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May 29 2012

Bruce Schneier vs. Sam Harris

The debate on profiling has been going on, and is now published. I think Schneier has rather thoroughly demolished Harris’s arguments. Here’s his wrap-up, if you don’t want to read the whole thing.

The topic of this exchange, and the topic I’ve tried to stick to, is whether it makes sense to implement a two-tiered security system at airports, where "Muslims, or anyone who could conceivably be Muslim" get a higher tier of security and everyone else gets a lower tier. I have concluded that it does not, for the following reasons. One, the only benefit is efficiency. Two, the result is lower security because 1) not all Muslims can be identified by appearance, 2) screeners will make mistakes in implementing whatever profiling system you have in mind, and 3) not all terrorists are Muslim. Three, there are substantial monetary costs in implementing this system, in setting the system up, in administering it across all airports, and in paying for TSA screeners who can implement it. And four, there is an inefficiency in operating the system that isn’t there if screeners treat everyone the same way. Conclusion: airport profiling based on this ethnic and religious characteristic does not make sense.

And while you’ve objected to bits and pieces of this, the only argument you have made for this profiling system is that it’s common sense.

But here’s the real bottom line:

But perhaps most importantly, we should refuse to be terrorized. Terrorism isn’t really a crime against people or property; it’s a crime against our minds. If we are terrorized, then the terrorists win even if their plots fail. If we refuse to be terrorized, then the terrorists lose even if their plots succeed.

The terrorists have won their battles over the last ten years: they’ve got Americans pouring money into showy efforts at security, while convincing everyone to be in terror — when will we all wake up and realize that that’s exactly what terrorists want?

115 comments

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  1. 1
    anubisprime

    Considering the amount of kafuffle terrorism has caused arguably since 9/11 in expenditure and international travel one could conclude quite easily the terrorists won hands down!

    They got what they wanted, terror paranoia in the West, in Europe and US of A in particular, no doubt prime targets…they scored…simples!

    It is cheaper easier and safer for them now because they have achieved fear of the Muslim, without having to physically do anything, just threaten on the anonymous interweb and all chaos breaks loose.

    Financially this will eventually cripple the west, already under the cosh from the present economic turndown. it is just unsustainable and out off all proportion to the problem.

    But their legacy lingers and in some cases actually grows in potency.
    It is certainly not diminishing, just becoming more of a hindrance and uncomfortable for folk in the West caused by their own, so called, leaders and the quest to elicit every single vote from a terrified voter base…

    The hysterical paranoia is almost religious in intensity.

  2. 2
    ohnhai

    Absolutely.

    Those whose goal is to use terror must be laughing their asses off each time there is a story in the news about a yet MORE invasive security measure and the delays and furor associated with that.

    I say Fuck it! I say pair the security back. I say Let people carry guns on planes. After 9/11 and UA93 it’s a different game passengers will rather literally go down fighting rather than let the buggers win. At the moment any highjacker knows that none of the 400 have any kind of weapon. What happens when all of them MIGHT!!!

    It’s like the news story about the MOD putting missile sites on top of tall buildings in London. Whether it happens or not, any plan to attack the Olympics now has to factor that in.

    Is about not running scared, but standing your ground, linking arms, and saying “Bring it!!”

    I’m not saying abandon prudent caution, just that if you change the way you carry out your daily life just because of what some loony MIGHT do to you then the loony wins…

  3. 3
    Nick Gotts

    I say Let people carry guns on planes. – ohnhai

    I say you’re a fucking nutcase.

  4. 4
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I say Let people carry guns on planes.

    I’m not saying abandon prudent caution, just that if you change the way you carry out your daily life just because of what some loony MIGHT do to you then the loony wins…

    I’d say that forbidding people from carrying guns to planes is prudent caution.

    I can just imagine some asshole waving his gun in the plane because the guy three rows back looked at him the wrong way (while being non-white and therefore suspicious by default).

  5. 5
    vaiyt

    There’s this quite resilient myth that the purpose of terrorist attacks is to kill, as if Al-Qaeda were so abysmally stupid/ignorant as to think throwing a couple planes into big buildings would do any kind of dent in the US population.

  6. 6
    AJS

    ohnhai:

    I say Fuck it! ….. I say Let people carry guns on planes.

    Really. Do you have any fucking idea what would happen if a firearm was discharged on a passenger aircraft?

  7. 7
    ohnhai

    @ KG, You are probably right. Its was more an exclamation of frustration that these people have us running scared.

    In 2007 I was talking with a young lady thinking of cancelling her European holiday because of the London bombs. I told her “Dont you dare! you do that and they have won”.

    The guns on planes was an extreme voicing of the idea that instead of making the secrity measues more and more intollerable for passengers you need to make the practicallity of attempting less and less attractive.

  8. 8
    John Morales

    Security theater

  9. 9
    ohnhai

    @AJS

    yes.

    panic, hysteria, injury, death. But explosive decompression and catastrophic failure of the aircraft is highly unlikely.

    but as i said to KG it was more a excamation of frustration than a serious sugestion.

  10. 10
    ohnhai

    to all.. Yes it was a silly, frustrated comment. I dont seriously condone this idea!!

  11. 11
    John Morales

    [meta]

    ohnhai, relax. We get you get it, we get your embarrassment, your retraction is the icing on the cake.

    (enough!)

  12. 12
    Jasper of Maine

    Arguments from Common Sense are dumb.

    It’s basically saying “This is my intuitive limited understanding of reality – let’s extrapolate everything from that!”

    It was common sense the world was flat too, once upon a time.

  13. 13
    John Phillips, FCD

    Considering that Bin Laden actually said on the record, numerous times at that, that his intent was, among others, to make the West bleed itself dry while reversing everything it ‘claimed’ to stand for, can there be any doubt but that he achieved those aims. Even if he failed in his supposed main goal of removing infidel troops from Saudi.

  14. 14
    fredfile

    “…when will we all wake up and realize that that’s exactly what terrorists want?”

    And when will we quit letting politicians leverage fear of terrorists for their own – and their party’s – advantage!

    lff

  15. 15
    puppygod

    The correct reaction to terrorism is what people with the “We are not afraid” campaign promoted – doing exactly nothing. That is, nothing out of ordinary. The worst thing you can do to the terrorists is to go to the pub like nothing happened.

  16. 16
    benkvi

    Yea, I agree. Sam got nowhere in this debate. I think he’s demonstrated exactly the same blind-spot he so disdains in other [religious] people.

    Good. He’s human. And good for him! At least if he comes around and recognises it. And, oh! I hope he does.

  17. 17
    Ingdigo Jump

    Good. He’s human. And good for him! At least if he comes around and recognises it. And, oh! I hope he does.

    I hate this ‘skeptic’ trope of praising people for having a blindspot. Yes we all do, but the fucking point of skepticism is to weed them out as much as possible. A pet belief isn’t a privilege every skeptic gets, it’s a horrendous flaw.

