Social Question

josie's avatar

What makes so many people deny the highly probable truth?

Asked by josie (30931points) November 23rd, 2010

One night, you wake and hear raised voices in the apartment next door.
A “domestic disturbance”.
The next morning, you hear that the woman who lives next door was beaten up.
Nobody knows who did it.
But one thing YOU know is that it was probably a guy.
It so often is a guy in such cases, that it is reasonable to suspect that this time it is as well.
The next day, you hear that somebody tried to to set off a bomb on an airplane.
The authorities have a suspect.
You say to your friend “I bet it was a Muslim terrorist”.
Your friend accuses you of unfair racial and cultural bias.
“After all” your friend says, “Timothy McVey was not a Muslim, and he was a terrorist”
But let’s face it. Muslim terrorists love to blow up or crash airplanes because they think the West carries the seed of Satan.
McVey blew up a federal building because he hated the government.
Big difference.
So why are so many people reluctant to face the facts?
Airport security, pat downs, xray scanners and the like are all about Muslim bombers, not mental cripples like Timothy McVey.
And yet, the TSA, and lots of people on Fluther righteously insist that everybody on earth is likely to use an airplane as a vehicle for mass murder.
Even though history and intelligence say otherwise.
Why won’t people admit it?

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30 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Because it gives the green light for people to go on witch hunts and no Muslim would sleep soundly at night, even if they did have a gun under their pillow.

squirbel's avatar

Wow, this is so wrong in so many ways.

squirbel's avatar

Let’s turn this into an if-then fest!

I’ll go first.

“If a White woman was raped, then a Black guy most likely did it.”


josie's avatar

@squirbel I don’t think the data would support that. Unless you listen to guys like David Duke, who is sort of in the same league as Timothy McVey.

iamthemob's avatar

I am ASHAMED that this question is here.

@josie – I’m so tired of this. Where are your statistics? Let me quote some:

Here’s an overview talking about the problem of the Islamophobia – showing that Muslim terrorist attacks on the U.S. account for less than 6% of the total attacks. The 2002–2005 stats from the FBI show how the vast majority of the violent terrorist attacks are overwhelmingly homegrown, Latin American, or based on Judeo-Christian religious fanaticism. This report from CNN discusses the movement in Western Muslim communities to educate themselves and us about the profound damage of radicalized fundamental belief.


I’m done.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I get what you are saying about the recent airplane attacks being done by Muslim extremists, but the moment we say okay, only this group of people has to go through screening, everyone else gets a pass, we open the doors for any other terrorist to do something on a plane.

We know people target planes, so we need to protect the passengers, pilots, and anyone else the best we can. Racial/religious profiling would not fix things.

josie's avatar

@iamthemob I am ASHAMED that this question is here.
Then flag it.
But I won’t deny that I could have missed something. I thought the administration said last weekend that the scanners and pat downs were there as a response to the “panty bomber” attempt last Christmas. Was he Jewish, or Latino. What about the the 9/11 Arab Muslims. Were they actually home grown? Are we going through airport scrutiny because of the Unabomber? Where did I go wrong?

iamthemob's avatar

No statistics from reliable news or government sources?

mistik04's avatar

@iamthemob – GREAT ANSWER… I wish i could click on that 1 000 000 more times!

iamthemob's avatar

@mistik04 – I wish you didn’t have to.

Kardamom's avatar

The fact that some Muslim terrorists did something tragic is truly despicable. But the fact that they are the most likely “suspects” makes it easier for any psycho or sociopathic Tom, Dick or Timothy McVey to pull off something crazy, because most white Americans think that only Muslims do crap like that. Crazy terrorists come in all shapes, sizes and colors and often their motivations are totally different. That is why the task of trying to figure out who is and who isn’t a potential terrorist is so difficult.

squirbel's avatar

Judeo-Christians aren’t Jewish, @josie. They are your everyday Christian. Don’t you know the official name of your religion?

As an aside, @iamthemob ‘s response had many citations, and therefore trumps any question/answer that does not contain sources.

Soubresaut's avatar

My dad was trying to teach me about stereotypes, statistics, racial profiling, and how the three made a nice little package together. (Please no one take this the wrong way, I really disagree with the rest of this paragraph…) “Statistically,” he said, “black people commit more crimes. Despite the social/socioeconomic reasons, despite that it shouldn’t be that way, they do and it is.” Then he continued: “That being said, if I show you two men, one’s black and one’s white, and tell you that one of them commited a crime, you can tell me most likely which one did.”

“No, I can’t.” I said.

“It’s the math, honey. The statistics. Stereotypes are based off of statistcs; don’t fight stereotypes just to fight them.”

