Top Menu Time to profile white men?


(h/t: JD)

The argument being highlighted here is not that we should profile white men, but that profiling, as it exists in this country, targets altogether disproportionately and hypocritically Muslims and people of color, i.e double standards are at work. For some reason, one set of rules applies to marginalized groups and another set of rules to groups in power.

Time to profile white men?

My interview with MSNBC ignites a conservative media firestorm — and exposes America’s dangerous double standard BY 

Yesterday, during a cable news discussion of gun violence and the Newtown school shooting, I dared mention a taboo truism. During a conversation on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” I said that because most of the mass shootings in America come at the hands of white men, there would likely be political opposition to initiatives that propose to use those facts to profile the demographic group to which these killers belong. I suggested that’s the case because as opposed to people of color or, say, Muslims, white men as a subgroup are in such a privileged position in our society that they are the one group that our political system avoids demographically profiling or analytically aggregating in any real way. Indeed, unlike other demographic, white guys as a group are never thought to be an acceptable topic for any kind of critical discussion whatsoever, even when there is ample reason to open up such a discussion.

My comment was in response to U.S. Rep. James Langevin (D) floating the idea of employing the Secret Service for such profiling, and I theorized that because the profiling would inherently target white guys, the political response to such an idea might be similar to the Republican response to the 2009 Homeland Security report looking, in part, at the threat of right-wing terrorism. As you might recall, the same GOP that openly supports profiling — and demonizing— Muslims essentially claimed that the DHS report was unacceptable because its focus on white male terrorist groups allegedly stereotyped (read: offensively profiled) conservatives.

For making this point, I quickly became the day’s villain in the right-wing media. From the Daily Caller, to Fox News, to Breitbart, to Glenn Beck’s the Blaze, to all the right-wing blogs and Twitter feeds that echo those outlets’ agitprop, I was attacked for “injecting divisive racial politics” into the post-Newtown discussion (this is a particularly ironic attack coming from Breitbart – the same website that manufactured the Shirley Sherrod fiasco).

The conservative response to my statement, though, is the real news here.

Let’s review: Any honest observer should be able to admit that if the gunmen in these mass shootings mostly had, say, Muslim names or were mostly, say, African-American men, the country right now wouldn’t be confused about the causes of the violence, and wouldn’t be asking broad questions. There would probably be few queries or calls for reflection, and mostly definitive declarations blaming the bloodshed squarely on Islamic fundamentalism or black nationalism, respectively. Additionally, we would almost certainly hear demands that the government intensify the extant profiling systems already aimed at those groups.

Yet, because the the perpetrators in question in these shootings are white men and not ethnic or religious minorities, nobody is talking about demographic profiling them as a group. The discussion, instead, revolves around everything from gun control, to mental health services, to violence in entertainment — everything, that is, except trying to understanding why the composite of these killers is so similar across so many different massacres. This, even though there are plenty of reasons for that topic to be at least a part of the conversation.

Recounting the truth of these double standards is, of course, boringly mundane, which means my comment on television summarizing them is an equally boring and mundane statement of the obvious. However, as evidenced by the aggressive attempt to turn those comments into controversial headline-grabbing news over the weekend, the conservative movement has exposed its desperation — specifically, its desperation to preserve its White Victimization Mythology.

In this mythology, the white man as a single demographic subgroup can never be seen as a perpetrator and must always be portrayed as the unfairly persecuted scapegoat. In this mythology, to even reference an undeniable truth about how white privilege operates on a political level (in this case, to prevent a government profiling system of potential security threats even though such a system exists for other groups) is to be guilty of both “injecting divisive racial politics” and somehow painting one’s “opponents as racist” — even when nobody called any individual a racist.

In this mythology, in short, to mention truths about societal double standards — truths that are inconvenient or embarrassing to white people — is to be targeted for attack by the right-wing media machine.

Of course, just as I didn’t make such an argument yesterday on MSNBC, I’m not right now arguing for a system of demographically profiling white guys as a means of stopping mass murderers (that’s right, the headline at Beck’s website, the Blaze, is categorically lying by insisting I did make such an argument, when the MSNBC video proves that’s not even close to true). After all, broad demographic profiling is not only grotesquely bigoted in how it unduly stereotypes whole groups, it also doesn’t actually work as a security measure and runs the risk of becoming yet another Big Brother-ish monster (this is especially true when a lawmaker is forwarding the idea of deploying a quasi-military apparatus like the Secret Service).

