dress. A terrorist who boards a plane planning to wreak havoc is not going to put on a turban and robes and spritz himself with Eau d’Camel, you know, or do anything to fit the Arabic stereotype.

    How do you identify someone who doesn’t “stand a chance of being jihadists”? Maybe you should spell it out.

  167. alexandra14c says

    @211, Harris is inflammatory, but not unreasonable. He does talk about perhaps torture can be justified and also a nuclear first strike in The Moral Landscape. It’s mostly thought provoking. I don’t agree with all of his points, but I don’t think that he’s an actual bigot. I enjoyed it, you shouldn’t not read it because of some of the disagreeable things he says.

  168. Thy Goddess says

    Frankly PZ, I think you destroyed all arguments these people may have with the pictures of the two terrorists. If they continue spitting and growling for profiling, it just shows they are deep down racists looking for excuses.

  169. lotharloo says

    What exactly does “looking Muslim” mean? If you have seen the photos of the 9/11 hijackers, you know they were in unremarkable Western dress. A terrorist who boards a plane planning to wreak havoc is not going to put on a turban and robes and spritz himself with Eau d’Camel, you know, or do anything to fit the Arabic stereotype.

    You can actually tell what is “looking Muslim” but you need to train your brain’s pattern matching circuits for years. I lived in a Muslim country (Iran) for decades. I had to deal with moderates, atheists/agnostics, fundamentalists, and etc. on a daily basis. Living as a non-believer under a theocracy also has the added “benefit” that you really try to pin down the people around you. You really don’t want to reveal that you don’t believe to the wrong person. In fact, if you want to conserve some dignity and avoid lying or pretension, it is best to just avoid suspiciously religious looking people. And as the first step, you just look at them. People in Iran wear unremarkable Western clothes too. In Tehran, very few people wear turbans or long beards. They all might look the same to you but not to me, and not to many Iranians.

    Of course, my brains pattern matching algorithms are totally useless when it comes to Muslims from other countries. I won’t be able to tell if a guy from Saudi Arabia is a moderate or a fundamentalist but I’m not going to declare that it is impossible to tell them apart.

  170. charlesfolk says

    billygutter01–

    Recall that even a stopped clock is correct twice a day. I personally not only think Harris has amply proven his idiocy on many occasions, but that his theories on moral matters, specifically, are worthless. However, being wrong on one occasion (or vulgar, or racist, or sexist, etc.) does not necessarily imply that a person’s arguments should be summarily ignored. I wouldn’t buy a book written by Harris, but if you have, give it a read. There may well be something of value to the experience, even, perhaps particularly, if you disagree with it. If you haven’t yet purchased it, I wouldn’t advise it, unless the area of some particular interest to you.

  171. Brownian says

    I don’t think that he’s an actual bigot

    Okay, so you’re defending his claim that we should target people who somehow look like they might be Muslims (and therefore terrorist threats) but not necessarily are by claiming that Sam Harris is not actually a bigot even though he acts as if he is?

  172. Brain Hertz says

    It is of course entirely possible for a white person to recognize racism and although a fair number are racist, even if it is most often a kind of “soft racism” that is so pernicious, not all are. Or at least because we can recognize it, we can try to avoid acting in those ways. We do, in fact, have the power to decide what is racist or not. It’s not an exclusive power, to be sure, but we can -and do- recognize it. Even that which appears on Pharyngula

    You’re conflating two different things. It’s not about whether white people are capable of recognizing overt racism. It’s about whether white people get to decide what is racist and what isn’t.

  173. Brownian says

    Dear TSA:

    If I look like I could conceivably be a Muslim, hell, if I’m carrying a fucking bomb, please remember that I’m just being inflammatory for funsies.

    You can actually tell what is “looking Muslim” but you need to train your brain’s pattern matching circuits for years. I lived in a Muslim country (Iran) for decades. I had to deal with moderates, atheists/agnostics, fundamentalists, and etc. on a daily basis. Living as a non-believer under a theocracy also has the added “benefit” that you really try to pin down the people around you. You really don’t want to reveal that you don’t believe to the wrong person. In fact, if you want to conserve some dignity and avoid lying or pretension, it is best to just avoid suspiciously religious looking people. And as the first step, you just look at them. People in Iran wear unremarkable Western clothes too. In Tehran, very few people wear turbans or long beards. They all might look the same to you but not to me, and not to many Iranians.

    Hey, that’s how I tell if a cracker is actually Jesus’ flesh, too. Can’t explain it. You have to be a Catholic for years.

    Are you people trying to make Harris sound reasonable in comparison?

  174. nevsayeed says

    I’m a former Muslim who deserted Islam for godless shores, but Sam Harris thinks people from my part of the world ought to be to be harassed and intimidated by the creeping police state which already makes life troublesome for dark skinned people. I reside in Britain and the last time I visited the States I was taken aside into an interrogation room by airport security for no discernible reason and given the anti-foreigner treatment that Harris urges on the rest of us.

    Not surprising given that he also backed the National Defence Authorisation Act which allows the prez to detain and kill Muslim Americans without trial as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki and his sixteen year old American nephew in his interview with Joe Rogan.

    Sam Harris confessed that he was driven to write The End of Faith by the shock of 9-11. It plainly scrambled his faculties because the man has never recovered from the hysteria. And he’s been on the flag-waving nationalist bandwagon ever since.

    Among the latest string of rightwing policies that he advocates in the Joe Rogan interview on top of the ones he espoused before are: Racial profiling, extraordinary rendition, judicial torture, National Defence Authorisation Act, supporting Israel, bombing Iran and occupying Afghanistan.

    Nothing to marvel at really because he was always an extreme foreign policy hawk. He quotes the likes of Alan Dershowitz and Bernard Lewis approvingly in The End of Faith. A point on which the great leftwing atheist Johann Hari called him out on in his review of the book. The Nation magazine debunked his neocon foolery a while ago:

    http://www.thenation.com/article/160236/same-old-new-atheism-sam-harris?page=0,1

  175. lotharloo says

    Hey, that’s how I tell if a cracker is actually Jesus’ flesh, too. Can’t explain it. You have to be a Catholic for years.

    Sure, because Catholics can tell apart a consecrated cracker from an ordinary one. You know, if you can’t make an intelligent reply, you don’t have to put a stupid one instead. Commenting is not mandatory.

  176. alexandra14c says

    @218 Brownian, I don’t think he’s necessarily saying that brown people or Musliums are more likely to be terrorists, or that racial profiling would keep us safer. I think he’s saying that the system is broken, we already do racial profiling at TSA, we don’t need to preten we aren’t by searching old ladies and children. I don’t think that’s necessarily bigoted, but perhaps that’s where we disagree.

    He says he knows he wouldn’t mind being searched and profiled so that kids and elderly wouldn’t have to, and I know that I don’t either. It’s be better if we just had a better system, but if this is the system we’re using, Harris’s suggestion is somewhat reasonable, though mostly too inflammatory to put in practice.

  177. nooneinparticular says

    Brain Hertz @219

    You said;

    “You’re conflating two different things. It’s not about whether white people are capable of recognizing overt racism. It’s about whether white people get to decide what is racist and what isn’t.”

    Nope. I’m not.

    We do, in fact, have the power to decide what is racist or not. It’s not an exclusive power, to be sure, but we can -and do- recognize it.

    (emphasis added, just to be helpful, mind you)

    We do get to decide what’s racist. So do you. In fact, everyone does. As a class of people we don’t, anymore than whatever class of people you belong to do either. But individually we do. Rather silly to have to be making this point, really.

    As someone here pointed out -and almost everyone would agree- we often get it wrong, (it is often nuanced and can depend a great deal on personal experience and whatever place one has in the privilege hierarchy) as do members of your racial class, whatever it may be, but we DO get to decide.

    I would agree with you if you modify the statement to say we don’t get to define racism for other people. Nor do we get to define racist experiences for other people even though we can, do and ought to be able to comment on them and even (HEAVENS!) disagree with it. Of course that holds for everyone else too.

  178. Brain Hertz says

    He says he knows he wouldn’t mind being searched and profiled so that kids and elderly wouldn’t have to, and I know that I don’t either.

    I don’t think you understand. If Sam Harris were to be “profiled” (whatever that would mean in his case) he’d still be a white guy.

    If you travel with a group of people, mostly white, plus one Indian, and the Indian guy constantly gets pulled aside for “enhanced screening”, the effect is to tell that person that they’re somehow not to be inherently trusted, that they’re in a different category to the white people as far as the government is concerned. Do you see the problem here?

  179. Brownian says

    I feel like Harris says inflammatory things for funsies

    @218 Brownian, I don’t think he’s necessarily saying that brown people or Musliums are more likely to be terrorists, or that racial profiling would keep us safer. I think he’s saying that the system is broken, we already do racial profiling at TSA, we don’t need to preten we aren’t by searching old ladies and children. I don’t think that’s necessarily bigoted, but perhaps that’s where we disagree.

    “I feel”, “I don’t think”, “I think”. You’re asking people to take the most charitable reading based on your gut.

    I think your gut is full of shit.

    He says he knows he wouldn’t mind being searched and profiled so that kids and elderly wouldn’t have to, and I know that I don’t either. It’s be better if we just had a better system, but if this is the system we’re using, Harris’s suggestion is somewhat reasonable, though mostly too inflammatory to put in practice.

    I’m not a professional writer, but you know what’s a great way to say “FFS, don’t make toddlers take off their sandals” and stop groping kids? Hint: it sure as fuck isn’t “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.”

    And speaking of being honest, let’s drop the pretense, Sammy: “And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye” Now who’s mincing words? What he means is “I should be profiled too, as should every Jew who’s a bit too dark, every time, so white granny in the photo up their won’t be late for her Christmas visit.”

    C’mon, if we’re gonna fuck about with cowardly bullshit like “spirit of political correctness”, let’s lay it all out on the table.

  180. Brownian says

    And just so we’re clear that Harris does indeed mean profiling based on assumed ethnic identity, not just Muslims:

    But if someone who looked vaguely like Ben Stiller were wanted for crimes against humanity, I would understand if I turned a few heads at the airport

    And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye (after all, what would Adam Gadahn look like if he cleaned himself up?)

