I don’t even know where to begin. I really don’t. So, let’s just start at the beginning, shall we?
Last week, Fox News anchor Eric Bolling of Cashin’ In organized what he dubbed was his “most controversial” segment yet: Bolling invited on four guests to build a collective argument asserting that it was “finally” time to institute anti-Muslim profiling. Oh, yeah.
Bolling wasn’t wrong about one thing (in the midst of being wrong about most things): this segment was certainly controversial. A few other words jump to mind, too — like, “underthought”, “ill-advised”, “fact-starved”, “racist”, and “oh dear God, why?”. This segment made headlines this past week because one guest, hedge fund manager and proud Ayn Randian Jonathan Hoenig, declared that it was time to profile Muslims because something-something-Hiroshima-and-Japanese American-internment. Oh, yeah.
And while this might be the most obviously offensive bullshit uttered in this concentrated five minutes of intense stupid, it wasn’t the only offensive bullshit in there. Not by a long shot. No, the whole segment was like a monsoon of offensive bullshit flooding from their mouths: a veritable torrent of racist verbal diarrhea (video after the jump).
In all fairness, I’m underselling what Jonathan Hoenig said about World War II era racial profiling of Japanese Americans. What he actually said was this:
We should have been profiling on September 12, 2001. Let’s take a trip down memory lane here: The last war this country won, we put Japanese-Americans in internment camps, we dropped nuclear bombs on residential city centers. So, yes, profiling would be at least a good start. It’s not on skin color, however, it’s on ideology: Muslim, Islamists, jihadist. That’s a good start but it’s only a start. We need to stop giving Korans to Gitmo prisoners, we need to stop having Ramadan and Iftar celebrain the White House. We need to stop saying the enemy is not Islamic. They are.
In other words, we should profile Muslims because it worked so well for “us” in World War II, when we forcibly imprisoned “them” (Japanese Americans) in domestic concentration camps. “We” won that war, and it only cost “their” freedom, right? Never mind that “we” violated the civil rights of thousands of American citizens based solely on skin colour. Never mind that there has been exactly zero evidence to support a fifth column of disloyal Japanese Americans infiltrating American society, or that forcible imprisonment of Japanese American citizens impacted the outcome of World War II in any way. Jonathan Hoenig uses Japanese American internment to justify his support of anti-Muslim profiling because his “we” doesn’t include either Japanese Americans or Muslim Americans, or the sanctity of their rights.
Now, let’s parse Hoenig’s invocation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Arguably, the dropping of atomic bombs onto two densely populated Japanese cities did, indeed, win World War II for the Allies… by massacring hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians. We’re talking about thousands of non-combatant men, women and children flashburned — some to ash — for the political crime of being Japanese during war-time (this link contains pictures describing the bombing, graphic). So, what Hoenig is really saying is that anti-Muslim and anti-Japanese profiling isn’t just acceptable, it’s actually desirable: if the kind of “profiling” (re: xenophobia) that would lead to the killing of thousands of civilians might also help America win a war, then the potentially violent profiling of civilian non-combatants based on shared race or religious ideology is justified. Where is that in Ayn Rand?
Democratic strategist Jessica Ehrlich attempts to equivocate on the issue (yo, how do you equivocate on whether or not we should engage in racial profiling?!?) arguing that we shouldn’t profile all Muslims. After all, she argues, it’s only “extremist Muslims” who are guilty of terrorist attacks against America. Of course, she fails to point out that the Islamic faith has about as much to do with terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and ISIL as the Christian faith has to do with the Ku Klux Klan: both use tenets of their faith to rationalize heinous acts like violent murder. Yet, all of these organizations are so far removed from the mainstream of these religions as to completely undermine any sort of comparison. ISIL isn’t beheading journalists and aid workers because they are Islamic; ISIL is committing terrorism because they are terrorists.
Jonathan Hoenig seems incapable of parsing this distinction, however. Instead, Hoenig ascribes the violence of Islamic terrorist groups to the general Islamic faith. This might be because Jonathan Hoenig doesn’t believe in extremism. On his website Capitalistpig.com, Hoenig writes:
But as Ayn Rand pointed out, “extremism” is a term which, by itself, has no meaning. To proclaim that any extreme is evil because it is an extreme—to hold the degree of a characteristic, regardless of its nature, as evil—is an absurdity. Its alleged meaning is: Intolerance, hatred, racism, bigotry, crackpot theories, incitement to violence. Its real meaning is: the advocacy of capitalism.
“Are an extreme of health and an extreme of disease equally undesirable? Are extreme intelligence and extreme stupidity—both equally far removed “from the ordinary or average”—equally unworthy? Are extreme honesty and extreme dishonesty equally immoral? Are a man of extreme virtue and a man of extreme depravity equally evil?” Rand asks.