    Since he’s shown this blindspot AND has made very extreme public declarations of his beliefs, I’d say he is very unlikely to recognize it. He’s more likely to double down and dig his heels in. It’s human nature. That’s why I said over on TZT that it’s valuble to learn that you can swallow your ego and jettison bad ideas no matter how vigorously you defended them prior. It helps you correct errors, actually be right, and not look like a fucking dense idiot. Harris is intelligent, but he’s letting fear and/or ego get in the way of recognizing that he fell for a common psychological trap. He’s in a feedback loop of wrong and the only way to escape is to give up on the idea of “being right”

  18. 18
    John Morales

    [meta]

    I hate this ‘skeptic’ trope of praising people for having a blindspot. Yes we all do, but the fucking point of skepticism is to weed them out as much as possible.

    You hate what benkvi didn’t do.

    Noted.

  19. 19
    benkvi

    He’s more likely to double down and dig his heels in.

    I’d say it’s this behaviour we should hate and weed out. Not the blindspot. It’s the blindspot that is human nature, and to own up to our own weaknesses is what we need to learn.

  20. 20
    jamessweet

    The last paragraph is paramount.

    While Sam’s suggestions for how to address it are highly dubious, he is right in one very small sense: If we are to have multi-tiered security, where some subset of people are subjected to heightened scrutiny despite no evidence of wrongdoing, choosing that subset randomly (as opposed to profiling based on some sort of quantifiable risk factor) is a complete fucking waste of time and money.

    But the randomness is only a small part of that. The very idea of multi-tiered security is questionable to begin with, and is worthless at best in the case of suicidal terrorism.

  21. 21
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    I say let people carry wiffle ball bats on planes.

    Start acting up and 30 passengers armed with light weight plastic bats will descend on you.

    The pure embarrassment of being subdued by a Grandmother from Toledo with a child’s toy should stop that person from ever considering doing anything dastardly on a plane again.

  22. 22
    Jasper of Maine

    Benkvi

    It’s the blindspot that is human nature, and to own up to our own weaknesses is what we need to learn.

    We have. We’re way past that. We’ve realized we have this flaw and we have procedures to minimize the flaw. We call it skepticism and critical thinking.

    To suggest that Harris needs to own up to his weakness is to suggest that he hasn’t reached the state of being a critical thinker/skeptic yet. Maybe he hasn’t.

  23. 23
    astrofiend

    “Terrorism isn’t really a crime against people or property; it’s a crime against our minds.”

    What a fucking stupid thing to say. Tell that to the people who were walking down the street minding their business and then have suddenly had their shit blown off, or had their loved ones blown to bits, or who’ve lived through their family member’s head being hacked off live on some Islamist website, or the kids who’ve been forced to wheel a bike through a crowd of people and then fucking explode them.

    Yes – it’s a crime against our minds, but it’s also just a much a crime against people and property. Just goes to show that you can stumble onto being right sometimes like a drunk falling into his own puke, but still be a totally clueless wanker.

  24. 24
    illithid

    To suggest that Harris needs to own up to his weakness is to suggest that he hasn’t reached the state of being a critical thinker/skeptic yet. Maybe he hasn’t.

    Because it’s inconceivable that you could be the one with the blindspot?

    You are the one, let me bring to your attention, who thinks it’s legitimate to dismiss without argument the position that finding a couple of extra Arab male confederates (to stand an excellent chance of getting at least one guy through random checking — thereby gaming the randomized security system) is harder than recruiting a suicide-bombing 80-year-old grandmother from Oklahoma to beat the profile-based system suggested by Harris.

    You are the one who doesn’t want to hear the argument for why behavioral profiling (such as checking for a one-way ticket, already a staple of airport security) is less rationally grounded than profiling which also takes into account such things as gender, age, and appearance.

    You are the one who feels the need to belong to a “skeptical community” because he’s too weak to stand on his own and think with his own mind.

  25. 25
    Phalacrocorax, z Třetího Světa

    I say let people carry wiffle ball bats on planes.

    Also: the right of the people to carry poisonous serpents in the hand luggage shall not be infringed.

  26. 26
    benkvi

    We have. We’re way past that. We’ve realized we have this flaw and we have procedures to minimize the flaw. We call it skepticism and critical thinking.

    Yes, I’m aware of that, but to say we’re way past it is overstating it a bit. The awareness is there, and many tools, too (I take it you mean the scientific method), but in the normal day to day life it is still way too common to see admitting one was wrong as a defeat, and “sticking to the guns” as a “virtue”. In reality this is completely backwards, and we still have many miles to go to turn this culture around.

    As for Sam, I hope he learns a lot from this. And he has the opportunity now to set a good example by reflecting over the counter-argument and concede that his judgement failed him this time. Which is OK. If he admits as much.

  27. 27
    Anri

    astrofiend:

    Yes – it’s a crime against our minds, but it’s also just a much a crime against people and property.

    If you want to understand the difference, please compare the actual toll of death and destruction of the most damaging single terrorist attack versus the most damaging single military attack. Then, step back and check out the tolls for terrorist programs versus military campaigns.

    If terrorists had any chance of damaging a target through actual death and destruction, they would. They don’t, so they resort to attacks that are frightening.

    Any death is a terrible tragedy for the people involved, and this is not to minimize that fact. But to say that the primary effect of a terrorist act is the actual death and destruction is to utterly misunderstand what’s going on. In fact, such a belief is exactly and precisely what your average terrorist is looking to evoke: make ‘em so scared of the (random, small-scale) death and destruction, that they’ll wreck their country trying to prevent it.

  28. 28
    peicurmudgeon

    When I read the debate, I was struck with how Harris totally avoided the question of how to identify a Muslim. He stated a number of times that Muslims have been behind nearly all suicide bombings and must be screened. Then hen failed in any way to lay out how to identify a Muslim.

    I felt that Schneier demolished all of Harris’ points. Now we’ll have to wait an see if Harris can wake up an admit he is wrong.

  29. 29
    mattandrews

    peicurmudgeon @ 28 wrote:

    I felt that Schneier demolished all of Harris’ points. Now we’ll have to wait an see if Harris can wake up an admit he is wrong.

    Don’t hold your breath. Bigots like Harris rarely change their views, even when presented with evidence that refutes their claims.

  30. 30
    mattandrews

    Ugh. Blockquote fail in 29. My comment is 2nd paragraph.

  31. 31
    Thomas Lawson

    Let’s not forget that Mr. Harris is literally inside a human bubble of bodyguards that are on constant alert from an inevitable attack by Muslim extremists. That kind of bubble might distort your view. Mr. Harris might receive threatening phone messages, e-mails, and letters on a daily basis, and this has evidently done something to his ability to reason.

    -

    The Norway terrorist could easily have been a Muslim extremist. I am astonished that Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, does not see people as I see them: as brains in jars. You cannot profile a brain in a jar. You have to open the lid and poke around for a few minutes. This is what the pre-boarding Israeli chit-chat does. A short chit-chat with “Jihad Jane,” the type of person Harris thinks is beyond coercion from silly, dopey Al-Qaeda operatives, would have revealed more than a short critique of her ankle-length dress.

    -

    The key question: If a Christian extremist were to burst his bubble, would his profiling umbrella finally expand to cover all the jars or merely the ones labelled Muslim?

  32. 32
    mattisironen

    I was pretty sympathetic to Sam Harris’ position before reading this, but I had my mind blown when I read his paragraph about women’s self defense in the debate. Sam Harris is advocating nothing less and nothing more than Schroedinger’s Terrorist!

    I wonder if the fans of SR have noticed this and are now as enthusiastically supporting Harris as I am rejecting him?

