When stupidity stalks the skies

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Here's how stupid the "war on terror" has made some of us: Nine Muslim passengers — a tax attorney, his family members, and a friend who's an attorney for the Library of Congress — were taken off an AirTran flight in Washington, DC yesterday because, while they were walking to their seats, they talked about which seats on an airplane are safest (near the wing, in the back, etc.). Some paranoid numb-nuts who overheard them "reported" the "suspicious conversation" to a flight attendant, and voila, instant eviction. Even after the FBI cleared the nine passengers and asked AirTran to put the group on another flight to their destination, the airline refused to rebook (AirTran says they were complying with federal rules). As the detained Library of Congress attorney, Abdul Aziz, put it, "I guess it's just a situation of guilt by association. They see one Muslim talking to another Muslim and they automatically assume something wrong is going on." He's being generous. This maddeningly inane incident was a perfect storm of mindless fear, color-coded government "warnings," a national culture of gossipy busybodies, and Americans' generally appalling ignorance of other cultures. Oh, and Happy New Year.

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