“No, I mean I really can’t. You can’t either.” So he let me explain. “You want me to say that it’s more likely the black man. But it’s not true. There’s just two of them, not a whole population. Statistics don’t apply to individuals.
“More useful would be telling me what they’re wearing, or a bit about their personality or what they do. What the crime was, and what their own personal stuggles are. Because when you’re working on a personal level, the persons matter.”

My dad’s a numbers guy. He lives his life by statistics.
The problem is, they’re a self-fulfilling prophecy. You expect a certain outcome, but oh! only most of the time. So whenever what you expect comes true, it’s proving you right. Whenever something happens counter to the norm, it was just the rare exception. Statistically speaking, you’ll never be wrong. Because even when you are, you’re not: it’s just the smaller percentage.

That makes it a very attractive position to take. But practically, not any better. And usually, just irritating to everyone else.
When I get into a turn lane at an intersection, I pick the lane that corresponds to the one I want to be in when I turn. My dad picks the outside of the turn, always, no matter if he’ll have to change lanes soon after, no matter if it’s the longer line by a long shot; because statistically, it’s safer. Neither of us has gotten into an accident. But every time he’s shotgun, he tells me I should do the same, because, statistically speaking, it’s the safer way. But I haven’t gotten into an accident, because I’m a good driver who watches how wide I turn.

Anyway, I’m rambling. My point: statistics, even when they’re real statistics, can’t be applied to specific situations. Only to very general trends.

But you’re going one step further. You’re bypassing the numbers and jumping straight to the stereotypes. The ones my dad tells me came from somewhere.

Yes. They came from people like you, who think gross overgeneralizations will give you a greater chance of being right more often.

You hear, ‘bomb on airplane’ and think Muslim. You hear ‘girl got beaten’ and think of a guy flexing his muscles. I think of all the people who died on that plane, and the girl with the bruises and broken ribs.

So be right-more-often, be never-wrong-the-counterexample’s-just-an-exception. But I’ll take the humanity, thank you.

iamthemob's avatar

@DancingMind – How many threads can you post the above on? It really should be everywhere.

faye's avatar

@DancingMind Great answer. You should become a diplomat!

squirbel's avatar

Good God, @DancingMind. I feel as though I just met my Thought-Soulmate. Were you born in December, by chance?

wundayatta's avatar


“More useful would be telling me what they’re wearing, or a bit about their personality or what they do. What the crime was, and what their own personal stuggles are. Because when you’re working on a personal level, the persons matter.”

Those are called control variables, and they are included in many models of human behavior. They allow you to discover such things as that when you take the impact of poverty and education out, African-Americans are no more likely, or even less likely to commit crimes that white people.

Similarly, statisticians pay a lot of attention to how well their models predict the behavior of individuals. The difference between actual behavior and model-predicted behavior is called a “residual.” It is the amount of behavior of that individual that is unexplained by the model being tested. Statistics do apply to individuals, but if the model only explains 30% of the variation in behavior, you’ve got a lot of room to be wrong.

So your point about treating people as individuals until you actually know what they do or have done, is an important one. But it takes an advanced person to be able to ignore the generalization, because one of the reasons human beings survive is because they create stereotypes. On average, the statistical predictions work. Which is why stereotyping survives. It works.

What we need now is a more sophisticated type of model building, so we don’t condemn broad groups of people in one step. If our models are more sophisticated, we can target much more likely candidates for whatever behavior we are looking for instead of screening them all, which is a waste of time and only makes people angry.

Only138's avatar

Because they’re idiots.

Berserker's avatar

Hear no evil see no evil mentalities are quite popular in modern society, or, at the very best, slingshot em to some other source that has nothing to do with you when you’re eating dinner in the evening and commenting on how much everyone sucks but you.

I agree with your premise. But I gotta say, I certainly don’t agree with the examples you’re using to back up it up with, since just blaming it on men or Muslims highlights exactly what I’m saying lol.

flutherother's avatar

Terrorists look for our weak points. If we only screen Muslims at airports because they are more likely to be terrorists they will find a way to get a non Muslim to carry a bomb on board. And that is a highly probable truth.

jlelandg's avatar

I am ashamed that adults on a website where we have a right of free discourse want to resort to limiting a persons speech when it is not lewd or crude. What’s wrong with asking the question. If I disagree with someones opinion on here I would rather say why I disagree and not have a fit over the questioner asking it. If you want to disagree with the original question, come up with something thoughtful like @DancingMind. Saying that it’s a shame this question is here is a step towards asking to limit someone else’s ability to state idea and is offensive to my sense of America.

iamthemob's avatar

@jlelandg – I can appreciate why you would state that. I’m not sure if you’re aware of the entire story, though.

- This question followed a couple regarding the same topic, most of which were more subtly worded.