  33. 33
    dianne

    whether it makes sense to implement a two-tiered security system at airports, where “Muslims, or anyone who could conceivably be Muslim” get a higher tier of security and everyone else gets a lower tier.

    This would also be the world’s easiest system to obstruct with peaceful protest: Get a bunch of people to go through security and as they do say, “I’m a Muslim.” Instant backed up security system!

    I’m not sure what “anyone who could conceivably be Muslim” means anyway. If I take a Koran on a plane do I become “conceivably Muslim”? What if it’s in English? IIRC, translation of the Koran is forbidden by at least some sects on the grounds that translation distorts meaning. Does my carrying a translated version not prove that I’m NOT Islamic because a good Muslim would only carry the Arabic* version?

    *Er, is the original in Arabic? I don’t actually know…

  34. 34
    matthewball

    The last point is key — we are cutting food stamps and screwing anyone who isn’t rich in order to shovel more taxpayer money into the furnace of “national security.”

    PS — Hey PZ, you’ll love this:
    http://www.danoah.com/2012/04/a-teens-brave-response-to-im-christian-unless-youre-gay.html

  35. 35
    dianne

    The last point is key — we are cutting food stamps and screwing anyone who isn’t rich in order to shovel more taxpayer money into the furnace of “national security.”

    Oddly, Harris seems to also be arguing this point. If I understand correctly, he is proposing letting people who set off some part of the initial screening system (metal detector beeps, something odd looking on the porno scanner, nitrates detected on the suitcase, etc) go without further screening unless they are Islamic or “possibly” Islamic. In short, he seems to be making a “no true Scotsman” argument: No non-Muslim could possibly be a terrorist so investigating that gun shaped object in their luggage is a waste of time.

    I’m profoundly unconvinced of that argument. Doesn’t anyone remember the hijackings of the 1970s? BD Cooper? The era when US pilots used to keep notes on approaches to the Havana airport with them when they flew, just in case? Ok, so I’d rather have BD Cooper on board than a 9/11 hijacker, but why ignore the possibility of the former just because you’re more scared of the latter?

  36. 36
    Koshka

    Mattisironen #32,
    So you equate individuals being singled out by authorities with women being concerned about being raped?

    I do t think you have given this much consideration.

  37. 37
    congaboy

    Sam Harris is wrong about this particular idea. Despite that, I still like and respect him and many of his ideas. A person can be wrong on some things and right on others and I possess the ability to distinguish them. Humans are not absolutes, we are spectrums or continuums if you prefer.

    Terrorism is a tactic that is designed to instill fear in many by causing harm to a few through unpredictable violent actions. The best ways to fight terrorism is with human intelligence and police work. Also, we as human beings should reevaluate the way we act towards one another. There will always be people who will resort to violence regardless of how far others bend to accommodate them, but that should not stop us from being introspective about our governments’ policies and being willing to change those policies.

    I am a criminal defense attorney. I consider myself to be a civil libertarian. I believe firmly in our civil rights and I believe that our government must be very careful when deciding to infringe on these rights. Sweeping generic profiling does not work. Certain forms of profiling could work—I am talking about profiling in specific instances based on intelligence gathered at certain times. As an example, let’s say the president is handed a memo that says, “[insert name of known terrorist and hater of our country] determined to attack in America.” A president should be moved to inquire as to whatever specifics we could find about the potential attack and implement short-term security increases around the known intelligence.

    It is easy to use hindsight, but even in August of 2001, we knew that terrorists liked to hijack planes. That’s where the term “hijacked” came from. It would have behooved the president to beef up security by looking for things on passengers that could have been used as offensive weapons. On 9/11/01 it was okay to bring box-cutters on airplanes, now we can’t even bring fingernail clippers on airplanes (I feel a lot safer). Of course, intelligence based profiling would be expensive and difficult to implement, so instead, we implement security theater or as I like to call it “Safeyness”.

    Definition: Safeyness: The feeling that we must be safe, because we are spending so much money on our military budget [or in this case, homeland security]. We are spending billions to fight them there, so we don’t have to think about our accountability here. Safeyness has nothing to do with actually being safe, rather, it’s that warm feeling one gets when one just throws a lot of money at a problem without any real concern as to whether the problem is being resolved.

  38. 38
    dianne

    In his defense of profiling, Harris makes a “common sense” argument that you can tell things about people by their looks. One example he gives is, “What about the guy in his 40s, deeply tanned as though he never goes indoors, with tattoos covering both arms — what are the chances he’s a cardiologist?” This is a particularly funny one to me because he’s essentially describing a cardiologist I work with. Yes, Sam, people don’t all look like the stereotype you have in your mind. Sorry.

  39. 39
    Nick Gotts

    Having read the full exchange, it’s quite clear that Harris is arguing from his gut, while Schneier is arguing from his expertise. Harris repeats the nonsense about “anyone who could conceivably be Muslim”, he repeats all the “political correctness” dribble, he whinges about being called out as a bigot, and he continually tries to move the exchange away from the topic – passenger screening at airports. Then there’s this beautiful example of completely absent self-awareness:

    I agree that we should be wary of “us vs. them” thinking. However, we must be honest about the where this is coming from in the present case — it comes from the reflexive, religious solidarity that many Muslims feel for their fellow Muslims, simply because they are Muslims.

    IOW, “This us-and-them thinking – it’s all down to them!”

  40. 40
    poke

    The context for Harris’s views on racial profiling of Muslims is Harris’s toxic opinions on preemptive nuclear bombing of Muslims, torturing Muslims, being at war with Islam, and Islam being the world’s greatest threat, and so forth.

    Harris’s own words, in context:

    We are at war with Islam. It may not serve our immediate foreign policy objectives for our political leaders to openly acknowledge this fact, but it is unambiguously so. —The End of Faith, p. 109

    there is no set of beliefs … more imperiling of the future than the beliefs of martyrdom or jihad in the Muslim world which are central to the doctrine of Islam. —http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0pxN0DuMAE

    I am one of the few people I know of who has argued in print that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror.

    Given what many of us believe about the exigencies of our war on terrorism, the practice of torture, in certain circumstances, would seem to be not only permissible, but necessary. —The End of Faith, p. 199

    There is little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed regime … What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.

    Whenever confronted with the irrationality of his arguments, Harris has backed away from the controversy, but not his own words. Racial profiling will be no different. Though it is commendable that Harris gave Schneier an opportunity to respond at his own site, if Harris’s past history is any guide, Harris cannot be expected to change his mind no matter what Schneier’s arguments are.

    What else can one conclude but that Harris is a willfully ignorant and hateful bigot?

  41. 41
    pacal

    I consider the fact that Harris didn’t bother to define what a “Muslim” looked like to be definitive that he never really thought through his position. Just what does a “Muslim” look like? After all c. 90% of the population of Indonesia is Muslim, and each many flights from Indonesia arrive in the USA. Or whaty about Bosnian Muslims and Albanians? Or what about Muslims from India who generally look like other Indians. So I guess know Hindu Indians look like Muslims. The fact Harris doesn’t bother to define what he means by “looking like a Muslim” makes me think that what he “really” means by that phrase is looking like an Arab.

