victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 10 06:49:40 UTC 2011

AFAIK profiling has two nearly opposite, but convergent meanings. One is the
kind of "profiling" that was the subject of TV show "Profiler"--narrowing
down the profile pattern of the criminal based on the nature of the crime.
This kind of "profiling" is particularly common for serial murderers where
there is a significant body of recurrent evidence that may offer
psychological clues.

The other is the oft-objectionable law enforcement technique of turning
everyone who fits a certain superficial profile as suspects--without
evidence or even probable cause. In fact, they treat the profile alone as if
it were probable cause, which is why this is constitutionally objectionable.

The pilot was not "profiling"--he was simply a bigot. An example of
"profiling based on appearance" would be Providence PD and the FBI pulling
off several Sikhs off an Amtrak train on 9/12/2001. To them, anyone wearing
a turban--and, especially with a "weapon" hanging on his chest--was an evil
Muslim terrorist.


On Mon, May 9, 2011 at 1:46 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at>wrote:

> To me, "profiling" (or "ethnic profiling" as it was originally called for
> about fifteen minutes) is a relatively methodical process (the potential
> perp has X, Y, and Z characteristics, etc., etc., that we got lectured on
> at
> the station house, etc., etc.). In other words, some representative of
> officialdom does it.
> However, in coverage of the current case of two imams who were removed from
> an airliner by the pilot simply for being dressed like imams, CNN explained
> that there's investigation into whether the pair "were the victims of
> profiling based on appearance."
> Not to quibble, but in my mind it would have been "profiling" if the
> airline
> had pulled the men off the plane on the basis of some sort of ambiguous
> evidence. But in fact, airline security had cleared them to board and
> re-cleared them after the pilot had single-handedly booted them off.
> The only rational justification I can imagine for their removal would be if
> the imams, perhaps, had been chuckling on board about blowing up the plane
> with their undetectable explosives. But there seems to have been no
> justification, and only the pilot seems to have been worried about them.
> (Unlike the cabin attendants and the people in the next seats, for ex.)
> So what it all means is that in future Inglish, "profiling" will probably
> come to mean nothing more than "negative stereotyping."  (E.g., "You must
> never profile kids from foreign lands or who dress differently or whose
> sexual orientation some day may not be to Mommy's liking, little Josh.")
> If it doesn't happen, I'll apologize in the 22d century.
> JL

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