- There had been a fully fleshed out discussion regarding the issues surrounding the stereotyping and connection between Muslim populations and terrorism.

- This question was asked as a follow-up, it seemed, when the overall response wasn’t supportive of the idea that “most terrorists are Muslim.”

Personally, at this point, I was fed up. You’ll find the main post here, and the interim posts here, here and a related one here.

I completely agree that @DancingMind mind stated it best. I agreed with that publicly and in PM. However, free discourse requires (1) that we hear things that we find disdainful, even harmful, and (2) those stating those things get to hear our reaction to them.

The irony, of course, is that when you state that you are ashamed of my reaction, you can’t claim that stating your shame is limiting of free speech and offensive to your sense of America. Also, when you say that it’s okay to limit speech when it’s lewd or crude, but not when it’s making statements characterizing an entire group fighting against bias in our country at this point as terrorists, I think you’re privileging decorum over harm.

It’s clear why you see my post as you do. However, realize that this was not “asking the question.” The question was a statement after a series of questions on the same issues, and therefore smacked of agenda to me at the time, knowing the background as I did.

josie's avatar

The West, and/or what they used to call Christendom, has found itself in serious conflict with Muslims since the Berbers under the Umayyad caliphate invaded the Iberian penninsula in the 8th century. The Crusades, the Barbary Pirates (the reason the US became a ,naval power under Jefferson), the Ottoman Empire and the Industrial world’s interest in oil have repeatedly brought the cultures face to face, and rarely in circumstances of mutual appreciation, affection and understanding. The current friction between Islam and the West is just a new act in the same old play.
The fact that some of the actors on the Islamic side are murderously hostile to West, the fact that some elements of the Islamic culture are anethema to the West, and the fact that some effete Westerners are too timid to admit it is not my fault.
It is simply a current and relevent “hot topic”.
Would you rather I asked questions about what car I should buy or what I should name my pet cactus?
And what is that agenda that you are referring to?

iamthemob's avatar

@josie – you know that I’ve responded, strontly, sure, but not like that, on your other threads. It wasn’t appropriate – but, do note, that I was not the first, and that I was not the first to have the impression that the wording was way off base.

It’s completely appropriate to accuse someone who says “I bet it was a Muslim terrorist” of being, not a racist, but a sheep. We have been trained to live under, pardon the pun, a “veil of fear” about “Islamism.” Let’s broaden the perspective:

Since the late part of the 20th century, in Spain and France ETA conducted 36 terrorist attacks. ETA is a Basque separatist group.

In Africa there are many terrorist organisations. But the most notorious is the ‘Lord’s Salvation Army’; a Christian terrorist organisation in Uganda. They train young childrens to commit terrorist attacks. Currently, Ugandan lawmakers are pushing the death penalty for gays.

In Sri Lanka, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam – or Tamil Tigers) is the most notorious. They are experts in suicide bombings and they even train children to take part in suicide bombings, and Hindus (although the battle is more appropriately about traditional territory).

In India majority of the terrorist attacks are talked about the Kashmiri militants. In India there are terrorist organization belonging to almost all different religions. We have Sikh terrorist, the ‘Bhindranwala’ in Punjab. If you go to South Asian Terrorism portal run by Non-Muslims, and if you see the list of terrorist attacks done by all the people, you will find the Muslims in a minority. But that is never highlighted in the media.

On 5 June, 1984, the Indian Security Forces took over the Golden Temple in which 100 people were killed. In retaliation on 31 October, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh security guard. In Tripura there are Christian terrorist organizations called ATTF (All Tripura Tiger Force) and NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura). On the 2 October, 44 Hindus were killed by these Christian terrorists.

In Assam we have ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam). ULFA in the 16 years from 1990 to 2006 has conducted successfully 749 confirmed terrorist attacks. The ULFA will put the Kashmiri militants to shame. But in the newspapers we only hear of Kashmiri militant. Why? The ULFA are trained to kill the Muslims, they are Hindus. How many times do we hear about them?

Maoists in Nepal, in the past 7 years they have conducted 99 terrorist attacks. According to the Indian Government out of 600 districts in India Maoists are present in 150 districts of India. They have done terrorist attacks in one-third part of India.

Muslims founded the first NGO with a stated goal of ending terrorism. Terrorist attacks against the U.S. were not “primarily” Muslim until 2000. The majority of those were in the Middle East – where the U.S. is an occupying power at war, and so it’s fair to call them part of the insurgency. And, considering that we are a military presence, foreign invaders, is there any wonder that there is an increase in activity? Finally, it is 8 times more likely for a Muslim to be the victim of a terrorist attack, and non-Westerners are 38 times more likely to be victims.

