[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]
“Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.” – President Barack Obama, September 16, 2015
When you’re practicing political deception, it helps if your target is really, really stupid. That’s why the Left targets the ignorant, and seeks to keep them ignorant through its domination of the academic world and the news and entertainment media.
How stupid was the Left’s response to the Texas case of a teenage boy, the son of a former candidate for president of Sudan, who brought to school a bomb-lookalike that was actually a clock (probably from Radio Shack)?
The response required an utter ignorance of the Zero Tolerance policies that have been plaguing our schools for years—punishing teenage girls for sharing an over-the-counter pain reliever, suspending a seven-year-old boy for chomping a Pop-Tart-type pastry into the shape of a gun, suspending a six-year-old for bringing a Cub Scouts knife/spork to school, and the like.
It also required a knee-jerk reaction from the Everyone-but-us-is-racist liberals who hatehatehate anyone who dares to vote Republican, attend a traditional Christian church, or live in a rural area or a Southern/Southwestern state such as Texas. And it required a too-good-to-check attitude on the part of the news media.
For those who came in late: Ahmed Mohamed, 14, a high school freshman in Irving, Texas, near Dallas, brought a device to school—a clock he said he had invented, which he put into a large pencil-case—and, according to the Dallas Morning News (http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/northwest-dallas-county/headlines/20150915-irving-ninth-grader-arrested-after-taking-homemade-clock-to-school.ece ):
He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped for. “He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’ ” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’” He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward. “She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said. “I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’ ” The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back. They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”
Ahmed was arrested, handcuffed, taken to a juvenile facility, released to his parents, and suspended for three days. When the story broke, he became a star. The Daily Mail reported (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3238404/Muslim-schoolboy-Ahmed-Mohamed-14-accepts-Obama-s-invitation-White-House-excited-hear-MIT-wants-clock-led-arrest.html ) on Ahmed’s appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America and other programs:
Ahmed [on GMA]. . . confided that of all the prominent figures who have reached out to him offering their support, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and NASA officials, he was most thrilled to hear from MIT. ‘I dream of going there,’ he said.
During a Wednesday night interview on All In With Chris Hayes, the MSNBC host surprised Ahmed and his mother by bringing in astrophysicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, of MIT, who extended an invitation for the teen to visit the college and get a tour of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. ‘I just want to say, you are my ideal student,’ Prescod-Weinstein told Ahmed. ‘A creative, independent thinker like you is the kind of person who should be becoming a physicist… You are the kind of student we want at places like MIT and Harvard.’
As for his plans for the future, Ahmed said on GMA that he would like to appear on his favorite show, Shark Tank, with one of his inventions. ‘This [the clock] isn’t my first invention and it won’t be my last invention,’ a determined Ahmed told Roberts.
Pamela Geller, a leading critic of Islamofascism, described events this way (http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/09/17/ahmed-mohamed-and-the-islamophobia-clock/ ):
A Muslim teen, fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, bought a strange ticking device to his school, MacArthur High School. His device caused alarm and fear, and he was detained for having what his teacher perceived as a bomb. Police officers said the electronic components and wires inside his Vaultz pencil case (which is the size of a briefcase) looked like a “hoax bomb,” according to local news station WFAA. When questioned about what the device was, Mohamed wouldn’t answer. . . . When police questioned the boy, WFAA reports, they said he was “passive aggressive” and didn’t give them a “reasonable answer” as to why he had brought his contraption to the school. “We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only say it was a clock. He didn’t offer any explanation as to what it was for, why he created this device, why he brought it to school,” said James McLellan of the Irving Police Department. . . .
