Bigotry training: You have to be carefully taught

The Washington Monthly has a hair-raising story by Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze on how “trainers,” mostly paid for from Homeland Security dollars, are indoctrinating local police to fear and hate of Islam and Muslims. Sample quote, from one trainer, a Jordanian-born Christian, speaking to sixty cops in South Florida:

Islam is a highly violent radical religion that mandates that all of the earth must be Muslim

This is an outrage on several obvious levels, none of which require comment here. It’s not quite so obvious how the Feds could arrange to stop paying people to spread Pam Geller-style manure around. One idea would be to contract-out to universities, some of which at least might maintain something approaching academic standards. (But don’t get your hopes too high; just imagine what Liberty University would do, and of course the management of the University of Phoenix wouldn’t recognize an academic standard if it bit them.)

One point the piece doesn’t note: Having gone through this nonsense “training,” the officers will the be able to qualify themselves as “expert witnesses” in court. I’ve heard some astonishingly bad testimony from alleged police drug experts, claiming expertise from “trainings” just like this one. Judges seem quite incurious as to the content of the process that makes someone an “expert,” and it seems to be the convention that lawyers for the other side attack the testimony but not the capacity of the witness to offer an expert view in the first place.

Also remarkable in the story is the failure of any of the hundreds of cops in the room to call “bullsh*t.” But when you think about it, doing so wouldn’t be a good career move, and of course the trainer would be appalled if anyone offered an opposing point of view or asked a challenging question.

That, of course, is one of the differences between training and actual education. Training is, or should be, for skills. Knowledge is something else.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

11 thoughts on “Bigotry training: You have to be carefully taught”

  1. Hmm, why might a Christian from an Arab country have negative views of Muslims?

    From the expose:

    “we found the claim that when the Muslim population of a country exceeds 80 percent, one should expect “state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide.'”

    That’s shocking, there is clearly no empirical support for this from Turkey, Iran, Kosovo, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, or Indonesia/East Timor. Predominantly Muslim countries are invariably safe and welcoming places for religious minorities, as well as centers of science, technology, and liberal culture.

  2. And what, pray tell, does any of that have to do with policing the United States of America? Last time I checked, local cops in South Florida didn’t make foreign policy.

    Perfectly understandable that a Jordanian Christian might have a negative view of Islam, just as a Palestinian Arab might have a negative view about Jews. If Federal money were being spent to hire that Palestinian to “train” police officers to recognize violent Zionists, I’d protest.

  3. United States of America – majority Christian: state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide of Native Americans.
    Germany – majority Christian: state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide of Jews.
    Italy – majority Christian: state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide of Jews.
    Spain – majority Christian: state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide of Jews.
    Russia – majority Christian: state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide of Jews.
    Bosnia – majority Christian: state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide of Muslims.

    I’m sure, ZZ, you will agree that Islamic countries should teach the following to their law enforcement members:

    Christianity is a highly violent radical religion that mandates that all of the earth must be Christian.

  4. Mark, I’ll go you one further, and say that any and all “anti-terrorism” training of local police is a waste of federal money and the time of the local police.

    David, I don’t agree with your assessment of the Bosnian conflict, where all ethnic groups suffered massacres but was a far cry from genocide.

  5. DavidTX, “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” mean the same thing. And, although I am no expert on the conduct of the governments of Italy or Spain during World War II, I believe that you are assuming that they committed genocide solely on the basis of the fact that they fought for the Axis. I believe that Italy did not start to murder its Jews until after it surrendered to the Allies and the Nazis took over; perhaps someone else can enlighten us about Spain.

  6. ‘DavidTX, “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” mean the same thing.’

    Technically incorrect, tho in practice they overlap. For instance, ethnic Germans were expelled from postwar Poland and Czechoslovakia — “some twelve to thirteen million Germans were ‘transferred,’ by far the largest such population movement in European history. The numbers who died en route must have been at least in the hundreds of thousands; some sources put the final tally as high as two million.” Mark Mazower, Dark Continent, at 218. Ethnic cleansing, but not the same as organizing the mass murder of Germans.

  7. Henry, I think DavidTX might have been referring to the events after the Reconquista, where Ferdinand and Isabella and the Catholic Church did their best to kill or expel every last Jew or Muslim from Spain. The Spanish Inquisition was a follow-up to that, trying to figure out which of the Jews or Muslims who had converted to stay in Spain were secret practitioners of their original faiths. Spain, IIRC, was neutral (though fascist) in WWII.

