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We hear a lot about racial profiling, where innocent people are harassed because they "look" like they are trouble.

I'd like to offer a reverse phenomenon that I would call POWER PROFILING where we trust the guilty because they dress right, have positions of authority, and act like people in power. When citizens, the media, and government officials encounter those facades of respectability that hide the misuse of power and outright crimes, do they give a pass to those who fit the stereotypical profile of an upstanding citizen?

An important avenue of study would cover:

1.  Distinguishing between those who legitimately use their authority and those who abuse it.
2.  Learning what's special about the people (politicians, activists, victims, journalists) who are able and willing to see through the facade and challenge the abusers and how to distinguish them from people who falsely challenge those in power.
3.  Learning more about those who refuse to accept the truth and/or even cover it up - both those in power above the corrupt ones and those who watch from the side.  

Here are some examples, from NY Times articles, of people in power who successfully hid their wrong doings because people didn't challenge them or didn't believe the challengers.  

Belgian  Bishop Abused own nephew.

"Behind an aggressive investigation of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Belgium that drew condemnation from the pope himself lies a stark family tragedy: the molestation, for years, of a youth by his uncle, the bishop of Bruges; the prelate’s abrupt resignation when a friend of the nephew finally threatened to make the abuse public; and now the grass-roots fury of almost 500 people complaining of abuse by priests."
Diabetes drug maker hid evidence that their profitable drug was dangerous:
"In the fall of 1999, the drug giant SmithKline Beecham secretly began a study to find out if its diabetes medicine, Avandia, was safer for the heart than a competing pill, Actos, made by Takeda.
    Avandia’s success was crucial to SmithKline, whose labs were otherwise all but barren of new products. But the study’s results, completed that same year, were disastrous. Not only was Avandia no better than Actos, but the study also provided clear signs that it was riskier to the heart.
    But instead of publishing the results, the company spent the next 11 years trying to cover them up, according to documents recently obtained by The New York Times. The company did not post the results on its Web site or submit them to federal drug regulators, as is required in most cases by law.
    “This was done for the U.S. business, way under the radar,” Dr. Martin I. Freed, a SmithKline executive, wrote in an e-mail message dated March 29, 2001, about the study results that was obtained by The Times. “Per Sr. Mgmt request, these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK,” the corporate successor to SmithKline."
In BP’s Record, a History of Boldness and Costly Blunders
"Time and again, BP has insisted that it has learned how to balance risk and safety, efficiency and profit. Yet the evidence suggests that fundamental change has been elusive.
    Revisiting Texas City in 2009, inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found more than 700 safety violations and proposed a record fine of $87.4 million — topping the earlier record set by BP in the 2005 accident. Most of the penalties, the agency said, were because BP had failed to live up to the previous settlement fully.
    In March of this year, OSHA found 62 violations at BP’s Ohio refinery, proposing $3 million more in penalties.
    “Senior management told us they are very serious about safety, but we observed that they haven’t translated their words into safe working procedures and practices, and they have difficulty applying the lessons learned from refinery to refinery or even from within refineries,” said Mr. Michaels, the OSHA administrator.
    BP is contesting OSHA’s allegations, saying it has made substantial improvements at both facilities.
    Accidents have also continued to plague BP’s pipelines in Alaska. Most recently, on May 25, a power failure led to a leak that overwhelmed a storage tank and spilled about 200,000 gallons of oil — the third-largest spill on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System."
How many times were the pleas of victims of abusive priests not believed because the priests' profile as moral spiritual leaders made the accusations so hard to accept?  How much longer are expensively dressed executives deferred to with respect than those who oppose them?  I realize that power profiling plays only a part in this.  Especially in the case of executives, their power itself, also helps them intimidate challengers and legally prolong their position.  

These questions I'm raising fit into what philosophers call epistemology - the study of how we determine the truth.  But there's no need to wait for people in power to do this study.  You can look around you and start coming up with your own answers.

1.  What stories have you not believed that turned out to be true?  
2.  Or believed and turned out to be false?  
3.  To what extent, in hind sight, did you believe or doubt because
     a.   of the trappings of power of the person involved?
     b.   of how it aligned with what you wanted to believe or doubt?
4.  Who are the people around you who question those in authority?  
5.  Do they tend to be right or wrong in the long run?  
6.. What distinguishes those who are generally right from those who are generally wrong?
7.  Do the ones who have been generally wrong know they were wrong?  
8.  Were there signs in people who have betrayed your trust that will tip you off sooner in the future?
9.  Were there signs in people you wrongly disbelieved, that you will treat differently in the future?  

I'd be curious what experiences readers have had confronting what you knew and having to change what you believed.  How did it come about?  Did you ask questions like these?  Other questions?  Or were you confronted with such overwhelming evidence you could no longer believe your previous version of truth?  

An earlier version of this was posted at []

Originally posted to AKSteve on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 02:33 PM PST.

Also republished by New Diarists and Community Spotlight.

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