School officials were being prudent, protecting the children. Irving, Texas has had its share of jihad and sharia. Two Muslim sisters, Amina and Sarah Said, were honor murdered by their father, execution-style, in Irving several years ago. He is still at large. [See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3131595/Texas-women-17-18-brutally-murdered-father-s-taxi-victims-honor-killings.html ] And Irving, Texas is only half an hour from Garland, Texas – the site of a jihad shooting on a free speech event last May. [See http://dailycaller.com/2015/05/03/breaking-shooting-in-texas-outside-of-muslim-cartoon-event-attended-by-geert-wilders/ and http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2015/05/a_jihadists_funeral_in_kansas_city.html.] And the news is regularly riddled with stories of young Muslims, all lovely, sweet achievers, who suddenly — go jihad. This story is pure agitprop most fatal. “If you see something, say something” is now racism.
Ahmed’s clock, it turned out, was probably a reassembled version of a clock built by a Radio Shack subsidiary and purchased in the 1980s. A blogger named Anthony, at http://blogs.artvoice.com/techvoice/2015/09/17/reverse-engineering-ahmed-mohameds-clock-and-ourselves/#comment-2261708298 , reported that he reverse-engineered it.
I turned to eBay, searching for vintage alarm clocks. It only took a minute to locate Ahmed’s clock. See this eBay listing [http://www.ebay.com/itm/MICRONTA-Large-Red-Display-Digital-Alarm-Clock-w-Battery-Backup-63-765A-VINTAGE/291565559523], up at the time of this writing. Amhed’s clock was invented, and built, by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidiary. Catalog number 63 765. The shape and design is a dead giveaway. The large screen. The buttons on the front laid out horizontally would have been on a separate board – a large snooze button, four control buttons, and two switches to turn the alarm on and off, and choose two brightness levels. A second board inside would have contained the actual “brains” of the unit. The clock features a 9v battery back-up, and a switch on the rear allows the owner to choose between 12 and 24 hour time. (Features like a battery back-up, and a 24 hour time selection seems awful superfluous for a hobby project, don’t you think?) Oh, and about that “M” logo on the circuit board mentioned above? Micronta.
Ahmed Mohamad did not invent, nor build a clock. He took apart an existing clock, and transplanted the guts into a pencil box, and claimed it was his own creation. It all seems really fishy to me. . . .
If we stop and think – was it really such a ridiculous reaction from the teacher and the police in the first place? How many school shootings and incidents of violence have we had, where we hear afterwards “this could have been prevented, if only we paid more attention to the signs!” Teachers are taught to be suspicious and vigilant. Ahmed wasn’t accused of making a bomb – he was accused of making a look-alike, a hoax. And be honest with yourself, a big red digital display with a bunch of loose wires in a brief-case looking box is awful like a Hollywood-style representation of a bomb. Everyone jumped to play the race and religion cards and try and paint the teachers and police as idiots and bigots, but in my mind, they were probably acting responsibly and erring on the side of caution to protect the rest of their students, just in case. “This wouldn’t have happened if Ahmed were white,” they say. We’re supposed to be sensitive to school violence, but apparently religious and racial sensitivity trumps that. At least we have another clue about how the sensitivity and moral outrage pecking order lies.
According to Anthony, a commenter named Joe Donaldson located a 1986 catalogue page featuring the clock (the one for $27.95).
Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and frequent critic of religious conservatives, got in trouble for looking at the case as a scientist would. Here’s how Time magazine reported it (http://time.com/4042393/richard-dawkins-ahmed-mohamed-clock/ ).
Since 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest for bringing a homemade clock to school that administrators mistook for a bomb, there has been an outpouring of support for the teen. President Barack Obama invited him to the White House, as did Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The folks at Twitter asked him if he’d like to intern with them.
But Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and noted writer, scholar and contrarian, found something in Ahmed’s story to take issue with — the use of the word “invention” to describe Mohamed’s work. Dawkins went so far as to suggest that describing his clock as such was “fraud” and a “hoax.”
>> Disassembling & reassembling is great. But you shouldn’t then claim it was your “invention”. http://t.co/bBcaWoJpbd — Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) September 20, 2015
>> If the reassembled components did something more than the original clock, that’s creative. If not, it looks like hoax http://t.co/bBcaWoJpbd — Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) September 20, 2015
Dawkins faced intense backlash for his remarks and repeatedly noted that he believes the teen’s arrest was wrong.