    Maybe this is a satire meant to criticise the profiling that actually does happen but is denied. But it doesn’t read that way. It reads that this Swift is actually for the Irish eating and cooking their babies.

  181. Brain Hertz says

    I would agree with you if you modify the statement to say we don’t get to define racism for other people.

    Well, yes, I thought that was kind of implied by the construction.

  182. otrame says

    I’m just curious here.. why freckles ?

    Because they’re just adorable.

    Oh, well, you’re gonna love me.

    Of course, my Comanche ancestor is a bit of a fly in my Celtic ointment. He participated in the last recorded Comanche raid in the part of north Texas where the family was living at the time–the newspaper account mentions “outrages” and my great, great grandmother was a result of one of them. He did provide me with slightly less defective melanocytes than average for my basic skin tone (so if I take it slow, I can tan heavily), as well as shovel-shaped incisors, but I wasn’t going to mention him in case PZ has issues with Native Americans.

  183. says

    It is of course entirely possible for a white person to recognize racism and although a fair number are racist, even if it is most often a kind of “soft racism” that is so pernicious, not all are. Or at least because we can recognize it, we can try to avoid acting in those ways. We do, in fact, have the power to decide what is racist or not. It’s not an exclusive power, to be sure, but we can -and do- recognize it. Even that which appears on Pharyngula

    FFS could you miss the point anymore?

  184. jdze says

    It’s unreasonable to suggest that secular Jews have a tendency for hatred of Muslims. There is no “Jewish background.” These are individuals with different backgrounds who identify as Jewish.

    I admit, I should have explained myself better, so let me try to clarify my train of thought. Especially ‘tendency’ was a really stupid word choice. By “if secular Jews have a tendency” I really meant something like “if secular Jews on average have a higher probability for hating Muslims than a person in similar a situation who does not identify as Jewish”, which sounds less racist and a much more reasonable claim to test. I didn’t intend to affirm jjgdenisrobert’s claim but was trying to be purely hypothetical.

    My reasoning is that compared to other westerners, people who identify as Jews or Muslims are more likely to feel more personally about the Arab–Israeli conflicts in the Middle East, which could lead to polarized attitudes towards the other group. However, I don’t have any real data on this (hence the woefully inadequate ‘if’) but jjgdenisrobert’s Jewish friends talking about “Arab Dogs” seemed like a good example of otherwise sensible Jews being racist towards Muslims for some reason, so I don’t consider my line of thought implausible (but I wouldn’t ever claim on purpose that it applies to all Jews or even most of them). I don’t think Harris has ever publicly stated how his mother’s ethnicity has affected his worldview, so I find it an interesting question. Determining a person’s biases and where they originate from help me in assessing their output. I’m just curious about people and their motivations and how their identity is affected by their cultural/ethnical background, so sorry about communicating myself badly.

  185. alexandra14c says

    @Brownian, you’re right, it is a gut judgement that leads to a charitable reading of Harris’s writing. I know I put my own foot in my mouth all the time. I don’t really see a need to declare Harris a bigot based on this short essay, but perhaps I’m wrong.

    Reading it as a non white non male, I can agree with the sentiment. My family and I are going to get searched. It doesn’t make me feel less discriminated against to have other people get searched right along side us.

  186. says

    Thanks for writing this, Professor Myers. I recall Harris briefly mentioning something about profiling Muslims in an article from a while back (“Bombing Our Illusions”, 10 October 2005) that I read while visiting his site. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but as he’s written a whole post about it now, making it more clear what he means, I can’t do that any longer.

    When traveling with my family on vacations, we usually have to go through the regular checks that most people go through, but there were two times when I suspected we were singled out due to our background (whether it was skin color or our names, I’m not certain). Harris’s suggestion that a person should somehow be grateful for being discriminated against, should prefer being discriminated against over waiting in long lines, is absurd and sounds a bit clueless. He seems to think that being upset about long lines is valid complaint, but that it’s not reasonable for someone to be upset if they’re profiled against.

    People argue often that some of the measures taken for security are violations of our rights and so on — so how does it become okay if we “only” do these things to people who “look Muslim”?

    Shall we single out people who look like them for special scrutiny? Of course not, that would be so many people, you might say, and most light-skinned European-Americans are not terrorists, so it would be an incredibly inefficient screening protocol. So why should we focus on people with dark complexions and Semitic features? There are many of them, too, and the overwhelming majority are most definitely not terrorists, and it would similarly be terribly inefficient. We would be harrassing mostly innocent people…but of course, these are innocent minorities, so their rights be damned to give the majority a little more privilege.

    This, exactly. People try to argue for profiling by making the argument that it’s reasonable because most people committing this type of crime are from a particular group. But really, it wouldn’t matter how many light-skinned people or Christians were committing terrorist attacks. Our government wouldn’t decide to profile against them, as they’re the majority. It’s just a matter of things being considered okay when done to a minority group, even though people would be extremely upset if done to the majority group.

  187. says

    I don’t really see a need to declare Harris a bigot based on this short essay, but perhaps I’m wrong.

    How about you read the other stuff? It seems everytime muslims come up as a topic he’s just giddy about talking about doing something horrible to them. Torture, Nukeing, Conquest, Profiling. He seems very eager to assume the worst of them and that their extremism justifies going to extreme measures.

  188. says

    I don’t think Harris has ever publicly stated how his mother’s ethnicity has affected his worldview, so I find it an interesting question. Determining a person’s biases and where they originate from help me in assessing their output. I’m just curious about people and their motivations and how their identity is affected by their cultural/ethnical background, so sorry about communicating myself badly.

    I don’t give a shit about his motives.

  189. says

    Platyhelminthe @180 wrote:

    …teams are expected to fill racial quotas in screening people(quotas which have no relationship, by the way, to actual racial mix of humans either (a) on the flights concerned or (b) in general.

    That probably explains why the only two non-pasty people on a flight would get tagged for extra examination.

  190. David Marjanović says

    Life’s so unfair! I qualify for the Pale Squad (well, the donation might have to wait a month, perhaps even two), and I have no interest in probing Brownian or Louis! (…I do, though, ROTFL over comment 196. It’s funny because it’s true!) Who wants to switch places with me while PZ isn’t looking?

    or I shall have to send the Pale Squad to intern you.

    Send the Omega Force!

    But we could base our screening on age and stop screening young children and very old people.

    Would you please read the fucking thread before fucking adding to it!?!

    and please, no one builds an igloo after Easter.
    Quelle déclassé!

    How about déglacé? Even igloos defrost after Easter…

    You really think Harris is trolling everyone?

    In other words, he’s not stupid, he’s just an asshole who thinks that bigotry is high-larious.

    Man, he’s worse than I thought.

    Seconded.

    he accidentally carried on a bag with ammo onto the plane without TSA detecting it

    …wait.

    Why did he have a bag of ammo in the first place!?!?!

    *shudder*

    I think your gut is full of shit.

    *steal*

  191. says

    Alexander:

    I’m kind of surprised by how much people’s panties are twisted up about this.

    I’m kind of not surprised that some asshole defending racial profiling would fling around a sexist trope.

    I feel like Harris says inflammatory things for funsies.

    And your point is? That this somehow makes it okay?

    Lotharloo:

    You are using a similar logic to MRAs when they think feminists suspect all men of being rapists.

    LOL WUT.

    Profiling simply reflects the fact that the majority of threats of terrorism comes from a particular ideology with individuals of particular race.

    Did you even read PZ’s post? The majority of threats that are considered “terrorism” come from brown-skinned people. How often do we hear the police and the prosecutors falling all over themselves to say, “We don’t know if this is terrorism yet” when some white xtian dude shoots up an abortion clinic or a civil-rights organization?

    Of course, my brains pattern matching algorithms are totally useless when it comes to Muslims from other countries. I won’t be able to tell if a guy from Saudi Arabia is a moderate or a fundamentalist but I’m not going to declare that it is impossible to tell them apart.

    So you admit that, even as a brown person who lived in a Muslim country for decades, you can’t tell who’s Muslim in every single situation. Yet you want TSA workers earning $7 an hour to suss this out.

    Alexandra:

    I’ve traveled with scientific equipment that makes TSA upset, I’m used to the searching…[Harris] says he knows he wouldn’t mind being searched and profiled so that kids and elderly wouldn’t have to, and I know that I don’t either.

    Well, it’s nice that you’re OK with giving up your civil liberties, I guess. Also, in re elderly people, you missed the reference to James von Brunn upthread.

    Harris is inflammatory, but not unreasonable. He does talk about perhaps torture can be justified…

    Torture is not only inhumane, it doesn’t work. Defending it is therefore not reasonable.

    It’s mostly thought provoking.

    Ah, right, “Makes you think.” The justification for all sorts of assholery.

  192. David Marjanović says

    That probably explains why the only two non-pasty people on a flight would get tagged for extra examination.

    *facepalm* I fear you’re right.

  193. Brownian says

    I don’t really see a need to declare Harris a bigot based on this short essay, but perhaps I’m wrong.

    It’s not about being, it’s about doing, and what he does in this essay is advocate profiling based on perceived Semitic ethnicity, regardless of who he is. Hell, I’m sure Sam Harris has all sorts of Muslim friends who don’t mind when he frisks them before they use his toilet, but it’s hardly a defence of what he’s written here.

    And frankly, we have to stop pretending that being called a bigot for saying bigoted things is the worst thing that can happen to a person. And if being called sexist or racist for the things you say and the arguments you make is the worst thing that can happen to you, you really don’t have much to say about what it’s like to be discriminated against.

    If Sam here wants to be the big brave boy standing up to all this terrible political correctness, he can fucking well accept that the repercussions of advocating racism is being considered a racist. Sorry. You don’t get to fight the PC Man without a few scratches.

    Reading it as a non white non male, I can agree with the sentiment. My family and I are going to get searched. It doesn’t make me feel less discriminated against to have other people get searched right along side us.

