Friday, November 19, 2010

Nobody Wants to Touch Charles Krauthammer's Junk

Charles Krauthammer, predicable as always, doesn't think it's fair that the TSA might waste its time touching his junk, should he fly the friendly skies:
That riff [about Asians in security lines from the film "Up in the Air"] is a crowd-pleaser because everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives - when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone
There is, of course, some truth to this. When you read about TSA putting a small child through an intensive search every time he flies because his name matches that of somebody associated with a terrorist group, you know something is wrong with the system. But Krauthammer misses the point of searching a three-year-old - it's not because the three-year-old may be smuggling something dangerous, but because a three-year-old could be exploited by an adult. Krauthammer's indignance arises from his presupposition that all we really need to do is screen Arabs and people with Muslim names and let everybody else walk through - instant safety. Except that wouldn't catch a Richard Reid. Or a Jose Padilla. Or a John Walker Lindh.

Nor, for that matter, are Muslims the only terrorists in the world - far from it. Nor, for that matter, is terrorism the only reason to hijack a plane. We didn't roll out airport security due to fear that somebody would try to blow up a plane or use it as a weapon. Early hijackings involved diverting a plane from its intended destination to a new location picked by the hijacker or holding the passengers for ransom. Krauthammer's old enough that he should easily remember, back in the day, how many planes were hijacked to Cuba. And he should be able to recall that the hijackers weren't Muslim.

The idea that racial profiling would be effective is absurd. As the examples previously given indicate, the terrorists already know who gets additional attention and, when possible, try to put somebody on a plane who is as far as possible outside of the profile. If it weren't for the fact that human beings tend to become more stubborn and less interested in dying for a cause as they get older, al-Qaeda and similar outfits probably would be trying to recruit grandmothers into the fold, preferably those with nice, European sounding names. The type of profiling Krauthammer favors is overinclusive - most Arabs and Muslims pose no threat on an aircraft - and underinclusive - many people who do pose a threat, including some known terrorists and al-Qaeda sympathizers, would not fall into the profile, and when available they're the ones most likely to be used by al-Qaeda in a plot against an airplane. And let's not buy into a delusion that just because our present focus is on al-Qaeda, we couldn't be targeted by a different group with a different profile. The Tamil Tigers weren't Muslim, aren't Arab, and used female suicide bombers - and fortunately they didn't target the U.S., but they should serve as a reminder that you shouldn't pretend either that no non-Muslim threat exists or that the status quo will never change.

Am I overanalyzing? Adam Serwer is more succinct:
Conservatives like Krauthammer aren't angry that the TSA is infringing on individual liberty, just that it's infringing on their individual liberty.
In fairness to Krauthammer, though, travelers with physical limitations such as his - people who cannot stand unassisted in the scanner - can apparently look forward to having their junk touched every time they travel.

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