"He’s vowed never to take an invention to school again."
September 15, 2015 11:02 PM   Subscribe

A 14 year old in Dallas builds a digital clock. He takes it to school to show his teacher. The school has him arrested.

Ahmed’s clock was hardly his most elaborate creation. He said he threw it together in about 20 minutes before bedtime on Sunday: a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.

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 felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”


Ahmed was wearing a NASA t-shirt when they handcuffed him and took him to a juvenile detention centre.

Here's Ahmed speaking about his experience.

#IStandWithAhmed has started trending on Twitter.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts (709 comments total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fucking fascists
posted by growabrain at 11:05 PM on September 15, 2015 [137 favorites]


Fucking fascists

I'm tempted to add that as a tag.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:07 PM on September 15, 2015 [50 favorites]


This is really shameful. Every adult complicit in this charade should really be up on charges for abuse. I can't image the long term effect that would have on any child.
posted by CaveFrog at 11:13 PM on September 15, 2015 [80 favorites]


I really hope a lawsuit is coming. Because there should be a cost to beating the creativity out of kids like this. Here is this brilliant kid getting the message that he will be literally arrested for inventing. If that's not fucked up, I don't know what is.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:15 PM on September 15, 2015 [130 favorites]


hmm I wonder why we don't have enough diversity in STEM -

OH RIGHT
posted by divabat at 11:15 PM on September 15, 2015 [196 favorites]




What the fucking fuck. He's been suspended and they may still charge him even though they know he told everybody it was a clock? Fucking Irving, a bitter armpit of a place with zero redeeming values.

And now whenever other 14 year olds build sophisticated bombs that require a circuit board to operate and bring them to school no one will take them seriously.
posted by item at 11:16 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, actions like these towards him and other young Muslim men sure won't make them bitter and angry towards American society and more vulnerable to those looking to exploit that anger, no sirree.
posted by Karaage at 11:20 PM on September 15, 2015 [60 favorites]


“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” police spokesman James McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

oh shit guys shit there's a bomb on the wall of every single classroom in america somebody call kiefer sutherland
posted by item at 11:21 PM on September 15, 2015 [155 favorites]


The school apparently circulated this note to parents about the incident. Source.
I recommend using this opportunity to talk with your child about the Student Code of Conduct and specifically not bringing items to school that are prohibited.
I sincerely doubt that clocks are a prohibited item.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:23 PM on September 15, 2015 [72 favorites]


Ahmed

Seems like we're about done investigating here boys.
Good work.
posted by fullerine at 11:23 PM on September 15, 2015 [114 favorites]


I am looking forward to seeing how this story develops tomorrow. The geek and maker communities have got Ahmed's back. The Internet is about to strike down upon Irving with great vengeance and fuuuurious anger.
posted by zjacreman at 11:26 PM on September 15, 2015 [77 favorites]


That is so much the worst I can't even process it

If I were one of his classmates I would be making the fuck out of some clocks right now. I'd be dragging a fucking grandfather clock down the hall like Jesus goddamn Christ.
posted by rifflesby at 11:29 PM on September 15, 2015 [236 favorites]


Yeah this is terrible and for hopefully the only time ever I'm in with the internet torches and pitchforks crowd.

Donald Trump better get on a fucking plane and shake Ahmed's hand tomorrow because otherwise any shit platitudes about how stuff needs to get Made In America and how we need to Make America Great Again are just so much garbage. Ahmed is who is going to make America great again.

If you could just stop fucking arresting him.
posted by GuyZero at 11:33 PM on September 15, 2015 [108 favorites]


I remember in the 70's when I was young and in the middle school science club. We could order kits from my science teacher to build electronic items. And the things were paper route money affordable.

We used soldering irons to make hobby rockets, radios, timers, and other, by todays standards, subversive and destructive "weaponry".

But by far the coolest thing I made was the strobe, black light combo hooked up to an FM reciever set. I could even get WRBR from South Bend Indiana. ROCK ON!

And this was 1970's New Paris, Indiana. INDIANA fer cripe's sake. And I am a FEMALE!

The Texas science teacher and admin. must use freakin' sundials to think that a homemade clock looks like a WMD.
posted by moonlily at 11:35 PM on September 15, 2015 [29 favorites]


All teachers are heroes, right?

Not dipshits that live in their own little fiefdoms, right?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:38 PM on September 15, 2015 [20 favorites]


They cuffed him and perp-walked him out the school? That's fucked up.
posted by Standard Orange at 11:38 PM on September 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


He's been suspended and they may still charge him even though they know he told everybody it was a clock?