    No? It doesn’t make you feel safer to know that others who look like you are getting singled out? Harris wrote “But if their goal is simply to travel safely and efficiently, wouldn’t they, too, want a system that notices people like themselves?” because that’s what this genius who deserves the benefit of the doubt thinks you think. He not only thinks that you don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, but that you won’t mind not getting the benefit of the doubt if it shaves some time off of white Granny’s itinerary.

  194. says

    Alexandra, I apologize for getting your handle wrong in #199. That said, you weren’t “quote-mined.” I did quote two separate, but similar, comments of yours and separated them with an ellipsis to indicate that they were two separate comments. I didn’t leave anything out that changed the context. Rebut me on substance or stop whining.

  195. simonsays says

    An excellent response to Harris entitled Letter to a Casual Authoritarian: http://starsthroughthestorm.blogspot.com/2012/04/letter-to-casual-authoritarian.html

    Excerpt:

    Even if, in some parallel universe, your proposed policies would be effective, efficiency does not trump moral right. Profiling, torture, and pre-emptive nuclear war are morally wrong regardless of their effectiveness, and for that reason alone — moral wrongness — should not be pursued. As a consequentialist, frankly, you are a moral adolescent, and you should start growing up morally and graduate to deontology and virtue morality. Doing so will give you a real sense of justice. The sooner, the better, please.

  196. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    Ing

    You can’t take Harris’s horse away from him! How would it poo!?

    Well, I see your point. Wouldn’t want to advocate cruel treatment of animals.

    Maybe we can just buy it some diapers, so that it isn’t always crapping in public?

  197. says

    Alexandra:

    I don’t really see a need to declare Harris a bigot based on this short essay, but perhaps I’m wrong.

    Jesus fucking Christ, what more will it take? Someone can make multiple obviously bigoted statements* and that’s not good enough to prove their bigotry?

    Does a white person have to dress up in Klan robes before you’ll believe that yes indeedy, this guy is actually a huge flaming racist?

    I hate this shit. We went though it after the Trayvon Martin shooting (no one really knows that George Zimmerman is a really really real racist!) and now we’ve got scumbags crawling out of the woodwork defending Harris ‘cos he hasn’t been bigoted enough to tell if he’s really a bigot. *eyeroll*

    *Seriously, I never finished The End of Faith because it was such obviously Islamophobic bullshit.

    If I should ever have the misfortune to meet Harris, I want my fucking $15 back.

  198. alexandra14c says

    I realized where it wasn’t after the fact. I’d written twice about the fact that Harris discusses torture as a possibly moral act:

    #199 “I feel like Harris says inflammatory things for funsies. Like that torture can sometimes be justified, though he must know that it isn’t effective”

    #214 “Harris is inflammatory, but not unreasonable. He does talk about perhaps torture can be justified and also a nuclear first strike in The Moral Landscape. It’s mostly thought provoking.”

    Taking the first half of the sentence in #214 and replacing it with an ellipse smacked of quote mining because I’d previously acknowledged that torture doesn’t work. I got the two posts mixed up.

    Harris does word things in a way that is really inflammatory and makes you uncomfortable. I take it as a way to provoke thought, and I don’t think I come to a conclusion of assholer-y, but I suppose I can see where people do.

  199. says

    Harris doesn’t make us uncomfortable because of how he words it, he makes us uncomfortable because he advocates profoundly immoral things with shitty reasoning and ‘facts’ with no trace of doubt.

    It’s uncomfortable when someone justifies torture because it’s fucking evil. It doesn’t work and it’s whole purpose is to make another living creature suffering until their psyche is broken.

  200. says

    Alexandra, quoting what you said to help people understand the response is not “quote mining.” Quote mining is taking something out of context so as to distort its meaning or digging up a quotation so old that subsequent research has falsified it.

    Example:

    “Darwin said it’s hard to understand how complex eyes could develop.” [Leaves out following pages of examples of simple to complex eyes in living species, showing plausible steps in the development of a complex eye.]

    or

    “<Some biologist> said that we don’t know how the major animal groups developed.” [Yes, but that was eighty years go. Now, we do know.]

    That’s quote-mining.

  201. alexandra14c says

    I’ve never actually taken anything he’s written that considered immoral actions as outright advocating.

    I haven’t read The End of Faith, and perhaps after I do I might change my mind about whether or not he’s a bigot. I find his work to be interesting and useful, whether or not I agree with the conclusions he comes to, to me, they’re worth thinking and talking about.

  202. says

    Ing @253:

    It’s uncomfortable when someone justifies torture because it’s fucking evil. It doesn’t work and it’s whole purpose is to make another living creature suffering until their psyche is broken.

    At which point they’ll say anything you want and you can crow about how you’ve saved Civilization. This is how witch-finders got witches to finger other witches… all of whose property ended up in Church coffers, less the witch-finder’s commission, of course.

  203. alexandra14c says

    Markita, I know and I explained why I thought it had been quote mining. Thanks for explaining it though. :)

  204. Rey Fox says

    And if being called sexist or racist for the things you say and the arguments you make is the worst thing that can happen to you, you really don’t have much to say about what it’s like to be discriminated against.

    QFFFFT.

  205. says

    I’ve never actually taken anything he’s written that considered immoral actions as outright advocating.

    You mean like “Torture can be moral!”…the exact example we were talking about?

    Look it is at the point where it is literally kinder of me to accuse you of lying. It’s more of a benefit of doubt to suggest you’re disingenuous than to think you’re really that stupid. And yes I mean stupid; you’re showing basic problems with comprehension.

  206. alexandra14c says

    Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and flounce. This com-box clearly has a tone that’s not for everyone.

  207. alexandra14c says

    No, just a little too personal and abrasive. That’s fine, and it has it’s place, it’s just not the kind of discussion I was hoping to have.

  208. chigau (副) says

    We’re discussing racism.
    Is it possible to be “too personal and abrasive”?
    Bless your heart.

  209. IndyM, pikčiurna says

    I had an ‘interesting’ airline experience… A few weeks after 9/11, I had to fly domestically (in the US). I’m a fair-skinned female redhead. I’m also an American of Lithuanian descent, and both my first and last names are very, very Lithuanian (which means that they are rather exotic and unusual to Americans not familiar with the Lithuanian language [which is mostly everybody]). My first name also has a Sanskrit flavor to it. Anyway, I boarded the plane and was waiting for take-off. After everyone was seated, there was an urgent announcement: “Would IndyM, pikčiurna please come to the front of the plane IMMEDIATELY with identification?” My first reaction was “WTF?”, but then I opened my bag and started digging around for my passport. After a minute (while I was trying to locate my passport), they repeated the announcement in an even more urgent and strident tone. I grabbed my passport, and hurried up to the front. As soon as the crew saw me, they visibly relaxed, smiled, and said, “Oh, you can go back to your seat. Thank you.” They didn’t want to see my passport or ask me any questions.

    Today I had lunch with a British friend who is a Sikh, and we were talking about profiling (I had read PZ’s post just before I met up with her). She told me that all her male relatives and friends remove their turbans if they have to fly (they wear baseball caps instead). They simply don’t want to deal with the harassment, dirty looks, and suspicion from officials and fellow passengers. (When I recounted my aforementioned experience to this friend, she confirmed that my name had indeed frightened the flight personnel.)

  210. says

    No, just a little too personal and abrasive.

    Oh for fuck’s sake…

    … Give me a second, I’m trying to find the tiniest violin to play the saddest song just for you, Alexandra.

    In case Ing wasn’t clear enough: racism, torture, etc. aren’t fucking thought exercises. We’re talking about real lives here and the sooner Harris stops advocating this shit (and the sooner assholes like you stop excusing it because you’re dumb enough to believe that it’s “provoking”) the better off everyone will be.

  211. Rey Fox says

    Re-quoted specially for alexandra:

    And if being called sexist or racist for the things you say and the arguments you make is the worst thing that can happen to you, you really don’t have much to say about what it’s like to be discriminated against.

  212. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    Because you see he’s a horses ass, so if you take it away the horse can’t…

    Yeah I got it. If you cover the horses ass you don’t have to deal with the poop. /my bad sense of humor

    Horse is now dead. Moving on..

  213. chigau (副) says

    What’s a comment box?
    Other than this thing I am currently typing in?
    (in which I am currently typing)

  214. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    I mean, what are the terrorists going to do? Wear Levi’s?

    The smart terrorists will probably not even wear their T-shirts with muslimly words written on them.

  215. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    You can actually tell what is “looking Muslim” but you need to train your brain’s pattern matching circuits for years.

    Ah, so you can’t define the Muslim look, but you know it when you see it. Sounds familiar.

    I look forward to hearing about the TSA’s new “spending several years in a Muslim theocracy” training program so their agents can take advantage of this skill.

  216. chemicalscum says

    Every new book I read by this man the more I disagree with him. Every comment of his seems to be worse. His new book (pamphlet): “Free Will” is so poorly argued. On pages 20-23 he quotes Tom Clark outlining Dennett’s compatabilist position. The rest of the book is nothing more than a short non-argument that is purely based on assertion without basis in logic or evidence, but his position is already demolished by the quotation from Clark.

    When my wife first glanced at the introduction of the book, she said “You don’t agree with this do you?” in a quizzical tone. I replied “No, I am reading it to criticise it”. She was inspired to go away and write her own critique.

    Enough of Harris, it is sad that anyone takes him seriously anymore.

  217. redwood says

    Hmm, straight (reddish-brown hair and inclination), lots of freckles, burn rather than tan, vagina-impaired, American, Anglo background (mostly British but, hey, they came from northern Europe), sister had melanoma, have $10,000 to pony up. Where do I sign up for the Pale Squid, um, Squad? And does this mean I’m the most “privileged” person on this site?

    Wait, I don’t have a beard. Can you wait a month or so?

  218. says

    The people who insist there’s nothing racist in Harris’ essay are being deliberately obtuse, to the point of being perversely heroic in their obtusity.

    Harris says:

    We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.

    This gives the lie to his supposed concerns about children and his patronizing bullshit about old people. Do you really think Harris would have been offended about the old woman having to remove her shoes if the old woman had been wearing hijab?

