Profiling and Ahmed Mohamed's Clock
Declaration! The Terrorists have won!!!
In the Book "Terrorism: How The West Can Win" published April 1987, Benjamin Netanyahu argues that the ultimate goal of terrorism is "TERROR" and that death and destruction are collateral damage. He was right way back then and is more right today...WE ARE TERRIFIED and thus Ahmed's clock was immediately assumed to be a bomb.
But here is the question...if Ahmed were named Joe Smith and was White and from Boone, Iowa would the clock be perceived as a bomb? Easy answer...never!
Which brings us to profiling.
First and most important is to understand that our entire social system, our entire marketing and communications systems are built on profiling. Profiling is NOT a dirty word, and when used properly it has very important, safe and valuable economic and political outcomes. Here are a few examples:
• Why do some people get Neiman Marcus mailings and catalogues and other people get Wal-Mart materials?
• Why does AARP send mailings and emails to me and not to college students?
• Why do members of gun clubs get inundated with political mailings from Republican candidates and those who are members of Planned Parenthood get mailings from Democratic candidates?
The answer to all these questions is PROFILING. Every time we make a purchase using a credit card, every time we click on a specific web site, the data is collected and analyzed along with tons of other data like what zip code we live in our educational attainment, our age, etc. Frankly, our entire economic system could collapse if we did not use PROFILING...but, we have changed its name so as not to be pejorative...we call it "target marketing".
Sadly, the flip side of this necessary and constructive use of profiling is the kind that resulted in Ahmed's arrest. When profiling is based solely on one criterion...race...ethnicity...sexual proclivity...it becomes very dangerous. Marketers know very well that one indicator is not sufficient to identify a "target customer". They use many criteria which explains why someone like me who is 74 years old does not get mailings for wheel chairs and canes...because they also know that I buy running shoes frequently and other athletic equipment so they can connect the dots and know that age alone is not an indicator for me being their target customer.
In Ahmed's case and many others like his...witness Michael Brown in Ferguson...those doing the profiling are simplistic, under educated in the practice and xenophobic. They see all people with an Arabic name as potential terrorists and all blacks as a threat. The problem with this is much greater than just the arrest of Ahmed or the shooting of Michael...it makes the system unmanageable in total. That is how the Boston Marathon bombers got through the cracks. The system was so overloaded and stressed by following good people that it missed the bad ones, and there were plenty of signs that these brothers in Boston were a threat.
If in Ahmed's case, the authorities had done their work properly and checked for other points of confluence which would have made him a suspect they would have found none. He and his family were upstanding members of the community, did not participate in any activities related to or aligned with "discontent" and possible aggressive action, had not purchased threatening materials, and they would have seen a young man named "Joe Smith" not Ahmed Mohamed.
Back to the beginning. The Ahmed incident proves that the terrorists have won even though Ahmed was not one of them. It is time for us to take back our freedoms...it is time for us to relinquish our fears...it is time for us to say to the terrorists..."We are not afraid...you might come here, you might strike us but with each strike we will become stronger and you lose". It is time to end xenophobia and take back America from the terror they have planted on our soil.