Additionally, I’m not saying we should avoid the complex discussion about myriad issues (gun control, mental health, violence in Hollywood products, etc.) that we are having in the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy. On the contrary, I believe it is good news that those nuanced conversations — rather than simplistic calls for punitive measures against a demographic group — are able to happen, and it’s particularly good news that they are persisting in the face of pro-gun extremists’ best effort to polarize the conversation.

But the point here is that those tempered and nuanced conversations are only able to happenbecause the demographic at the center of it all is white guys. That is the one group in America that gets to avoid being referred to in aggregate negative terms (and gets to avoid being unduly profiled by this nation’s security apparatus), which means we are defaulting to a much more dispassionate and sane conversation — one that treats the perpetrators as deranged individuals, rather than typical and thus stereotype-justifying representatives of an entire demographic.

While such fair treatment should be the norm for all citizens, the double standard at work makes clear it is still a special privilege for a select white few. That’s the issue at the heart of my comment on MSNBC — and it is a pressing problem no matter how much the conservative media machine wants to pretend it isn’t.

Also Read: Salon’s David Sirota To Don Lemon: If Majority Of Mass Shooters Wasn’t White, ‘Conversation Would Be Much Uglier’ (VIDEO)


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  • Reynardine

    Amazing, how you widdler-wigglers read off the same damned script wherever you feel the least bit criticized. Am I superior to you? Yes, and so is every other decent person.

  • eslaporte

    The American mental health system is dysfunctional and it is real not a medical field as we would think of most medical fields, ex cardiology. In order to identify the “sick” one looks at behaviors and the people acting out behaviors. This requires people to identify who is possibly “sick” based exclusively on behaviors, and when people do, I believe, they fall back on stereotypes and biases related to gender, social class and social role expectations. I also believe that mental health is used more for social control and social role enforcement than “treating the sick.” The medicalization of deviance!

    You may not know this, but a depression recent study found that the homeless have higher rates of depression than the rest of us? Really? Seriously? I would’ve known, but instead addressing the external, social causes of depression (jobs and housing) – let’s give them anti-depression medications! Low income mothers, as we know, probably anxious over a lot of aspects of their and their kids’ lives – but to the mental health system, this is actually and anxiety disorder in need of medical-psychiatric interventions, not social interventions.

    American mental health is also intangible itself with Big Pharma to turn normal depression and anxiety into mental disorders that require medications. This appears to be targeted at women, low income people and the homeless. Young men from financially good backgrounds (Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Seung-Hui Cho) can’t possibly be mentally sick, nope, they’re young men – so if they are a bit weird, make some trouble (boys will be boys), they have good futures ahead – they are not sick! They can’t possible be mentally ill! It’s the homeless and low income mothers who are sick ones!

  • Ilisha

    I don’t read in this article evidence he “hates” white people, but I do sympathize with some of the points you’ve made in your comments. It was not our intention to insult anyone with this post.

  • Ilisha

    Based on your grammar and spelling in your post I would assume that you haven’t.

    English is Géji’s fourth language, and s/he is self taught. How many languages do you speak?

    You’re off on quite a tangent. No one here has said they hate white people, as you suggested in one of your other comments. Here’s something to ponder before you become too outraged: some of us ARE white.

  • Solid Snake

    I never stated any of those things you brought up. If you can demonstrate to me that the treatment that Muslims and Arabs receive in the media, politics, and society in general is equivalent to the treatment of Whites (No double standard) I will retract my previous comment.

  • eslaporte
  • eslaporte

    You really mean Army psychiatrists, don’t you? The use of mental health discharges is quite a problem that is in need of corrections. If someone actually had an Axis II personality disorder, they would not make it very far in the Army.

    People with obsessive-compulsive tendencies actually would do quite well in the military. In fact, many are probably officers. But there is NO Way that someone with a real mental problem would make it far in the Army. I’ve had people who I know who work for the VA. They point to a huge file cabinet and say: “these are all personality disorder discharges, but the number of those with a discharge able disorder i could count on my hand. Others who get this discharge, you can’t find their records.”

    No, actually we, again, need to get the Army out of mental health and mental health out of the Army.