Rule #1: The school authorities are always right.
Rule #2: In case they are provably wrong, see Rule #1.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:40 PM on September 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


Also, we've been down this path before and I know there are many fine people somewhere in Texas, but apparently not Irving. Texas, you're making it hard not to buy into stereotypes here.

Also, sweet Jesus, looking at a map Irving is right next door to Addison and Plano both of which are full of high tech hardware companies. And definitely no one drive these morons to the Fry's THAT'S RIGHT THERE IN IRVING.

I need to go to bed. GRAR
posted by GuyZero at 11:44 PM on September 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


Oh dear god. I can't even.
posted by lollusc at 11:49 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This sounds like the origin story of a super-villain.
posted by Jode at 11:50 PM on September 15, 2015 [50 favorites]


For comparison: in 2008, a 14 year old white boy, Taylor Wilson, built a freaking nuclear reactor in his garage. He got invited to Washington DC to meet with Department of Energy honchos, and received a $100K scholarship. Can you imagine that happening in Ahmed's world? The kid's not even allowed to build a clock.

Taylor Wilson is actually a fascinating character, and a bona fide prodigy. He's deserving of an FPP all of his own.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:50 PM on September 15, 2015 [174 favorites]


Also, for once the Youtube comments are quite heartening.
posted by lollusc at 11:52 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well I've only been living in Dallas for a few months but yeah everyone's like Fuck Irving Pretty Much Always so I guess that's something.

I'm farther North and it seems nice so far but my kids aren't into clocks yet so only time will tell
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:52 PM on September 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


The thing that really puzzles me about most of these "hoax" cases--this one, the Boston Aqua Teen thing, the girl who tried to get on a plane with a light-up shirt--is that the devices are always just circuits: wires, PCB, a few chips/DIPs, passive elements, maybe some LEDs.

That's a fuze at most. There's never anything resembling an explosive charge, so all of these things should only be mistaken for halves--the less dangerous halves--of bombs. There's nothing there to do the actual exploding! I guess you can light a PCB on fire, but it'll just make some gross smoke.

How do people mess this up? This isn't a technology thing, it's a cultural literacy thing. In even the dumbest action movies, the bomb is always some ticking/flashing part connected to a scary explosive part--a pipe, a few sticks of dynamite, maybe a few kneaded erasers standing in for C4. The big action hero disconnects the two halves with three seconds left, and the bomb is no longer a bomb, it's just a fuze and some explosives. Who's scared of a fuze?
posted by lozierj at 11:57 PM on September 15, 2015 [105 favorites]


I can understand the position of the authorities on this. We have suffered some serious attacks with devices like that in our past so people are being cautions.

Never Forget
posted by Drinky Die at 11:58 PM on September 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry, what!! If you think a student has a bomb, then you evacuate the fucking school! If you do not think it's a bomb, you tell the kid to take the annoying beeping thing home. You do not keep the potential bomb in the same room as yourself and a bunch of other kids and arrest the kid. AAAARGH!
posted by kjs4 at 12:00 AM on September 16, 2015 [235 favorites]


*shakes fist at lozierj*
posted by Drinky Die at 12:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Answer to kjs4 and lozierj, I think, is "racists gonna racist."

I am pretty much disgusted.
posted by Alterscape at 12:06 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


the girl who tried to get on a plane with a light-up shirt

That was an MIT student who did not try to get on a plane, but did try to meet her friend in the pre-security-screening area of the airport. A clerk at the counter saw a blinky LED design on a shirt and thought OMGBomb and the bomb squad surrounded the student and the MIT administration said to the police "you morons, you just aimed guns at a wonderful human being with a light up shirt, and if we don't stand for her right to be a geek we are well and truly chickenshits."

No wait, they did the other thing and cravenly sold her out within 5 nanoseconds.
posted by zippy at 12:06 AM on September 16, 2015 [104 favorites]


This story seems so irrational, dystopic, and bizarre, but there must be some meaning in it somewhere. After all, like Voltaire said, "I cannot imagine how the bombwork of the universe can exist without a bombmaker."
posted by taz at 12:07 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm frustrated for this poor guy, and I wanna see, like, Adam Savage get his back.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:08 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Anil Dash is rocking twitter on this tonight. He's in contact with the family and passing on messages of support.
posted by zjacreman at 12:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


Apparently you can send emails to Ahmed at istandwithahmed@gmail.com.

Hope someone is screening them though.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Via Hacker News, Ahmed's high school has 35 coaches for sports. And they arrest kids for having a circuit board.
posted by GuyZero at 12:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [40 favorites]


Well if they're so sports crazy, maybe he should have built a sports clock! Like a basketball shot clock, that counts down.