    “Anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim” means everyone, because everyone looks like they could conceivably be Muslim. But that’s not what Harris means, is it?

    You know what he means. You know how white people in America talk about race when they don’t want to be caught talking about race. If you don’t know, you should pay more attention.

  219. says

    Excellent rebuttal. I hope Harris will pay attention and offer a rebuttal of his own. Harris is not one for not thinking something through before talking about it, so I have a feeling that post of his was only scraping the surface of his thoughts, and I want to see the rest exposed.

  220. Matt Penfold says

    “Anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim” means everyone, because everyone looks like they could conceivably be Muslim. But that’s not what Harris means, is it?

    Exactly. Take at face value it does mean anyone and everyone, since all of us can “conceivably be Muslim”, but if Harris really meant everyone he would surely have said so. So if he does not mean everyone, who does he mean ? The answer is surely those people who fit the stereotype of what Muslims look like.

    If Harris had an otherwise impeccable record in this area then he might just be allowed the benefit of the doubt. However he is record is poor, and so no such allowance can or should be made.

  221. says

    Excellent rebuttal. I hope Harris will pay attention and offer a rebuttal of his own

    I’d prefer if he actually rethought a single one of his views rather than doubling down. The fact that so few “skeptics” do this greatly hardens my cynical little heart to the notion that there’s anything really valuable about the skeptic movement.

  222. rthille says

    This one line “or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim,” is, I think, the epic fail of the article. That includes any human who’s old enough to believe things. And even that doesn’t matter for security, as children too young to really be Muslim can still have parents or other relatives (or even strangers) who have made them mules for a bomb.

    However, reading Sam’s post, I took it mostly as a cry against the idiotic TSA security theater.

  223. KG says

    However, reading Sam’s post, I took it mostly as a cry against the idiotic TSA security theater. – rthille

    Yey another shit-for-brains who can’t recognise vile bigotry when they see it.

  224. Sal Bro says

    This just in–add some more white guys to the terrorist list.

    Self-proclaimed anarchists Douglas Wright, 26, Brandon Baxter, 20 and Anthony Hayne, 35, developed the plot over several months before targeting a bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Monday night, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Cleveland.
    Explosive devices provided to the suspects by an undercover FBI employee were inoperable to ensure there was no threat to the public, the complaint says.
    Two of the men are accused of placing two devices at the base of a concrete support pillar for the bridge on Monday night. The FBI said the pair tried to remotely detonate the devices from a safe distance.

    There’s no shying away from the term “terrorist”, either, even though these are white Americans:

    “The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” Cleveland U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said.

  225. Sal Bro says

    Photos of the wannabe terrorists

    By the way, now recruiting for the Pale Squad. Only Northern Europeans allowed. Freckles,

    Do facial moles count?

    straight hair,

    Check

    family history of melanoma preferred.

    Presumed check.

    NO CANADIANS

    Check.

    Admission to the Pale Squad will also require a $10,000 donation to me

    Quick, check your mailbox!

  226. says

    I’m a bit slow to the party on this, but I just wrote the following blogpost about it. Basically there’s no need to attack Sam Harris for being a racist or for wanting racial profiling: he’s felled by the poor reasoning for and inefficaciousnes of his proposal alone.

    http://sketchsepahi.com/forum/index.php

  227. says

    I think a lot of people are missing the point. You will note that Sam’s article is about profiling in airport security screening. How many of the terrorists that have been given as an example, of why Sam’s idea is bad, have actually flown an aeroplane into the side of a skyscraper? Which of them has stepped on a bus in Jerusalem and blown themselves up? There’s only one type of terrorist that is willing to go to those lengths and I don’t need to say which religion they belong to.

  228. says

    How many of the terrorists that have been given as an example, of why Sam’s idea is bad, have actually flown an aeroplane into the side of a skyscraper? Which of them has stepped on a bus in Jerusalem and blown themselves up? There’s only one type of terrorist that is willing to go to those lengths and I don’t need to say which religion they belong to.

    Irrelevent. That’s not the only thing you could do with an air plane. It’s either moronic or dishonest to pretend that’s the only security concern, especially when many other examples of air terrorism were given…that were not mooooslims.

    Furthermore it’s a real life example of “can only work once.” Now that it’s been done no one is going to be compliant with hijackers and it’s pretty much an open secret that the government’s solution is “shoot the plane down”

  229. says

    Basically there’s no need to attack Sam Harris for being a racist or for wanting racial profiling: he’s felled by the poor reasoning for and inefficaciousnes of his proposal alone.

    Missing the point. Harris constantly makes these same reasoning mistakes…when it comes to Arabs and Mooslims.

    Once is a slip or brain fart, this many times (including promoting nuclear strike and torture) is a pattern.

  230. Anri says

    I think a lot of people are missing the point. You will note that Sam’s article is about profiling in airport security screening. How many of the terrorists that have been given as an example, of why Sam’s idea is bad, have actually flown an aeroplane into the side of a skyscraper? Which of them has stepped on a bus in Jerusalem and blown themselves up? There’s only one type of terrorist that is willing to go to those lengths and I don’t need to say which religion they belong to.

    Face –==> Palm

  231. says

    How many of the terrorists that have been given as an example, of why Sam’s idea is bad, have actually flown an aeroplane into the side of a skyscraper? Which of them has stepped on a bus in Jerusalem and blown themselves up? There’s only one type of terrorist that is willing to go to those lengths and I don’t need to say which religion they belong to.

    You know, I was going to respond with a lengthy post in which I mentioned (among others) the Sarin gas attacks and asking whether you thought blowing up a bus is really that much more horrible than what Anders Breivik did… I also wanted to repeat the point that anyone can be a muslim, independent of race… But actually, what I really wanted to say is FUCK OFF!

  232. says

    Part of the inanity of this is the media and police in the west (at least in USA) being reluctant to label non Mooslems terrorists.

    I mean…when a Fascist shoots up the holocaust museum what else are you supposed to call him? When people bomb medical centers what else are you supposed to call it.

    White supremacists planed to decapitate some absurd number of black people and were caught, but not tabled terrorists…the DC sniper however…

    Strangely the “left” radicals do not seem to have this same level of Teflon as “ecoterrorists” and “Animal Rights Terrorism” is well labeled.

  233. says

    Jump off a fucking cliff, will you?

    Face –==> Palm

    But actually, what I really wanted to say is FUCK OFF!

    All really good responses guys. Well done!

    and asking whether you thought blowing up a bus is really that much more horrible than what Anders Breivik did

    No, I don’t think that blowing up a bus is more horrible than what Anders Brevik did. But you’re misrepresenting what I said. Brevik wasn’t prepared to kill himself for his beliefs.

    anyone can be a muslim, independent of race

    I completely agree. I don’t recall saying anything about race.

    Irrelevent. That’s not the only thing you could do with an air plane. It’s either moronic or dishonest to pretend that’s the only security concern, especially when many other examples of air terrorism were given…that were not mooooslims.

    Again, misrepresenting what I said. The focus of the article is on airport security screening (i.e. ensuring that passengers don’t take explosives onto the plane). At no point did I say that flying it into a skyscraper is the only thing you can do with an aeroplane.

    Furthermore it’s a real life example of “can only work once.”

    Only because of the security screening. Without it people would be free to fly aeroplanes into buildings again and again…

    Now that it’s been done no one is going to be compliant with hijackers and it’s pretty much an open secret that the government’s solution is “shoot the plane down”

    But surely it’s better to not let hijackers on the plane in the first place.

    For what it’s worth. My family, on my father’s side, are muslim, which means that (if you haven’t figured it out) I would be more likely to be stopped than many of you.

    Also, I find it quite ironic that some of those defending muslims choose to misspell the word.

  234. Just_A_Lurker says

    For what it’s worth. My family, on my father’s side, are Muslim, which means that (if you haven’t figured it out) I would be more likely to be stopped than many of you.

    Also, I find it quite ironic that some of those defending Muslims choose to misspell the word

    WTF? This is so stupid.

    1.) You are assuming we are all or mostly white.
    2.) You inherited religious genes that effect the way you look from your father’s side of the family?
    3.) You seriously don’t understand the deliberate misspelling of “mooslems”. Here’s a hint, it’s not making fun of Muslims. It’s pointing out that those that target Muslims use strawmen to do so. So they are harming actually muslims by using a false stereotype that doesn’t apply to Muslims. It’s like when we use menz and wimmens. It’s to distinguish when we are talking about actual men and women, and when we are talking about the straw people paraded around.
    4.) Are you seriously defending a practice that would single people out bases on race? Especially when you yourself would be targeted for it? That’s like a black person saying they are okay with being pulled over for DWB because blacks are criminals. There’s so much swallowing and accepting of bullshit by the very people it’s targeting.

    Also, Fuck off. Stupid tone troll.

  235. stuartvo says

    There’s a reason people have been giving undignified non-answers to your points. That’s because YOUR POINTS ARE FUCKING STUPID!.

    Not to mention that they’ve already been addressed over and over again up-thread. Which you’d realise if you had an ounce of reading comprehension.

    As for your complaints about the deliberate misspellings of “muslim”, again the best reply is “GOOD GOD HOW STUPID CAN YOU GET???

  236. says

    Basically there’s no need to attack Sam Harris for being a racist or for wanting racial profiling: he’s felled by the poor reasoning for and inefficaciousnes of his proposal alone.

    Dude, what bothers me is not that he is using poor reasoning, it’s that he is being a fucking racist.

    There’s only one type of terrorist that is willing to go to those lengths

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_McVeigh
    The white anti-government kind?

    Only because of the security screening. Without it people would be free to fly aeroplanes into buildings again and again…

    Well, you could just put big-ass security doors on the cockpit and force pilots not to open them to terrorists. But there’s also the fact that the US Air Force will blow any plane that tries it out of the sky.

  237. says

    Again, misrepresenting what I said. The focus of the article is on airport security screening (i.e. ensuring that passengers don’t take explosives onto the plane). At no point did I say that flying it into a skyscraper is the only thing you can do with an aeroplane.

