22 Sep 2015

More On Ahmed’s Clock

War on Terror 109 Comments

From a guy who actually knows about electronics (as opposed to 90% of the people commenting on this story–including me).

I don’t know what happened here. It’s entirely possible that he made the thing innocently enough, and then was coy about it once he realized the situation. I really doubt that he apologized profusely for scaring everybody and yet the cops still grilled him for hours. My guess is that by that point, he was being defiant, then the cops perceived a challenge to their authoritah and so became Tough Guys.

I don’t endorse the North or the South in the War Between the States (aka the Civil War). Likewise, I am allowed to say that both sides in this case were at fault.

But since you asked, here is why I was suspicious of this from the get-go:

==> The kid’s photo when he got arrested. When I was 14, if I were being walked out of school in handcuffs, I would be absolutely terrified. This not at all what my expression would have been:

ahmed arrest

==> Look at this thing. Of COURSE it looks like a bomb, and yes if you want to be more specific, it looks like a TV/movie bomb. That’s the point. If you wanted to alarm a bunch of people, you would bring in something that looked like what THEY would think a bomb looked like.

ahmed clock

Last month, if you had asked 1000 Americans to draw a sketch of a clock, precisely 0 would look like the above. If instead you asked 1000 to draw a sketch of a homemade bomb, at least 100 would look something like that above.

Let me put it this way: If I owned a private airline in a Rothbardian world, and one of my passengers tried to take the above onto a plane, I would insist that it be checked, and I would tell the passenger that if he took it out in the airport so other people could see it, he could never fly my airline again (and I would share his identity with other owners so they could blackball him too). That would freak my customers out and ruin their experience.

OF COURSE you don’t take something like that into school. And after your engineering teacher tells you not to show it to anybody else, you unplug the thing so it doesn’t start beeping in English class.

==> I dunno, something just didn’t seem right to me when he was in front of a bunch of news cameras and said, “I wanted to show the teachers my talent.” Who talks like that besides Donald Trump? Is that how you would have talked in front of TV cameras at age 14? (This is where it’s relevant who his dad is. I’m not saying it was all a plan, and I didn’t know about his dad originally. I’m saying though that his demeanor seemed odd to me, for a nerdy kid who just wanted to be left alone and build his electronics.)

==> Last thing: In his press conference later, Ahmed said something like (not exact quote), “I wanted to impress my teacher, but she was afraid.” In that line, he’s referring to his English teacher. If I understand the chronology, that’s not really what happened. The thing started beeping in class, and the teacher told him to open it up so she could see what it was. If you just heard that part of his story, you would think the first teacher he showed was the one who ratted him out, and that’s not what happened. If he had unplugged the thing after his engineering teacher told him not to show anybody else, he would have been fine.

==> No I am NOT saying he should have been arrested. I don’t know what his intentions were. Kids do dumb things when they’re young. What I AM saying is that it was way too early for people to be accusing others of stupidity, racism, etc. in this situation when they didn’t know either.

109 Responses to “More On Ahmed’s Clock”

  1. JimS says:

    Were I the engineering teacher, I would have strongly encouraged him to leave it with me and pick it up after school. The teacher recognized how this might be construed and either exacerbated the situation by allowing him to keep it or unwittingly facilitated what may have been an agenda on the part of the student. In short, the teacher failed here.

    Though you did not comment on the President’s reaction (he invited the student to the White House), had this student showed at the White House with this device, he would not have been invited in and would have found himself in far greater trouble.

  2. RPLong says:

    Bob, Irving TX is a 15-minute drive from me, and I am married to a Muslim. While I can’t comment on the sequence of events or the resemblance of the clock to a bomb, I feel I am somewhat qualified to comment on the level of bigotry in what I consider my own community.

    10 minutes away from Irving is Grapevine, where a local high school has made national headlines for the level of racism present in the student body. Here is one recent example: http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/courier-journal/article18720267.html

    Recall that just a couple of months back we saw footage of police in another nearby community, McKinney, slamming bikini-clad teenagers to the ground for being at a community swimming pool they had every right to be at.

    Further, keep in mind that many if not most police officers in this area are military veterans – usually marine corps soldiers who have been to Iraq, Afghanistan, or both, or multiple tours in both. In other words, these are officers who know very well what explosives look like because they have years of experience with explosives.

    When you write about whether it was reasonable to view Ahmed’s clock as a bomb, you are simply ignoring the local atmosphere here. To identify bigotry in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is a thoroughly banal observation. The authorities obviously knew it wasn’t a bomb.

    I would expect an anarcho-capitalist, of all people, to understand when the authorities are flexing their authority in an effort to make an example and increase compliance and submission to local rules and norms. This is so obvious to me that I cringed with embarrassment when I learned this morning what Richard Dawkins had been tweeting. But I wrote that off as his having become pretty much a Twitter troll these days, riling people up just like Donald Trump or Michael Moore.

    This whole situation has become a real bonfire of vanities. Everyone is rushing in to accept the form of the debate: tolerance-versus-Islam, minorities-versus-authorities, conservatives-versus-liberals. I keep expecting intelligent people to come up with something more than just whether it looked like a bomb, or whether students like Ahmed are our country’s future.

    This is silly. We’re trapped in this mindless media storm and no one seems to want to comment on the fact that this is what happens when we allow the media to govern our thoughts. Think about it – we’re here debating whether or not it looks like a MOVIE BOMB, as though our standard of reasonable doubt is what we might expect to appear on TV! Does anyone even understand how surreal that is?

    • Colombo says:

      Since when is Dawkins a libertarian?

      I don’t intend to offend you, Ryan, but you suffer because you have a false idol. Nobody who systematically abuses people because of their beliefs is a libertarian. Abuse is the essence of authoritarianism, regardless if it is religious or atheistic considerations.

      None of the trolls of science Harris, Dennett and Dawkins are libertarians. All of them would like to use the State to destroy everything that is contrary to their worldview, including people. These guys are as Statist as it gets. Ask any one of them if it is wrong to fund scientific research with taxes. A real libertarian says that all taxes are evil, and nothing, from religion, to art, to science, to education, to medicine should be financed with public money.

      This young man is as much of a victim as he is foolish. Being foolish is not a crime, and foolishness does not justify the crimes commited against him by the State, as you will probably agree. The super-rationalistic, like Molyneux, screw up on this topic, because they choose to let go of the real criminal, and go with the masses, hunting, blaming and shaming the victim. Rationality can easily become your enemy if one forgets the NAP, as Molyneux has done.

      • RPLong says:

        I think you might have misunderstood my comment. In reading back over it, I can see how you might have believed that I was referring to Dawkins when I said, “an anarcho-capitalist, of all people…”

        So let me clarify: The an-cap to whom I was referring was Bob, not Dawkins. The reason Dawkins is relevant here is that he (and also Bill Maher) are advancing an argument similar to Bob’s. I neglected to include that in my comment, but here’s a relevant link.

      • Major.Freedom says:

        “Nobody who systematically abuses people because of their beliefs is a libertarian.”

        Wrong Colombo sir, wrong! [Willy Wonka voice]

        Libertarianism allows people to say anything they want to any one else, provided that no violations of individual property rights are made.

        Libertarianism is not about playing nice, or making sure you don’t verbally “offend” people.

        Calling people names for believing in a false idol that you name “God” is very much in the spirit of libertarianism.

        Dawkins has his property rights too.

        I think it was H.L. Mencken who once wrote that to protect liberty you have to defend those who utter vulgar words and engage in activity that you find offensive and repulsive.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Colombo is free to say whatever he wants about libertarianism!!

        • Colombo says:

          I agree that one doesn’t have to be nice to be a libertarian. I agree that one can be a jerk and a libertarian. No NAP violation there.


          Pray tell, Does Dawkins like the possibility that people go saying things contrary to his own beliefs? Perhaps he fancies the idea certain people exerts violence against other people so that they don’t speaki certain things?
          Does Dawkins like the idea of not having scientists being financed by taxes?
          Does Dawkins believe that some people shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce, or the idea that certain people must not be allowed to teach certain ideas to their own sons and daughters?
          Does he like to manipulate people into commiting physical aggresions against other people?
          Does Dawkins follow Mencken advice?