  • eslaporte

    Actually a psychiatrist enters the Army at the rank of major, but it’s also likely they also need to go through officer training too, as medical personal tend to be exempt from many other requirements, like age limits.

    If Major Hasan pissed off another above him (like a lieutenant colonel) then there could have been a phony “personality disorder” discharge issued on Hasan. I really doubt that another Army psychiatrist would have went after another psychiatrist with the “personality disorder” discharge – even if Hasan had an actual personality disorder…
    I have read of a instance where a colonel who was a dentist supervisor got a phony mental health discharge on a subordinate dentist (a major) just for reporting the misuse of dental supplies by his supervisor, the colonel. The phony mental health discharge is also a part of officer politics in the army.

    We should like to see and know how many phony “personality disorder” dischages Major Hasan cooperated with company commanders in his “practice.” We should know – and we should know that if he cooperated LESS in these discharges than his fellow psychiatrists – this would mean that Major Hasan is more normal and ethical than the rest, lol!

  • Reynardine

    Interesting. I have heard about this use of psychiatric discharges for “pre-existing conditions” to deny benefits. Of course, that raises the question as to why our military services are inducting the psychiatrically unfit in the first place.

  • eslaporte

    You really must know about Army psychiatrists, as one who has spent time in the Army herself. It’s a dirty little secret that Army psychiatrists are crazy themselves, as is the common joke among fellow soldiers. Most of their work these days involves helping unethical company commanders give out phony mental health (“personality disorder”) discharges to to “troublesome” soldiers who do such things like ask for transfers out of the unit, work for promotions – up to cover ups for rape and abuse of female soldiers. I have heard stories about especially about soldiers getting these phony discharges for reporting sexual harassment. These days they are giving out phony “personality disorder” discharges for soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress from deployment, as well as the usual crap, and stating the it’s a “preexisting condition” for the main purpose of denying benefits and health care to wounded veterans.

    The actually problem is to get the Army out of mental health and mental health out of the Army!

  • eslaporte

    If we look at the truly dangerous in Western society – it’s not Muslims or Leftists – as the American and Dutch media would like you to believe. I read this article in Dutch off of Krapuul – and this also has implications for the Netherlands. The turning of the Theo van Gogh murder into an “act of terrorism” – but also “an attack on free expression.” Rubbish! At the same time we cannot know everything about the last year of life of Karst Tates – who probably committed the worst act of “terrorism” on Dutch soil in the past ten years – when he rammed his little Honda through a crowd of parade watchers on Koninginnedag, April 30th, 2009 in Appeldorn, an act witnessed by people on live TV, by parade spectators – and by Princess Maxima and Prince William from atop of their open air bus….

    Who the truly dangerous really are in terms of local and national security is never, ever determined by actual security threats, but myths and stereotypes about “The Other.” “Jihad terrorism” is not the threat to either the Netherlands or American on the level that insane young men with guns (go and Google Tristan van der Vlis).

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  • Ilisha

    Do you think David Sirota is a self-hating white guy?

  • Morrigan Nic Cormac

    Did you read the article? The whole article is a racist screed against white males and the “undeniable truth about how white privilege operates on a political level.”

    Of particular note are these two comments, where he is clearly trying to rationalize profiling against white males:

    “…white guys as a group are never thought to be an acceptable topic for any kind of critical discussion whatsoever, even when there is ample reason to open up such a discussion.”

    “…everything, that is, except trying to understanding why the composite of these killers is so similar across so many different massacres. This, even though there are plenty of reasons for that topic to be at least a part of the conversation.”

    The first comment links to an article about “aggrieved entitlement” which has become the latest concept in anti-male bigotry and states that “race, region and religion” are all factors in these killings. Imagine if they said that about killings by Blacks.

    The second quote links to another racist screed blaming whiteness and maleness by noted anti-white male bigot Hugo Schwyzer, who once attempted to murder his girlfriend in a failed murder/suicide attempt. Project much, Hugo?

    Sirota is trying to rationalize and justify profiling against white males while at the same time deflecting the inevitable accusations of hypocrisy by stating that he doesn’t actually support profiling of anybody.

    This kind of double-speak is common to AIPAC-trained monkeys like Sirota, and it is a common ploy of Islamophobes.

    “I am not supporting an attack on Iran, I am just saying there are legitimate reasons for the US and Israel to take harsh measures against a regime that is willing to martyr itself to achieve the destruction of Israel.”