  42. 42
    nooneinparticular

    A good discussion, though it appears nothing really new was said (I’ve read much from both since the initial SH posts). Still it’s good to see both arguments laid out. It’s clear to me (anyway) that Schneier’s arguments make sense and his view wins out. That’s not to say that Harris didn’t also make some good points, but overall his argument seems to boil down to “we got to keep an eye on those dirty mooslims”.

    In addition to Schneier’s parting admonition about how terrorists win when we’re are afraid of them (in this regard and in some very real ways they have “won” at least a few tactical battles), I like this part of his conclusion because it says in a nutshell why the kind of profiling that Harris suggests is not an effective way to address the threat of terrorism;

    In general, I am opposed to security measures that require us to guess the plot correctly , because it is so easy for terrorists to change tactics or target. This is really what your profiling system is: it’s a guess about who the next terrorist is going to be. If I had to pick someone to make that guess, I would pick Kip Hawley over you, but I would much rather build a security system that doesn’t require guessing at all. In general, I am in favor of security measures that are effective regardless of the plot: intelligence, investigation, and emergency response.

  43. 43
    Anthony K

    “What about the guy in his 40s, deeply tanned as though he never goes indoors, with tattoos covering both arms — what are the chances he’s a cardiologist?”

    Jesus, Harris is an idiot.

  44. 44
    unclefrogy

    I have never understood why we react to “The Terrorists” in exactly the way we are expected to in an impotent act of rage and repression. The tactic of terrorism has been written about and studied for years. I guess it just works regardless of all the understanding of it. The victimized groups always seem to react in the most predictable ways, fear rage and repression of itself and the targeted group thus doing the work of the terrorists. simply amazing
    sounds like some experiment by B.F. Skinner or Pavlov.

    uncle frogy

  45. 45
    Anthony K

    I have never understood why we react to “The Terrorists” in exactly the way we are expected to in an impotent act of rage and repression. The tactic of terrorism has been written about and studied for years. I guess it just works regardless of all the understanding of it. The victimized groups always seem to react in the most predictable ways, fear rage and repression of itself and the targeted group thus doing the work of the terrorists.

    That’s what acting according to ‘common sense’ gets you.

  46. 46
    unclefrogy

    the other thing that amazes me is we are still looking at the same target as the “first one” regardless of there being other targets since then. Is there the same paranoia about subways or hotels as there is about air planes? Some one should start a macabre betting pool on guessing the next big Islamic terrorist target.
    probably wont be commercial airplanes

    the TSA locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen
    uncle frogy

  47. 47
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    sounds like some experiment by B.F. Skinner or Pavlov.

    Pavlov, perhaps, but not Skinner.

  48. 48
    unclefrogy

    Pavlov, perhaps, but not Skinner.

    point taken just trying to say it seems behaviorist I am not a psychologist

    uncle frogy

  49. 49
    dmac

    I hope you all understand that this type of profiling is going on.
    You may claim that it’s anecdotal but I know and have seen far too many people with brown skin hassled at the border.
    Some will simply no longer travel to the U.S.
    The U.S. border has become a very ugly place.

  50. 50
    Ze Madmax

    The U.S. border has become a very ugly place.

    Has become? The U.S. border has always been a very ugly place, particularly for non-Whites.

  51. 51
    dianne

    Some one should start a macabre betting pool on guessing the next big Islamic terrorist target.
    probably wont be commercial airplanes

    It might be. If I were a terrorist, Islamic or otherwise, I might want to target commercial airplanes just to prove that I could: To say, “Hey your security theater hasn’t made you safe!” Sort of like the old urban legend about the unstealable car. It wouldn’t even have to be an attack that resulted in deaths: just leave an inactivated bomb in the bathroom or something, just to prove that it could be done. (Has the advantage of making your terrorist reusable, which could be important if your organization is running low on idiots willing to do that sort of thing.)

  52. 52
    nooneinparticular

    “Reusable” terrorists. Ugh. Now that’s a scary thought. I suspect that, sadly, terrorist organizations are in no danger of running low on idiots. They have a habit of regenerating, sometimes spontaneously but often they are created. The US just got done creating what will probably turn out to be thousands of future recruits in Iraq.

  53. 53
    Cal

    Maybe I am a bit naive, but I think if we spent even a fraction of the money spent on the “War on Terror” to improve security, improve immigration tracking and other methods of keeping people safe within the US we would have been better off. There have got to be better ways of tracking terrorists and providing security then what we are doing which seems both costly (wars) and ineffective (the majority of screening techniques) used at airports today. Racial profiling does not seem effective either as a solution.

  54. 54
    Anthony K

    Has the advantage of making your terrorist reusable, which could be important if your organization is running low on idiots willing to do that sort of thing.

    “Please consider the environment before martyring yourself.”

  55. 55
    joed

    Usually the terrorist that kills self and others are desperate and at the end of their road. this desperation is not something you can imagine. They have seen their children, families and friends murdered by u s/nato/zionist killers. “a Terrorist” is actually human being that is fighting with the only weapon he/she has. freedom fighter is a more accurate word.
    put your self in the shoes of the freedom fighter. the privileged white person has the luxury to sit back and pretend to understand–but you don’t have a clue. Ask a palestian/iraqi/paki/afghani/etc.
    the u s military has to go somewhere to kill people. if they didn’t then there would be much much less need for freedom fighters.
    so “idiot” is a racist, hate-filled term you people use. put your self in the freedom fighters shoes/sandals.
    the u s/nato/israel are the real terrorists.
    guess what folks, “WAR CRIMES ARE BEING COMMITED IN YOUR NAME.” and you call “them” idiots.

  56. 56
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    freedom fighter is a more accurate word.

    oh please

  57. 57
    nohellbelowus

    I read the entire debate.

    Sam Harris’s main point was that statistically speaking, terrorists boarding airplanes with intent to do harm are likely to be Muslim. Bruce Schneier agreed with him. By and large, Muslim men are the ones we should be worried about.

    Harris then suggested that surely there is a way to use this fact to improve security in air travel. Sam is totally correct on this point, strictly speaking. Why? Because if interviewing 100% of Muslims was included as a layer in addition to the layers already in the current system, such as Schneier’s random-checking layer, then the system would have to be more secure. In other words, assuming that any new added layers don’t serve to reduce the effectiveness of existing layers, a given security system will be more secure with more layers of scrutiny. Of course, additional layers cost more money (for training, etc.) and would certainly entail more lengthy delays for travelers, than the current system.

    And this is where Schneier scored major points in the debate. Air travel security, along with many other things in America, requires a cost-benefit analysis. Sam, not being an expert in such matters, conjectured that focusing on Muslims would not only increase security — it would also speed up the time spent waiting in the queue for everybody else. Schneier demonstrated that he was mistaken: Muslim profiling would not increase security, if it was included at the exclusion of the process of randomly selecting people for secondary searches and questions.

    I love Sam Harris, but in this case I think he allowed his frustration with security delays at airports (he’s a frequent flyer, quite obviously) to cloud his thinking a bit. Random selection of passengers makes very good sense to me now, after Bruce Schneier explained it, even though it sometimes results in the seemingly ridiculous situation where 85-year-old grannies are being strip-searched.

  58. 58
    jeffdee

    Great. Now can we please get somebody (Dan Dennett, perhaps?) to demolish Sam Harris’ equally nonsensical viewpoint on free will? Thanks!