Oh, wait...
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:19 AM on September 16, 2015 [48 favorites]


“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” said Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan and occasionally returns there to run for president.
That's one hell of an aside.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:23 AM on September 16, 2015 [233 favorites]


“[The engineering teacher] was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

Engineering teacher apparently knows he works with a bunch of racist, anti-intellectual douchebags.
posted by zjacreman at 12:23 AM on September 16, 2015 [157 favorites]


"How do people mess this up? This isn't a technology thing, it's a cultural literacy thing. In even the dumbest action movies, the bomb is always some ticking/flashing part connected to a scary explosive part"

I think that's the core here. There's some mentality (as noted by previous commenters) that people now believe that if it blinks, beeps or flashes, it must be dangerous.

This is as much 24/Homeland/et al's fault as anything else, imo. Those were the pop-culture gateways into this.

Ahmed looks like my little cousin. Kinda dweeby, endearing and definitely smart as heck... so this riles me up. I'm so bummed at so many of these stories, where that could've been me on an alternate timeline.

Wishing him and his family the best tonight and moving forward.
posted by raihan_ at 12:27 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


I just checked the website and looked at the extra-curriculars. The science club specifically mentions making bottle rockets as one of the activities that it has done in the past. So they don't object to bombs at the school, except when they aren't real and are carried by kids with names that aren't from 'murica. I'd like to make a joke, but this is going to be all over the international press for a short while as a human interest story. Further proof America hates Muslims. And I think that the kid and his family are probably going to get a round of racist harassment because people are shits and the next extinction level impact event should have happened a while ago.

I really do hope that the public outrage over this does force them to rethink things. I do worry about the rest of the year this kid has coming when he has shown just how stupid his teachers and the administration of his school are.
posted by Hactar at 12:32 AM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yes, actions like these towards him and other young Muslim men sure won't make them bitter and angry towards American society and more vulnerable to those looking to exploit that anger, no sirree.

Can we not turn this into "this is going to RADICALIZE him", which is really just another manifestation of the stereotype that a certain subset of American children are essentially dangerous adults? The much more realistic, and much more sad outcome is that he is going to internalize the message that he should not take pride in his interests and his hard work.
posted by kagredon at 12:36 AM on September 16, 2015 [127 favorites]


Can we not turn this into "this is going to RADICALIZE him", which is really just another manifestation of the stereotype that American children are essentially dangerous othered adults? The much more realistic, and much more sad outcome is that he is going to internalize the message that he should not take pride in his interests and his hard work.
I think we need to do both. Not everyone is a loving, compassionate human being that is capable of empathizing with the damage that this can do to a kid. If such people can only respond to the threat of radicalization, then that is a message that should be conveyed as well.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:40 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even though it is barely removed from the "message" that led to this whole mess in the first place?
posted by kagredon at 12:41 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also until we get some of those jerks in this thread tailoring our discourse to fit their emotional deficiencies seems premature.
posted by zjacreman at 12:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


No one ever hired a cop for his analytical abilities...
posted by mikelieman at 12:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I will add the the mayor of Irving, Beth Van Duyne attracted quite a bit of attention back in March when she voiced support for a law in the legislature that would ban judges from considering foreign law in their cases. This law came about after Muslims started offering to mediate for free disputes between members of their community. While I'm not a fan of this sort of thing (I've read about similar methods being abused in Hassidic communities to ostracize people), there was no objection when it was done by either Jews or Catholics. The city council also supported the bill. I was going to try to assemble links, but honestly, I need to get to sleep. So go here and look at the links on the side.

My takeaway from this is that Irving, Texas really likes to hate Muslims. The school is just a reflection of the bigotry of the city. Or at least of the part of the city that votes for things like school boards, sheriff's and city councils. The part that skews older, conservative and racist.
posted by Hactar at 12:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Here's the rule. You pull this kind of anti-technology shit, we take the same technology away from you. Hey, do your cellphones have clocks? Because we want to keep you safe.
posted by user92371 at 1:04 AM on September 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


Wow, holy fuck, no way.

I built something ALMOST EXACTLY like this in high school as a class final project, it was supposed to be a "time machine". The photos are lost to time and dead hard drives, but yes, this was very much post 9/11 and the patriot act and such, and it did look like this and fit the description. It even had a bunch of abstract wires and a control pad on the outside(!!!). It was large, heavy, and plugged in to the wall with a timer/clock that lit up and counted.