          Imagine I was a libertarian KKK member. I want to kill a man, but I won’t do it because that is a violation of the NAP. But if I can tell other KKK member, who happen to not be libertarians, into killing someone, is that a violation of my libertarian ethics? If I want to provoke some black men so that they beat or kill a member of the KKK, so that the KKK can get the sympathies of some idiotic people watching TV, is that a violation of the NAP?

          Perhaps it is thick to try to expand the NAP to include the concept of physical violence or threat of physical violence by proxy. What do you think, Major.Freedom?

          • Major.Freedom says:

            Maybe if we say things that end with a question mark we can imagine all sorts of crazy things and have suspicions about atheists being secret eugenics desiring totalitarian fascists who would have zero moral revulsion against all manners of evil because there is no authoritarian invisible man in the sky watching over everything we do and ready and willing to…um…torture people and make them suffer for an eternity?

            Whew! Good thing we have religious people in the world history who have all been pacifists and never mutilated anyone’s genitals or tortured them to death as a means to spiritual cleaning in the eyes of their Gods.

            Yes Colombo, what the world needs is more people who can only imagine an invisible man in the sky as the sole means by which they would think and feel to do no evil. Because heck, just consider how hard it is to take full responsibility over one’s own existence! If there wasn’t that invisible man, we’d all feel no qualms with committing unspeakable horrors…just like that Dawkins animal has fantasies about.

            • Colombo says:

              You haven’t answered my question about the NAP.

              But I got more questions for you, as I see you like writing.

              First. Would you say that Dawkins is a libertarian?

              Second. I never understood why atheists insist in this myth that people kill because of god. If god does not exist, how can people use that as an excuse? A non existent thing cannot be a valid excuse, and a belief in a non existent thing cannot make that thing into existence, right? In my opinion, people have killed mostly because of the pleasure of killing. That is the most simple answer. God, Religion, Country are only convoluted excuses. Minor reasons for killing include those of profit and vengeance, which, in turn, also fall into the category of pleasure. And we all know that pleasure has to be hidden behind some lie, right?

              Atheists like to have fun. They need the excuse of God as much as any Inquisitor in order to make his behavior look reasonable in front of the public. But it is a misbehavior. Not as bad as the Crusades or ISIS, but still uses the same excuse to do evil things.

              Do you really think that someone ever commited any crime hoping that a god or gods would reward him?

              Third. Is the basis for morality fear to what other people may do to me here and now, while I am alive? If this is the case, then murdering people is no essentially wrong. One just has to wait until the public, who is the master of morals, says it is okay to murder someone one wants to murder. Therefore, the NAP is wrong, and Zwolinski is right. Who wants to live in a world where Zwolinski is right about the NAP.

              I don’t think that any kind of fear can be a basis for morality. Fear in the context of religion is just mind control, not a basis for moral. What religion really is good at is at providing some social structure and a provisional explanation for time. but, just as any other human creation, Religion can also go out of hand. That is when men find new uses for religion (and anything else) as an excuse for evil. Religion, as the State, is but a fiction. It can be responsible of human’s actions only in metaphor. Real humans are responsible. Isn’t that even worse than having a god responsible for good and evil?

              Four. Some atheists are reductionists. Every human emotion and action is caused by some chemical reaction. Therefore, there is no free will. Boom! No more Mises. Krugman wins.

              Five. Atheists always said that everything has always existed and always will exist. This was so until the XX century, where they were conned into the Big Bang theory, which was concoted to justify the idea of god. Yet, some atheists who beleive that this theory is wrong do not dare to speak up because they are intimidated by proselitizing atheists who use that theory to attack theists. Meanwhile, crazy cooks use quantum theory motifs to con gullible people who search spiritual enlightment. I think that with this particular crusade for atheism is blocking scientific development. And the more scientist walk away from philosophy, the more scientific research becomes disconnected from reality.
              I recommend that you read some of Paul Feyerabend’s writings, if you haven’t done that already. Don’t worry, he was an atheist and a materialist, so you will not be misled into theism or idealism.


              I could write more, but I think I’ve written too much already. At the very least, answer to the original NAP question. I’m very interested in reading your take on that bit.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      RPLong I’m sorry to say but it seems like you are leading with your knee jerk reaction too, rather than trying to calmly understand what others are saying. You are putting IN CAPS that it looks like a movie bomb. Right, that’s important to my whole argument. Do you understand why if I owned an airline, I wouldn’t want a passenger bringing this device on the plane?

      Now, what if he were flying with a bunch of blind people. Then I’d be OK with it. But why should that matter? I mean, a bomb is a bomb, whether you are blind right?

      • RPLong says:

        If pretend-Bob owned an airline and refused to allow Ahmed to board, real-world Bob would have written a blog post about how it’s every business-owner’s right to discriminate against customers. I know this because we’ve already been through this cycle on your blog a couple of times this year, plus a few times in previous years.

        But, importantly, you do not own an airline, Bob. You also do not own the Iriving Independent School District or the high school, or the police force. The system does, and the system decided that the boy was to be punished and suspended for something that at best looks like a movie prop.

        The system’s sad participants – media, bloggers, Facebook, whoever – have also decided to justify this reaction as something other racism, as if the choice here were “Either it’s racism against Muslims, or it’s valid fears against terrorism.” In other words, you’ve accepted the form of the debate.

        What you should rather be doing is recognizing the feedback loop created by a situation in which one group has been conditioned to overreact to racism, one has been conditioned to overreact to bomb threats, one has been conditioned to respond to the debate in the structure of one side versus the other, etc., etc.

        What I think you’re missing is that your blog post and every news report on the subject is only serving to make things worse. You’re legitimizing fears that have no reason being legitimized, simply because you assume those fears are more reasonable than racism.

        But are they? And who perpetuates those fears? I’ll give you a hint: It starts with “g” and ends with “nment.”

        • Gene Callahan says:

          “Something other than racism”: Well, this happens to white kids all the time, like the kid suspended for the pop tart “shaped like a gun.” So how do you know it is racism rather than just the general level of paranoia in our schools these days?

          • Silas Barta says:

            Exactly. Never attribute, to bigotry, that which can be explained by misanthropy. (or more likely, asininity…)

            • Colombo says:

              Misanthropy and fear seem better explanations for almost anything related to police and schools.

              It is not important if a person, such a teacher or a police officer, is racist. The only thing important is his actions.

              No one should receive a worse or a better treatment because of irrelevant things like race.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                Should they be treated worse because they’re atheists and they shoot their mouth off?

              • Colombo says:

                No, they should not.

                Any person who shoots their mouth off should receive adequate punishment, regardless of atheistic or theistic starting point. Being a jerk causes the scolding. Bigotry and scolding cannot be crimes.

              • Harold says:

                RPLong “one group has been conditioned to overreact to racism” And a whole other group has been conditioned to underreact to racism, almost to the point where it is ignored. In 2013, 43% of white Americans thought there was no racism against blacks in USA (according to Pew.)

                Colombo: “It is not important if a person, such a teacher or a police officer, is racist. The only thing important is his actions.” Their racism is therefore only unimportant if it does not affect actions. Theoretically it is unimportant, but since the racism will almost certainly affect actions in practice, the racism is almost certainly important.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          The system does, and the system decided that the boy was to be punished and suspended for something that at best looks like a movie prop.

          RPLong don’t you see that in this context it’s “at worst” looks like a movie prop? This is frustrating because it seems like you’re not even trying to understand why people did what they did.

          If they threw the book at him because they thought he intentionally brought in something that kids / teachers would think was a bomb, you don’t show how stupid they are by saying, “This is what people think bombs look like, not what actual bombs look like.”

          • RPLong says:

            I think if I were better at articulating my point here, you might not even disagree with me, Bob. The reason I’ve written so many long comments is because my point is complex.

            It’s a two-tiered thing. The first is the social psychology angle. The way the world is, we’re expected to debate the is/is-not race question. That’s a ruse, first because OF COURSE racism is prevalent here, and second because discussing the racism angle gets the punitive aspect of the system off the hook. Remember, this is the social psychology angle, meaning the problem is situational, not dispositional. What we’re seeing is an inevitable result of the environment in which it occurred. That’s why I started by painting a picture of this community – very white, very anti-Muslim, very racist. But again, the problem isn’t the racism in the community, but the Situation.

