Yes, the law DOES apply to middle-class White people

This past week or so, there have been two major news stories in the UK about men arrested for saying things on the Internet that made a strong suggestion of violence that may not have been meant, but because of the political climate were taken very seriously indeed. One was a man who tweeted, while being delayed for a flight at Doncaster airport, that he would blow the airport sky-high if they didn’t sort things out, and has lost his appeal against conviction; the other was a Tory councillor who tweeted, “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really”. He was arrested after Alibhai-Brown complained, and has been bailed. (More: Digital Nomad.)

I’ve written about the Doncaster tweet before. In both cases, it’s arguable that the content did not justify the authors being arrested, since terrorist attacks on airports (let alone aeroplanes) do not generally come from dissatisfied customers but from politically-motivated terrorists, and a single person cannot stone someone to death: it takes a crowd to do that. Still, if a dissatisfied customer threatened to burn a restaurant down, that would be taken every bit as seriously as this, if not more so. It is only to be expected that threats to bomb airports are taken extremely seriously, because there have been attacks, and attempted attacks, on planes in the very recent past, and unlike in a train or car accident, if one blows up in mid-air, you have no chance. People are just that much more nervous about threats to air safety.

This is only the latest in a long line of incidents in which there is outrage at a law which, supposedly, should be getting used to keep “others”, be they Muslims, young Black men or “chavs”, in line being applied to middle-class white people. A few years ago, a commenter noted on the blog Samizdata that there was a tendency for well-to-do white women to run to the media with tales of outrage because they were arrested and put in a cell overnight for knowingly breaking the law, as if the law only applied to lesser mortals. The same was true of the outrage about the white British man who could not bring his 19-year-old white Canadian wife into this country, a law clamoured for by the anti-immigration lobby as a way of eliminating the Asian practice of bringing in young wives from “the village back home”; if the bride had come from a poorer country and had not been white, there would have been no such outrage even if she and the husband were well-educated.

A similar attitude can be found in some of the protests against intrusive airport security, such as the “naked body scanners”. I recently saw an article on the right-wing news website WorldNet Daily complaining about the scans in the USA, and two of those who complained mentioned that they were white or “as American looking as apple-pie”, as if that should excuse them from the same level of security as everyone else. What isn’t said is that it’s quite OK for this kind of harassment to take place when those travelling are Muslims, or have names that look like Muslim names (because of terrorism), or Hispanic or Black (because of drugs etc.), but perish the thought that someone who looks like an American goes through the same thing. Of course, Timothy McVeigh did not look or sound like a Muslim, nor did the Unabomber.

The article does mention that staff operating scanners in Nigeria had been reported as using them for what is essentially sexual harassment of passengers (who are mostly black, obviously), but the article clearly is not objecting to the sexual harassment of passengers in general, only when it’s white people, because white people are obviously not criminals or terrorists, an assumption that history does not bear out. They should accept that the law applies to everyone and exists to protect everyone and assumes nothing about what the threat looks like or where it comes from (that’s the theory, anyway), and if they do not like it, they should campaign to make it fair for everyone, not just exempt themselves by saying that it should apply only to everyone but them.

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