Is it racist? We're there!

The Daily Express, that is. 'Terror search fiasco', said yesterday's edition, and:
POLICE chiefs were last night under intense pressure to use racial profiling in the battle to prevent ­further terror strikes.
Hurrah! The tabloid practice of pretending that something they're doing is in fact something general that's happening and they're only reporting on it. Who's putting police chiefs under intense pressure? The Express! I should really produce a cut out and keep Tabloid Bingo card. I will, if I can ever be arsed.

Anyway, here's why the Express says it wants racial profiling to be introduced:
All the suspects in the latest failed attacks are young adults of Asian or Middle Eastern descent. But officers carrying out spot checks at key sites have been told not to target people based on their ethnicity or age.
You'd think the flaming fucking car would tip the police off more than the fact that the drivers were brown, wouldn't you? Jesus wept, this is dumb headed.

The last couple of failed attacks were done by 'young adults of Asian or Middle Eastern descent'. But what about the last successful ones? Let's look at the last five. What joy!

  • January-February 2007. Letter bomb campaign. Perpetrator - Miles Cooper. White dude.
  • 7 July 2007. London bombs. Three perpetrators of Asian or Middle Eastern descent. One of Afro Carribean descent. Whoopsie! I think you just let a terrorist through.
  • 3 August 2001. Last Real IRA bomb in London. Almost certainly white dudes to a man. Very white dudes.
  • 6 May 2001. Another Real IRA attack. See above.
  • 4 March 2001. Real IRA again.
Okay, you might argue that since the peace process in Northern Ireland, we're unlikely to see any Irish Republican attacks again. So what was the last successful bombing campaign before the 4 March 2001 attack?
  • 17 - 30 April 1999. Nail bombings across London. Perpetrator - David Copeland. White dude and far-right extremist nutter. Bizarrely not counted as terrorism. Mattered little to his victims.
The Express also says:
It means searches are unfocused, with even elderly white couples being stopped. The policy has led to accusations that police bosses are more worried about upsetting minority groups than protecting the country.
There it goes again! 'Accusations that the police are worried'? Yeah. Accusations made by the Express.

Still, the paper's main point here is that even elderly white couples are searched. Elderly white people can't be terrorists, right? Maybe not. From yesterday's Guardian, 'BNP men planned bombs for "race war"':
Two British National party members plotted to make bombs in readiness for a "civil war between races", a court was told yesterday. [...]

However, the hoard amassed by Robert Cottage, 49, of Colne, Lancashire, came to light when his wife told her social worker she was scared that Cottage and 62-year-old David Jackson were planning to test chemical weapons in the local countryside.
62 years old. Pretty elderly. Qualifies for a bus pass in London. Oh, and white too.

That this story gets no wide coverage in the national press is nothing short of disgraceful. We've had tons of screaming headlines for days covering arrests of alleged Muslim terrorists who end up having nothing. Here we have a couple of white dudes who actually possess what's been described as the largest haul of explosive chemicals ever found in a UK home, and they're not even arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. There's more on this at Empire Burlesque.

That aside, here we have more examples of people who would be missed if the police used racial profiling and never checked elderly white people. Doesn't matter that they're not officially described as terrorists. I doubt their victims would care, had they managed to set off any bombs.

One frustrated officer last night said: "In these extreme circumstances the rules need to be changed because otherwise we are wasting our resources."
Which officer? Did the Express make him up, or are they just a numpty? There's more from him to come:
He said: "You can only stop a percentage of cars at any one time and once the cars have slowed down to a point where you can see the occupants it would make sense for us to be able to use profiling and stop people based on appearance.

"At the moment we are stopping middle class, white pensioners and while we are searching their vehicle another car with four men of Middle Eastern or Asian appearance goes sailing past towards the airport and we have missed them."
The car that got to Glasgow airport was on fire, for fuck's sake. Do you really need to stop and search a car that's on fire to check if something's wrong? Do you let flaming cars past that are driven by elderly middle class white couples? And as for the middle class, elderly bit - David Jackson is also a dentist. I'm guessing the mystery officer would have done nothing more for him than offer him a light. Except he wouldn't need one if he was driving a flaming car.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: "I agree with him completely. It makes my blood boil. In a nutshell, what police officers are being told is put political correctness above the security of people in this country."
Tory MP Philip Davies would have his own square on the Tabloid Bingo card. Twat.

And still more:
Alan Gordon, vice-chairman of the Police Federation which represents rank and file officers, said: "I have supported the idea of profiling. It seems absolute common sense. [...]

"Some will say it is racist and that the terrorists may well decide to change their profile to overcome that. But it seems ludicrous that we are not allowed to use profiling to target the common risk in this "current climate."
Always, always, always question anything ever that would seem 'absolute common sense'. Always. It's absolute common sense that the world is flat. Anyway, why is it ludicrous? Why? If all an Asian or Middle Eastern terrorist needs to do to get past security is to slap on a bit of make-up and a blonde wig, why is it ludicrous to say that profiling is rubbish because terrorists will change their profile? If you'd been using your profiling, one of the July 7 attackers would have been missed. Providing you hadn't stopped him to see if he'd nicked his car, what with being black and everything.