            Part of this angle is the father’s incentive to stoke the flames here, crying, “Racism! Islamophobism! Bigotry!” Even he fails to see that he’s playing by the rules of the Situation. He thinks he’s subverting the system, but he’s not. He’s playing right into the system’s hand by obfuscating the punitive violence of the system with the Race Card.

            And the other part of the social psychology thing is how the media and “Twitter” (an entity unto itself now, apparently) latch onto the race and politics debate, and further enforce that there are no systemic problems, no problems of excessive force on the part of the police or the school administration because it can only be RACE versus FEAR. (While the system is never scrutinized.)

            The second tier of my point is our response – collectively, as Americans and as bloggers. We should be able to rise above this fray and think to ourselves about how obvious it is that a clock that someone insists looks like a toy bomb results in an arrest and “Twit-storm.” If the kid was just being smart, arresting him is not just wrong but heinously so. The issue should be that they through the book at him merely to teach him a lesson – a waste of precious criminal justice resources, if you’re into that sort of thing – or a grotesque overreach of police power if not.

            But instead, all the smart people I see writing about this are obsessed with the extent to which the clock looked like a bomb or the extent to which there was racism involved.

            In other words, according to an ersatz social psychology analysis, all the smart people seem to have been drawn into the Situation and are playing the wrong roles. Hence my frustration.

            Now, reading all that, can you really tell me I’m “not even trying to understand why people did what they did?”

    • Bob Murphy says:

      RPLong it’s also a bit weird that you seem to be arguing, “I don’t know what these particular cops did, but I can judge them based on the group as a whole. Man racism sucks.”

      • RPLong says:

        You either didn’t understand my comment or didn’t fully process it. Recall that you and I both agree that the child shouldn’t have been arrested. In my comment, I call out the police for making the kid an example. Since we both agree that he shouldn’t have been arrested (indeed, they did not even have enough evidence to do so), I’m struggling to understand what about my point is “weird” to you.

        Oh, I get it – You’re placing me in the box of people who cry racism while simultaneously discriminating against groups. But if that’s all you took from it, or even a major portion of what you think my point was, I suggest you give me a second, fairer read.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          RPLong you and I have been cordial before and I think you are sincere, so I will just assume we are failing to connect here. I haven’t been talking about race at all, except to say, “I think it’s wrong for people to start shouting ‘racism’ here, let’s look at the facts.”

          Then you are scolding me for making this about race instead of looking at the big picture?

          • Bob Murphy says:

            And you bring up racist cops? How am I the one being distracted by the race card here?

            I’ll give you the last word, since (like I said) I know you’re not trolling me and we must be ships passing in the night on this one.

            • RPLong says:

              Here’s another way to think about it. Imagine a conversation:

              Why did they throw the book at him?
              – Because he brought a bomb to school.

              A real bomb?
              – No, but something that looked like a movie prop.

              So it was harmless?
              – Yes, but the kid must have known that it would freak people out.

              So freaking people out is a crime?
              – No, but you can understand why he got in trouble with the teachers.

              Yes, I can. So why did they throw the book at him?
              – Because he brought a bomb to school…

              See Bob? Even the other commentators here are defending the cop in McKinney who admitted his own mistake and was fired, implying that the bikini-clad teenagers were asking for trouble.

              Do you see how sad it all is? When we should be shaking our heads at the violence and tyranny of the Situation, how the only recourse a school administrator has to correct behavior is to call in the storm troopers, we are instead wasting our time trying to legitimize the inner fears they had that caused them to overreact.

              But where did those fears come from? The government, the storm troopers, the media… the Situation, which always and everywhere escapes our scrutiny because we’re too caught up in debating according to its perverse logic.

              • Levi Russell says:


                I think I see your point but the idea that any location in TX is “very white” and somehow inherently racist is just silly. How many egregious offenses have “the system” committed against white kids in the last few years that erupted in a media storm? A boatload.

              • RPLong says:

                Levi, plenty. And there are major Situational forces at work on those occasions, too. That doesn’t weaken my point, it strengthens it.

                I’m not saying the community is “very white and inherently racist,” I’m saying the Situation is very white and inherently racist, according to at least some of the characters involved (e.g., the kid and his father). That fact is important to understanding the Situation properly, because it highlights how these poor people, caught up in a perverse system, are merely playing conditioined roles.

              • trent steele says:


                Here’s a big point you’re missing, which is killing your argument.

                “So freaking people out is a crime?”

                YES. The crime was bringing in a “hoax bomb.”

                Literally, the crime is that you brought something in that, while not being an actual bomb, was designed to look enough like a bomb as to scare people. THIS IS THE CRIME. That is “looked like” a bomb, even if the people KNEW it wasn’t. It was designed to scare and get a reaction. That is what the law is trying to prevent people from doing.

                I’m not saying I agree with the drafters of the law, the kid trolling his HS, the English teacher, the cops, etc. I’m saying you have spent a LOT of time on this and you’ve repeatedly shown you –


                – don’t get it.

              • RPLong says:

                @ trent steele — Okay, then why is Bob saying he shouldn’t have been arrested?

                Furthermore, the teacher who confiscated the clock reportedly said that it looked like a “movie bomb,” i.e. she wasn’t actually freaked out about it, hence why would she confiscate it?

                No one in this story seems to have actually believed the hoax, which either means it wasn’t really a hoax, or it was a hoax that no one actually believed in. If you believe that unconvincing hoaxes are worthy of arresting 14-year-olds, then you and I have radically different ideas about what is an appropriate way to deal with these situations.

    • Yancey Ward says:

      McKinney, slamming bikini-clad teenagers to the ground for being at a community swimming pool they had every right to be at.

      I am not defending the actions of the officers, but the teenagers didn’t have “every right” to be at the pool, which was most definitely not a public pool, but a private pool for the housing community that owned it, and the rules for the use were violated by one of the communities members.

      • RPLong says:

        And all I can say is, that’s an odd detail to underscore in light of my comment as a whole.

        • Yancey Ward says:

          Well, it does matter, doesn’t it? Your implied meaning about McKinney was weakened by the incorrect information- teens had been trespassing, though some of them maybe didn’t know it. You made it sound like the teens were doing nothing wrong and were assaulted by the police for no reason whatsoever. The implied racism was a stretch anyway- having watched that video of the incident, I can’t imagine a white teen mouthing off to a cop and disobeying would have suffered a different fate. We can, of course, agree that what the cop did with the girl was not justified, but not that it demonstrated racism.

          • RPLong says:

            I can see that it matters to you because – as is apparently the case for Bob – the relevant issue to you is racism vs. not-racism. If that were my point, then you and I would have a wonderfully raucous debate ahead of us.

            But think about how sad that is. You watch a YouTube video of police brutality at least enough times to form some kind of theory about it, and your theory basically boils down to, “Sure it was excessive force, but those kids were asking for it!”

            From my vantage point, that just sounds like Stockholm Syndrome.

            So the point I’m making is apparently lost on you. This kid gets a big taste of the system’s power to shock-and-awe us into submission, and here we are debating whether or not the fact that the system was alerted was racism. As if the level of racism involved is relevant to the question here.

            And just so that you don’t get me wrong, I hasten to add that the left is over on the Rachel Maddow Power Hour or whatever, saying that they shouldn’t have called in the system because the school was just racist.

            Whose behavior are we not discussing during all of this? The system’s. Thus, we all act as willing participants in our own little prison experiment, debating whether or not we should have called in the Storm Troopers instead of what might be the impact on our minds of filling our high schools full of Storm Troopers, filling our airports full of bomb squads, putting armed guards on every street corner…

            …and then heading to the movies to watch fictional violence fetishized in IMAX-quality hi-def.

            We are scapegoating each other instead of looking at our complicity.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              RPLong wrote:

              But think about how sad that is. You watch a YouTube video of police brutality at least enough times to form some kind of theory about it, and your theory basically boils down to, “Sure it was excessive force, but those kids were asking for it!”