  8. “It’s not quite so obvious how the Feds could arrange to stop paying people”
    What’s so hard about not sending money? Just stop. Abolish the department of Homeland Security. If Schneier recommends against it, I’ll reconsider.

    I thought Bosnia was majority Muslim. Serbia and Croatia are the Christian states it fought with.

  9. The information I could find indicated that Bosnia was about 40% Muslim, with approximately 53% of the remaining divided between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians.

    One man’s genocide and ethnic cleansing is another man’s mere massacre. I suspect there are folks who would impose an equally tendentious definition of religious violence and thus disagree with the characterization of one or more of the examples implicit in your list of Turkey, Iran, Kosovo, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, or Indonesia/East Timor as anything other than mere massacres.

    Even if Italy was less aggressive in their pursuit of Jews during WWII than the Nazis, they are complicit in the Nazi-sponsored Holocaust due to their allegiance and support.

    Spain engaged in ethnic cleansing of Jews in both the New and Old Worlds at various times in proximity to the Inquisition. They also engaged in a form of ethnic cleansing through coerced conversions, essentially depriving indigenous populations of their ethnic heritage in favor of their own religious heritage.

    Ethnic cleansing “is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas. (Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 780)”. Thus, one necessarily commits ethic cleansing if one commits genocide, but one can commit ethic cleansing without committing genocide. They are not, as pointed out, the same thing.

    My characterizations are at least as honest as those regarding Turkey, Iran, Kosovo, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, or Indonesia/East Timor, whether “and” or “or” should be used between the two terms “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” or not.

    The point is, there are plenty of examples of brutal repression and murder of other religious and ethnic groups by Christians going back at least to the Crusades. Is it better that Englishmen traveled away from their own country in order to engage in their official pogroms against Muslims, Jews, and other ethnic and religious groups for the purpose of ethnically cleansing the Holy Land instead of their own?

    And should we mention “witches” too? “Witch-hunts first appeared in large numbers in southern France and Switzerland during the 14th and 15th centuries. The peak years of witch-hunts in southwest Germany were from 1561 to 1670.”

    The use of violence by Christians to punish other religious or ethnic groups or to impose their preferred religious mores upon individuals and populations is legion, including:

    “Serbian rape camps gained notoriety in 1993 when it was reported that the Partizan Sports Complex in the town of Foca in the former Yugoslavia, a detainment center for Bosnian Muslim and Croat women in transit, had served as a rape camp for two months in 1992. The Partizan camp was only one of dozens of Serbian rape camps, which appeared to serve as a systematic means of demoralizing and reducing the population of Muslims and Croats.”

    Are the jihadists setting up rape camps or are rape camps not sufficiently violent to qualify as a rebuttal to the implied claim “[Uniquely,] Islam is a highly violent radical religion that mandates that all of the earth must [adopt their religious principles].”

    To propose that Islam is inherently more violent than Christianity, despite long periods of extraordinarily tolerant Muslim rule within many countries and a history of extreme intolerance by Christians throughout the world and particularly by looking to a cherry-picked snapshot in time and space, is at best intellectual dishonesty and a violent assault on the truth.

    Almost every major religious group has engaged in violent attacks on those who are different and for purposes linked to religion, either by word or intended effect. Muslims as a whole are neither an exception nor exceptionally violent in comparison, even within the strictures of the last few decades, especially considering that the West has worked very hard to keep Muslims poor, uneducated, tortured, and desperate through the support of repressive governments and discriminatory foreign policies. While Christians have generally engaged in violence from a superior social, political, and economic position which leaves no other motive than sport or an arrogant demand for complete dominion over others, much of the violence attributed to Muslims in recent years arises from people in an inferior social, political, and economic position who are fighting for much more than merely power over others, but for their very existence as something other than slaves to white Christians acting on the belief that they are superior to all others.

    Generalities, particularly insidiously dishonest ones, should not be the driving force behind the training of law enforcement officials, whether it be training for combating terrorism or training for combating illegal immigration. We have too much of both and it needs to end before we become what we claim to hate, a society that attacks and condemns others merely for belonging to a particular ethnic or religious group and that uses false generalizations and love of one’s own ethnic and religious values to justify a social, political, and economic war against entire peoples.

  10. I was incorrect to say that ethnic cleansing means genocide. In BLOODLANDS, Timothy Snyder uses the term to refer to mass deportation by Hitler and Stalin of ethnic groups. Although such deportations, of course, resulted in massive numbers of deaths, they would constitute ethnic cleansing even if they had not.

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