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Picking Sides in She Said/They Said
09/15/2002

Rod Dreher, in NRO's Corner, comments on a TV reporter who just assumed that the Georgia woman who reported the three Muslims must have been "a racist Southern cracker, and that was that." In a gesture of cuts-both-ways fairness, Dreher then admits that he didn't consider the opposite position at first. I considered both — quickly — and came to the same conclusion as Dreher, and I think that the scenarios are such that his assumption is much less "biased" than the TV reporter's.

Scenario 1: A middle class mother, for no reason other than racism, makes up a story and calls the police to make a potentially inflammatory report, giving her correct name in the process. In order to do this, she would have had to take the time to listen in closely enough to figure out that they were headed to Miami and then collect information about their cars (I think she wrote down the plates).

Scenario 2: Three Muslim medical students, traveling cross-country on September 11 become incensed by looks that they receive, or think they receive, in areas where Muslims are rare and decide to play an immature and insensitive prank on the "rubes" in a diner. At the very least, they joke about it among themselves, not considering that anybody can hear them.

Scenario 3: The woman mishears something that the Muslims say (e.g., "if you don't have enough scrubs to bring down, I know somebody who can get you more in Miami") and responds a little extremely based on their appearance.

To be honest, I would have gone with scenario 3 except for three factors. First, the young men didn't claim that it might have happened this way; they went straight to declaring that the woman was a liar. Second, their behavior was apparently such that, combined with a reaction from bomb-sniffing dogs, the police thought it prudent to blow up a backpack and bring in a bomb robot to search their cars (remember that they have no quarrel with the police). Third, they were med students in a southern diner.

Look, I know it's an unfortunate reality, but al Qaeda is a Muslim organization. As the arrests in Buffalo show, that's part of the burden that American Muslims face. It seems to me that, if I were a Muslim traveling in strange areas on that day, I would have gone out of my way to show those around me that I was a friendly non-threat, and I would have done everything I could to defuse the situation with the police, including acceding to a search of my car.

(An update to this entry can be found here.)

Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:51 AM EST



17 comments


TO ALL OF THE PEACE LOVING MUSLIMS LIVING IN AMERICA I WOULD SAY CALM DOWN AND STOP THE DISCRIMINATION B.S. WHY SHOULDNT THEY BE LOOKED AT WITH JAUNDICED EYES ? RACIAL PROFILING ? SO WHAT ? SHOULD THEY BE LOOKING FOR WHITE HAIRED LITTLE OLD LADIES USING WALKERS OR CANES. IF THE AUTHORITIES WERE LOOKING FOR IRISH TERRORISTS I WOULDN`T OBJECT ,FOR A MOMENT, HAD THEY STOPPED THIS WHITE HAIRED, BLUE EYED MIDDLE AGED IRISH AMERICAN . I WOULD FEEL INSTEAD, GRATEFULL THAT THEY WERE DOING A THOROUGH JOB. WHEN WILL AMERICANS AWAKEN AND STOP THIS P.C. NONSENSE. DO WE WANT TO STOP TERROR OR DON`T WE ? IT`S TIME TO BEGIN USING COMMON SENSE RATHER THAN CONCERNING OURSELVES WITH HURTING THE FEELINGS OF MUSLIMS IN THIS COUNTRY. LET THE SENSITVE MUSLIMS STOP CELEBRATING THE DESTRUCTION OF OVER 3000 LIVES AND THE TWIN TOWERS AND PENTAGON. LET THEM ASSIST IN CAPTURING MORE TERRORIST CELLS IN AMERICA AND ELSEWHERE AND STOP SENDING MONEY TO THE BIN LADENS THROUGH PHONEY ARAB CHARITIES. THEY ARE AFFRAID OF ARAB RETALIATION ? TOO BAD, THEY BETTER CHOOSE WHOSE SIDE THEY WANT TO BE ON AND THEN ACT ACCORDINGLY.THE AMERICAN MUSLIM HAS BEEN TOO QUIET AND TOO SLOW TO ACT AGAINST THEIR OWN KNOWN TERRORISTS. QUIT BITCHING ABOUT AMERICAN TACTICS AND THEN MAYBE THE DIRTY LOOKS WILL SUBSIDE BUT IF YOUR STILL HURT OR BOTHERED YOU CAN ALWAYS LEAVE AND GO BACK TO YOUR BEAUTIFUL COUNTRIES THAT WOULDN`T EVEN EXIST IF IT WEREN`T FOR THE GOOD OL` U.S.A.

jack loonie @ 09/17/2002 03:23 PM EST


I completely agree with Justin. These Med students are bright. It was a prank they played and it blew up. Now they are being weasels about it. I guess they have to be, the alternative is prosecution. But it teaches them a good lesson -- life ain't fair and getting mad about won't change things. Also, they were apparently sore about being looked at suspiciously -- guess what, when I walk around Harlem (I'm white) I get suspicious looks, but I'm not complaining. It goes with the territory -- it's human nature. Likewise, these Med students if anything should be a little more sensitive to the feelings of their FELLOW AMERICANS on a painful day that Sept 11th was. Stop being so damn self-centered!!

Mike @ 09/17/2002 04:11 PM EST


Since it's been repeatedly mentioned that they were medical students, it's worth recalling that med students have had a well justified reputation for having twisted and morbid senses of humor for centuries, for as long as there have BEEN med students. It's an understandible defense mechanism, I suppose, as you're working routinely with dead bodies. But that makes Scenario 2 awfully probable whether they'd been Muslims or not.