    Oh I’m sorry I gave you too much credit into thinking your point was that only Muslims would fly into buildings. You’re just a fucking idiot

  238. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Without it people would be free to fly aeroplanes into buildings again and again…

    With folks like me who would do what it takes to take them out with primitive weapoons? “I don’t think so Tim” to quote a famous philosopher.

  239. jamesevans says

    Sam’s wrong here, no doubt, and unfortunately he has once again hand-delivered a giant gift with a shiny red bow on it to all his detractors.

    Keeping in mind that I disagree with his stance on airport security screening, comments like the following need to be addressed…

    Sam Harris…you are completely irrational about Muslims.

    This idea has been expressed various ways by various contributors in the comments here, and it is a gross inaccuracy. Sam’s point that Islam may indeed be the most dangerous religion today, because it claims ownership of the final word, is still valid. He is right to decry this sickening thought-police power-grab and its unfortunate fertilization of a death cult amid the supposed religion of peace. Rather than being “completely irrational about Muslims,” he has in fact drawn our attention to something best kept in mind when thinking about Islam. Remember, if we were in the 1930s or 1940s, Sam would probably declare that Catholicism is the most dangerous religion due to the concordats with Nazi Germany, or back in 1776, he’d put pacifist Quakers in the lead for suggesting nothing be done in the face of the brutal British assault on democracy, etc. It is reason, not unreason, that drives his focus today on passages in the Qur’an.

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here, people. He is still a gifted writer and an invaluable godless voice, and, being that he is human, he will be wrong from time to time, as he is here. It’s a character flaw we all share, and it is madness to say he secretly speaks for the religious right/Fox News/neocons, or that he has lost all senses regarding Islam, each time we disagree with one of his points. If nothing else, for all the times he’s crushed some religious putz in a public debate, he deserves better than that.

    Come on now.

  240. Cyranothe2nd says

    Anyone seen Sam Harris’ follow up?

    1. When I speak of profiling “Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim,” I am not narrowly focused on people with dark skin. In fact, I included myself in the description of the type of person I think should be profiled (twice). To say that ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, dress, traveling companions, behavior in the terminal, and other outward appearances offer no indication of a person’s beliefs or terrorist potential is either quite crazy or totally dishonest. It is the charm of political correctness that it blends these sins against reasonableness so seamlessly. We are paying a very high price for this obscurantism — and the price could grow much higher in an instant. We have limited resources, and every moment spent searching a woman like the one pictured above, or the children seen in the linked videos, is a moment in which someone or something else goes unobserved.

    2. There is no conflict between what I have written here and “behavioral profiling” or other forms of threat detection. And if we can catch terrorists before they reach the airport, I am all for it. But the methods we use to do this tend to be even more focused and invasive (and, therefore, offensive) than profiling done by the TSA. Many readers who were horrified by my article seem to believe that there is nothing wrong with “gathering intelligence.” One wonders just how they think that is done.

    There may be interesting arguments against profiling (or anti-profiling of the sort I recommend here), but I haven’t noticed any amid the torrents of criticism I’ve received thus far. If there is an expert on airline security who wants to set me straight, I am happy to offer this page as a forum.

    Also, Hemant continues to be disturbingly copacetic

  241. says

    It’s shocking how quickly some people are to resort to offensive language. Actually, it’s shocking that they resort to it in the first place. Just because you have a different opinion to someone else, it doesn’t give you the right to be vile. Grow up and learn some manners.

  242. John Morales says

    [meta]

    stevenbey is easily shocked.

    (Shocking, that ain’t)

    [1] Just because you have a different opinion to someone else, it doesn’t give you the right to be vile. [2] Grow up and learn some manners.

    1. So — what does give one the right to be vile?

    2. Vileness is a manner.

  243. stuartvo says

    Oh, so using nasty language is so much more “vile” than blatant racism, is it?

    And racism isn’t “a differing opinion”. It’s just racism. Even if you’re too dense to see it as such.

  244. says

    No, I don’t think that blowing up a bus is more horrible than what Anders Brevik did. But you’re misrepresenting what I said. Brevik wasn’t prepared to kill himself for his beliefs.

    Maybe… But then the Black Tamils are, and they aren’t generally muslims, now are they.
    Also, what does it matter. The point is to protect people from terrorists, whether they be suicide terrorists or otherwise.

    anyone can be a muslim, independent of race

    I completely agree. I don’t recall saying anything about race.

    Okay, great. Now please enlighten us: how do we profile muslims? How can we recognise muslims, when everyone (and I do mean absolutely everyone) can be a muslim? There is no behaviour or appearance we can link to muslims, let alone muslim terrorists.

    For what it’s worth. My family, on my father’s side, are muslim, which means that (if you haven’t figured it out) I would be more likely to be stopped than many of you.

    Hmmm… ‘For what it’s worth’? Well it’s worth absolutely nothing. Completely irrelevant.

  245. says

    Sam’s point that Islam may indeed be the most dangerous religion today, because it claims ownership of the final word, is still valid

    …Final word? You mean like how all the abrahamic religions, as well as mormonism, claim to be the last, proper word of god, and hinduism co-opted Buddha to say the buddhists misunderstood him, or something else?

    , or back in 1776, he’d put pacifist Quakers in the lead for suggesting nothing be done in the face of the brutal British assault on democracy

    Assaults on democracy like not putting the slaughter of the native americans to a popular vote by white people? I mean, that’s a complete misrepresentation of the nonviolent resistance the quakers did, even during the war, but that’s besides the point; if the Quakers had suggested nothing be done, I’d have a difficult time gainsaying that, given the outcome.

    In context, are you seriously suggesting that Islam is the most dangerous religion in the world? How many civilians have our Knights Templar in Afghanistan murdered again? Which we know for a fact is in part spurred on by evangelicals, even?

    [He is an] invaluable godless voice,

    I have no seen no evidence that I should give a shit about his opinion in general; his only redeeming factor would appear to be “Does not believe in god”, which means little in the face of other jackassery.

    f nothing else, for all the times he’s crushed some religious putz in a public debate, he deserves better than that.

    No, he does not deserve to be treated as anything other than massively racist just because he told some religious fools that they were fools. He deserves to be treated as not-massively-racist when he stops being massively racist.

    Grow up and learn some manners.

    Manners? Like not being so ridiculously racist? God, fucking tone trolls.

  246. 'Tis Himself says

    stevenbey

    Your concern is noted. Thank you for your tone trolling. Now fuck off.

  247. pj says

    Brevik wasn’t prepared to kill himself for his beliefs.

    Oh but he was, and still is. He originally didn’t expect to survive Utoya – maybe he had a ‘suicide by cop’ in mind – and now when he is in custody he keeps on demanding a capital punishment. Which Norway does not have. He wants to be a martyr. Shocking eh? A non-muslim, he.

    How many of the terrorists that have been given as an example, of why Sam’s idea is bad, have actually flown an aeroplane into the side of a skyscraper

    Do the names Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ring any bells?
    Their original plans included hijacking a plane and crashing it into a building in New York.

  248. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    stevenbey:

    It’s shocking how quickly some people are to resort to offensive language. Actually, it’s shocking that they resort to it in the first place. Just because you have a different opinion to someone else, it doesn’t give you the right to be vile. Grow up and learn some manners.

    Oh I apologize for words that you found offensive.

    I think a lot of people are missing the point. You will note that Sam’s article is about profiling in airport security screening. How many of the terrorists that have been given as an example, of why Sam’s idea is bad, have actually flown an aeroplane into the side of a skyscraper? Which of them has stepped on a bus in Jerusalem and blown themselves up? There’s only one type of terrorist that is willing to go to those lengths and I don’t need to say which religion they belong to.

    So Stevenbaby, do you suppose we should start having everyone carrying cards that Identify their religion so that we can tell the Muslims from the Christians (who as well all know never commit terrorist acts)? Because you know there are white Muslims and Muslims of asian decent and black Muslims and those from the Indian subcontinent that are Muslims.

    Since there are all these different kinds of Muslims it would be much better if we just were able to identify them by their religion. Perhaps they sould wear something on their clothing that would make them easier to identify? It sure would speed up those annoyingly long lines at the security check in.

  249. jamesevans says

    Final word? You mean like how all the abrahamic religions, as well as mormonism, claim to be the last, proper word of god, and hinduism co-opted Buddha to say the buddhists misunderstood him, or something else?

    Claiming ownership of the final word and having a conquering general as its prophet and having a rather intensive record of suicide attacks within the past few decades or so. These are just a few of the credentials for which the other Abrahamic religions might have a little difficulty filling in as many lines on their present-day most dangerous religion applications. That’d be the “something else” part that I guess I mistakenly thought would not need spelling out for contributors at Pharyngula. Are you new here, ruteekatreya? Just for you, I’ll add otherwise unnecessary elaboration time and space in my future comments.

    But who knows? Maybe you’re right, and I missed when Mitt Romney or Mo Udall started ordering Mormons to fly jets into buildings.

    Assaults on democracy like not putting the slaughter of the native americans to a popular vote by white people?

    Did you have a point here regarding Sam’s understanding of Islam, or lack thereof, with this statement? Or were you just lazily throwing some historical facts out onto Pharyngula to help you cram for an upcoming exam? Or something else?

    I mean, that’s a complete misrepresentation of the nonviolent resistance the quakers did, even during the war, but that’s besides the point; if the Quakers had suggested nothing be done, I’d have a difficult time gainsaying that, given the outcome.

    Let’s see, Islam, Quakers… Wait! I totally gave you the opportunity to argue the Vatican’s side during WWII, too, while you were at it, and you dropped the ball! Go back and dig a deeper religious apologist hole for yourself using the Holy See this time!

    In context, are you seriously suggesting that Islam is the most dangerous religion in the world?

    Right, forgot, I need to be painfully clear with you…

    How many civilians have our Knights Templar in Afghanistan murdered again?

    Yeah, “Knights Templar,” rrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhtttt. Dunno, how many of their own civilians did “Saladin’s” Muslims murder again?

    Which we know for a fact is in part spurred on by evangelicals, even?

    Really? Islamic fanaticism and the WTC crashing down didn’t play a large enough part to get some mention from you? Wow. Again, who knew? I thought for sure even Bush couldn’t claim God told him to send the troops here or there without a little help from the other side.

