Do you remember Saadiq Long? He’s the 10-year US Air Force veteran who lives in Qatar with his wife and daughter. In late 2012, his mother was very ill, but when he tried to fly home, he found he was on the no-fly list. Eventually, the government gave him a waver, and he made it to the US. But two weeks later, when he tried to return, he couldn’t, because he was still on the no-fly list. Eventually, he had to take a bus to Mexico and somehow get home from there. He was something of a cause célèbre on the left because this was a clear example of the ridiculousness of the no-fly list.
So you can imagine the glee among the Islamaphobes when conservative PJ Media “broke” the story, MSNBC’s “No-Fly List Is Islamophobia” Poster Boy Arrested in Turkey as Part of ISIS Cell. There was just one problem: it isn’t true. As Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain noted, “The story is entirely false: a fabrication.” This is just another segment of the ongoing “Saadiq Long is on the no-fly list” saga. He and his wife and daughter (both of whom are also on the no-fly list) were visiting Turkey, because they are looking at relocating there. But now, apparently because they are on the no-fly list, they are being deported from Turkey. There is no terrorism charge, much less a link to ISIS.
None of this stopped the usual suspects of crowing about the false report. Based upon nothing but the PJ Media report, Fox News published, Poster Boy for “No-Fly” Unfairness Held in Turkish Prison, Accused of Helping ISIS. The group of crowers also included everyone’s favorite atheist who just follows the facts, Sam Harris. He decided to take a victory lap based only on that one article:
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) November 24, 2015
I think Ben Norton had the right reaction to this, “[Sam Harris] claims to advocate the scientific method, but throws it all out of the window when right-wing propaganda confirms his bigotry.” And that the thing. It isn’t that I think that Harris is on par with Pam Geller. It is that Harris is the one who holds himself up as this icon of serious thinking. I like much of his work, but he’s a great example of how minds work: from the deep reptilian center outward; first comes the tribalism, then comes the justification.
But none of the details actually matter. What does matter is that this is just another case of people using individuals to represent groups. The smarter Islamophobes always claim that they are just talking about the jihadists — that most Muslims are fine people just trying to get by. So what did they get from this case? It would be exactly the same thing. We know there are Muslim terrorists, so why crow about this. Well, Greenwald and Hussain have an interesting idea:
I think that’s about right. Again, with Sam Harris (who is one of the most reasonable people in the Islamophobic community), it’s important that he keep at least a patina of legitimacy. His fans don’t see him as standing up for racism; they see him standing for the truth, even when it is unpleasant. So when liberals have arguments against the no-fly list and other forms of official discrimination against Muslims, they feel the need to push back. Because the no-fly list seems like a pretty clear violation of due process, so at every point it is, “See! See! He’s actually a terrorist! These clear attacks on civil liberties only affect terrorists!”
To sum up:
It would seem that the terrorists have won a major victory against us. They’ve managed to make the vast majority of the nation okay with a lack of due process for everyone in the name of going after Muslims.
This Just In
The linked story appears to be false. I've corrected the record (12/10).
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) December 10, 2015