>> Yes, I completely agree with that. He should most certainly NOT have been arrested, handcuffed etc. https://t.co/B2yvE00Db9 — Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) September 20, 2015
>> I’m not putting down the child. I’m putting down myself & the rest of us for being fooled. And the police for arresting him for nothing. — Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) September 20, 2015
He later apologized and retweeted the President’s White House invitation.
Since 2001, James Taranto, who does the “Best of the Web” blog for the Wall Street Journal, has been chronicling items under the running headline “Zero Tolerance Watch” since 2001. As he noted in a column on Friday (http://www.wsj.com/articles/stand-with-ahmed-1442597070 ), his first compendium of Zero Tolerance incidents cited—
a 16-year-old girl suspended for 45 days for possessing a tiny penknife; a 9-year-old boy suspended for drawing a picture of a soldier; an 11-year-old fifth-grader hauled out of class in handcuffs for drawing pictures of weapons; a 16-year-old girl suspended for 10 days for compiling a list of classmates who “frustrated” her; a 9-year-old charged with felony aggravated assault for allegedly pointing a toy gun at a second-grade classmate; two 8-year-olds charged with “making terrorist threats” after playing cops-and-robbers with “paper guns”; an 8-year-old suspended for pointing a chicken finger at a teacher and saying, “Pow, pow, pow.”
Kyle Smith wrote in the New York Post (http://nypost.com/2015/09/19/how-ahmeds-clock-became-a-false-convenient-tale-of-racism/):
When is America going to get serious about the problem of white kids getting suspended from school for nothing? By now you’ve heard the story of Ahmed Mohamed, crowned by the Daily Beast “The Muslim Hero America Has Been Waiting For” after the 14-year-old brought to school a beeping, strange-looking homemade concealed device that turned out to be a clock. School officials, thinking, as 95 percent of Americans would, that it kinda looked like a bomb, hauled him out of class. Police put him in handcuffs and, even after the confusion passed, the boy was suspended from school. That earned Mohamed a planned trip to the White House, a message of support from Hillary Clinton, an offer to stop by Facebook to meet Mark Zuckerberg and an invitation to be an intern at Twitter.
The police overreacted. Yet the device did look like something Ethan Hunt would lob out of a helicopter at the last minute in “Mission: Impossible.” As National Review’s Charles Cooke pointed out on Twitter, the scary-looking tangle of wires “looks a lot more like a bomb than a pop tart looks like a gun.”
Josh Welch, a white Maryland kid with ADHD who was 7 years old when he was kicked out of school for chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a pistol and pretending to shoot other students with it, must be puzzled. Where’s his White House invitation? Where’s his chance to start networking at Facebook? His parents were forced to hire a lawyer and spent a year and a half just trying to get the suspension erased from the kid’s record. They were repeatedly refused.
“I stand with Ahmed, too. But I also stand with Alex Stone,” noted Reason writer Robby Soave [https://reason.com/blog/2015/09/16/liberals-making-istandwithahmed-about-ra ]. Alex Stone, a 16-year-old white kid from Summerville, SC, wrote a short story in which he imagined using a gun to kill a dinosaur. For this, his locker was searched and he was arrested, handcuffed, charged with “disorderly conduct” and suspended from school for three days. Obviously the White House and Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t be bothered to comment, but you’d think that, at the very least, Stephen King would have sent out a tweet expressing outrage that imagination was being punished. Nada.
In Dyer County, Tenn., Kendra Turner says she was suspended for saying “Bless you” after a student sneezed, and that her teacher told her that she would have no “godly speaking in class.”
Leah Jessen of the Daily Signal reported on a number of cases (http://dailysignal.com/2015/09/17/ahmed-mohamed-wasnt-the-first-nine-other-times-schools-treated-students-like-criminals/ ).