    I have no seen no evidence that I should give a shit about his opinion in general

    I’m not the one who needs stuff spelled out. Your ignorant opinion of Sam is obvious.

  250. says

    Claiming ownership of the final word and having a conquering general as its prophet

    Hinduism claims 2 or 3 of the latter as incarnations for major gods*, and if there was a Jesus executed for threatening the pax romana, it makes him a failed rebel…

    and having a rather intensive record of suicide attacks within the past few decades or so.

    Uh, white terrorists planning suicide by cop is not ultimately different from suicide bombing.

    Yeah, “Knights Templar,” rrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhtttt. Dunno, how many of their own civilians did “Saladin’s” Muslims murder again?Yeah, “Knights Templar,” rrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhtttt. Dunno, how many of their own civilians did “Saladin’s” Muslims murder again?

    I am metaphorically referring to the US soldiers who are killing in afghanistan, and formerly in iraq, you twit. We have definitively proven Christianity is more dangerous, because it has a higher kill count, *RIGHT NOW*. If I wanted to get into history I would have picked a holy order that was substantially more effective at killing people.

    Did you have a point here regarding Sam’s understanding of Islam, or lack thereof, with this statement?

    Look, you claimed the Quakers were TEH SUPAR DANGEROUS because they didn’t kill people ~~FOR FREEDOM~~. Is that one of those freedoms that they are horrible for not killing for? Because it was a pretty fucking important one to the colonists, along with not paying taxes for the soldiers guarding their expansion efforts.

    Go back and dig a deeper religious apologist hole for yourself using the Holy See this time!
    Wahaha! You can’t be serious. “This is not a dangerous existential threat” is not exactly high praise for Islam, and you’re trying to tell a pacifist that the Quakers are TEH EBIL for… pacifism. Good luck with that.

    Really? Islamic fanaticism and the WTC crashing down didn’t play a large enough part to get some mention from you?

    Look, if I wanted to just mention the war I could mention lots of things. I’m referring to our troops making it a holy war; that falls on the back of the evangelicals who’re in our military. Do you not pay attention to the MRFF?

    Again, who knew? I thought for sure even Bush couldn’t claim God told him to send the troops here or there without a little help from the other side.

    *Points at Iraq*
    Yeah, actually, he can. Pretty easily.

    *Vishnu alone has Krishna and Rama.

  251. says

    Oh, and dude, Messiah has two meanings to the Jews. Military conquerors, and prophets of the lord. All are blessed and divinely ordained by god. Saying Judaism doesn’t have conquering generals as ‘prophets’ is only true via semantics; they were still the ordained of god.

  252. KG says

    jamesevans,

    You’re an ignorant fuckwit. The invasion of Iraq was planned before 9/11; at most, the latter provided a spurious justifiaction, and may even have delayed the invasion because Afghanistan took (very temporary) priority. In fact, it was on the neocon agenda before Bush even came to office – for the strategic context, see this report of the neocon outfit “Project for a New American Century”, paying particular attention to the section on the Persian Gulf, where the “need” for permanent American military domination of that area is spelled out.

  253. says

    stevenbey is easily shocked.

    I didn’t say that I was shocked. I said it is shocking. There’s a difference.

    1. So — what does give one the right to be vile?

    Nothing, absolutely nothing. And your point is?

    2. Vileness is a manner.

    Yes, very clever, but it has nothing to do with the phrase “learn some manners”.

  254. says

    Oh, so using nasty language is so much more “vile” than blatant racism, is it?

    Again, I don’t recall saying anything about race. In fact, the only times I’ve used the word muslim (which, as Rev. BigDumbChimp has established, is not restricted to a particular race) is when I explained that some of my family are muslim and pointing out the misspelling of the word. You’ve simply presented a strawman argument, although it’s no different to the rest of the responses I’ve had. Actually, this blog post is a strawman argument; the title of Sam Harris’s blog post is “In Defense of Profiling” (notice the absence of the word ‘Racial’) and he doesn’t even use the words ‘profile’ or ‘profiling’ in the content of the posting (he does in the addendum, which is only in response to criticisms of the posting).

  255. says

    Brevik wasn’t prepared to kill himself for his beliefs.

    Maybe… But then the Black Tamils are, and they aren’t generally muslims, now are they.

    You have a point – they aren’t generally muslims – however, they have nothing to do with airport security screening in the USA.

    Also, what does it matter. The point is to protect people from terrorists, whether they be suicide terrorists or otherwise.

    In the same comment that you quoted, I said: “But surely it’s better to not let hijackers on the plane in the first place.”

  256. says

    Your concern is noted…Now fuck off.

    Your comment is noted. However, I decline your request for me to refrain from posting comments.

    Thank you for your tone trolling.

    I hadn’t even heard of ‘tone trolling’ before I read it in these comments. It appears that I have been, somewhat (depending on who’s version of the definition you use), guilty of commiting the ‘offence’, for which I apologise. However, in my opinion, it seems to be a cooked up term to allow extremely offensive people to feel good about themselves. (I imagine that you’ll respond saying that you don’t care about my opinion but remember that it can and does work both ways.)

  257. says

    Brevik wasn’t prepared to kill himself for his beliefs.

    Oh but he was, and still is. He originally didn’t expect to survive Utoya – maybe he had a ‘suicide by cop’ in mind – and now when he is in custody he keeps on demanding a capital punishment.

    I stand corrected, however Brevik still doesn’t have anything to do with airport security screening in the USA.

    Do the names Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ring any bells? Their original plans included hijacking a plane and crashing it into a building in New York.

    This is the closest response I’ve had to what I actually said but, alas, it’s still a strawman argument (just like the rest of the responses I’ve had). Had they gone through with that plan then it would have been appropriate to include them but they didn’t, so it isn’t. Also, they weren’t really terrorists. Mass murderers: yes. Terrorists: no.

  258. says

    So Stevenbaby,

    Lol. I see what you did there. Very clever.

    Since there are all these different kinds of Muslims it would be much better if we just were able to identify them by their religion. Perhaps they sould [sic] wear something on their clothing that would make them easier to identify? It sure would speed up those annoyingly long lines at the security check in.

    It was PZ that introduced racial profiling, not me (or Sam Harris). I didn’t even use the word muslim, explicitly, until after the initial responses to my first comment. I do agree with profiling, of which religion may be one consideration, however there are many more factors that need to be considered.

  259. says

    Christ what an asshole.

    The level of hero worship with Harris and others is bafflingly irrational

    The same could be said of you, albeit for PZ.

  260. 'Tis Himself says

    stevenbey #327

    However, in my opinion, it [tone trolling] seems to be a cooked up term to allow extremely offensive people to feel good about themselves. (I imagine that you’ll respond saying that you don’t care about my opinion but remember that it can and does work both ways.)

    As usual, you’re wrong. Tone trolling is whining (and yes, asshole, you’re a whiner) that how something is said is more important than what is being said. You pretend that we’re “vile” because we use naughty language. I don’t think you’re vile, I think you’re a prissy prude who fixates on the way an argument is presented rather than what the argument is.

    If you want to present your opinion, feel free. Just be prepared for other people to comment on that opinion and tell you why you’re full of shit.

  261. jamesevans says

    Hinduism claims 2 or 3 of the latter as incarnations for major gods

    Yeah, I’m sure if you’re a Buddhist in Sri Lanka, Hinduism is the most dangerous religion for you. Thinking just a wee bit less childishly, and a wee bit more globally and considering the rest of us, ruteekatreya, Islam takes the crown.

    Uh, white terrorists planning suicide by cop is not ultimately different from suicide bombing.

    AGAIN, this is CHILDISH CRAP. Nonsense. Christianity will need to produce MANY MANY MANY more Anders Breivik’s, and kill countless more abortion docs, if it is going to come close to the recent output of Islam’s death cult. Not real hard to understand. Pretty simple point, really. That is, as long as you don’t need arguments slowly spoon-ladeled at you, like grandma used to feed you porridge.

    I am metaphorically referring to the US soldiers who are killing in afghanistan, and formerly in iraq, you twit.

    No shit, bigger twit. That’s why I brought up Saladin, you dope. YOU are the one who needs in depth explanations, not me.

    We have definitively proven Christianity is more dangerous, because it has a higher kill count, *RIGHT NOW*.

    You make me laugh, ruteekatreya. Even the deaths in Iraq could not have happened without 9/11.

  262. says

    I think you’re a prissy prude who fixates on the way an argument is presented rather than what the argument is.

    Have you actually read the comments that I’ve posted? I’ve made 2 comments relating to offensive language, the second one replying to your eloquent response. The rest of my comments have been addressing points that other people have made.

    Just be prepared for other people to comment on that opinion

    If only that were true. None of the responses, to my initial comment, addressed what I actually said. And if you think that saying that is whiney then that’s your prerogative but if someone presents me with a strawman argument then, as far as I’m concerned, I’m allowed to highlight the fact.

  263. jamesevans says

    Shit, accidentally submitted before I was done. Continuing…

    And what you would like to ignore, ruteekatreya, in perfectly asinine and convenient fashion, is the ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM that caused 9/11.

    Look, if I wanted to just mention the war I could mention lots of things. I’m referring to our troops making it a holy war; that falls on the back of the evangelicals who’re in our military. Do you not pay attention to the MRFF?

    Yeah, I’m aware the full story is not convenient to your childish argument, and it works out better for you if reality is cherry picked.

    *Points at Iraq*

    Which, again, despite being a hopeless neocon disaster, COULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT 9/11 AND A QUR’AN-FUELED DEATH CULT.

    Is there more apology for Islam you’d like to add, or are we done here? Because I’m really not interested in dignifying your nonsense with responses anymore. As a classic example of why trolls like you shouldn’t be fed…

    You’re an ignorant fuckwit. The invasion of Iraq was planned before 9/11; at most, the latter provided a spurious justifiaction, and may even have delayed the invasion because Afghanistan took (very temporary) priority.

    Here come the truthers to rally to your bizarre cause, ruteekatreya! Good luck with that.

