Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Real Southers Problem


Here is Obama's TSA nominee Erroll Southers answering a question, in 2008, about which home-grown terror groups we need to be afraid of. Oh, the problems are all going to come from anti-government Christian identity people and folks like that. In the blogosphere, conservatives and libertarians are saying "Yikes! You're saying I might be a terrorist!" Leftist bloggers are saying "You lie!" Christian identity, they point out, refers to a very specific sort of political extremist, and not to the people who stand in line to get Sarah Palin's autograph.

I think they are both missing the real story, which is that this guy is making a prediction, and this prediction, so far, has turned out to be completely wrong. I am no sort of terror alarmist but it is true that we have had some home-grown terror concerns during the last year. By far most of them -- including the Little Rock shooter, the Fort Hood shooter, and the five young men who disappeared and soon popped up in Pakistan -- were not anything like rightwing Christians.

I don't want to be too hard on him for this. People tend to attribute bad moral and psychological traits (like violent and crazy) to people whose political views are opposite theirs. Yes, liberals do it too. They tend to worry about Christian anarchist terrorists, while conservatives worry about leftist and anti-American terrorists. It's just that the conservatives happened to be predicting right in 2008, while Southers was flat-out wrong.

Still, this tendency is a) irrational and b) ignoble. It ought to be resisted. If I thought a TSA nominee were unable to do so, I would vote against him (or her).
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Added later: As I write, it has just been announced that Southers has withdrawn his nomination. The real reason, probably, was an issue that is much more important than the one I posted about here: it was widely suspected that he intended to unionize TSA workers (which was actually an Obama campaign pledge).
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