Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The benefits of profiling to prevent mass murder

Here's David Gelernter explaining why there's really nothing wrong with targeted profiling (he wrote this in connection with searches on and around the NY subway):

Are we eager enough to prevent the crime in question to stop people (like bulky-backpack wearers or travelers who appear Middle Eastern) who we know might be guilty but almost certainly aren't? Are we willing to impose this inconvenience on many innocent people who fit the profile just to find a few guilty ones? If the goal is to preempt 'ordinary' crimes (say theft or robbery) that hurt only a few individuals, the coldblooded answer is probably no. If the goal is to preempt a terrorist attack that might hurt the whole nation, the answer ought to be yes. Once we've decided to use profiles, we should make them complete. A complete profile is as likely to promote fairness as damage it. If I'm carrying a bulky backpack and you look Middle Eastern, and both items belong in the profile -- why should I be stopped and not you? Equality doesn't mean you get a pass or special privileges just because your skin is dark or you appear Middle Eastern. You might argue that dark-skinned people are a special case, given the way the United States has treated them. I agree -- we have treated them so solicitously, and worked so hard to suppress racial prejudice, that dark-skinned people owe their country the benefit of the doubt. The U.S. doesn't deserve gratitude for not doing wrong. But no nation in history has ever worked harder to correct a fault than the U.S. has to end racial prejudice. We've earned the right to expect everyone who fits a security profile to grin and bear it.
I'll only add -- and I couldn't find authority to support this, just my memory -- that in the wake of 9/11, African-Americans, when surveyed, showed huge levels of support for profiling aimed at young Middle Eastern males boarding airplanes. UPDATE: See this intelligent Neo-Neocon post on the same subject.