And I’ll say, I don’t think you actively have an agenda. But considering how much of this “Muslims are terrorists” theme, and considering that it was a follow up to your hate speech thread, with all pretense dropped, it “smacked of agenda to me.”

Here’s my concern – profiling is, and always will be, a dangerous precedent. I think the new TSA procedures are a joke. I think we’re having our liberties invaded, and I think we’re being scared into a corner about an enemy that is, honestly, a nominal threat considering domestic crime so that it’s easier for those liberties to be invaded. Not suggesting conspiracy…just saying politicians are being politicians.

But this talk is leading to arguments that we should ban the burqa – which I agree with culturally, but legally would be a profound assault on religious freedom. Of course, I’m not trying to say “security bad.” But I want smart security that is reasonably targeted, not something that makes everyone get nekkid and smile for the camera and has a nominal potential increased safety effect.

Phew. Done. Now, I get the concern over radical Islam. However, I feel that we’re focusing to an undue degree on them and ignoring other, more significant threats because of it. Again, FBI stats show that the overwhelming threat seems to be from non-Muslims, and this is true even taking into account only the violent attacks and the threat is less than 1% in Europe.

I hate the idea of political Islam. I really do. I won’t accept it here. However, I also want to protect all of my rights…and considering that most of them are more, in the United States, under attack from conservative Christian right groups as well as violent right-wingers of the more home-grown variety…I see a more insidious threat right here.

iamthemob's avatar

PS – I can’t fully take it back. But, again, I’ll say that this blew up, and that’s unfortunate. I’m sorry about that.

josie's avatar

What reasonable person could argue that terrorism is not committed all over the world? And now that we generally regard most acts of violence and vandalism as terrorism (in an attempt, I believe, to obfuscate the real threat faced by the US and Europe), it has become difficult to talk about the steak and not the peas.
I am not talking about the genus terrorism.
I am not talking about the LTTE, who generally operated on the other side of the earth, and who have not named the likes of you and me as their enemy.
And I am not talking about the Ku Klux Klan, or Timothy McVeigh, or any such people who commit calculated violence, but betray their own sense of shame by trying to get away with it, and usually expose themselves to inevitable justice.
I am talking about a particular species of the genus terrorism.
I am talking about a specific phenomenon.
I am talking about people who believe in the virtue of simultaneous suicide and mass murder of Americans in the name of spiritual virtue.
We are not being scrutinized at the airport to prevent the Klan from lynching black passengers.
The TSA is not looking for members of LTTE who are on their way back to kill Rajiv Ghandi after visiting their cousins in New York City.
It is not relevant, in the context in which I speak, if some Muslims can justify the collateral killing of Shia or Sunni cousins in Iraq as long as they take a few Americans with them.

There are plenty of crazy bomber/murderers on earth (example, McVeigh), and lots of people commit suicide, intending that only they themselves be the victim.

But I am not talking about them.

Am talking about the particular insanity that permits a person to kill themselves, usually with a bomb, with the intent to murder Americans.

I believe that narrows the field quite a bit. And that was my original point.

When we hear about a young person, usually male, who deliberately blows themselves up in order to murder Americans (or Europeans, or Israelis), what is the most likely thing we can conclude about their religious affiliation? And having made that conclusion, who do we think might be more likely to blow up an airplane? Mohammed Atta, or David Duke?
My point and nothing more.
Josie out.

iamthemob's avatar

Fine. I’m telling you that your concern is valid. However, there are terrorist threats against our country the vast majority of which have nothing to do with the religion you are talking about.

So…why focus on it, is what I ask.

jlelandg's avatar

@iamthemob if there was indeed trolling then I can understand the lash out. Doesn’t change my want of a free exchange of ideas. Just be careful in the future. ;)

iamthemob's avatar

@jlelandg – An unnecessary suggestion. And I wouldn’t call this “trolling” because the issue causes general and valid confusion on all sides.

My interest in free speech is profound. The point that you seem to miss in my post is that, although it essentially says that the question is wrong, it is a critique that the position is one where the ideas being spread are supported by bad or incomplete information. The marketplace of ideas, for me, means that all ideas should be introduced – but not all should survive. Where one is particularly virulent, it needs to be called out. Free speech means that you have to listen to bad ideas, but also that the market should recognize bad idea.

Terrorist violence is a terrible thing. We should do everything we can to put an end to it. But let’s make sure we’re not giving up constitutional rights, and let’s be sure we have all the information.

So in the end, it’s not about quashing free speech – it’s about ensuring that a viewpoint that people claim isn’t being expressed is in fact being expressed, and the critique of those claiming that moderate Muslims aren’t speaking up enough and therefore it is proper to claim that the public perception of Muslims is deserved are attempting to deprivilege and silence that voice.

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