  59. 59
    consciousness razor

    so “idiot” is a racist, hate-filled term you people use. put your self in the freedom fighters shoes/sandals.
    the u s/nato/israel are the real terrorists.

    There are more than enough “real terrorists” to go around. They don’t all need to one group or another.

    I don’t think “freedom fighters” is an appropriate term for someone who isn’t fighting and isn’t committing these acts in the name of freedom.

    And I also don’t understand what makes you think “idiot” is racist. Would you explain? It was used to describe Harris in this thread as well, for a certain kind of behavior.

  60. 60
    dianne

    They have seen their children, families and friends murdered by u s/nato/zionist killers.

    Except that that’s not who they are. The 911 terrorists were all wealthy Saudi boys and one UAE boy. (Saudi Arabia is a US ally and, as far as I know, has never been attacked by either Israel or NATO.) The people who actually do live in war zones tend to have better things to do than concoct ridiculous revenge fantasies.

  61. 61
    consciousness razor

    They don’t all need to belong to one group or another.

  62. 62
    dianne

    interviewing 100% of Muslims

    This still founders on the problem of how to identify someone’s religion. My passport does not identify my religion. One can make assumptions about people’s religion (that man with the Iranian passport is probably Islamic, that woman in the burka is probably Islamic, etc), but these assumptions are never going to be 100% accurate or complete. It’s simply an impossible task that Harris is proposing that TSA perform.

  63. 63
    strange gods before me ॐ

    jeffdee,

    Great. Now can we please get somebody (Dan Dennett, perhaps?) to demolish Sam Harris’ equally nonsensical viewpoint on free will? Thanks!

    Sam Harris is correct that free will does not exist.

    Dan Dennett is in agreement with Harris on all the facts.

    Dennett only says that even though it was absolutely impossible for anyone to ever have chosen otherwise than they did, we should call this absolute impossibility “free will” and it’s fair game to do so since free will was an incoherent concept anyway.

    If you’d like to discuss further, I recommend we take this to the zombie thread, where it’ll be on-topic.

    (I agree with you that Harris is being a fuckwit on the topic of this thread.)

  64. 64
    nohellbelowus

    @dianne #62

    Indeed. Sam Harris answered this very valid objection by essentially saying that anyone who “looks Muslim” should be subjected to an additional level of scrutiny. He even linked to a website displaying photos of people on the FBI’s most wanted list. By and large, these men would fit the “popular” profile of what a Muslim looks like. Obviously there are exceptions.

    Schneier made his best point by observing that using true, mathematical randomness to select passengers for secondary scrutiny is the absolute best way to deter terrorists, because no amount of deception or preparation can fool such a system.

    They would have to rely simply on luck. Or, equivalently, on the will of Allah.

  65. 65
    Inaji

    But perhaps most importantly, we should refuse to be terrorized.

    That was the whole point behind We’re Not Afraid.

  66. 66
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    the other thing that amazes me is we are still looking at the same target as the “first one” regardless of there being other targets since then.

    From the US perspective, though, it makes sense. Since 9/11, they’ve made (at least) three more attempts on US planes. And if you take the view that the goal of terrorism is to get your enemy to overreact, two of those were successful (the shoe bomber and the lap bomber), even if they didn’t go off, because they were able to get the bombs on board. There was another attempt that was broken up a few weeks ago because the designated bomber happened to be a double agent.

    From a worldwide perspective, of course you’re right.

  67. 67
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    two of those were successful (the shoe bomber and the lap bomber), even if they didn’t go off, because they were able to get the bombs on board*

    *and as a result, more scenes were added to the security theater. Every shoe that’s removed at a security checkpoint is a tribute to Richard Reid.

  68. 68
    dianne

    The conspiracy minded might be interested to know that an unnamed source I happen to know who works for a certain aerospace company says that they welcome increased security and are hoping for a complete ban of carry on items soon because it would increase demand for their inflight entertainment systems.

    Probably meaningless. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

  69. 69
    Phalacrocorax, z Třetího Světa

    joed said:

    palestian/iraqi/paki/afghani

    joed, it’s not the first time that I see you using the word “paki” instead of Pakistani. Are you aware that this term can be offensive?

  70. 70
    nooneinparticular

    What a Maroon

    There were also the printer toner cartridge bombs.

  71. 71
    nooneinparticular

    Phalacrocorax

    Good point. When I was young I lived in CT. In that state liquor is sold in stores called “package stores*”, which we called “packys” for short. On a trip to Montreal I remember once asking someone where we could find a “packy”. I got a lesson on the word then, I tell you what.

    *I don’t know the etymology of the term but I suspect it derives from a time when liquor purchases were hidden, because there was some taboo associated with booze, by wrapping them in plain packages.

  72. 72
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    There were also the printer toner cartridge bombs.

    Ah, yes, your memory is better than mine.

    *I don’t know the etymology of the term but I suspect it derives from a time when liquor purchases were hidden, because there was some taboo associated with booze, by wrapping them in plain packages.

    We used that term in MA too. The story I heard was that it originated in Prohibition–you’d go down to the store to get a package. But Wikipedia claims that it originated in laws saying that liquor bought at stores had to be packaged.

    I prefer the first story, but I trust the second more (colorful etymologies are often folk etymologies).

  73. 73
    bryanfeir

    Back in 1978, Dean Ing wrote a story called ‘Very Proper Charlies’ which played with the ‘refuse to be terrorized’ idea, and the whole idea of giving the terrorists any news play. A comedian by the stage name of Charlie George manages to arrange with most of the news broadcasts to always refer to terrorists as ‘Charlies’, set up a news graphic of a terrorist as an idiot with a burning stick of dynamite in his mouth giving you the finger, and as much as possible slant the reports towards making fun of the people who did this sort of thing. “A Charlie today blew himself up next to a bus full of elementary schoolchildren.” “Well, I guess he felt better attacking someone closer to his own intellectual level.”

    Needless to say, Charlie George ended up having to go into hiding soon enough, and there’s no way this could work today in the age of 24 hour news channels, but it was an interesting social experiment…

  74. 74
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Thank you! Whatever security efforts are going on behind the scenes, the behavior of average citizens needs to be unimpressed and unafraid.

  75. 75
    joed

    @69 Phalacrocorax, aus der Dritte Welt
    I had no idea the word could be offensive.
    thank you for saying something.

  76. 76
    joed

    @69 Phalacrocorax, aus der Dritte Welt
    My point of all this is to say that for the peoples i mentioned and many others throughout the world the u s/nato/israel are creating a 911 for those folks everyday. seems the u s etc really get off on creating chaos murder destruction in much of the world inhabited by dark skin people. it is sad isn’t it. the best these freedom fighters can do is fight with the weapons they have. violence will not drive the occupiers out but that is the only fight they can manage.
    like leonard cohen says, “i have seen the future and it is murder.”

  77. 77
    Jadehawk

    I wonder if the fans of SR have noticed this and are now as enthusiastically supporting Harris as I am rejecting him?

    oh yeah. members of an oppressed group extremely likely to be victimized being wary of the oppressor group from which the victimizers come is totes exactly like the oppressor group having a massive, government-supported overreaction to acts that they will very unlikely ever be a victim of which were committed by members of an impossible-to-visually-identify group.

    you’re stupid.

  78. 78
    Phalacrocorax, z Třetího Světa

    I had no idea the word could be offensive.

