Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Take Chances?

Why not be afraid?

Why not lock up the innocent?

Because, you know, it is much safer -- the police state is -- so long as you're not the subset being policed against against, of course, the Jew or the Muslim or the working class or the socialist or the fruit picker or whoever, and really, come now, what are the odds of that?

We're never the ones the storm troopers come for, are we? It's never our door the sheriff comes banging on in the middle of the night.

Theodore Dalrymple argues here that it only makes sense to distrust the Muslims among us -- to be intolerent.

(This is a growing meme among the Right, by the way, who have been seeking, since well before 9/11, sane reasons to justify their distrust of the Other. The War on Terror has only given them some bigger stick to point with.)

...despite [my] friendly and long-lasting relations with many Muslims, my first reaction on seeing Muslims in the street is mistrust; my prejudice, far from having been inherited or inculcated early in life, developed late in response to events.

The fundamental problem is this: There is an asymmetry between the good that many moderate Muslims can do for Britain and the harm that a few fanatics can do to it. The 1-in-1,000 chance that a man is a murderous fanatic is more important to me than the 999-in-1,000 chance that he is not a murderous fanatic: If, that is, he is not especially valuable or indispensable to me in some way.

And the plain fact of the matter is that British society could get by perfectly well without the contribution even of moderate Muslims.

Dalrymple's arguement here is clear and logical: sure, the Muslim you see might be a hard-working, useful member of society. Odds are (he says -- where he draws this number I don't know -- out of his ass, I suspect) a thousand to one that he is. But one Muslim in a thousand is an Evil Terrorist! (Um, really? One in a thousand? Yikes.) So -- we should lock all Muslims up! Because who wants to take that chance? Really?

And he's not prejudiced! He's just Experienced!

(I heard exactly this argument about black folk, back in the day, in a bar in Fayetteville, Arkansas, from a drunken sorority girl. It did not impress me then either.)

Here's more from Theodore:

A friend who met me at the airport said something that must by now be true of many ordinary British people. Just as we used to wonder, on meeting Germans of a certain age, what they had done during World War II, so she wondered, when she found herself next to a young Muslim on a bus or a train, what he thought of the various bombings perpetrated by his co-religionists and whether he might be a bomber. She found herself looking for the nearest exit, as we are all enjoined to do by flight attendants before the plane takes off, in case of the need for swift exit.

There are reasonable grounds for suspicion, of course. Surveys — for whatever they are worth — show a surprising, and horrifying, degree of sympathy, if not outright support, for the bombers on the part of the young Muslim population of Britain. They show that a large number of Muslims in Britain want the implementation of Sharia law and think that murdering British Jews is justified simply because they are Jews.

"Surveys show" and Theodore's "friend" is a racist and so, therefore, we should -- well, Theodore carefully won't say the words "imprison" or "round up" or "deport" or "progrom." But what does he think he's asking for, with this little essay? He's calling for us to classify people based on their ethnicity, to condemn them for crimes no one has yet committed. He's encouraging his society to pander to its basest instincts. People will rise to the mark you set them. What outcome, exactly, does Theordore expect?

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