And more from Officer Numpty:
"We are stopping people we know could not possibly be linked to terrorism but once we have waved their car down we have to treat them according to the rules. That means interviews, searching the car, examining luggage. That can take up to 30 minutes and then there is 30 minutes of paperwork as well.
How do you know the people could not possibly be linked to terrorism? Four words. David Jackson, 62, dentist.

The last word of this article is given over to something sensible, but this is masterful use of the 'Withdrawn!' tactic. The paper has already told us what to think about racial profiling before we get to the reasons why its rubbish.

And rubbish it is. But I'd like to reiterate why and add a couple of things.

1. Not all potential terrorists are of Middle Eastern or Asian descent. One of the 7/7 bombers even wasn't.
2. It's relatively easy for someone of Middle Eastern or Asian descent to change their appearance.
3. It wouldn't be in the realms of impossibility for terrorists to change their MO if they're sure they'll be stopped.
4. St Paul's riots. Bristol, 1980.
5. Brixton riots. London, 1981.
6. Toxteth riots. Liverpool, 1981.

Strawman buster - I am not saying that racial profiling will lead to rioting. I am saying that racial profiling will lead to further feelings of alienation among the section of the population that some terrorist organisations recruit from, which is a bad thing. I am also saying that strains within different sections of the Asian population may also be stretched if every Asian Sikh, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Christian or Atheist is stopped because the police think they might be a Muslim terrorist. Or South American electricians. This will also further alienate the group of people terrorists recruit from. Given that the terrorist recruiters actually target that feeling of alienation and persecution to win converts to their cause, do you think that exacerbating it is wise?

But still - it's something nasty to do to brown people. What can the Express do but support it?


septicisle said...

There's also of course Anthony Garcia, for one to consider. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/guides/457000/457032/html/nn1page9.stm

Most certainly white, and most certainly a terrorist.

jospoortvliet said...

Yet I think the way you portray this is wrong. Would you argue that the chances of an elderly, white couple doing a suicide bombing are equally large as the chances of a 20 year old pakistan guy doing it? Of course not. It's just statistics...

You are right when you say there are problems if you would actually act on this knowledge, and use racial profiling. It would lead to allienation. This, imho, is the only good argument you have, and I think society should think hard about it. I can't really guestimate what the effect would be, eg I'm sure racial profiling would increase efficiency, but is the allienating effect larger and leading to more attacks?

Anyway, based on those two points, a choice should be made. The other politically correct BULL (eg elderly do attacks as well - of course, but to a far lesser extend, and rarely suicide bombing - why not just acknowledge it IS mostly midle-eastern ppl?) won't help anyone.

jospoortvliet said...

BTW my gf just had a good point:

It's not discriminating to say african people have a dark skin. You should however not treat them different because of that.

So acknowledge facts (and yes, statistics are facts too). Then act smart on them.

The right-winged might do and think the wrong thing, but YOU attack them for the wrong reason. African ppl ARE black (most of em anyway). Terrorists ARE often young middle-eastern males. But just that doesn't have to be a reason to do racial profiling, that's sure.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Superstoned: I never argued that there were as many non-Asian and Middle Eastern or elderly potential terrorists as Asian and Middle Eastern ones. I argued that there were some, including one of the 7/7 bombers. I argued that focusing only on Asian and Middle-Eastern looking people would miss these. I still think that. This was only one half of my argument that made up my point number 1 - the other was that terrorist recruiters would choose to use people not of Asian or Middle Eastern appearance.

In short, I think you're attacking a strawman.

Andrew said...

Security expert, Bruce Schneier has covered this argument quite extensively.


If we're going to act on statistics, then we might as well ignore the threat of terrorism. I have a much higher chance of getting runover by a car or bus than ever being injured or killed in a terrorist attack.
I don't think that the dangers of "terrorism" should be ignored, but that it should be acted on revelative to other dangers.

What happened to the British grit to keep calm and carry on?

jospoortvliet said...

@Five Crackers: First, if you focus on middle-eastern ppl, of course you'll miss the other ones. But now you miss almost all off them... And if the terrorists would start trying to get non-middle-eastern ppl to do the suicide attacks, they would have a harder time getting ppl to do it. So that doesn't sound too bad.

@Andrew: As a psychologist, I got a lot of statistics during my study, and I'm a firm believer in acting on it. Thus, dear Andrew, I so agree with you ;-)

So yes, I rather ignore terrorism and do something about car accidents with the same money (or, use it to actually improve the live of those who feel their life sucks that much they consider suicide bombings)...

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Superstoned: That's why it's only one point of a bigger argument I make.


jospoortvliet said...

Hmmmm. Then I'd say skip this argument. eg:

"I agree with him completely. It makes my blood boil. In a nutshell, what police officers are being told is put political correctness above the security of people in this country."

This is simply true. Now if the police wouldn't put political correctness above security, it wouldn't make much of a difference, but that's a whole other thing. I'm very much opposed to political correctness. If black people have less chance on skincancer, feel free to say so. And act on it. And if middle-eastern young male are more likely to be suicide bombers, say so. And act on it.

Of course, those checks are probably pretty useless in the first place, and terrorists will take it into account. So act on that too... But not for the wrong reasons.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

superstoned: Okay, but I didn't argue that we shoudn't use profiling because of political correctness. I gave a list of four practical reasons why we shouldn't.

The Police spokeswoman in the article gave practical reasons too.