»  National Review Online

November 25th, 2002

  Issue Snobbery


Off to Toronto to tape a TV panel discussion on racial profiling. Racial Profiling! Whatever happened to racial profiling? I felt a bit as though I had been asked into a debate about the Missile Gap, or Prohibition. I mean, racial profiling is so not a current issue.

That is the case, at any rate, here in the U.S.A. Sitting in that studio up there in the Friendly Giant to Our North, listening to a bunch of Canadians sounding off about racial profiling, I had to work hard to restrain myself from slipping into a frame of mind that has no name, but which for the purposes of this piece I shall call "issue snobbery."  When you go amongst foreigners, or read their commentaries, you realise just how far ahead of the world America is. People and governments everywhere are struggling with, and locked in earnest debate about, matters we thrashed out a year, or five years, or ten years ago. For an excellent example of what I mean, see Julia Magnet's piece in the Daily Telegraph about crime in London. In a nutshell: London today is where New York City was ten years ago, before the great Giuliani reforms slashed the crime rate. All that sappy "root-causes" gibberish that even American liberals don't believe in any more, is the current dogma over in Blairistan, with the consequences every American over 30 is perfectly familiar with. A couple of days before that, the same newspaper ran an even more telling piece by Stephen Robinson, arguing that enthusiasm for PC is actually ebbing now in the USA, while in Britain the horrid tide, bearing with it all the suffocating jargon of thought control ("diversity,"  "inappropriate,"  etc.) is still in full flood. America today, the world tomorrow. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind foreigners — was one myself until a few months ago, in fact — but they can be so terribly … provincial.

The reason I got invited up there to the land of the moose and the Mounties was that I am the guy who favors racial profiling. When a TV producer wants to put on one of these panel discussions, he aims to get all points of view represented. Now, finding people who disapprove of racial profiling is a no-brainer. Pretty much any black person (with a few honorable exceptions like Alan Keyes), any university professor in the soft sciences, any representative of a Muslim- or Arab-American (or in this case, -Canadian) lobby, will be glad to oblige. Finding someone willing to give a spirited defense of racial profiling is another matter. No politician will do it, nor will anyone whose job depends on politicians — a police chief, for instance. Those folk all know that to say anything on this subject other than the cant phrases approved by PC Central, is a career-killer. There are plenty of us on the right wing of opinion jounalism willing to fill the slot, but TV producers swim only in the warm, familiar waters of mainstream liberalism, and do not even know that outlets like NRO or FrontPage exist. Faced with the task of tracking down a pro-racial profiler, a TV producer — more likely, his research assistant, to whom he has handed off the task — does the obvious thing: he googles it. And what do you get when you google it? You get me, me, and me.

Hey, I don't mind. It's a bit of pocket money, feeds my vanity — which, God knows, needs some nourishment — and lets me bask, at least for an hour or so, in the illusion that I am up there with the big boys, the real talking heads. Plus, I get to do some modest networking with the media tribes. So there I was in a studio, in the "hot seat" at one of those round desks, up against three anti-profilers: a professor of criminology from some Canadian university, the executive director of CAIR-CAN (that is, the Canadian chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations), and a black comedian named Kenny, who was clever and funny on every topic except the one under discussion. (Sample: when I mentioned criminal activity, he quipped: "Oh, you mean like Enron and WorldCom?"  Ha ha ha ha!) There was a terrifically professional moderator — I don't think we had a millisecond of dead air, though since it was "live to tape"  (come on, let me flash a little media jargon) it wouldn't have mattered — and a non-participating studio audience whose mean age seemed to be around 15, and who laughed at Kenny's political non-jokes. Funny people, Canadians. And, yes!, they really do say "oot" and "aboot."

It all went very well. No fights broke out, everybody got to say what he wanted to say, and nobody's mind was changed by so much as a millimeter. The academic talked about his research, which is the only thing academics really care to talk about, the comic cracked lame jokes, and the CAIR guy told us how angry the people in his "community" were. It was all so genteel, I am afraid I was seduced into blandness myself, and did not state any of my more controversial positions, for example:

In any case, the Canadians are, as I started out by observing, way behind the curve. In part this is because they don't have a crime problem, nor a terrorist problem. Talking to the criminology professor in the green room, he said that Toronto has a homicide rate of only 1 per 100,000. I didn't believe him, though I was too polite to say so. Nowhere has a homicide rate of 1, I thought. New York City is around 17; Washington DC is nearly 70! (The overall US rate is 6. London's rate is about 2, but note that homicide is practically the only crime for which their rate is lower than ours. For more on this, see the Julia Magnet piece I linked to up above.) The guy was right, though; I googled it. And of course, no airliners have been flown into important Canadian buildings recently.

America today, the world tomorrow. This is the place where things start first and end first. This is the great laboratory; this is where stuff happens. I enjoyed my trip to Canada. Everyone was friendly and charming. The CAIR guy and I exchanged cards after the taping — I hope he got home safely. Toronto is obviously a pleasant place to live. All things considered, though, I'll take the USA, double-digit homicide rates and all. GIs in Vietnam used to refer to America as "the real world."  That's what we are, that's what I mean: the real world. The rest of them catch up with us eventually, of course; but by that time, we are doing something else.