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Profiling, Politics and Political Correctness
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 8/31/06

The civil rights and women’s liberation movements in America gave birth to a wave of political correctness and revisionism, demonstrating that even good causes can produce some unfortunate consequences. Political correctness was nurtured on university campuses until it grew into a cause of its own, its practitioners striving to outdo each other in applying it to any speech and behavior. Eventually, it got out of control, spreading to Europe. It inspired some truly ridiculous notions of proper speech and behavior, distorting the way we used to interact and communicate with each other.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

In the process, candor and honesty often gave way to cautious, sanitized speech, carefully edited to avoid the possibility of offending any member of a growing list of minority, disadvantaged or under-appreciated groups. The requirement for diversity and inclusion became paramount. Terms had to be modified to become gender-neutral. Textbooks and prayers had to be re-written less someone feel slighted, excluded or, worst of all, suffer a loss of self esteem. Publishers made millions reprinting textbooks to include lots of pictures demonstrating ideal racial, ethnic and gender balance but often having little relevance to the instructional purpose or even to the context. Sexual preference had to be dealt with in such a way as to portray alternative sexual lifestyles and families headed by same sex partners as wholesome and normal.

Quotas, official or informal, often determined who got hired, fired or admitted to college. And as often as rules prohibiting quotas were instituted, ways of circumventing them were improvised. The freedom of expression that liberals on campus profess to so diligently defend probably suffered more from political correctness than from any previous assault on free speech.

But as extreme and hypocritical as this obsession with political correctness has been, we could still laugh at its excesses and make jokes about the PC police. After all, lives were not at stake. All that should have changed with 9/11 and the war launched by Islamic terrorists against America and the west. When lives are in the balance, personal sensitivities must give way to national security and the safety of all Americans and the practice of political correctness must be replaced by the application of probability and statistics.

Which brings us finally to the subject of profiling, a practice particularly despised by the PC fanatics. Despised or not, it is common practice in the business world. Lenders and insurers use it all the time. When resources are limited, there is often little choice and when it comes to screening airline passengers and their luggage, resources are certainly limited. We need to focus our efforts, therefore, on that portion of the population that presents the greatest risk. Elderly women, disabled persons, Japanese businessmen, Native Americans, nuns, and pre-pubescent children, to provide only a few random examples, are not very likely to be among that high risk population. The idea that they should be the object of as much scrutiny as young Arab males for the sake of political correctness is more than just ludicrous. Considering what is at stake, it is a dangerous waste of scarce resources that must be optimized in the interest of public safety.

Opponents of profiling argue that focusing on ethnic or religious groups is not only unfair to the vast majority of their members that pose no security risk, but makes us vulnerable to surprise. The fairness argument, however, must never trump national security and the safety of Americans. There is simply no argument here. Arab and Muslim resentment of profiling should be directed at those who wish to kill us in the name of God, not authorities who should be trying by any means to prevent it. They have a point, however, in warning about our vulnerability to surprise. We should never assume that future terrorists will fit the same profile and some random screening of all population groups should continue.

All of the approximately twenty recent major terrorist attacks against Americans and Europeans thus far have been perpetrated by Arab Muslim men, mostly between the ages of 18 and 35. That’s reason enough to focus our efforts on this population group until we have more effective screening methods at our disposal. Even European authorities are practicing profiling. More importantly, they are paying far more attention to monitoring behavior than we are. Such methods offer far more promise than simple search procedures.

It will probably always be possible to figure out some way to get dangerous material aboard aircraft. There are, on the other hand, highly effective and sophisticated methods for monitoring suspicious behavior but they will require substantially more training than our screeners currently are receiving. Meanwhile, we need to emphasize probability and statistics and de-emphasize political correctness before it gets more of us killed. CRO

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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