              RPLong, I really have to speak up here. You said something that was not factually correct, someone corrected you on it while explicitly saying he wasn’t defending the cops, and you accuse him of saying the kids were asking for it.

              All the while, you are lecturing us to get off our hobby horses and not be distracted by cheap claims of racism etc. ?

              • RPLong says:

                My response was reflective of the fact that Yancey chose to respond only to a factual claim about the racism angle; one which, it must be underscored, does not adversely impact my overarching point at all.

                And I’m not telling people to get off their hobby horses, I’m imploring people to rise above the situational psychology that appears, to me at least, to be governing most people’s reactions on this matter.

                Maybe that makes me wrong and maybe it makes me crazy. You can all decide on that for yourselves. 🙂

          • knoxharrington says:

            The quibble is with your mischaracterization that the girl had a right to be there. She didn’t. That doesn’t excuse the police behavior but it does make your contention less strong because of a factual error.

            Additionally, your unwillingness to comment on the looks of the clock is instructive. It clearly resembles a bomb as often shown in movies or TV shows. The English teacher is, I’m guessing, not a veteran of The Hurt Locker bomb disposal unit so her fear was justified.

            The invocation of racism or Islamophobia to get Ahmed off the hook for what is undeniably a moronic move is desperate. The kid maybe a genius but he is definitely an imbecile for bringing that clock to school and displaying it with wires exposed in a pencil case. I don’t think he should have been arrested, interrogated without his parents presence, etc. – that is all bad. I don’t think the teachers or administrators of the school need to be demonized for having very rational fears.

            • RPLong says:

              Nope, sorry, you’re still not getting this.

              “That doesn’t excuse the police behavior but it does make your contention less strong because of a factual error.”

              My contention is that the DFW metroplex has an established history of both racism and institutional overreaction. First, assume that the “factual error” is beyond dispute, then explain how my contention is in any way made weaker by it.

              “Additionally, your unwillingness to comment on the looks of the clock is instructive.”

              I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have already – in two of my previous comments – suggested that the contraption looks like a movie prop.

              “The English teacher is, I’m guessing, not a veteran of The Hurt Locker bomb disposal unit…”

              The Hurt Locker. There’s an interesting reference that plays right into comment to which you responded.

              ” I don’t think he should have been arrested, interrogated without his parents presence, etc. – that is all bad. I don’t think the teachers or administrators of the school need to be demonized for having very rational fears.”

              Another case in point. You dismiss the very real and very terrifying state oppression as a hand-waving preamble to your thesis statement, which is that the school administration and those who approve of their actions are beyond reproach.

              In other words, you still see racism as the major issue here. You’re playing along.

              • knoxharrington says:

                In your initial post you said you weren’t going to opine on the clock as bomb and I found that to be dissembling.

                I live in Richardson and office in Addison – first tier suburbs of Dallas. I live near the Islamic Association of North Texas mosque on Spring Valley and interact with Muslims in my community everyday including last night at a meet the teacher event held at Berkner High School where my oldest son attends. The schools my children attend are incredibly diverse and I, in nearly ten years in this city and school district, have not once, ever, seen or heard of an instance of discrimination against a Muslim in the schools here. This event in Irving is not discrimination against Muslims. Ahmed must have a tin ear when it comes to normal behavior or maybe he has Aspberger’s or some other disorder which doesn’t allow him to process normal social behaviors. Bringing a digital clock with loose wires in a pencil box that looks very much like a “bomb” is moronic behavior. This would be true no matter what religion the student is – why can’t you understand at least that much?

                The English teacher was right to be freaked out, the administration was right to call the police, and the police were wrong to interrogate the child without his parents being present and for arresting him. I can’t make it much clearer – Ahmed and the police are both wrong and the English teacher and administration are right.

                On the McKinney thing you wanted to make it sound like the girl was just minding her own business in a place she had a right to be and the police singled her out due to her race. She didn’t have a right to be there and that is why the police were called. They overreacted incredibly and if that were my child I’d have the guys badge and being suing him and the city for misconduct and potential civil rights violations. You are right to condemn their actions but your characterization of her right to be there is incorrect and you it does have some impact on the story.

              • RPLong says:

                knoxharrington you’re still not understanding my point. I’ll take the blame for that, since it’s my responsibility to convey.

                But you, Bob, Yancey, and Gene are all saying the same thing: “It’s not racism!!”

                And that statement has absolutely nothing to do with my point. My point is that you’re arguing racism-versus-not-racism in a world in which Orwellian overlording has become the norm.

                The overlording is something you disagree with – you even said so – but functions as some kind of hand-waving aside while you make your other, real point, namely that it wasn’t racism. Which is weird – because who cares? The kid shouldn’t have been arrested, and that, not racism, is the real issue.

                But you can’t see that because you’re too busy debating racism.

                P.S. – your personal failure to witness anti-Muslim bigotry is not evidence of its non-existence. I personally have never seen a bobcat in the wild; does this mean they aren’t out there?

              • knoxharrington says:

                I understand that my lack of seeing discrimination is anectdotal but was a form of response to this by you:

                “When you write about whether it was reasonable to view Ahmed’s clock as a bomb, you are simply ignoring the local atmosphere here. To identify bigotry in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is a thoroughly banal observation.”

                I was disagreeing with your claim about the local atmosphere, which is anectdotal also based on your observation of the local atmosphere. Sauce for the banal goose.

              • RPLong says:

                The reason I provided linkage to the infamous high school in Grapevine was to avoid this sort of thing. If you want to live in a fantasy that says DFW is a low-racism community, then that’s your privilege. In the meantime, it is an empirical question:




                etc., etc., etc.

                “But I didn’t see it!” is no good excuse here.

    • Tel says:

      Think about it – we’re here debating whether or not it looks like a MOVIE BOMB, as though our standard of reasonable doubt is what we might expect to appear on TV! Does anyone even understand how surreal that is?

      Yes, movies define realty for a frighteningly large number of people. Remember that humans have only had mass communication for about two or three generations, while our legal and governance systems are based on models much older than that (and our brain wiring is even older again).

      Clearly division of labour and specialization have changed the social landscape a bit. To me, the device looks nothing like a bomb. Some people are making a big deal about it having wires flopping around, but all electronics has wires, look inside your personal computer and you can see wires (maybe neat, maybe messy depending on where and when you got the computer).

      Other people are making a big deal because it’s in a case that looks a bit like a mini-briefcase and apparently briefcases are well known for exploding a lot. This seems bizarre to me… obviously the container is arbitrary. Security is about the think you can’t see, not the thing you did see. Most important skill is learning to look.

    • Scott D says:


      “Recall that just a couple of months back we saw footage of police in another nearby community, McKinney, slamming bikini-clad teenagers to the ground for being at a community swimming pool they had every right to be at.”

      I live in McKinney, TX, so I dug into this one a bit, and that is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. It was not a community swimming pool in the sense of being public. The pool is was a private pool behind a locked gate, intended for residents of the Craig Ranch master-planned community. Most of the teens seen in the videos were trespassing and had already been asked by security to leave, but had failed to do so.

      That does not excuse the officer for his rough treatment of the teenage girl, but it does frame the overall incident in the proper light as youth who had broken the law and provoked a response in the defense of private property, rather than being a response motivated by racism, as it has been portrayed in the media..

      • RPLong says:

        Scott, man, you’re killing me. Do you realize that at least 3 other commentators responded with comments that are more or less identical in content to yours?

        My response is: This issue is police brutality, and your response is to focus on some other minor issue – in your case, trespassing.

        The next time you spit on my sidewalk, do I have your permission to face-plant you? No, right?

        • Scott D says:

          I realized after the fact that others had pointed out the circumstances of the Craig Ranch incident.

          Honestly, I think that the problem is that you are saying that racism is a big problem in DFW and look at this evidence, but it doesn’t matter because we have bigger issues with abuse of authority by the state.

          Meanwhile, I am saying, “Um, get your facts straight, please. Let’s not cloud this thing with racism when it is really just about abuse of authority by the state.”

          Yes, there is a misunderstanding there, but I tend to reflexively react when someone drags racism into an issue where it doesn’t belong, because the usual outcome is that people forget about the issue of state coercion and talk about how they feel about racial issues instead.

