[No Comment ]None Dare Call it Stupidity | Harper's Magazine

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
[No Comment]

None Dare Call it Stupidity


CNN reports that a Muslim family is hustled off a plane after some morons misunderstand their conversation. (For the film version of this incident, check out Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay,–as usual, the most effective comedy carefully apes reality.) Note that the FBI behaves correctly and the airlines officials make asses out of themselves. This fits the recurrent pattern.

A Muslim family removed from an airliner Thursday after passengers became concerned about their conversation say AirTran officials refused to rebook them, even after FBI investigators cleared them of wrongdoing. Atif Irfan said federal authorities removed eight members of his extended family and a friend after passengers heard them discussing the safest place to sit and misconstrued the nature of the conversation.

Irfan, a U.S. citizen and tax attorney, said he was “impressed with the professionalism” of the FBI agents who questioned him, but said he felt mistreated when the airline refused to book the family for a later flight.

An incident to keep in mind next time you’re booking a flight. Remember the name of that airline: AirTran.


The Washington Post reports that AirTran “apologizes” but I searched the text for any hint of a genuine apology. There isn’t one. They do offer the family a refund and a free flight home. The statement issued by AirTran is a masterpiece of official gobbledygook–note that simple words of apology to the family they shamelessly victimized in what looks suspiciously like an act of overt bigotry don’t figure in it anywhere.

“We regret that the issue escalated to the heightened security level it did on New Year’s Day, but we trust everyone understands that the security and the safety of our passengers is paramount and cannot be compromised,” AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson said. “Nobody on Flight 175 reached their destination on time… and we regret it.”

What they did had nothing to do with the security and safety of passengers–just the opposite. If you’re used to dealing with airlines, you know they make it a point of principle never to accept the blame for any idiocy they commit. The blame always falls on the weather, vague airport conditions–anything except the airlines. It’s an industry-standard arrogance. But saying that they “regret” that the “issue escalated” is arrogant buffonery even by this low standard. An appropriate atonement might involve placing the entire senior management of AirTran on the Homeland Security Watch List. They might come to view the incident from a different perspective.

More from