I used to think the difference was that i went to a weird alternative school, but no, i remember dumb incidents like this and even had some draconian ones. They very much did still play in to the zero tolerance bullshit.

I'm beginning to realize that the reason i got away with it was probably that i'm a white passing guy who looks sort of very lightly toasted, and since it's the pacific northwest i probably read as "guy who spends a lot of time outside" rather than "brown person" most of the time unless i'm next to my mom or relatives.

So yea pretty much my point is fuck this shit and fuck these racist assholes.

They cuffed him and perp-walked him out the school? That's fucked up.

I was going to link to a specific story i remembered of this happening before and go "standard procedure unfortunately", but i had to link to the search because woah it REALLY is. There's PAGES of stories of this happening.

This is just as much about fear and "don't even try and do anything like what this kid did, even if it isn't actually against the law or the rules, or we'll embarrass you and shame you in front of the entire school.

Yet another instance of the biggest bullies being the teachers and administration. Which i definitely saw an awful lot of in high school.
posted by emptythought at 1:12 AM on September 16, 2015 [28 favorites]


"...that people now believe that if it blinks, beeps or flashes, it must be dangerous. This is as much 24/Homeland/et al's fault as anything else, imo. Those were the pop-culture gateways into this."

Yeah, I had 24/Jack Bauer in mind when I wrote my comment. The only two pictures of bombs from the show that I can find have the "C4" front and center, with the wiring kind of off to the side, and the fuze hidden or hanging off of the vest entirely.

I can't find any pictures from Homeland, but wasn't the vest shown as a bunch of ball bearings and a little button/plunger? And of the two other bombs I remember (car, briefcase), I don't think we saw the details of either. Not a whole lot of blinking/flashing.

I guess I assume these dumbass cops imagine themselves as some sort of Jack Bauer/John McClane type, so I expect them to be familiar with the essentials of the genre. It look like they've managed to be racist enough to forget basic lessons from Cowboy Cop 101.

Maybe the iconic beeping intertitle from 24 is what these people remember and associate with danger, but that's not a bomb part IT'S ALSO JUST A NORMAL CLOCK, LIKE FOR TELLING THE TIME OF DAY.
posted by lozierj at 1:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


*chuckles* This is like troublemaker friend bingo for me :)

Oh heh, there's Taylor.

Oh heh, there's Star.

Yeah, us nerds have Ahmed's back here. We're pretty pissed, gotta say.
posted by effugas at 1:19 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


So wait.. the kid can't have a clock at school but the English teacher, admins, and police can deploy weapons-grade stupidity? That hardly seems fair.
  • I want every other kid at that school to bring a clock to school tomorrow.
  • I want the CEO of every tech company in the surrounding area to announce that they're not going to buy any goods or services from businesses located in Irving until the kid receives an apology.
  • I want the teacher who thought it was a bomb, the administrators who backed her, the police officers who responded, and their leadership to become figures of public ridicule, and not just in the technology world.
  • I want to see some goddamned leadership from top-ranking Texas politicians who will step forward and say "This is not who we are. We value learning and we're not cowards and it's pathetic and embarrassing that these officials reacted this way."
Those are the things I want and I honestly don't think any of them is too much to ask. Very sadly, though, they are not what I expect to happen.

Prove me wrong, Texas. Prove me wrong.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [34 favorites]


In 5th grade I built a short wave radio from a Heathkit and took it to show and tell. I got sent to the principal to explain why I was lying about building a radio :(

Oh well at least I didn't have to worry about being sent to GitMo back then.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 2:00 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


A couple of weeks ago, I took a bag containing a PO16, a laptop, three tablets, a big LiPo power bank, a couple of wireless speakers, and a big pile of cables, on holiday. The bag went through x-ray machines both in the UK and in France, and nobody blinked an eye. So clearly some people get that random electronic bits and pieces aren't usually capable of blowing up planes.

I think maybe we just need an educational programme that teaches people not to be paranoid around LEDs...
posted by pipeski at 2:03 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


When we played in the street with IEDs made of large nuts and bolts, when we remotely detonated a really loud firecracker in the school sports field, hell, when we built a cannon out of (plastic) pipe and loaded it with home made black powder and shot a clay ball across the street from the third floor balcony, nobody bothered to yell at us, much less arrest us. Granted, it was another country, another times, but on the other hand, that country was considered a totalitarian police state by the US.