    Fine, then. A funny thing about not being a native speaker is that I can often miscalculate what is common knowledge amongst anglophones.

  79. 79
    No One

    Everyone should be required to fly naked. Problem fixed.

    …I really didn’t think that one through did I?

  80. 80
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Everyone should be required to fly naked.

    I fly (on business (which means I get to wear my green and greys on the plane)) and no one wants to see me naked. ‘Cept Wife, of course.

  81. 81
    Ingdigo Jump

    The awareness is there, and many tools, too (I take it you mean the scientific method), but in the normal day to day life it is still way too common to see admitting one was wrong as a defeat, and “sticking to the guns” as a “virtue”. In reality this is completely backwards, and we still have many miles to go to turn this culture around.

    See for example, Christopher Hitchens. Many people I fully respect actually changed my opinion on the man after his death for praising him for things that I believe they would see as character flaws in someone like Pat Robertson.

  82. 82
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    Fine, then. A funny thing about not being a native speaker is that I can often miscalculate what is common knowledge amongst anglophones.

    I have no idea where Joed is from, but in my experience the term is more likely to be used derogatorily in the UK than in the US, mostly because there are far more Pakistanis there than here. In the US, it doesn’t (yet) carry the same connotations as it does in the UK.

    But check back in a few years. It’ll probably have changed.

  83. 83
    baruchtzairy

    Sorry, but I read their exchange thoroughly and it seems to be fairly obvious that Sam’s arguments were far more convincing and well presented.

    The bottom line is Bruce Schneier agrees with Sam at least in principle in that “In the profiling case, the mathematically optimal strategy is a combination of profiling and random sampling” – which is close to what Sam was suggesting, Mr. Schneier only adds that such a system is simply too complicated to implement at the TSA security checkpoint.
    I’m not sure why he believes it isn’t practical to implement such a system since the Israelis have already done exactly that, perhaps it has something to do with the size of the US and the many checkpoints that would have to be involved, he does provide links to additional essays published by him which may be addressing that point in further detail (I don’t know, I didn’t have time to go through them), but I think simply stating that “Schneier has rather thoroughly demolished Harris’s arguments” is inaccurate.

  84. 84
    dianne

    that is the only fight they can manage.

    Total and utter bullshit. Even if the 911 hijackers really were poor people being oppressed by the US and not a bunch of rich Saudis, they have other weapons at their disposal. Poor and oppressed people can and have successfully fought against oppression without violence. Successfully.

    Everyone knows about Gandhi, right? Did you know that he was by no means the first person to try to drive the British out of India? There were Indian rebellions throughout the 19th century, many of them violent. But who got the Brits out? The non-violent organizer. Likewise, it was peaceful protest that ended segregation in the US and stopped Nixon from nuking Viet Nam.

    So, what about really violent and unpleasant governments like, say, Nazi Germany? Vulnerable to peaceful protest. Denmark, which opposed the occupation peacefully, saved far more people than Poland or France which opposed violently. The Rosenstrasse protests were successful as well.

    I don’t support a violent response to oppression. I understand the urge and can’t say I’ve never shared it, but it’s not either the morally best or tactically most effective method available. I didn’t support the war in Afghanistan or Iraq, and wouldn’t even if I had thought that either country was responsible for the 911 attacks. More violence won’t solve the problem.

    It’s easy to fall for the romance of “freedom fighters”, but it’s a lot of BS. History is full of oppressed people who found other paths to freedom and won.

  85. 85
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I don’t support a violent response to oppression. I understand the urge and can’t say I’ve never shared it, but it’s not either the morally best or tactically most effective method available.

    Ah yes, tell us how you would have ended slavery in the USA.

  86. 86
    dianne

    Ah yes, tell us how you would have ended slavery in the USA.

    The USA? You mean the last country in North America and second to last to end slavery in the Americas? How about by not holding the Revolutionary War in the first place and letting England end it many years sooner.

  87. 87
    Gunboat Diplomat

    @Dianne

    Nuclear weapons were not used in vietnam either by the French or the americans because it would not have changed the outcome of the wars or even individual battles in the wars (eg Dien Bien Phu) and had a serious risk of provoking soviet retaliation or at least increasing the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used against US forces at some point in the future. Peaceful protest in the US had little to do with it although it certainly was a factor in degrading the effectiveness of the US army which paradoxically lead to greater reliance on carpet bombing, more civilian deaths and arguably greater risk of nuclear weapon use.
    ———-
    More generally all this talk of “terrorists” and “terrorism” is a bit unreal when the biggest world terrorist in recent times is the US Government. This doesn’t make terror groups such al-quaeda any less horrible, just that the terror they practice is chicken feed compared to that of Uncle Sam. 655,000 excess Iraqi deaths at last count: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/10/AR2006101001442.html
    Heres a more recent example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/29/americas-drone-campaign-terror

    ———-
    9/11 was a gift to the US government allowing them to invade two countries in the biggest oil producing part of the world so far with possibly a third on the way. It allowed them to increase oppression against their own dissenting population too with far less opposition than they would otherwise have had. So PZ is right in a way, the terrorists have won – all of them. Thankfully we haven’t arrived at the end of history quite yet so theres still hope humanity can organise itself differently and more co-operatively and relegate terrorism to our species Dark Ages, just as we are doing with religion.

  88. 88
    joed

    @84 dianne
    “Everyone knows about Gandhi, right? Did you know that he was by no means the first person to try to drive the British out of India? There were Indian rebellions throughout the 19th century, many of them violent. But who got the Brits out? The non-violent organizer. Likewise, it was peaceful protest that ended segregation in the US and stopped Nixon from nuking Viet Nam.”
    Dianne
    today gandhi is labeled a terrorist and would be droned or killed.
    MLK today would be given the Julian Assange treatment.
    when i say, “… My point of all this is to say that for the peoples i mentioned and many others throughout the world the u s/nato/israel are creating a 911 for those folks everyday…”
    i am talking about the feeling many amerikans and others had when 911 happened. that is the feeling many people in asia and africa feel as the u s/nato/israel kill and destroy and devistate those peoples every day, day and night constantly for the last 11 years and in iraq the last 20 years. Madeleine Albright(RECPIENT OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S MEDAL JUST LAST NIGHT), when she was asked if the death of half a million iraqi children is worth “it”, Ms. Albright said “YES, WE THINK THE PRICE IS WORTH IT”.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbIX1CP9qr4
    i guess, dianne, i am saying it is a whole new world today.

  89. 89
    Gunboat Diplomat

    @55 joed

    If you think the religious fundamentalists who try and blow up planes and kill civilians are “freedom fighters” you’ve got a more warped view on freedom than George W Bush (and thats saying something). The popularity of these groups may be caused by imperialist oppression generally but their aims of replacing the current system with a theocracy is just as horrifying. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

  90. 90
    nooneinparticular

    “The popularity of these groups may be caused by imperialist oppression generally”

    Wut?

  91. 91
    Weed(less) Monkey

    MLK today would be given the Julian Assange treatment.

    Julian Assange treatment? You mean the part where he was celebrated as a hero, or the one where he’s given over to Swedish law enforcement to stand trial for rape charges?

    If you want an example of persecution say Bradley Manning, not Julian Assange.