          • RPLong says:

            I think you and I are closer on this than we appear to be.

            You’re with me halfway, but I think the part you’re missing is that I did not drag race into it because it was already there. Bob himself mentioned it, both in this post and his previous one. Your knee-jerk to respond against the claim of racism, using my comments as a target, is the unavoidable counterpart to any claims of racism (false or otherwise, according to Situationism).

            That’s the essential irony my comments were written to point out. Any urge to discuss the bigotry angle necessarily comes at the expense of the oppressive police state angle. So when you – or Bob, or Gene Callahan, or anyone else – says, “It’s not racism!” even though they’re trying to rise above the Situation, they’re still participating in it.

            It is the Situation that needs to be condemned here, not its symptoms.

            Fill a high school full of cops and see how many years you can go WITHOUT a substantial number of minorities being wrongfully arrested.

            Equip young children to use the language of call-out culture and see how many years you can go before Jerry Seinfeld refuses to perform at universities.

            Fetishize violence and see how long you can go before your war machine is so heinous that it occupies almost every country on Earth and tortures and kills tens of thousands of people a year.

            Etc., etc. Race debates and terrorism debates and all the rest of it aren’t problems, they’re reactions to the terrible, sad situation we’re in.

            • Anonymous says:

              No, I got you. I was just trying to explain why your argument is confusing.

              Also, it may make no difference to you that you repeated an untruth about the situation originally prompted the management at Craig Ranch to call the police, but I feel like it unfairly maligns people who played no part in the unfolding drama. I think that it is best to keep the blame where it belongs.

              • RPLong says:

                …and by repeatedly (ad nauseum) targeting the situational psychology at play in all of these cases, I think I’ve been pretty consistent in placing blame there, rather than on “the management at Craig Ranch.”

      • Scott D says:

        And by the way, the reason this is important is that it changes the narrative, which to some people is the only thing that matters. I think that racism is often used as an emotionally-laden distraction. I think that overall problems of abuse of authority are much simpler to identify and to address, but when you frame it all as racism, it is no longer simple, and any attempt at really solving the issue grinds to a halt.

        • Scott D says:

          Ignore this response, see above.

  3. GabbyD says:

    ” Ahmed said something like (not exact quote), “I wanted to impress my teacher, but she was afraid.” In that line, he’s referring to his English teacher”

    He was referring to the engineering teacher right? thats why the teacher said to hide it, coz he/she was afraid?

    My original issue with this remains — the project was cleared by the engineering teacher. Why did this thing elevate to the cops when the teacher knew about it and could clear the project?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      No GabbyD in that quote he had to mean the English teacher, since she was afraid (and female). So I don’t think it’s true that he showed her the device to impress her with his talent, I think he showed her because she said “What is that beeping thing? Open that up.”

      So I believe in his press conference, which occurred after he had time to collect his thoughts, Ahmed gave a version of what happened that was not accurate and made him look better and the school worse.

      • Colombo says:

        So he is learning. He has have plenty of oportunities to watch people lying in press conferences.

        He has not done anything he has not seen before in adults.

        Maybe he liked the teacher and wanted to impress her. Or perhaps he hated her and wanted to startle her. Yes, he is an idiot. Being an idiot is no reason to call the police, regardless of race and context.

        We are wasting time quibbling about racism and media, when the real problem here is the sheer stupidity of teachers. For instance, the engineering teacher should have taken the “invention”, and returned at the end of the day. Problem solved. Teachers are even more dangerous than policemen.

      • GabbyD says:


        Why would he want to impress his english teacher with the innards of a clock?

        The engineering teacher — he wanted to impress. That teacher was also afraid –> why else ask him to hide it, if he werent worried about something.

        I agree with Bob Roddis’ timeline below. Therefore, this whole thing is a failure internally by the school to handle this project correctly.

        The engineering teacher should have flagged this from the start, or stopped the subsequent calling of the cops.

        Once the cops are in, the rules change. It stops being an internal matter once cops are called in. (which is one of the criticisms of police involvement in anything)

        • Bob Murphy says:

          GabbyD it’s not my job to make sense of his statement–I’m saying I think he mixed the two teachers up, either intentionally or not.

          Go look up the video of his news conference. He said “her” right? And his engineering teacher was a man, right?

          I am not 100% sure but 98% sure of the above. Unless you prove otherwise, you are wrong on this. You should realize he said something self-serving but inaccurate (perhaps innocently).

  4. Colombo says:

    This jail thing is a whole American Tradition. No other country does this thing. Intimidation as a form of lifelong mind control.

    But there is racism in this issue, because if he was white and had an anglosaxon family name, people would just have laughed at him. Every one likes to see and denounce abuse against non-whites, but no one denounces abuse against whites. The problem is the abuse and the stupidity of the public.

    This young man wants freedom and also wants to learn different things. School is a prison, and the moral obligation of every prisoner is to escape. After this, he will probably never try to learn anything new again.

    Another brick in the wall.

    He wanted to be praised, even if he didn’t have any talent, because this man is being artificially kept as an infant, he is not allowed to grow, and it is highly likely that nobody he respects and looks up to has given him a modicum of acknowledgment. He is being tortured by the science of pedagogy, by the science of politics, and by the science of economics, because he is not allowed to grow in knowledge, in responsibility, or in social abilities. He is being crippled. He is pissed off and confused, and has every right to be. And there are many more young men like this. And they will rebel and wreak havoc, causing many crimes and injustice, or they will surrender and support the State, their Master.

    This kind of misguided, mistreated and held back people should end up as libertarians. If they don’t, if they end up as criminals or as statists, then who is to blame?

    It is astounding to see libertarians rallying up against this victim. He is not a victim because he is not white, he is a victim because the State is criminal. People, please, concentrate in the evil done by the State, not in the games they play.

    They will be absorbed politically by socialists, or by libertarians. If we reject them now, where will they go?

    We libertarians are politically retarded. Our self-destruction impulse knows no end. We fall to almost any bait-and-switch palyed by the media, who follows the Government lead. We have earned to be put in a concentration camp and be extermined by an alliance of progressives and conservatives.

    Wake up!
    Know your enemy!

    “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and against the worldly governors, the princes of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness, which are in the high places.”

    • JimS says:

      “This jail thing is a whole American Tradition. No other country does this thing. Intimidation as a form of lifelong mind control.”

      You’re kidding. There are plenty of countries that imprison people for far less and punish far more severely the the US and engage in intimidation to a much greater extent.

      Imagine how this person would have been treated if he had written his own Koran or The Continuing Adventures of the Prophet Mohamed and brought it to school in any number of countries? Retribution would have been swift and severe and the purpose behind such severe action would have been to intimidate others and control what they openly express or privately think.

      • Tel says:

        Not just the theocracy… we see the same type of intimidation in China with anyone who speaks out. They even hauled up that journalist who said the wrong thing about Chinese stocks and margin loans.

        A number of journalists in Russia had problems as well, but I guess people have mentally assimilated this type of thing (at least the Russians have).

        • Tel says:

          Only just mentioned China and a link pops up on Zerohedge… like some spooky coincidence or something.

          The focus for the month of September will be strengthening economic propaganda and guiding public opinion, as well as overall planning for domestic- and foreign-facing propaganda and Internet propaganda, in order to take the next step in promoting the discourse on China’s bright economic future and the superiority of China’s system, as well as stabilizing expectations and inspiring confidence.


          Thing is, these Chinese authorities clearly need better economists on staff. They should read that famous “Oranges and Lemons” thesis about the used car market. By reducing the information available to buyers they force those buyers to take a conservative decision and thus become reluctant to make a trade at all. Heavy handed attempts to boost confidence are sure to have the opposite effect.

          Anyhow getting off topic I suppose… but kind of related to the concept of over reaction.

  5. Max says:

    I happened to catch the rapper “Ice-T” on a comedy show telling how something similar happened to him. He purchased a fake-bomb novelty item from a gift shop. He was staying at a hotel and a maid discovered the “bomb” in his belongings. The police were called, the hotel was partly evacuated, and the police charged him with possession of a “hoax device”. No matter that he never showed it to anyone. (The punchline: being a rapper, he fled the state rather than show up in court).

