Paul R. Brass

Idiot Americans, Idiot Airlines, Homeland Security, Freedom in America,Muslims

January 3, 2009

Tags: IdiotAmericans, IdiotAirlines, HomelandSecurity, FreedominAmerica

Idiot Americans, Idiot Airlines, Homeland Security, and Freedom in America

Comments on “Safest' seat remarks gets Muslim family kicked off plane” from CNN on 2 January 2009

What is one to say about the news on CNN on 2 January 2009 about a family of eight American Muslims being kicked off a plane because they were discussing which were the safest seats on the plane? Questioned by the FBI, they were released, but the airline, some outfit I’ve never heard of, called Air Tran, refused to rebook them for the next available flight after they were released by the FBI.

First point: the ignorance of the average American, living in a state of perpetual fear, with no knowledge either of what a Muslim is, how a plane gets hijacked, or a suicide bombing attack is mounted. The average American apparently thinks that a Muslim family of eight would blow its entire family up, presumably because George Bush told them that these kinds of people hate America and its wonderful values.

Second point: the impunity of the airlines, of which this is obviously only one example. Never mind Muslims, who in America nowadays would dare to say anything on any subject that might lead ignorant passengers and airline staff to begin to worry? Could I, an academic specialist on violence with a fair amount of knowledge of some forms of terrorism based on my own research, dare to talk to a colleague on a plane about my work? And perhaps I should not carry around with me on planes the books I read on the subject. I do have a thick beard also and could be mistaken for a Muslim or just some radical of some sort.

Third point. Who among us dares to even complain or make a fuss about the disgusting, sordid treatment we get on airplanes nowadays? I used to do so whenever I encountered poor service. I have several times in the good old days also been compensated for poor service. I don’t dare to even try now. My point here was confirmed the day after I wrote this in the following statement from Air Tran published by CNN the next day: “The airline said it did not re-book the family only because the security concern had not been resolved, and because one member of the group ‘became irate and made inappropriate comments.’” Evidently it was not sufficient that the FBI itself said there was no security concern about this family. And then, what exactly is an inappropriate comment after what the airline did? I cannot think of a curse of any sort that would not be justified in the circumstances.

Meanwhile, the airline stewardesses and stewards, when they are not selling stuff to us, blasting our ears with messages and noise we do not all want to hear, who do next to nothing for those of us who sit in economy class, sit in the rear of the plane doing crossword puzzles. They hardly get off their rear ends during an entire flight. And I’ve heard the pay is pretty good. And then they all get off their butts at the end of the flight and stand up at the front to smile at us and thank us. One would like to spit in their faces, but that would certainly mean a long jail sentence.

But, let’s get serious now. Let’s consider what this kind of action against a harmless, respectable family of eight means about our security. Think of the amateurishness of the response and the time wasted on the part of our security agents with such things when they could actually be thinking about how actually to deal with the next possible threat and where it might come from. Then multiply this by the time wasted by the enormous staff of Homeland Security with their orange lights and all that childish nonsense. What light did they put on while the family of eight was arrested? Did they get an immediate message saying there was a potential security threat and to raise the alert? And what use are their damned fool security alerts anyway?

The main point here is that, Muslims or not, we are all less free than we have ever been in my lifetime at least. We have to be careful what we say, where we say it, how we say it. Being an American citizen amounts to a lot less than what it did when I grew up, a long time ago. Even in the Joe McCarthy era, or in the anti-Vietnam movement, I never felt threatened by my government, only by the idiot hostile crowds of super-patriotic Americans even though I knew I was being filmed in every march I took and speech I made against that war. I used to also tell the FBI agents who came to question me about students of mine who wanted to go into government service that many of their questions were impertinent or irrelevant. I never even bothered to ask for my records to see what the FBI files say about me.

What happened to these Muslims on Air Tran and what is happening all over America now is that famous knock on the door. It is knocking for us all, not just for hapless Muslim Americans.


  1. July 28, 2011 5:51 PM EDT
    When passions talk, reason is muted. Not only muted, it is whipped and mocked also.For every justice loving human ,it is an insult that somebody because of his religion can get thrown out of aircraft.May god bless us with some understanding for fellow human beings.Amen.
    - sandeep
  2. November 21, 2011 7:06 AM EST
    Dear Prof Paul Brass,

    I have enjoyed reading your books on society and politics of North India.