  92. 92
    Gunboat Diplomat

    @Weed monkey

    Bradley Manning would be a better example but Julian Assange is clearly being pursued so vigorously because of his political activities with wikileaks. Its part of the reason high profile figures like John Pilger support him and Gareth Peirce represent him.

    The again I’ve no idea what MLK was up to in his personal life so perhaps julian assange would be a more appropriate example…

  93. 93
    Gunboat Diplomat

    @90 nooneinparticular

    Read the guardian article in comment 87 for a specific example. More generally I think monty python said it best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xd_zkMEgkI

  94. 94
    nooneinparticular

    Gunboat

    Oh no question the illegal and murderous drone bullshit will be great for Al Q. recruitment, just as the lunacy of invading and raping Iraq was. But I don’t see how either qualifies as “imperialistic oppression”. Militaristic and terrorist and illegal, by both international and US law yeah, but I guess I was questioning your phrasing. The US is not engaged in “imperialist oppression” in that region now or in the recent past, at least by how I understand that term. The oppression in the mid and near east is coming from the various country’s own governments (yes, I know we give aid to some of them in this) and their respective religious hierarchies.

  95. 95
    Weed(less) Monkey

    Gunboat Diplomat

    Bradley Manning would be a better example but Julian Assange is clearly being pursued so vigorously because of his political activities with wikileaks.

    *shrug*
    Anyone who is running from rape trial should be hunted down vigorously. This is a good start, and hopefully sets an example.

  96. 96
    dianne

    Nuclear weapons were not used in vietnam either by the French or the americans because it would not have changed the outcome of the wars or even individual battles in the wars (eg Dien Bien Phu) and had a serious risk of provoking soviet retaliation or at least increasing the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used against US forces at some point in the future.

    That’s not what Nixon said. Nixon explicitly said that the protests convinced him not to carry out his secret plan to win the Viet Nam war, aka nukes. Of course, this IS Nixon we’re talking about so there’s a reasonable probability that he was lying, but that was partially the basis of my claim.

  97. 97
    illithid

    The USA? You mean the last country in North America and second to last to end slavery in the Americas? How about by not holding the Revolutionary War in the first place and letting England end it many years sooner.

    England? You mean the country where the working class didn’t get the vote until finally in 1918 as a “reward” for winning the war? The country which was about 100 years less enlightened than America in this aspect? The country which was among the snobbiest, snootiest, most class divided, most aristocrat-worshipping countries in the whole world?

  98. 98
    Louis

    Illithid,

    Fuck, you got us.

    But at least we’re not Americans.

    Louis

    P.S. I am not even remotely serious. I am, however, eternally amused about how these daft bloody threads erupt into nationalism of one type or another. Can’t we just all get along? ;-)

  99. 99
    Weed(less) Monkey

    I am, however, eternally amused about how these daft bloody threads erupt into nationalism of one type or another. Can’t we just all get along? ;-)

    Indeed! Especially considering how both of you bullies were against me during WW… which was it? I don’t remember.

  100. 100
    Gunboat Diplomat

    @nooneinparticular #94

    Imperialism in the modern usage of the term doesn’t usually mean direct military occupation but the maintenance of one countries economics political and military dominance over other by a variety of usually indirect means. Embargoes, bribery, weapon sales, constriction of credit by companies, refusal of loans or increasing interest rates financial institutions are just some of the many methods used to effectively control a country from afar and maintain exploitation of its people and resources. Its been a few years since I studied it in detail but theres a ton of literature out there on the subject. The historian EJ Hobsbawm writings would be a good place to start.

  101. 101
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I don’t support a violent response to oppression. I understand the urge and can’t say I’ve never shared it, but it’s not either the morally best or tactically most effective method available.

    Ah yes, tell us how you would have ended slavery in the USA.

    The USA? You mean the last country in North America and second to last to end slavery in the Americas? How about by not holding the Revolutionary War in the first place and letting England end it many years sooner.

    This looks like an admission that your “nonviolent” fantasies can’t deal with real history.

    So, in reality, since the USA did not consent to being ruled by Britain any longer, and did revolt,

    tell us again how you would have ended slavery in the USA. Not the alternate universe colonies of British America, but the actual United States.

    If you can’t deal with that question then you aren’t dealing with reality.

    Bonus, since you prefer make-believe: tell us also why you think the Deep South in British America would not have violently revolted in 1833, or tell us how Britain would have put down that revolt nonviolently.

  102. 102
    nooneinparticular

    Gunboat Diplomacy

    Thanks. That’s a good definition. These kinds of claims get bogged down in all sorts of complicated issues surrounding the motives, history and organization of the terror networks. Al Quaida, for example, has its roots in the Sunni/Shiite schism and disaffection among the poor in the Arabian peninsula and other regions of Islamic influence. The disaffection is fed in part by tribalism, oppressive policies of governments in the region, religious and political opportunists and by resentment of a perceived hegemony by the West (an hegemony of culture if not outright occupation). We (the west) are a focus of their hate not so much because we oppress them directly (though I’ll grant that by our actions we permit and even in some cases enable their governments) but rather because before the disaster that was the Bush regime, we represented an easy target. Their primary goal, as they were unafraid to state, was to re-establish some kind of caliphate, over turning the governments in place in the Arab world, indicating that their objective was nothing more than a garden variety power grab.

    Gads, that got away from me….what I am trying to say is that I think your definition of “imperialist oppression”, while it has some truth to it, is far to pat. I believe it is also not nearly sufficient. The things that drive these people to commit to terror have far more complex causes than “imperialism”.

  103. 103
    Louis

    Weed Monkey,

    We were against you personally? Shit I knew my grip on history wasn’t great but that’s astonishingly bad even for me!

    ;-)

    Louis

  104. 104
    Weed(less) Monkey

    Louis, indeed! Fortunately I was very, very drunk.

  105. 105
    illithid

    P.S. I am not even remotely serious. I am, however, eternally amused about how these daft bloody threads erupt into nationalism of one type or another. Can’t we just all get along? ;-)

    Not nationalism, because I’m English myself. It continues to be an utterly disgusting country, lorded over by a class of ineffectual, Eloi-like aristocrats. Almost everybody who is not in this class, or aspiring to be in it, would agree with me. The lower classes are just as oppressed as ever. Only difference is that now instead of “noble blood” the aristocrats have their “soft skills” and business lingo and politically correct Newspeak.

  106. 106
    Nick Gotts

    dianne,

    Everyone knows about Gandhi, right? Did you know that he was by no means the first person to try to drive the British out of India? There were Indian rebellions throughout the 19th century, many of them violent. But who got the Brits out? The non-violent organizer.

    A simplistic analysis, to say the least. The immediate cause of Indian independence in 1947 was the Labour Party’s victory in the 1945 elections: it had long been committed to Indian independence. Had Churchill won, he’d have tried to hold on, and force would have been both necessary and inevitable. Gandhi, incidentally, urged the British not to resist Hitler.

    So, what about really violent and unpleasant governments like, say, Nazi Germany? Vulnerable to peaceful protest. Denmark, which opposed the occupation peacefully, saved far more people than Poland or France which opposed violently.