    • Harold says:

      If it was a big black ball with “Bomb” written on it and a bit of string sticking out, I’d say they overreacted. I don’t know what other type of fake bomb you can get from a gift shop.

  6. Bob Roddis says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the following are undisputed facts in this matter, right?:

    1. He first showed the thing to his engineering teacher who told him not to show it to anyone else.

    2. The thing must be plugged into a wall socket in order to work.

    3. After showing it to the engineering teacher, he went to English class where he plugged it into the wall socket, then set the alarm, and the alarm subsequently went off in class.

    4. Whether or not this is a good idea, Texas has a law against “hoax bombs” which are not actual bombs.


    • Tel says:

      My understanding is that it runs on batteries, and whether Ahmed deliberately set it to disrupt English class is not known.

      Since most of the English classes I ever went to were centered around Feminist / Socialist indoctrination, and making white men feel bad about themselves… I’m not entirely heartbroken to know kids are out there being disruptive, especially bright technical kids who probably aren’t ever going to get a good mark in English.

      Taking a look at that Texas law is interesting, the definition of a “hoax bomb” is anything that any official (including volunteers) might find alarming. Thus, if I’m carrying a briefcase… Ahhh! A briefcase bomb. Then again, I might carry a backpack… Ahhh! A backpack bomb.

      What about a shopping bag then? Must be a shopping bag bomb.

      Wearing a watch? I know that one! It’s the deadly laser watch from James Bond, I saw that in a movie.

      There’s kind of a problem here, any real bomber would carry it in a bag of some sort, with preference for a bag exactly like the sort of bag everyone else is carrying. In a movie they want to make it easy for the audience to figure out which one is the bomb, so they make something unusual about it… but now we have the law being based on the movies. That’s weird.

      Just one last thing, I remember the old trick used to be to call into the school and claim there is a bomb hidden somewhere (especially around exam time). This is the most dangerous bomb of all… an imaginary bomb. That’s right, you could be manufacturing this imaginary bomb in your head right now, and maybe transporting it! Of course, there’s no evidence but just thinking about what you could be imagining is a very alarming thing.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Since most of the English classes I ever went to were centered around Feminist / Socialist indoctrination, and making white men feel bad about themselves… I’m not entirely heartbroken to know kids are out there being disruptive, especially bright technical kids who probably aren’t ever going to get a good mark in English.

        I don’t know if you think you are defending Ahmed, but if the principal / cops saw the above Tel, they would say, “Right, that’s what we thought, which is why he committed a crime and we arrested him.”

        I’m not defending the arrest, just saying it seems like you think you are giving him a high-five, but you’re contradicting his own version of what happened.

        • Tel says:

          “Right, that’s what we thought, which is why he committed a crime and we arrested him.”

          Tomfoolery in class is a state crime in Texas?

          They make em tough over there, at my school the worst that could happen is to stay after class and get a quick lick of the cane, and I assure you the tomfoolery still happened, on occasion the teachers were even in on it.

          Do they also arrest people for office pranks? What about farting in an elevator? I think it’s entirely reasonable for the cops to work a guy over for letting rip in a crowded space, surely Texas would have that one covered.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Fortunately Tel I don’t think you will ever be in charge of several hundred children’s safety, so no big deal if you pretend you don’t see the problem with calling in a bomb threat.

        • Dan W. says:


          The children were safe. They were always safe and school staff were never concerned with their safety.

          The problem illustrated in this situation is the school administrators and the police became useful idiots. They were pranked and pranked good and hard. They allowed protocol to trump common sense and this lead them to creating the desired scene of a 14yo Muslim boy handcuffed for bringing an “invention” to class.

          Wiser people (in Texas) would have saw the situation for what it was. They would not have escalated it to a criminal investigation. They would not have embarrased themselves and created a Kodak moment for the kid and his father and Obama and Google and MIT. But they acted acted foolishly because they have been trained to act like robots instead of thinking and understanding.

        • Colombo says:

          Yes a bomb threat, even if it is just a hoax, is serious.

          But the level of stupidity and incompetence of teachers day to day is even more dangerous, than a hoax. Combine that with police brutality, and it is even worse than a real bomb threat.

          No one is safe when the people in charge is possessed by fear.

          • Tel says:

            Statistically police have killed a lot more people than mad terrorist bombers, check R J Rummel for details… we each play the odds I guess, I’m not going to be telling Bob or anyone else how to feel comfortable with these risks (not unless they pay me at any rate).

            FWIW I tend to consult in business security regarding networks and IT infrastructure, and not really doing the school stuff right now, although I was involved in school networks a while back, dunno how many kids, not my job to count them. I was part of a larger team so not pretending to be anyone awesome or anything…

            As for whether communications security is more or less important than physical security, well the chain is as strong as the weakest link, and teamwork generally will beat any talented individual (but not always). Private data can very easily be misused, and thus compromise your physical security, but if you don’t have physical security to begin with then probably you want some of that as well.

  7. Yancey Ward says:

    The kid knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew exactly what people’s reaction to his device would be. I am guessing he thought the overreaction would start right there in the engineering classroom, but was forced to take it to the English classroom when the engineering teacher failed to rise to the bait.

    Initially, I thought it completely inappropriate to arrest him, but I have my doubts now. If he had called in a bomb threat, and evidence pointed in his direction, he would definitely have been arrested. I am not really certain this isn’t exactly the same thing.

  8. Silas Barta says:

    To clarify, when you say you don’t think he should have been arrested, do you mean in the (less interesting) sense of “You don’t think anyone should be arrested because the police are agents of the State, etc”, or in the sense of “no sane Rothbardian legal/insurance system would have detained him long-term on this basis”?

    If the latter, then I think we’re in agreement (which is not how it seemed from the earlier discussion). I agree that the teachers were very reasonable to raise an alarm on seeing this, and I think people are being uncharitable in blithely assuming it didn’t look like a threat; my position has been that they must have screwed up somewhere that it escalated all the way to arresting him, given all the opportunities to get the facts *after* that panic.

    And FWIW, I agree with your suspicion regarding the strange, PR-inspired phrasings of his public comments. For background, I dug up this comment on an unrelated story, in which I called out the stilted phrasings attributed to another 14 year old, which also sounded like he was fed them by the PR crew.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Silas I mean he shouldn’t have been arrested on many levels. I don’t think with free-market legal system what he did would be a crime, and even in our present system, I think the cops should have concluded that it didn’t serve any purpose to arrest him. Either he really meant no harm, in which case it’s unjust, or he was doing it to provoke people, in which case arresting him is exactly what he wanted.

  9. khodge says:

    Judging from the silicon valley reaction, techies fall into the 90% that don’t know about electronics. You really cannot come down too hard on the police when techies are falling down all over themselves trying to sponsor this kid at inventor events.

  10. Capt. J Parker says:

    My hat’s off to Bob Murphy. I think his early suspicion that the “idiots can’t tell the difference between a clock and a bomb” narrative had some holes in it is proving correct. I admit to being in the “idiots can’t tell the difference camp” but have changed my mind partly because of Dr. Murphy and partly because of a piece in the Wall Street Journal by James Taranto. Taranto makes a few points: 1) After the Columbine High School shootings school districts across the country adopted “zero tolerance” policies which prohibited a whole host of actions and imposed severe penalties to violators. 2)The zero tolerance policies led to a series of events that reasonable people might think were absurd overreactions yet authorities were willing to defend in the name of preventing another Columbine. Taranto gives this partial list of overactions: 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.” 3)There were people at the time who pointed out the absurdity resulting from these zero tolerance policies but it never occurred to anyone that the students being disproportionately punished were being singled out because of their race or ethnicity. (WSJ is paywalled but if you google “best of the web stand with ahmed” you might get a one article pass). So, my thoughts on Ahmeds Suitcase Clock are: Was he the victim of an overaction? – Yes. Was it a singularly bizarre overreaction that would never have happened if Ahmed was named Bob Smith? -No. Was Racism or ethnic or religious bigotry the real reason Amed was so treated – I can’t tell but, I doubt it. I’d need more proof than just the circumstance of the overreaction or the belief that racism still exists in Texas to believe it was. What were Ahmeds motivations? Who can tell. I’m glad none of the idiotic stuff I did in middle school landed me in jail.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Thanks Capt. This is the fourth documented instance since the invention of the internet when someone changed his mind.