    I write to you just as I finished reading a book titled, NITISH KUMAR AND THE RISE OF BIHAR (just released by Penguin/Viking India) by eminent journalist Arun Sinha.

    I stayed in Bihar with my husband who is a corporate executive for four years and was an avid observer of the huge social, political and economic transformation taking place in the state.

    The book is a marvellous narrative that interweaves the life story of Nitish Kumar with the political history of Bihar during the past three decades.

    But I think it is the first book that, although written by a journalist, really for the first time tells us the story from below of how the transfer of power from the upper castes to the backward castes took place in Bihar (North India). It can be a very good companion to your books for anyone interested in North India's social and political revolution. It is a very realistic view from the ground level.

    As a fan of yours I would be glad to read your commentary on the very unique view of caste politics and Bihar that the book provides.

    With highest regards

    Yamini Rajsekhara
    New Delhi
    - Yamini Rajsekhara
  3. October 16, 2016 1:16 PM EDT
    The Problem:The ignorance of the average American, living in a state of perpetual fear, with no knowledge either of what a Muslim is, how a plane gets hijacked, or a suicide bombing attack is mounted. The average American apparently thinks that a Muslim family of eight would blow its entire family up, presumably because George Bush told them that these kinds of people hate America and its wonderful values.

    I loved this part more than others ..candid and chiseled
    - Narendra K Arya

Selected Works

An Indian Political Life focuss on the role of Charan Singh in the politics of the period, while providing a broader perspective on the major issues, controveries, and developments of the time.
This collection of essays focus on the various forms of collective violence that have occurred in India during the past six decades, which include riots, pogroms, and genocide.
Explains the persistence of Hindu-Muslim rioting in India.
Case studies of collective violence in the twentieth century.
Second edition, covering Indian politics and political economy from 1947 to 1992.
Comparative and theoretical studies of ethnic groups and nationalities in India and the Soviet Union.
Comparative studies in ethnic conflict and the interaction of ethnic identity and the state.
History and analysis of the politics of language and religious movements in northern India,
The first major study of local politics in post-Independence India.
Articles and Essays
Critique of the Social Sciences in Light of the Works of Nietzsche and Foucault
Focuses on three aspects of the Bihar Famine crisis: the process of defining the situation in Bihar; the rehtoric used in labeling it and in distinguishing it from a "normal" situation; and the responses of the authorities to the crisis.
A consideration of the consequences of curfew restrictions for the populations affected by them and the human rights issues raised by extended and punitive curfew restrictions, with special attention to India.
Discusses the problems of memorialization faced by religious/ethnic communities whose members have been subjected to large-scale, traumatic violence.
Reviews of my book by Thomas Blom Hansen, A. R. Momin, and Roger Petersen, with my response.
Text of article published in the INDIAN JOURNAL OF SECULARISM, Vol. 9 No. 1 (Jan-Mar 2006)
Biographies of Indira Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Vallabhbhai Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Ram Manohar Lohia in the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Text of article published in the ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY (October 30, 2004).
Text of article published in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 27 (No. 3) May 2004, pp. 353-375.
Chapter 1 in Ravinder Kaur (ed.), Religion, Violence and Political Mobilisation in South Asia (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005), pp. 46-68.
Analysis of the 1984 parliamentary election results in Uttar Pradesh
Text of article published in The American Political Science Review, Vol. 62, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), 1174-1191.
Text of article published in Modern Asian Studies, XVIII, No. 1 (February, 1984), 89-118.
Transcript of a discussion with Asghar Ali Engineer at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, Washington, D. C., held on January 12, 2004
Analysis of the killings and destruction in the Indian state of Gujarat after February 27, 2002.
Analysis of Foucault's ideas concerning power, knowledge, governing, and governance.
Conference papers
Prepared for the Panel on “Corruption as Practice and Discourse in India” at the Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 19-22, 2006
Prepared for the Hiroshima Peace Institute Conference on Comparative Research into Genocide and Mass Violence, Hiroshima, Japan, March 22-26, 2004)
Methodology and ideology in the analysis of forms of collective violence