  264. 'Tis Himself says

    Have you actually read the comments that I’ve posted? I’ve made 2 comments relating to offensive language, the second one replying to your eloquent response.

    So? You want a medal? You’re still a fucking tone troll and you can still fuck off.

    Your islamophobia, which you share with your hero Sam, doesn’t deserve anything more than derision. We understand that you hate and fear Muslims. Congratulations, that puts you at the same level as George W. Bush and Pat Robertson. Aren’t you fucking proud to be in such distinguished company?

    None of the responses, to my initial comment, addressed what I actually said. And if you think that saying that is whiney then that’s your prerogative but if someone presents me with a strawman argument then, as far as I’m concerned, I’m allowed to highlight the fact.

    Since your “substantive” arguments are basically “I hate and fear Muslims”, then what sort of response do you expect? “That’s nice, Stevie, and how ’bout them Celtics beating the Hawks?”

  265. says

    So? You want a medal?

    Ooh, yes please!

    you can still fuck off

    As I’ve said, request denied.

    Since your “substantive” arguments are basically “I hate and fear Muslims”

    No, they’re not. If you’d cared to read my comments you would have realised that. Sounds like an anthropomorphised bag of hay to me!

  266. says

    AGAIN, this is CHILDISH CRAP. Nonsense. Christianity will need to produce MANY MANY MANY more Anders Breivik’s, and kill countless more abortion docs, if it is going to come close to the recent output of Islam’s death cult.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Republican_Army

    And you know, you’re still ignoring our crusaders that are currently on deployment, killing civilians right now. Not every soldier, nor every civilian death, can be attributed to this, but they’re still very real.

    And what you would like to ignore, ruteekatreya, in perfectly asinine and convenient fashion, is the ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM that caused 9/11.

    And that islamic fundamentalism is itself part of the backlash against western interference in the region for cold war reasons. I mean really, if you are willing to excuse the US of its war crimes because they’re a response to 9/11, why aren’t you willing to excuse 9/11 when it’s ultimately a response to Meriken colonialism?

    Protip: I neither excuse Meriken for ‘responding’ to 9/11, nor Al Qaeda for ‘responding’ to Colonialism, because “HE DID IT FIRST” is a shitty basis for deciding ethics. I am applying your own logic in a way you had yet to consider, not making the argument that Al Qaeda should be excused.

    Yeah, I’m aware the full story is not convenient to your childish argument, and it works out better for you if reality is cherry picked.

    I don’t think it’s cherry picking to say that the reason for holy war is priests and officers claiming holy war and stoking extant religious fervor. It’s rather the typical cause, actually.

    Yeah, I’m sure if you’re a Buddhist in Sri Lanka, Hinduism is the most dangerous religion for you. Thinking just a wee bit less childishly, and a wee bit more globally and considering the rest of us, ruteekatreya, Islam takes the crown.

    Globally is it? Less childishly? I’m substantially more likely to die at the hands of Christians, for religious reasons at that, because I am brown or gay, as a US citizen, and we’re the alleged primary target of Al Qaeda. It is ‘childish’ to realistically look at the power of a group as well as its hatred, I suppose? Unless you are Israeli or perhaps from the northern third of the Indian subcontinent, you’re under almost zero threat from Islam, because those fundamentalists are powerless.

    Furthermore, it is not only in the US where I am more likely to die for being brown (Gay as a death sentence isn’t unique to Islam or Christianity, obviously).

    Not real hard to understand.

    It’s not that your point is complicated, it’s that it is wrong. Factually incorrect. Inaccurate. At odds with reality.

    You make me laugh, ruteekatreya. Even the deaths in Iraq could not have happened without 9/11.

    http://articles.cnn.com/2004-01-10/politics/oneill.bush_1_roomful-of-deaf-people-education-of-paul-o-neill-national-security-council-meeting?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS
    I’m sorry, what was that again?
    Even if it were completely true that it was a ‘merely’ a misguided strike by bigots who can’t differentiate between brown people of different origin, the responsibility for that does not fall on Al Qaeda absent evidence that they directly manipulated Bush into thinking Iraq was responsible for them. That fuckup falls entirely on Bush and the white Christian dudes who thumped their bibles and said we’ve got to bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iraq.

    No shit, bigger twit. That’s why I brought up Saladin, you dope. YOU are the one who needs in depth explanations, not me.

    The dude who even the white people of the time thought was downright kind to his enemies? Yeah, he was a jackass, but was he moreso than the crusaders he fought? I’d say no.

    Also, don’t lie to me. You thought I was talking about the actual knights templar, hence your whining about me going into history. You said you wanted recent examples of Christian Violence, when that was exactly what I gave you, and you knew that was what I gave you? No no, I don’t think so.

    Is there more apology for Islam you’d like to add, or are we done here? Because I’m really not interested in dignifying your nonsense with responses anymore. As a classic example of why trolls like you shouldn’t be fed…

    Okay, first off, stick that flounce, I could do with less racist dipshittery in my day. Second, it isn’t ‘religious apologism’ to say “Islam is not an existential threat”; it’s at best trivially correct, and at worst damning with faint praise. And that is indeed about the nicest thing I have to say about most religions. Third, I have a long history on Pharyngula, and at no point did it involve ejection or trolling. In my estimation, you’re the troll, because I’ve never heard of you despite reading the comments again, and continually posting ridiculous racist shit. Your ideas are bad, and you should feel bad.

    Here come the truthers to rally to your bizarre cause, ruteekatreya! Good luck with that.

    Okay, first off, even if I could be convinced with an association fallacy, it would still not be the province of a 9/11 truther to say the Iraqi invasion was pre-planned. A truther claims 9/11 was pre-planned. But I am not as big a fool as you, and I can not be swayed by an association fallacy.

    Though, your apparent belief in the association fallacy does explain your abject hatred of the written word; Karl Rove and Dick Cheney construct sentences properly and well, after all. Shit, son, I haven’t slept in 48 hours and my writing is turning out better than yours. If you have ever taken a composition course, you need to demand your money back, it was wasted.

    hich, again, despite being a hopeless neocon disaster, COULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT 9/11 AND A QUR’AN-FUELED DEATH CULT.

    Repeating this isn’t going to make it true. Putting aside that we have direct evidence to the contrary, it doesn’t matter. According to you, as long as we can blame someone else for actions taken, they aren’t culpable for those actions. That is the exact argument you put forth; there could be no Iraq Invasion without Islamic fundamentalism. Well, there could be no wahhabist Islam resurgence without Western interference in the middle east. There could be no Western Interference in the middle east without communist governments winning elections (fairly, in this case, though that’s no requisite) in the middle east. There could be no communist governments without bad governance fueled by pandering to the west…

    and on the cycle will go until we are back at the creation of fire. Your ethics ultimately boil down to “HE STARTED IT”, which is an asinine basis for morality by itself, let alone governance.

    “That’s nice, Stevie, and how ’bout them Celtics beating the Hawks?”

    I pay so little attention to sports that my immediate reaction was “Why are the Irish fighting birds of prey?”

  267. 'Tis Himself says

    As I’ve said, request denied.

    It isn’t a request, it’s a suggestion.

    Since your “substantive” arguments are basically “I hate and fear Muslims”

    No, they’re not. If you’d cared to read my comments you would have realised that. Sounds like an anthropomorphised bag of hay to me!

    Silly me, thinking that your comment in #293:

    There’s only one type of terrorist that is willing to go to those lengths and I don’t need to say which religion they belong to.

    was evidence for your fear and hatred of Muslims. So what particular nuance am I missing here, bigot?

  268. says

    Here come the truthers to rally to your bizarre cause, ruteekatreya! Good luck with that.

    You’re not making any sort of sense. Ruteekatreya is entirely correct in saying Iraq was not a consequence of 9/11.
    Let’s make it simple, shall we:
    9/11 -> Afghanistan
    Possible chemical weapons (which turned out to be based on false intel) and Saddam -> Iraq

    In no way was Iraq related to 9/11. Whether it was planned before or after 9/11 doesn’t even matter, though the fact that it was planned (and by the way, this is fact confirmed by the US government. It’s not exactly conspiracy bullshit.).
    Why don’t you go educate yourself?

  269. says

    Oh, fiddlesticks, I should have gone with the other obvious response to the association fallacy. “You realize the Fundy Christians all blame TEH MOOSLIN too, right?” Cheese and crackers, how did I miss that?

  270. jamesevans says

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Republican_Army

    Oh, I see, according to you, radical Catholics are more dangerous to the world right now than radical Muslims. Wow, who knew how deep your confusion ran? Impressive nuttiness, really. Must be the global jihad they are NOT orchestrating at the moment that makes them the planet’s most dangerous religion at the moment to nut-jobs like you. I’ve already addressed the stupidity of mentioning regionally-isolated terrorism in countering your useless comments about Hindus, and, on top of that, the argument is about PRESENT DAY terrorism, not the past history of terror that we all know has been ruled by all religions in essentially equal measure.

    And that islamic fundamentalism is itself part of the backlash against western interference in the region for cold war reasons. I mean really, if you are willing to excuse the US of its war crimes because they’re a response to 9/11, why aren’t you willing to excuse 9/11 when it’s ultimately a response to Meriken colonialism?

    So you think Bin Laden’s murder of thousands of innocent civilians was not only justified but altruistic. OK, thanks, ruteekatreya. That’s all I needed you to admit.

    Also, don’t lie to me. You thought I was talking about the actual knights templar, hence your whining about me going into history. You said you wanted recent examples of Christian Violence, when that was exactly what I gave you, and you knew that was what I gave you? No no, I don’t think so.

    Let’s see, my response included Saladin and Knights Templar, in quotes, asked you how many of “Saladin’s” Muslims killed their own civilians (i.e.: in suicide attacks), after you asked me how many our “Knights Templars” killed, scoffed at your “Knights Templars” comment, and then explained the reason you purposefully avoided for our “Knights Templars” being in the region, and you think I missed your ignorant point and thought you were referencing the actual crusades?! I mean, fucking really, dumbass?!

    Oh, brother. You really are a tormented, hopeless mess.