Steve @ 09/17/2002 05:52 PM EST


Scenario 4 - Three muslims, with anti-American plots, are loud enough to be overheard planning a terror attack in a diner. They get reported and tracked down, but not before they unload whatever explosives they had. The residue of those explosives, however, causes not one but TWO bomb dogs to "hit" upon the car. Since the police were unable to catch them with evidence, the muslims turn to their favorite cry, "RACISIM!"

Doubtfull, but possible.

Dave @ 09/17/2002 06:31 PM EST


Three muslims, with anti-American plots, are loud enough to be overheard planning a terror attack in a diner. [...] Doubtfull, but possible.

As Keith Olbermann points out, "In English?"

alkali @ 09/17/2002 06:37 PM EST


Scenario 5: "jack loonie" learns how to use his Caps Lock key, causing a rift in the space-time continuum that leads to the annihilation of everything in the universe with the possible exception of Hostess Twinkies.

Kevin McGehee @ 09/17/2002 06:39 PM EST


Did I miss something? It seems to me that the worst that happened to these three young men was that they were detained for a day and questioned - then put on television - and then went about their lives. While I understand that having to spend any time at all with television reporters is, well, just icky and a serious threat to ones intellectual powers, I fail to see how these three guys were seriously wronged. Were they physically hurt? Did the police call them ugly names or something? I don't understand. I have had to deal with much worse inconveniences in my life, through no fault of my own, and I did so without complaining. Unless someone can explain what was so terrible about the police responding to what must have seemed a credible allegation to them, questioning the suspects and then releasing them, I think these guys are just a bunch of whiners.

Mickey @ 09/17/2002 06:40 PM EST


As someone who knows how medical students think, and how sophisticated persons traveling through the rural southern US think, I vote for scenario 2.

These young men were in a belligerent mood, and let their resentment get the better of them. Had they reacted just a bit more belligerently, they might have been shot.

One hopes that if they ever become physicians, their judgment will improve significantly.

Rene Buchard @ 09/17/2002 06:45 PM EST


Eunice Stone has been "profiled' as a dumb, racist hick simply because she's a white woman living in the South. Her lawyer says she comes from a multi-cultural family that includes Middle Easterners.

Either she misheard an innocent remark, as the med students belatedly claim, or she correctly heard a tasteless joke. She told the police when she called it in that her son had thought they were joking, which suggests the latter.

Joanne Jacobs @ 09/17/2002 08:04 PM EST


BTW, Mickey, the repercussions for these three are turning out to be a bit more serious. At latest report, the medical school they were enrolled in has made it clear it doesn't want them back, that they can find someplace else to pursue their MDs. (After this, where can they go?, one wonders.) Hundreds of e-mails to the dean, some threatening, have caused a bit of nervousness, it seems. It would have been a bit more seemly to have waited until the authorities had decided about pressing charges or not, I think, but since when were college deans known for courage in the face of popular or political pressure? Not in my experience.

Steve @ 09/17/2002 08:24 PM EST


Isn't immediately calling an accuser a liar something that's right out of the Al-Qaida playbook?

Justin Case @ 09/17/2002 09:30 PM EST


Steve,

I haven't seen anything that would indicate that their school has booted them. On Monday, they told Larry King:

The Miami hospital where they were to have interned has canceled their internships. They will return to their school, Ross Medical School, on the Caribbean island of Dominica to discuss future internships, Gheith said.

Justin Katz @ 09/17/2002 10:52 PM EST


"She lied!!!!" becomes "She misheard and we wish her well in the hospital."

How kind of them.

alkali - Atta had no problem tipping people off in English.

Henry Hanks @ 09/18/2002 01:25 AM EST


I live in Calhoun, Georgia, and have eaten frequently in our Shoney's. Frankly, we're not convinced yet that the three ididots aren't terrorists, and they could count themselves lucky to have been on their way, rather than apprehended by our local authorities to begin with. Given the distain much of Islam holds for women -- and you find very few men eating at Shoney's mid-morning, I have no problem belieivng they decided to joke in English with only women around.

Dave @ 09/18/2002 06:23 AM EST


Very intelligent posts. While I think Scenario 2 is still most likely, yes, they still could be terrorists. They were very calm and crisp in their explanations. But at least one of the men's dress tips me that they aren't -- he stands out loudly as a Muslim. If you remember photos of Atta on 11 Sept, he looked like dot.comer on business travel with his blue button down and slacks.

Mike @ 09/18/2002 10:33 AM EST


Three wise asses from a second rate med school. Sure, they shot their mouths off. And they got what they had coming.

So what WAS in that backpack that the police blew up? And... how come various news reports denied that it occurred? I watched it happen on Fox News.

Chuck @ 09/18/2002 11:24 AM EST


Instead of 'the muslims' or 'middle eastern looking' or 'muslim males' I think the phrase you're looking for is 'American citizen'. It seems to me that their biggest crime is that they're too uppity for some people's taste. They won't bow and scrape, won't apologize constantly to strangers for 9/11, because they happen to look different. Well of all days, why don't they show a little deference today; well they probably been eye-balled pretty good for a year now and it gets pretty old.

I used to walk at night, and occasionally I'd overtake a female walker. I thought, well, I don't want to freak her out, so instead of passing her I'll just cross the street. But after a while, you think, I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I have to cross the street? If she's afraid she can cross the street. You can't control how other people think of you, you just live your life and hope that the phrase 'all men are created equal' means something.

cynical joe @ 09/21/2002 05:00 AM EST