Monday, 21 August 2006

Passenger revolt

British airline passengers in Malaga refused to board an airplane, and those onboard left the plane after two young men of "Asian" (Pakistani or Arabic) appearance raised suspicions.

My first reaction when reading the report was to shake my head at how silly and panicky - and racist - people could be. Until I got to the part about the men's behaviour.
Passengers noticed that, despite the heat, the pair were wearing leather jackets and thick jumpers (sweaters) and were regularly checking their watches.

At that point, it started sounding considerably more reasonable. And then it raised the inevitable question: Why was it the passengers who noticed and not airline personnel? Isn't there some mechanism in place by which boarding personnel can discreetly contact security agents? If not, there should be.

As it turns out, the two young men were cooperative, nothing was found either on them or on the plane and everybody got home safely in the end. So all indications are that the passengers' fears were unjustified.

However, it's obvious that they didn't trust the security measures already in place. There's been a great deal of discussion on the merits and dangers of racial profiling, with many people pointing out that behavioural profiling is more effective. Perhaps if passengers knew that such measures were in place, they would be less inclined to suspect everyone of Middle Eastern appearance, knowing that security personnel had already checked out anyone behaving oddly. This would work to the benefit of young Middle Eastern men as much as anybody, because they would be much less likely to be subjected to this kind of public suspicion. Behavioural profiling would also be much less controversial.

Hat tip to the Glittering Eye.

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Anonymous said...

I tend to think that fear makes people react in ways they normally wouldn't. In those cases it's not racism or any such thing. People read the newspaper, watch the news on the television and if the news is blown out of proportion, well you can just imagine how people will react. So I suppose I can't blame people for (over)reacting if the news feeds them terror and points to a certain group of people... Thank God I stopped watching television years ago :) I think I watch about 1 hour a year...and if that...LOL...

Janet said...

It's even harder to blame them when you keep in mind that at least one terrorist (Ahmed Ressam) was caught because of his rather strange behaviour at a border crossing. And the 9/11 terrorists could have been caught if the crop dusting companies who thought their behaviour bizarre had reported them.

I do agree that less TV promotes independent thinking, but I do like to get the news in. Canadian news coverage doesn't lean as hard in the "true crime" sensationalistic direction, so it's a little easier to take.


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