    Globally is it? Less childishly? I’m substantially more likely to die at the hands of Christians, for religious reasons at that, because I am brown or gay, as a US citizen, and we’re the alleged primary target of Al Qaeda. It is ‘childish’ to realistically look at the power of a group as well as its hatred, I suppose?

    If you weren’t a complete twit in all other respects, it might actually be worth to see if you can back up with reliable numbers/references a statistical statement with wild potential for infinite variables like this, but, the horrible reasoning impression you’ve made thus far being what it is, it ain’t gonna be worth my time to watch you fall on your face again.

    You have a nice day, and be sure to warn us when you’ll be assisting/funding/fighting for Al Qaeda, a more righteous and legitimate actor than America in your scary mind.

  271. Cipher, OM says

    So you think Bin Laden’s murder of thousands of innocent civilians was not only justified but altruistic. OK, thanks, ruteekatreya. That’s all I needed you to admit.

    I note that that wasn’t actually a response to the argument, and instead it was an extremely obvious misrepresentation of what rutee said.

  272. says

    Oh, I see, according to you, radical Catholics are more dangerous to the world right now than radical Muslims.

    I think Christians, as an aggregate, are more dangerous than any radical muslims. Catholics, specifically, aren’t very likely to kill you, but they sure as hell are fucking up South America and Africa with their religious edicts. But you know, I didn’t actually say Catholics are likely to violently kill you. I said catholics produced violent terrorists who resorted to horrific actions, and in recent times at that. Because that one’s actually true. And if that was all you said about Islam, we might see this abate. But it isn’t. You said that Islam is dangerous. THat it is in fact a threat, and a unique one. I think it is an insignificant threat, which is supported by the sheer lack of violence it can unleash outside its own sphere of influence. It is trivially untrue that they are somehow unique as a religion, however.

    Impressive nuttiness, really. Must be the global jihad they are NOT orchestrating at the moment that makes them the planet’s most dangerous religion at the moment to nut-jobs like you.

    They’re responsible for fewer than 5.000 deaths on their triumphant day of victory, and they’ve never repeated their actions successfully. I’m pretty sure I can discount them as a global threat.

    I’ve already addressed the stupidity of mentioning regionally-isolated terrorism

    Well, you asserted it. You just said I can’t do it, you didn’t explain why I should rank a powerless, allegedly global group above one that actually has power, but is regional.

    in countering your useless comments about Hindus

    Dude, seriously, are you illiterate? Someone else stated that Islam is the only religion that has a conquering general for a prophet. I said this was factually inaccurate, and raised hinduism because they have several *gods* that were at various times conquering generals, along with literally dozens, if not scores, and perhaps hundreds of others who worship or revere conquering figures.

    So you think Bin Laden’s murder of thousands of innocent civilians was not only justified but altruistic. OK, thanks, ruteekatreya. That’s all I needed you to admit.

    Protip: I neither excuse Meriken for ‘responding’ to 9/11, nor Al Qaeda for ‘responding’ to Colonialism, because “HE DID IT FIRST” is a shitty basis for deciding ethics. I am applying your own logic in a way you had yet to consider, not making the argument that Al Qaeda should be excused.

    So no, actually, that’s rather the opposite of what I said. Lackwit.

    Let’s see, my response included Saladin and Knights Templar, in quotes, asked you how many of “Saladin’s” Muslims killed their own civilians (i.e.: in suicide attacks), after you asked me how many our “Knights Templars”

    Then you complained about history. I can accept that you are a shitty writer, but really now, how is that my fault?

    And the short answer is, “Far fewer than we”, which is fucking ridiculous.

    If you weren’t a complete twit in all other respects, it might actually be worth to see if you can back up with reliable numbers/references a statistical statement with wild potential for infinite variables like this,

    Every year, the total number of violent incidents towards gay people in the US approaches nearly 1/3rd the total death count on 9/11 (+ the coalition soldiers killed in afghanistan, a miniscule number, BECAUSE THE ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISTS ARE POWERLESS). These incidents are waning slightly, but are nonetheless still quite ongoing. I’m a little scrawny wuss who’s nearly died to substantially less scary things than beatings, I don’t see a good reason to trust my chances to survive.

    Further, the only time I’m under threat of violence from Al Qaeda are the increasingly rare times I go to the airport. I simply don’t go near major monuments the rest of the time, and Al Qaeda rather demonstrably lacks the power to attack anything other than major monuments. I am always brown, and always gay, and I have to work, eat, and buy groceries rather frequently.

  273. says

    Silly me, thinking that your comment in #293:

    There’s only one type of terrorist that is willing to go to those lengths and I don’t need to say which religion they belong to.

    was evidence for your fear and hatred of Muslims.

    I admit that I regret including that sentence (and the question that precedes it) but, even so, it was simply stating a fact. The 9/11 hijackers were members of al-Qaeda, a “global militant Islamist organization”, and over 90% of the 160+ suicide bombings in Jerusalem, since 1989, have been carried out by islamic organisations.

    So what particular nuance am I missing here

    Stating that terrorists belong to a religion (islam) doesn’t, in any way, equate to fearing or hating the people that practice that religion (muslims).

    Furthermore, as I have already said, my father’s side of the family are muslim. Are you seriously trying to suggest that I fear and hate my grandmother, my uncle and aunts, my cousins and their children? Yeah, right!

  274. 'Tis Himself says

    Furthermore, as I have already said, my father’s side of the family are muslim. Are you seriously trying to suggest that I fear and hate my grandmother, my uncle and aunts, my cousins and their children? Yeah, right!

    Since I have no knowledge of your relationship with your grandmother and her ilk, it’s possible you do fear and hate them. Or you could make exceptions for Muslims you personally know but hate and fear the Great Muslim Unwashed. Also anecdotes ≠ data.

  275. says

    Since I have no knowledge of your relationship with your grandmother and her ilk, it’s possible you do fear and hate them. Or you could make exceptions for Muslims you personally know but hate and fear the Great Muslim Unwashed.

    Now you’re just clutching at straws. It’s possible this, that and the other. Possibility ≠ Probability. Besides, I don’t care, in the slightest, whether you believe that I love my family.

    Also anecdotes ≠ data.

    Actually, it was a question. A question that needed nothing more than a simple yes or no answer but you chose to sidestep it and we both know why.

    It’s telling that you chose to quote that part of my comment rather than the preceding paragraph

    Stating that terrorists belong to a religion (islam) doesn’t, in any way, equate to fearing or hating the people that practice that religion (muslims).

    which clearly demonstrates that you comment #336

    Since your “substantive” arguments are basically “I hate and fear Muslims”

    is, indeed, nothing more than a strawman argument.

  276. John Morales says

    [datum]

    Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?

    This report is a study of 17 de-classified documents captured during the Abbottabad raid and released to the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). They consist of electronic letters or draft letters, totaling 175 pages in the original Arabic and 197 pages in the English translation. The earliest is dated September 2006 and the latest April 2011. These internal al-Qa`ida communications were authored by several leaders, most prominently Usama bin Ladin.

  277. 'Tis Himself says

    Shorter stevenbey #347

    I think Muslims are terrorists* but I don’t hate and fear them even though I explicitly accused them of being terrorists, so there, nyah!

    *With the exception of my family, none of whom would ever think of being terrorists, I asked them and they all promised me they absolutely renounce terrorism, and I believe them because they’re good Muslims, not the terrorist kind at all, and if you don’t believe me you can ask them yourself.

  278. says

    ‘Tis Himself:

    So you’re just going to keep making things up and then repeating the fallacy ad infinitum. How commendable.

  279. David Marjanović says

    If Sam here wants to be the big brave boy standing up to all this terrible political correctness, he can fucking well accept that the repercussions of advocating racism is being considered a racist. Sorry. You don’t get to fight the PC Man without a few scratches.

    QFT!

    Bre[i]vik wasn’t prepared to kill himself for his beliefs.

    Wrong. He wanted to go down in a blaze of glory, in a rain of bullets from “the system forces” as he called them. It’s all written down in his manifesto.

    Dude, what bothers me is not that he is using poor reasoning, it’s that he is being a fucking racist.

    What bothers me about racism is that it is poor reasoning.

    It’s shocking how quickly some people are to resort to offensive language. Actually, it’s shocking that they resort to it in the first place.

    We’re not resorting to it.

    We’re quite consciously using it to express our outrage.

    If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention!

    Besides… many of us are scientists. We’ve trained long and hard to call a spade a spade. It’s silly to be surprised when we go on to call a fuckwit a fuckwit.

    – and now when he is in custody he keeps on demanding a capital punishment. Which Norway does not have.

    Yup. He has said in court that the only two possible just verdicts are acquittance or death.

    He also said in court that he had wanted to found some kind of “al-Qaida for Christians”.

    Do the names Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ring any bells?
    Their original plans included hijacking a plane and crashing it into a building in New York.

    Oh, sweeeeeeeeeeeet. Reference, please?

    Yeah, “Knights Templar,” rrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhtttt.

    Metaphorical Knights Templar.

    The level of hero worship with Harris and others is bafflingly irrational

    The same could be said of you, albeit for PZ.

    I don’t think anybody here has always agreed with PZ. In any case I haven’t; he’s made some mistakes and never corrected them, and banned a few people without, shall we say, full and proper procedure.

    Even the deaths in Iraq could not have happened without 9/11.

    Ha. They’d just have happened a little later. Fearless Flightsuit wanted to be war president and would never have shut up till he got his war.

    Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?

    From there:

    Bin Ladin’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 de-classified documents.

    Interesting.

  280. pj says

    @David Marjanović

    From the pfft entry for Columbine shootings:

    Journal entries reveal that the pair had an elaborate plan for a major bombing rivaling the Oklahoma City bombing. The entries contained blurbs about ways to escape to Mexico, hijacking an aircraft at Denver International Airport and crashing into a building in New York City, as well as details about the attacks.

  281. criticaldragon1177 says

    PZ Myers,

    Excellent job. I agree with you completely. Also, even in cases when the terrorist happen to correspond to our stereotypes overall might they still be smart enough to try to disguise themselves, or find someone who does not?