      • Major.Freedom says:

        Hey if you always keep your true beliefs to yourself then you can change your mind all the time and nobody else would notice.

        • Colombo says:

          I moult my beliefs during full moon. Next monday I’ll become a Romney supporter for some hours. It is a very painful process. In tuesday I’ll fast, pray and read Bastiat. That usually takes care of the headache.

      • Yancey Ward says:

        Four sounds high.

  11. Grane Peer says:

    Bob, it is amazing that people are not getting this. If you took Ahkbar’s ‘obvious’ clock and left it in a room full of 8 year old boys they would start playing with it pretending it was a bomb. Any notion that he was ignorant of this at 14 is beyond absurd.

    The only thing he ‘built’ is something that looks like a fake bomb. Any kid would recognize this and I am an adult who knew right away exactly what I was looking at and I still say it looks like a fake bomb. What is even funnier is that by that age I had made battery packs with D-cells inside paper towel tubes. Imagine stuffing those inside that case, still wouldn’t be a bomb but I challenge any of these internet bomb experts to tell me they would know what the hell they were looking at. Then not only would I have made something worth showing off to my engineering teacher but also a more convincing looking bomb. What reaction would that get?

    It makes absolutely no difference what that thing was or was not it also makes no difference what the kid’s intent was. It probably should but the fact is kids do not get the benefit of doubt, they never have and they never will. They are simple left to suffer fools until they are old enough to become one.

    • jbsay says:

      I thought that we limited the use of force against others to responses to their ACTS, only God can judge another motives, and apparently even he prefers to judge acts.

      What it “looks like” is not a crime – especially when it only “looks like” a bomb to people whose idea of what a bomb looks like is TV – where bombs are complex electronic devices with lots of wires and only the tiniest amount of actual explosives if any. Where Rambo can obliterate an army with the “explosives” he caries on his person.

      In the real world bombs look more like this

  12. Tel says:

    When I was 14, if I were being walked out of school in handcuffs, I would be absolutely terrified.

    Well kids being arrested for random minor infringements wasn’t quite as normal back then.

    • RPLong says:


      • Major.Freedom says:

        Let’s see, today first period I got calculus, then a spare, then lunch, then organic chemistry after lunch, and then I should be getting arrested for something or other for fourth period.

        Geez, skool sometimes sux.

        • Colombo says:


          That was a laugh.

  13. jbsay says:

    Yes, it looks like a tv/movie bomb – NOT A REAL BOMB.

    As someone who actually knows something about electronics – why do we presume that bombs are electronic gadgets ?

    I have “blown up” a capacitor. Unless you put your eye inches away it is harmless.

    The principle ingredient – the one that makes them dangerous to a bomb is an explosive.
    A ton on electronics and no explosives is not a bomb.

    A bomb can be made with no electronics – and most are. It can not be made without explosives.
    And an actually dangerous bomb requires a fair amount of explosives.

    This is what a most bombs looks like

    The stupidity of those involved is not an excuse for this idiotic behavior.

    If you want an argument here, it is that because Ahmed is of the right minority, he will do fine. Oportunities are already coming his way. If he was just an ordinary young white male nerd who made the mistake of taking something electronic to school he would likely be prosecuted and his bright future would have significantly dimmed.

    This school idiocy happens all the time. It happens regardless or ethnicity or religion. It usually ends badly – unless you are the right ethnicity or religion.

    I wish Ahmed the best in the future – now do something about the other nerds you have idiotically whigged out over.

    Your fears do not justify stupid actions.

    The use of force is justified by the actual use of force, not stupid misperceptions.

    • Grane Peer says:


      “Yes, it looks like a tv/movie bomb – NOT A REAL BOMB”

      Exactly, that is why they accused him of making a hoax bomb not a real bomb. It seems to me that people want to make the argument that this did not look like a ‘real fake bomb’. I hope you can at least see there is something odd about that. If you had been the principal, perhaps, your judgment about the appearance of the device would have been; innocent looking clock, go back to class. You don’t get to prescribe perceptions to other people, even though those perceptions may be objectively wrong. None of the arguments about it not being a real bomb are relevant. The idea of a hoax bomb is that it is perceived as a bomb, which was obviously the case here.

      In an idealized libertarian world the principal, acting as the authority of the goings on on school grounds, would be well within his right to suspend or expel the student. Regardless of whether or not it was indeed the appropriate response. Further more, It would be within his right to call the police but the police would not be right to kidnap the student for a non-crime but they could surely remove the student from the grounds if he was not willing to leave.

      Now we don’t live in an idealized libertarian world and the issue for me, and I believe Dr. Murphy, is not the appropriateness of the response but the actual motivations behinds Ahmed’s decisions that day. I am not defending the actions taken by the authorities but one would have to have fallen off the turnip truck to be surprised by them. You wish Ahmed the best in the future and yet I get the impression that you think he is a complete ignoramus.

  14. Innocent says:

    okay so here is the issue. Was it race or was it a correct function of society to ‘arrest’ this kid?

    How about both and neither.

    Bias is a good and rational method of categorization. It is often incorrect, but useful. For instance, you are out late at night, you are at a store and the parking lot is empty except for a large group of teenage boys who are pushing each other around and being boisterous. Regardless of race do you walk up and engage these strange teenagers in conversation? Joke with them about how late it is? Why not? Are you biased against them?

    When a large group of people, not single incidents of individuals or people in twos or threes, use religion ( regardless of which one it is ) as a calling card to commit atrocities does it NOT behoove people to be cautious?

    Please note that I have been a missionary and spoken to Muslims that wanted to Convert to Christianity but did not for fear of being killed BY THEIR OWN FAMILIES ( A few did regardless ).

    Now this is not to ‘defend’ the police. I disagree with the way they handled it. But I disagree with children being arrested because they brought a toy gun to class or pointed a toy gun out a car window. Or anything else like that. Talked to – yes, arrested – not so much.

    Finally here is the really scary part. What if it had been a bomb? What if next time people are unwilling to stop someone because they are afraid to be ‘racist’?

    Look judging people by outward appearance is never a good thing. But it happens all the time. Hollywood teaches us if you look good you are good. How many ‘ugly’ people make it onto T.V. ( a few but they are few and far in between )

    As for this kid, seriously if you had been told by your ‘teacher’ that you wanted to impress that it looked like a bomb and you should not show it to others, would you carry it around and show it to others? Now being 14 maybe he is just awfully dense. Maybe Autistic ( I can relate ) but seriously.

  15. Andrew_M_Garland says:

    A clock as a science project is approxmately a tiny microprocessor containing a timing function, a communication chip, a five character display, some wiring, and a battery. You program the microprocessor, take the output, put it through the comm chip, and display the result like “12:03”. This is all mounted on a circuit board or separately on a wooden support, a “breadboard” clock.

    One learns about all the details of microprocessors, digital circuits, timing, routing, and how to communicate to a display. It is a learning project about digital electronics.

    Ahmed did not learn much doing his clock. His is the innards of a commercial clock with a huge display mounted in an attache case. He mounted it, extended the wires, and plugged it in. It is made to surprise or impress people who know nothing about digital electronics.

    • Tel says:

      It is made to surprise or impress people who know nothing about digital electronics.

      Very true, I completely agree… which is apparently still a very large number of people.

      This isn’t entirely surprising. You have two things happening: division of labour makes people more narrowly specialized so they know less and less about what the guy next door is doing (even in full view) and also technology both expands the possibilities and enhances the consequences of destructive actions. This means in order to stay in business you either need to put a lot more effort into constraints on everyone (which itself leads to resentment, and anyway no matter how you arrange it power still corrupts), or else you need to ensure you hang around with people who don’t have any incentive to cause death and destruction.

      Fortunately, most people don’t want to kill their fellow man, and most people actually prefer to have some system of rules around them.