Hoenig believes there is nothing inherently wrong or malevolent about extremism, and that the immorality of the extremist comes from an exaggerated expression of the middle. By that logic, “extremist Muslims” is a non sequitor; Hoenig asserts an Ayn Randian logic that virtually demands that the immorality of the extremist is only a reflection of the same immorality present in the moderate middle, which is how Jonathan Hoenig is left rationalizing profiling of all Muslims. For him, if the extremist ideologue commits a heinous act, it’s a fault with the ideology, not with the extremism.
But, y’know, that’s exactly why Jonathan Hoenig is ass-backwards wrong on this one.
To judge the center by the viewpoints of the fringe would be like judging Christianity by the actions of the Ku Klux Klan; or, alternatively, to judge all libertarians by the racist, pro-mass murder ramblings espoused by Jonathan Hoenig.
The rest of the segment is just as god-awful (although perhaps slightly less sensational) as Jonathan Hoenig’s bizarre invocation of the “success” of Japanese American internment. Conservative commentator Wayne Rogers seems hellbent on defending anti-Muslim racial profiling as equivalent to when police canvass for a suspect based on a given physical description. Someone needs to give Rogers a dictionary, because those two things just aren’t the same.
When police search for a suspect based on a given physical description, they are searching for a specific individual based on available information. Racial profiling is using preconceived biases to harass all people of a certain race based on the assumption of criminality; rather than to look for a specific criminal in the context of a crime, but to simply assume that a person is a criminal because they “look like they might be one”. This is why the fact that Officer Darren Wilson was not aware of Michael Brown’s alleged participation in a shoplifting incident is critical to one’s understanding of the events in Ferguson: Wilson was not searching for a specific criminal, he was most likely racially profiling Brown during a routine jaywalking stop based on the assumption that Brown’s skin meant he was violent and criminal.
The whole segment is just mind-numbingly racist and Islamophobic. Moreover, it advocates a “solution” that experts agree are simply ineffective. As former Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff noted, terrorists aren’t colour-coded for our convenience:
Well, the problem is that the profile many people think they have of what a terrorist is doesn’t fit the reality. Actually, this individual probably does not fit the profile that most people assume is the terrorist who comes from either South Asia or an Arab country. Richard Reid didn’t fit that profile. Some of the bombers or would-be bombers in the plots that were foiled in Great Britain don’t fit the profile. And in fact, one of the things the enemy does is to deliberately recruit people who are Western in background or in appearance, so that they can slip by people who might be stereotyping.111
Racial, and religious, information about terrorists aren’t useful for building profiles to identify potential terrorists, because as selective information, these traits are simply too broad. While 100% of the 9/11 hijackers were Muslim, how many Muslims are potential commercial airplane hijackers?
To use a person’s Islamic faith as information to build an anti-terrorist profile would be as if to notice that 100% of the 9/11 hijackers were also relatively short men with dark hair and eyes, and to advocate profiling all short men with dark hair and eyes as potential terrorists.
It’s worth noting that in New York City, the city’s policy of Stop and Frisk is really unspoken racial profiling against Black men based on the presumption of criminality. Yet, epidermal melanin content is clearly not a good characteristic for judging criminality: between 80-90% of Stop-and-Frisk interactions detains a person who is not found guilty of any crime. Meanwhile, Stop-and-Frisk has also failed to significantly alter the city’s violent crime rate. Because there is nothing inherently violent or immoral about the Quran or the Muslim faith, ideological profiling would fare no better than racial profiling in effectiveness.
In the end, the entire six minutes fails to provide even the most rudimentary of argument in favour of anti-Muslim profiling. Meanwhile, it simply fails to note the documented consequences of anti-Muslim profiling: hate crimes against Muslims and Sikhs have increased 1600% since 9/11. Earlier in the summer, Sandeep Singh was critically injured when he was run over by a truck in a racially motivated hate crime wherein the Sikh man was mistaken for being Muslim American. Last month, one of NYC’s top human rights lawyers was arrested by NYPD for allegedly blocking a sidewalk in an incident that reeks of anti-Asian and anti-Muslim profiling. And in New York City, a conservative activist has been allowed to run profoundly Islamophobic ads (an image of James Foley’s execution over the tagline “Yesterday’s moderate is today’s headline”), over the protests of Muslim American and Sikh American advocacy groups.
So, to answer Eric Bolling’s question: Is it time to profile Muslims? No, absolutely not. It’s time to (once again) call Fox News out for the racist, inflammatory, anti-intellectual trash that it is.