I guess that's where the American muslims live now.
posted by hat_eater at 2:08 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I well recall back around 1980 my friend Martin in the gifted and talented program at our school made, for his final project, a bomb. It was a globe with wires and chemicals in it. I was genuinely a little afraid but our wonderful teacher was thrilled. She made us all gather around and look at it. Suddenly, a flame popped up - no more than what you'd see from a birthday candle. "My bomb went off," Martin said with pride.

This is a 100% true story. Different times but Martin was always inventing stuff. No idea what happened to him but I bet it eat pretty amazing.

I hope that in the long run this young man doesn't lose his enthusiasm for tinkering.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Here's the thing:

Even if you presumed something ticking was a bomb, (which you shouldn't, but heck) why would a wannabe bomber keep it in his bag for most of the day, take it out when asked, and show it to everyone who asks what it was? Most bombers would pull the trigger when they can, not wait through the day for something. And in any case, why wouldn't you scan it through a metal detector if you're so concerned about it blowing up or something?

Sorry, there's only one plausible explanation for the teachers' and police's behaviour, and that's not security.
posted by the cydonian at 2:34 AM on September 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


Two things stood out for me in the article:

He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”
(...)
“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” said Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan and occasionally returns there to run for president. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”

Mohamed is familiar with anti-Islamic politics. He once made national headlines for debating a Florida pastor who burned a Quran.


I'd bet some three letter agency somewhere has helpfully made a note of the kid's dad before, then the school act like a bunch of idiots and get the police involved, and it all escalates from ordinary strength Stupid to weapons-grade Stupid.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:35 AM on September 16, 2015 [33 favorites]


I'm not going to go into detail about my extra-curricular activities in the late-70's early-80's, but as a middle-school project I *did* win a New York State Industrial Arts Award for my 4 pad rocket launch controller with integrated power supplies, safety-lockout, warning siren, and lighted 'armed' indicators with discrete ( and gangable ) launch switches... I fabbed the custom case with the sloped panel, too..
posted by mikelieman at 2:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


IT IS A FUCKING CLOCK


Are these people afraid of time?


I sort of enjoy the thought of them looking at a clock and thinking WITCHCRAFT!

It's less awful than the truth.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


I want the teacher who thought it was a bomb, the administrators who backed her, the police officers who responded, and their leadership to become figures of public ridicule, and not just in the technology world.

You're a gentle soul. Each of them should be required to find a new profession. Even if the courts or someone with some sense pushes back hard enough to make most of the "consequences" go away, I can't imagine any other way Ahmed will ever be able to feel comfortable in the school, maybe even that town again. The teachers, staff, and police involved have all shown him who he is in their eyes. They've shown every student who isn't white what they think of them.
posted by kewb at 3:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


It's Little Brother all over again.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


So this is a de facto ban on Muslims working in certain areas of technology, i.e., the ones that have the potential of scaring dumb hicks who have watched 24. A bit like the similar prohibition on black kids walking down the street wearing hoodies or holding anything that is not obviously not a gun or otherwise risking scaring jittery white homeowners.

It's not a legal ban, sure; it's enforced by the fact that when the scared white person responds, they will not be prosecuted, may even be praised for following the correct procedure (because, after all, we can never be too careful these days), and if they're inconvenienced by being dragged through courts, they'll be compensated by at least becoming a figurehead for angry racists to declare that they stand with, if not celebrity on FOXNews or a ghost-written book deal. For certain types of petty fascists, that can be a career break in itself.
posted by acb at 3:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


The teachers, staff, and police involved have all shown him who he is in their eyes. They've shown every student who isn't white what they think of them.

... and that is their job.
posted by rdr at 3:56 AM on September 16, 2015


> I want the CEO of every tech company in the surrounding area to announce that they're not going to buy any goods or services from businesses located in Irving until the kid receives an apology.

I'd love to see Texas Instruments, which is right down the fucking road, issue a bloody strong public statement about this.
posted by Westringia F. at 3:57 AM on September 16, 2015 [64 favorites]


And in any case, why wouldn't you scan it through a metal detector if you're so concerned about it blowing up or something?
In no way do I support the ludicrous actions taken, but a metal detector isn't going to be able to distinguish between a digital clock and a bomb.

Anyway they clearly didn't act like it was a bomb. They just acted like they were racist morons with too much power.
posted by edd at 4:09 AM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Here's the rule. You pull this kind of anti-technology shit, we take the same technology away from you. Hey, do your cellphones have clocks? Because we want to keep you safe.

Especially since cellphones can be used as fuses. I saw it once in a documentary called "Source Code", which had surprisingly little source code in it.
posted by qcubed at 4:12 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


omg you guys I just noticed that if you squint real hard-like, led looks like ied

SUSPICIOUS
posted by Westringia F. at 4:13 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Can we not turn this into "this is going to RADICALIZE him", which is really just another manifestation of the stereotype that a certain subset of American children are essentially dangerous adults?