Mohamed is not the first student to face the unintended backlash of zero-tolerance policies at schools in the United States. Here are nine other instances in recent years where students were treated like criminals for seemingly innocuous behavior:
A Pennsylvania kindergartner was suspended for talking about shooting herHello Kitty bubble gunwhile waiting in line for the bus in January 2013. According to reports, the bubble gun was not with her at the time. When pressed to explain why she brought up the gun, the little girl told a professional counselor that one of her friends likes Hello Kitty. Due to her young age, the girl’s suspension was cut down to two days.
In September of 2014, an 11-year-old boy was suspended from his Virginia school for 364 days after having a leaf that resembled marijuana in his backpack. As the Daily Signal previously reported,the school knew the leaf was not marijuanabut still suspended the boy. He was charged with marijuana possession in a juvenile court. Months after the fact, the charges after the leaf field-tested negative for marijuana three times.
A 15-year-old boy wasconvicted of disorderly conduct, a step down frompossible felony wiretapping charges, after recording seven minutes of audio on his school-issued iPad in 2014 during a math class at his Pennsylvania high school. He wanted to use the recording as evidence that he was being bullied at school. The alleged bullies were not investigated, while the boy was kicked out of his special-needs math class.
Eighteen-year-old Jordan Wiser spent 13 days in jail and faced felony charges for possession of a weapon for carryinga pocket knife in an EMT vestthat was stored in a car parked on school property in Ohio. The knife was said to be in violation of school policy. A first responder and certified emergency vehicle operator, Wiser had the knife in his vest in case he needed to cut through seat belts in the line of duty.
Tenth-grade studentDa’von Shawfrom Ohio had planned to conduct a healthy breakfast demonstration for his speech class by packing craisins, an apple, and a knife to cut the apple in his school bag. But upon seeing the knife, Shaw’s teacher immediately confiscated the utensil. Shaw was reportedly suspended from school for five days and received a suspension letter that charged him with bringing a weapon to school.
In Texas, nine-year-old Aiden Steward was suspended formaking a terrorist threatafter bringing a ring to class and telling another boy the “magic” ring could make him disappear. As it turned out, the boy had just seen the movie “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”
Alex Evans, a seven-year-old from Colorado, found himself suspended from school after throwing an imaginary grenade into a sandbox filled with pretend evil forces. The second grader said he was trying to be a hero to “rescue the world” from make-believe bad guys.
In Maryland, a seven-year-old second-grader was suspended after chewing a Pop-Tart breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun. It was reportedthat he had said, “Look, I made a gun.”
Thirteen-year-old Kyle Bradford faced detention forsharing his lunchat school in California. After seeing a friend unhappy with his own cheese sandwich, Bradford gave his classmate his chicken burrito. The school had a policy in place to prevent students from exchanging meals. “I just wanted to give mine to him because I wasn’t really that hungry and it was just going to go in the garbage,” Bradford told news affiliate KRCR-TV.
Apparently, bring bomb-lookalikes to school is nothing new. Here’s another case, from the late 1960s (h/t Emily Jane Fox of Vanity Fair):
In twelfth grade he built an electric metronome—one of those devises that keep time in music class—and realized it sounded like a bomb. So he took the labels off some of the big batteries, taped them together, and put it in a school locker; he rigged it to start ticking faster when the locker opened. Later that day he got called to the principal’s office. He thought it as because he had won, yet again, the school’s top math prize. Instead he was confronted by the police. The principal had been summoned when the device was found, bravely ran onto the football field clutching it to his chest, and pulled the wires off. Woz tried and failed to suppress his laughter. He actually got sent to the juvenile detention center, where he spent the night. It was a memorable experience. He taught the other prisoners how to disconnect the wires leading to the ceiling fans and connect them to the bars so people got shocked when touching them.
That excerpt is from Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs. “Woz,” the kid in that story, is, of course, Steve Wozniak, the co-founder with Jobs of Apple Computers.
Like Taranto and others, I’ve been writing about Zero Tolerance policies—or, as I termed them, Zero Intelligence policies—for years, going back to that innocent time before 9/11. Here’s an example: a 2009 series of comic strips (script by me, art by the great Kevin Tuma).