    See how that works? It is easy to find hundreds of examples of this kind of doubleplusgoodspeak in Islamophobic discourse (and indeed, among the more sophisticated white supremacists out there nowadays.)

    The rest of his argument is also not “undeniable truth” but pure bullshit. The FBI and other government agencies do in fact profile white males. In the Washington sniper case, the FBI failed to catch the killers eariler because they were both black, while the FBI’s profiled them as white due to the fact most serial killers are white, despite witness statements to the contrary.

    In the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta, Georgia, a white security guard who discovered the bomb and risked his life to save hundreds of bystanders was later treated as a suspect due to the fact that he matched the profile of the “lone bomber.” Though he wasn’t prosecuted, he did undergo a media crucifixion which include many derogatory and racist comments about him being a fat redneck and “una-Bubba.”

    “That is the one group in America that gets to avoid being referred to in aggregate negative terms”

    Yeah right. He has apparently never read anything on, where they routinely demonize white males in aggregate terms based on any particular white male doing or saying something they find objectionable.

    There have been about 30 school shootings in the last 30 years involving around 22 white males. Anyone who thinks they can draw any conclusions from this small a sample size about white males in general is a racist idiot.

  • Chameleon_X

    To be honest, I am somewhat neutral on this whole issue of gun control, since I see both sides of the argument. Moreover, I think we are arguing about red herrings to a large extent. The root causes of violence and killing are deeper, I think, but it is beyond the scope of this discussion and my time right now to go into it.

    Nevertheless, what I always find funny about these discussions is how much contradiction with fact and logic results when someone asserts that their position on gun control is the correct one. Incidentally, it is also a sure sign that you are dancing around the root cause of a logical dilemma when your arguments cannot avoid contradicting facts and logic; more than likely, you will also end up contradicting yourself.

    For example, you quote the following SCOTUS logic, which, in spite of their legal authority, is nothing but a logical fallacy (i.e., a bald appeal to authority instead of facts and logic). This is supposedly their logic:

    “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

    Well, according to this logic, Gatling guns, rocket launchers and shoulder-fired tactical nuclear missiles should qualify too. All of these are no doubt wonderful options for home defense. So why can’t we have these too according to SCOTUS logic and its version of the second amendment? I should be able to walk into Wal-Mart and pick up any of these along with a packet of M&Ms, especially when I know for a fact some of my neighbors have portable rocket launchers (re: the New Jersey story, where individuals voluntarily turned these in as part of a gun control drive). Why should I not be allowed to match my neighbor’s weaponry and what all those criminals could hit me with?

    As another example, the U.S. Constitution actually qualifies the right to bear arms only as part of a “well regulated militia”. “Regulated” and “militia” clearly imply governmental institutions. In spite of the logical contortions and bald appeals to SCOTUS authority, there really is no way to avoid looking foolish by trying to dance around this wording of the second amendment. But that is not all. The full wording is actually as follows: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Note how it says that this militia and the guns are all “necessary to the security of a free state”. The guns are for the protection of the STATE, not individuals.

    As a third example, you have still not addressed the vast disparity in gun deaths between the U.S. and U.K. You are making the unsupported claim that other deaths are happening instead in the U.K. because of the lack of guns. This is what I call the Kung Fu argument. If someone didn’t have a gun, they would have used their Kung Fu along with whatever other weapon they had to kill the same number of people. It is a foolish claim without facts to back up this cause-effect connection between fewer gun deaths and more deaths by other means.

    But all of this focus on violence counts and even death counts misses one key variable here: TERROR. The difference between gun deaths and other deaths, especially in the U.S. where such powerful weapons are on the street, is the terror that it conjures in the general public. The last I checked, terrorism was a very bad thing in the U.S., so it amazes me that this variable is being so ignored.

    Powerful guns made as easily available as candy breeds a cycle of fear that has no end but mass paranoia, the same paranoia that is clear in your own arguments. Right now, even as I write this, I hear that assault rifles have been selling out so fast that stores can’t get enough resupplies. People are afraid — no, they are terrified. And when there is fear, as Yoda says (thanks to another LW post), there is anger, and when there is anger there is hate — and, I would add, when there is hate, there is violence and death and then terror. We must find a way out of this spiral of terror and death, and I don’t believe the answer is simply more guns or less guns. It goes much deeper than that.

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