It didn't occur to me that this thought is considered a stereotype or an othering. My intention was that racist stereotyping and othering is essentially what led to his treatment in the first place, and that it's just another example of a fucked up long term marginalization of a section of American people that I don't think makes us friends even with people outside of Ahmed but identify with him and simply see what's happened. If expressing that we shouldn't be marginalizing people because they're brown merits a knee-jerk mefi can-we-not call out then I'll let this thread alone, but I think it's foolish to want to overlook how racism played a role in this.
posted by Karaage at 4:13 AM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Can we not turn this into "this is going to RADICALIZE him", which is really just another manifestation of the stereotype that a certain subset of American children are essentially dangerous adults?

Sure, how 'bout we discuss how it's continuing to further radicalize me against white people and the country of my birth in general?
posted by qcubed at 4:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


I hope every adult who contributed to this situation gets fired, and if they get a pension they lose it all in the lawsuit. They are not part of the problem, they are literally the problem.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:21 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


I want to see some goddamned leadership from top-ranking Texas politicians who will step forward and say "This is not who we are. We value learning and we're not cowards and it's pathetic and embarrassing that these officials reacted this way."

This wont ever happen, because they have to be EVER VIGILANT and just because this was a false alarm doesn't mean the next time will be, and are you a terrorist who wants to see kids explode?

I 100% guarantee you, from every stupid false alarm situation i've been involved in or around in my life and just what i've seen in general of zero tolerance bullshit, that this is the opposite of "let nine guilty men walk free than jail one innocent man".

Like the food stamp drug testing, they'd rather harass nine innocent people if there's even a chance they can maybe ever catch one vaguely not-innocent person.

There's just way too many people for whom a false positive is proof the system works and is stringent enough, who will never see this as an indictment of how stupid things have become.

I've been there, in environments like that. It's rampant. It's a completely different mindset that will make no sense to you ever because your brain isn't warped.
posted by emptythought at 4:21 AM on September 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car."
Well, duh -- it IS a device. You, on the other hand, are a tool, who could be mistaken for a functioning adult if allowed out in public. Which should clearly not happen.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:32 AM on September 16, 2015 [61 favorites]


‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’

My brain is still short circuiting over the fact that an adult said this out loud in all seriousness.

Ahmed doesn't specify which adult said it. If it was one of the cops, then they should have their weapons taken away because clearly they don't have the mental acuity to play with big boy toys. If it was the principal, then he needs to go back to eighth grade.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:33 AM on September 16, 2015 [36 favorites]


The other story here is that the police evidently do not know what a bomb looks like.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a bag containing a PO16, a laptop, three tablets, a big LiPo power bank, a couple of wireless speakers, and a big pile of cables, on holiday. The bag went through x-ray machines both in the UK and in France, and nobody blinked an eye.

That's their bad, and they wouldn't have been wrong to stop you. Generally speaking, you shouldn't bring huge LiPo batteries on planes, as they can be fairly dangerous in certain circumstances.
posted by schmod at 4:39 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


I know this may be lost on people who live all of about 350 miles from Mission Control, but NASA is actually a part of the federal government.

HE WAS WEARING A T-SHIRT EXPLICITLY SUPPORTING AN AGENCY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES
posted by zap rowsdower at 4:41 AM on September 16, 2015 [97 favorites]


A couple of weeks ago, I took a bag containing a PO16, a laptop, three tablets, a big LiPo power bank, a couple of wireless speakers, and a big pile of cables, on holiday. The bag went through x-ray machines both in the UK and in France, and nobody blinked an eye.

And if you came through with the equivalent amount of available explosive energy in the form a couple of hand grenades just think, they'd absolutely shit their pants.
posted by Talez at 4:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want to see some goddamned leadership from top-ranking Texas politicians who will step forward and say "This is not who we are. We value learning and we're not cowards and it's pathetic and embarrassing that these officials reacted this way."

The same people who thought Jade Helm was a serious threat to their FREEDOMZ, want to build a fence to essentially keep non-white people out of their state, and who have passed some of the most blatantly racist voter suppression laws in the country?

I would be less surprised if they had fucking medals for everybody who came down on the kid.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Nerd of the North: I want the CEO of every tech company in the surrounding area to announce that they're not going to buy any goods or services from businesses located in Irving until the kid receives an apology.