  16. teqzilla says:

    What has irritated me is just how dumb the press have been willing to play it in order to preserve the story. For example, many articles on the story are awash glowing biographical tidbits about young Ahmed

    – he fixes the neighbours electronics!
    – hes on the robotics club!
    – he built his own go-kart!

    All that is just grand, bully for him, but how can they write all this stuff and not realise it makes Ahmed’s account sound less plausible? Why is a kid who built his own gokart beaming with pride at his ability to rip the guts out a clock and screw it into a pencil case? Going from gokart to pointless box of crap represents a bit of a slump.

    But, no, they think nothing, wonder nothing. Even the revelation that Ahmed’s supposed homemade clock was actually only a modified store bought clock, and the sole modification was to change the way the clock looked by changing the casing, seems not to produce even a spark of curiosity. Why did Ahmed change the clock’s appearance? What was he trying to make the clock look like? Evidently, these are evil questions for evil minds.

    • Josiah says:

      The kid’s own story was that he put the clock together in about 20 minutes. It wasn’t supposed to be some elaborate project.

  17. Josiah says:


    Here’s why I think your ‘I’m not taking sides’ position is untenable.

    1. We both agree that the school/cops didn’t think it was a real bomb. The reason they interrogated/suspended/arrested the kid was because they thought it was a hoax bomb.

    2. Most of the reasons you cite for being suspicious of the kid are only relevant if it was in fact a hoax bomb. You can argue that the fact he had a certain facial expression while being handcuffed or that he used the word “talent” in a press conference is circumstantial evidence he meant it as a bomb. But unless that’s what you are arguing, who cares?

    3. If it was a hoax bomb, then how did the police/school act stupidly? Making a hoax bomb is a crime, and for very good reason. So if you think he really did make it as a bomb, then you should also think his being arrested etc. was perfectly appropriate.

    • Tel says:

      Making a hoax bomb is a crime, and for very good reason.

      That’s why you need to be arrested for manufacturing that imaginary hoax bomb and carrying it around inside your head. Ahhh, you didn’t expect us to know about that one did you? You thought just because we can’t see what you’re thinking, you would be safe… well you sure got that wrong.

      You might use that imagination of yours to phone in a bomb hoax and describe your imaginary bomb… sorry son, but we just can’t take that risk.

      For the children!

      Your gonna have a long time to think about what you’ve done.

  18. Harold says:

    Assault is a crime, yet the school probably does not call the police for every minor physical assault. Technically a boy does who punches the arm of the boy sitting next to him is committing a crime. Calling the police in that case fails a “public interest” test, whereas someone seriously beating up a fellow student might not.

    In the UK there is a public interest test built in -not sure what the situation is in Texas. In the fake bomb case it seems clear to me that there was no public interest in calling the police, even if there had technically been a crime. If there is no such test built in, then there is clearly some discretion on the part of the school authorities. It seems to me that they did not use their discretion wisely.

    Once called, the police have a similar discretion. They too failed to exercise it wisely.

    • Grane Peer says:

      Harold, I am not certain if it applies in this instance but there are specific things that school officials are required by law to report, This is definitely the case with possible abuse. I would be surprised if there wasn’t a similar mandate for possible bomb hoaxes.

    • Anonymous says:


      A hoax bomb seems like a perfectly appropriate thing for the police to be called for.

      • Harold says:

        In this case I think not. He seems to have made no action to cinvince or persuade anyone that this was a bomb. Possibly he thought it was cool to have such a thing, and it would impress his classmates and/or teachers. He does not seem to have intended it to actually be perceived as a real bomb. To my mind this is a case of a “hoax hoax bomb”.

        Physical assault is an appropriate reason to call the police, but not in every case. Hoax bombs are appropriate reasons to call the police, but not in every case.

        Grane Peer – if the discretion has been removed from schools in such cases then perhaps I am in error for blaming them.

  19. Pierre says:

    I am aware that these are not your own words. Still, I am sad to say that for the first time since I started reading your blog, I am shocked and deeply disappointed by what I am reading here. I don’t even need to be the psychologist that I am to know that judging someone’s character and personality on the basis of pictures and videos seen in the news is amazingly dumb… Mind-reading at its worst. I sure hope this is just your contrarian-for-the-sake-of-it side taking over for a short moment, because this post is a disaster IMHO.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I sure hope this is just your contrarian-for-the-sake-of-it side taking over for a short moment…

      Pierre, I hate it when psychologists try to get inside my mind and guess at my motivations, based on a few short sentences I typed out.

      • Pierre says:

        I kind of expected this… I did hand you the stick.

      • Tel says:

        Bob, as far as I’m concerned you are innocent until proven guilty.

        Any hand waving theory about motivations, intentions, and what you might sometimes think of your English teacher don’t mean diddly.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Tel wrote:

          Any hand waving theory about motivations, intentions, and what you might sometimes think of your English teacher don’t mean diddly.

          Well, the good news is Tel, you’ll never have to waste time on jury duty. You don’t believe in the distinction between murder and manslaughter.

          • Tel says:

            I hate to break this to you Bob, but around my neck of the woods, turning up for jury duty is compulsory, and it’s very difficult (by design) to get rid of people for “bad attitude” if they don’t happen to take the same perspective as whoever the offense or the defense might be that particular day.

            That’s right… every single citizen might be forced against his or her will to become psychologists trying to get inside someone’s mind and guess at motivations. Statistically speaking, most will go through this sooner or later.

            You will be glad to know that voting is not compulsory but they do demand you give them an acceptable excuse every time you fail to show up. You might even be surprised to learn that “I’m a Christian and Jesus is LORD, so voting would be incompatible with my faith” is considered an acceptable reason not to vote (at least for the time being).

            We also have Royal Commissions here, with powers to make people talk, it’s a load of fun, you want to try it. More gumption than a congressional subpoena and more staying power too.

            Getting back to jury duty, I’m aware that a jury is expected to judge the facts, and that some laws demand measuring “intention” should be one of the “facts” that a jury must decide on. As an empiricist, I happen to believe that people’s intentions are best revealed by their actions. I also believe that if there’s doubt in any juror’s mind then “not guilty” is an appropriate response. It should be difficult to convict, that’s a good thing. If the law is unworkable or too vague to make sense of then I’m one juror who doesn’t have the slightest problem with nullifying stupid laws. Fewer laws won’t matter, we have plenty of others.

            I cannot beyond reasonable doubt prove that the Texas cops and school teachers were racist when seeing a Muslim with a clock… I suspect they were, but I don’t have proof.

            That’s not to say I’m a great supporter of Islam by any means. Any religion where you are forbidden to leave is a cult by definition as far as I’m concerned, even if it is a largish cult. That’s beside the point, we are trying to measure intention here.

  20. Bob Murphy says:

    RPLong, again, just for the record, I recognize that something was bothering you about the way this played out, and you thought I was falling into the ruse ensnaring everybody else.

    However, all I can say is that what made me so worked up about this, is how quickly people on “my side” wanted to fold this into their standard narratives. I thought they much too quickly embraced the “nerdy misunderstood kid getting railroaded by thug cops and idiot teachers” when it seemed there were too many details that didn’t fit.

    • RPLong says:

      Yeah, I can see how my comments could have made you feel that way, and I apologize if they did. That really wasn’t my intention. I am caught up in my own thinking about this, which obviously makes it challenging for me to express myself the way I wanted to. I hope, ultimately, we were able to sort ourselves out on this one, and again, I’m sorry if it seemed I came on too harshly against you.

  21. guest says:

    A little off-topic, but if Austrians keep putting nonsense like the following out, they’re going to keep having a really hard time reaching Conservatives:

    (I don’t know if the author, Jack Perry, is an Austrian, but it appeared on LewRockwell.com.)

    I’ll have an Order of Taqiyya to Go, Extra Government Please

    Taqiyya is a real Islamic strategy, and no, it’s nothing remotely like what America does to other countries. Islam is not a religion of peace, and this guy is naive.

    And no, it’s not a strategy that’s limited to a Muslim’s life being in danger; It also goes by the phrase “Civilization Jihad”:

    Team B, Author at Breitbart

    (These guys wrote a bunch of articles about Shariah Law and the Civilization Jihad being used by the Muslim Brotherhood to attempt to impliment [sp?] it in America.)

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