    Are you being serious? Because if you are, your willingness to pontificate from a position of utter ignorance is shocking. Nazi attitudes to Denmark, France and Poland were all utterly different. Danes were viewed as fellow-Aryans, to be cajoled into recognising their inner Germanness. Hitler hated the French, but was initially restrained by strategic factors from occupying the whole of France. The Vichy government, which fully controlled much of the country until November 1942, and continued to administer it under Nazi supervision until 1944, enthusiastically joined in rounding up Jews, Communists and other “undesirables” for deportation and murder; and did not fire a shot when its part of France was occupied. The Resistance, despite self-serving myths, was tiny until it was clear that the Germans were going to lose; De Gaulle’s “Free French” were established by force in various French colonies – the replacement of the Vichy government in Syria was an early and crucial British victory. In Poland, the German policy from the start was to exterminate Jews, Communists and intellectuals, and this was entirely unaffected by what the Poles chose to do. Nazi plans in the East as a whole envisaged the death by starvation of perhaps 30 million people – again, irrespective of how those people behaved: the food was wanted to supply Germany and its allies. It was the Red Army that defeated Hitler, nor peaceful protest.

  107. 107
    dianne

    tell us also why you think the Deep South in British America would not have violently revolted in 1833, or tell us how Britain would have put down that revolt nonviolently.

    Bribery worked nicely on the Spanish and Portuguese. The Brits simply paid them a few hundred thousand pounds not to continue the slave trade. I suppose Americans might be more evil and perverted than Europeans, but it might have worked.

    Other American countries simply phased it out. Again, it’s possible that the US is more evil than the rest of the Americas and it wouldn’t have worked there…

    Actually, you’re making your and Joed’s case pretty well. Between the claim that the US couldn’t possibly peacefully settle what every other country in the Americas settled and arguing that violence is the best way to solve things…Maybe there isn’t much for it with the US but to resist violently.

  108. 108
    Louis

    Illithid, #105,

    Far be it from me to come over all patriotic, but I think we have a few things right…or at least less wrong than many other places.

    The peerage/aristocracy is, I agree, not one of them.

    Louis

  109. 109
    Nick Gotts

    It continues to be an utterly disgusting country, lorded over by a class of ineffectual, Eloi-like aristocrats. Almost everybody who is not in this class, or aspiring to be in it, would agree with me. – illithid

    You’re delusional; if you weren’t completely wrong, the Tories could not possibly have come first in the last election. Nor is there anything ineffectual about the British ruling class: if there was, they wouldn’t be the ruling class. Since 1979, they have carried out a very effective roll-back of the concessions wrung out of them in the previous 40 years.

  110. 110
    dianne

    lorded over by a class of ineffectual, Eloi-like aristocrats.

    This can’t be right. It’s been a while since I’ve read Wells, but I’m pretty sure the Eloi were supposed to be good looking.

    (Ducks and runs before louis and illthid can hit back.)

  111. 111
    Nick Gotts

    dianee,

    Bribery worked nicely on the Spanish and Portuguese. The Brits simply paid them a few hundred thousand pounds not to continue the slave trade. I suppose Americans might be more evil and perverted than Europeans, but it might have worked.

    Other American countries simply phased it out. Again, it’s possible that the US is more evil than the rest of the Americas and it wouldn’t have worked there…

    More ignorance. First, you’re not distinguishing between the slave trade (which the British Navy mostly abolished by force – boarding ships and returning the slaves to Africa, mostly dumping them in Sierra Leone) and slavery. Second, slavery in the American south was uniquely profitable, largely due to the invention of the cotton gin in the 1790s. The slave population of the USA grew from 700,000 to nearly 4,000,000 between 1790 and 1860, and slavery expanded westward as fast as the slaveowners could get hold of land. It was this westward expansion that triggered the conflict with the north. There is no reason at all to think that either the slaveowners could have been bought off (how much money do you think 4,000,000 slaves would have cost?), or that slavery would have been “phased out”.

  112. 112
    illithid

    Nazi plans in the East as a whole envisaged the death by starvation of perhaps 30 million people – again, irrespective of how those people behaved: the food was wanted to supply Germany and its allies. It was the Red Army that defeated Hitler, nor peaceful protest.

    It doesn’t matter. Lighten up. To be a card-carrying member of the educated middle class, you need to smile. The Nazis weren’t that bad, it was only Jews that they killed. Jews are white, so they aren’t on the Marginalized Groups list. Fucking Israelis — even though they’re deterred by human shields, whereas Hamas (democratically elected government of the Gaza Strip, dotchyuaknow, whose charter includes a proclamation to kill all Jews, would you believe it) hide behind human shields. Because they know it’s a deterrent or some shit. Whatever. Just as bad as the Nazis, these fucking Israelis. Even though the Palestinians conspired with the Nazis! Hilarious. Let’s give “The Holocaust Industry” a 5/5 rating, because it’s so damn good. Yay! We’re all educated (mainly in result-free subjects like “Philosophy”, but nevermind). Even the very top dogs among us will, at best — when they’re not deflected by duties of teaching students, most of whom will forget everything they learned within a month, — will, at best, I say, produce a “peer reviewed” paper, 99% of which will disappear into a drawer somewhere! It’s really funny if you think about it. But still…we’re all so happy! We get paid much more than most people without having to do anywhere near as much graft as them! It makes us so happy!

    Now you must learn to be non-analytical, you must learn to think happy thoughts. Just for you, I’ll give a working example! We can take in indefinite numbers of immigrants without the job market getting harder, without increasing population density resulting in any negative consequences whatsoever, and without third world cultures, emanating from countries where they stone adulterers to death, posing any serious problems of principle or practice. If anyone disagrees, he’s racist scum (scum, notice my choice of language!) who should be jailed for several months like that guy who made the Twitter post (because freedom of speech has limits — David Irving and Holocaust denial has always made my eyes glaze over, because it was only about the Jews). Yay! This is a “critical thinking community” (because we know from religion that community is the wellspring of critical thinking). Yay! Cheerleaders for Reason!

  113. 113
    dianne

    The slave population of the USA grew from 700,000 to nearly 4,000,000 between 1790 and 1860, and slavery expanded westward as fast as the slaveowners could get hold of land.

    See, that’s what happens when you don’t take care of a problem promptly. Most of the Americas had ended slavery by the early 19th century. Only Brazil and the US continued to have slavery into the mid-19th century.

    But ok, you’ve convinced me. Joed’s right. The only way to oppose oppression is to fight violently and the 911 hijackers were perfectly right by their lights. If only they’d realized that only you white people matter everything would be fine.

  114. 114
    Nick Gotts

    dianne,

    The only way to oppose oppression is to fight violently and the 911 hijackers were perfectly right by their lights.

    1) I neither said nor implied that violence was the only way to fight oppression. Where it works, non-violence is clearly preferable. But there are cases where it doesn’t work.
    2) Of course they were right by their lights. So. fucking. what?

    If only they’d realized that only you white people matter everything would be fine.

    WTF? You’re the one who would have left 4,000,000 black people in slavery rather than fight it. And the fact that you implicitly accuse me of racism because I exposed the fact that you were pontificating on the basis of massive historical ignorance says a lot more about you than about me.

    illithid,
    Since you use the term yourself, I have no hesitation at all in calling you racist scum. Fuck off and die.

  115. 115
    infraredeyes

    The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

    If only someone had explained this concept to Ronald Reagan before he poured all that money into the Afghan jihadi resistance in the 80s.

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