What exactly did any other businesses in Irving do wrong to deserve such a boycott? I hate it when people suggest stupid shit like this. Punishing the innocent in the name of justice is unjust.
posted by Rob Rockets at 4:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


What exactly did any other businesses in Irving do wrong to deserve such a boycott? I hate it when people suggest stupid shit like this. Punishing the innocent in the name of justice is unjust.

Well, presumably some of them live in Irving, and thus vote members of the school board into office. Those school board members then hire and fire school administrators.

Also, presumably their tax dollars go towards funding the police department there, and elect officials that hire and fire the administrators of said police department.
posted by qcubed at 4:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm just waiting for the cooking class to all get arrested because their baking flour looks like anthrax.
posted by YAMWAK at 5:03 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


This makes me so angry.
posted by sio42 at 5:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I recommend using this opportunity to talk with your child about the Student Code of Conduct and specifically not bringing items to school that are prohibited.

I hope all the parents talk about how clocks are actually not prohibited and hand their kids a few to bring to school.
posted by jeather at 5:16 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


I and a bunch of my friends do hardware hacking and I would be lying if I said shit like this was ever far from our minds. When I fly, I carefully pack & label everything, in case people ask. Open Hardware Summit is in Philadelphia this weekend and a bunch of us are taking things to show as well. I hope we all make it with minimal harassment.
posted by dame at 5:17 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


On the upside, he'll have one hell of a kickass essay when he is applying to MIT and Harvard.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:19 AM on September 16, 2015 [43 favorites]


On the plus side, we finally seem to have an incident that has united all of the camps on my Twitter feed in incandescent rage. The social justice types, the journalists, the geeks, the YA authors, and the crafters are all in this one together. I don't think the authorities in Irving understand the internet shitstorm that they've unleashed upon themselves. They ought to talk to the lion-killing dentist about what their next couple of months are going to be like.

I would like to think that The Internet has Ahmed's back, and he'll come out of this with his joy in making stuff somehow magically intact. But this kind of thing sends all kinds of damaging messages that reach way beyond the direct participants, and that makes me incredibly sad.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:22 AM on September 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


This is as much 24/Homeland/et al's fault as anything else, imo.

Nope. Huh-uh. I refuse to let idiots off the hook on that logic. "How could you expect me to know better; that's what the bombs on teevee look like" is not an acceptable excuse. If you're accepting 24 as a reliable depiction of reality, the problem is at least as much with you as it is with 24.

No one should see a couple of circuitboards and think "OMG bomb". Least of all an educator.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:24 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


This is as much 24/Homeland/et al's fault as anything else, imo.

The entire country of the United States of America did this to the entire country of Iraq in front of the entire world.
posted by srboisvert at 5:26 AM on September 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


I hope the folks at NASA fly him out for a tour of mission control.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:27 AM on September 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


What exactly did any other businesses in Irving do wrong to deserve such a boycott? I hate it when people suggest stupid shit like this. Punishing the innocent in the name of justice is unjust.

Not standing up in the face of oppression makes one complicit.
posted by Talez at 5:27 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's not easy being a teenage Time Lord.
posted by dr_dank at 5:28 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Like the food stamp drug testing, they'd rather harass nine innocent people if there's even a chance they can maybe ever catch one vaguely not-innocent person.

Fixed.
posted by Gelatin at 5:29 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Soon after the Boston Bombing, USCIS planned to have all international students who were returning to the US from time abroad (like a summer break or something) be automatically pulled at Customs for extra questioning. Supposedly they were busy "updating their technology" because some software that would allow them to check student status wasn't in all the computers yet, so for a short time they have to pull these students aside to "check their information".

The reason the Boston Bombing is relevant is because their stated reason for this policy was that a friend of the Boston bombers, who may or may not have had anything to do with the bombing, was an international student that dropped out of college - which you can't do on a student visa (it invalidates your visa).

Either they didn't end up doing this, or it was actually as temporary as they claimed, but I remember groaning in the SF Public Library because I'd expected some kind of repercussion simply for being a brown foreigner in the US.

I highly suspect that one of the consequences of this will be that it would be far, far harder for students from Muslim backgrounds (or even students that seem sorta kinda Muslim) to get into tech and engineering courses in the US - particularly young Muslim men. Either it would be harder for them to get a visa, or it would be harder for them to get accepted into a program. Learning to be a pilot in the US became almost impossible for this demographic after 9/11. When people think of "Asians" dominating STEM in the US they don't normally think Muslims, but they do think "brown", and people can't seem to tell a Sikh and a Muslim and a Hindu and a Christian and a etc apart if they're all a similar shade anyhoo. This may have major effects on the makeup of H1B visa holders and tech employees in the near future.

And yes, a crucial difference between Ahmed and the people that sparked the pilot-lessons-ban was that Ahmed didn't actually harm anyone or do anything wrong. But neither did the dropout friend of the Boston bombers, and yet they used him as justification anyway.
posted by divabat at 5:31 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


The extremely dangerous device I keep in my room tells me that it is presently 08:33 EST, and this is easily the stupidest thing I will read all day.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:33 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Please don't prove me wrong, America.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:34 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


The authorities keep doubling down on stupid in this case. Pretty soon Flavor Flav will be on the terrorist watch list.

Derail: batteries are mostly okay on airplanes.
posted by cardboard at 5:35 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Clearly the boy and his parents were at fault - his crime was being named "Ahmed" and being born a brown person in Texas. That automatically makes him a commie pinko islamofascist liberal feminazi. If his name had been "Jeb!" or "Donald" then his "bomb" would have just been a clock.
posted by Docrailgun at 5:39 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Every year when 9/11 rolls around, I experience a brief moment of regret for the life lost, which is quickly subsumed by boiling resentment at my country for collapsing into a state of chickenshit fear and paranoia from which it has never recovered. All that talk of American exceptionalism, when put to the ultimate test turned out to be just talk after all. Then I get really, really sad. Then I get drunk.
posted by echocollate at 5:39 AM on September 16, 2015 [84 favorites]


So, he won't bring his tinkering to school anymore?

Hmm. /me goes Googling.

Ah:

Limor is still doing show&tells on G+.

And there's no minimum age for going on it. His school's loss. Nobody else's.
posted by ocschwar at 5:40 AM on September 16, 2015


I highly suspect that one of the consequences of this will be that it would be far, far harder for students from Muslim backgrounds (or even students that seem sorta kinda Muslim) to get into tech and engineering courses in the US - particularly young Muslim men.
You suspect that will be one of the consequences of Ahmed's arrest or of the general climate? Because even YouTube commenters seem to realize that Ahmed's arrest was completely unjustified. This is a story about racist, Islamophobic overkill, not about a scary brown kid nefariously making a killer clock.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:41 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


No one should see a couple of circuitboards and think "OMG bomb". Least of all an educator.

The sad thing was that they didn't; they saw a member of a known-dangerous minority with an unexpected object and reacted to that. The object was essentially a McGuffin; in this case, it was a clock, but it may as well have been a stuffed yak, a hurdy-gurdy, some books, or anything (or, probably, nothing, for that matter).
posted by acb at 5:46 AM on September 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


You suspect that will be one of the consequences of Ahmed's arrest or of the general climate?

A bit of both - one gets used to justify or prop up the other. It doesn't have to be a 100% nation-endorsed thing - a few small sparks would get things rolling.

Also YouTube commenters aren't generally the people in charge of policy and large-scale decision-making.
posted by divabat at 5:46 AM on September 16, 2015


> the terrorist watch list

ISWYDT
posted by Westringia F. at 5:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


Maybe you guys need to work on desensitizing your authority people so they aren't so jumpy around clocks. Help them learn to relax. Declare a day when everyone starts wearing big clocks with big displays. Keep them on your car dashboards and bicycle handlebars. Your desks. Your hats. Your bags. Your suitcases. Your makeup kits. Maybe have them count down so you know exactly how much time is left before your next class starts or when you have to be at work or when the next bogus arrest will be made. If you don't like digital clocks, you can pretty easily wire buzzers and lights to your old wind-up alarm clocks. You could probably buy simple clock kits somewhere online if you like tinkering with stuff. Label it "CLOCK" or "TIME LEFT (before I can go home)" just in case someone might be confused.
posted by pracowity at 5:48 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” police spokesman James McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

It seems to me that "It is a clock" and "I made it for a school project" pretty much exhausts all the points of a broader explanation.


the girl who tried to get on a plane with a light-up shirt

That was an MIT student who did not try to get on a plane, but did try to meet her friend in the pre-security-screening area of the airport. A clerk at the counter saw a blinky LED design on a shirt and thought OMGBomb and the bomb squad surrounded the student and the MIT administration said to the police "you morons, you just aimed guns at a wonderful human being with a light up shirt, and if we don't stand for her right to be a geek we are well and truly chickenshits."


Star Simpson, previously. As I remarked at the time, every news story I saw about the incident employed some version of the phrase "fake bomb" or hoax explosives." If a sweatshirt (and now a science project clock) are fake bombs, what is not a fake bomb? That would seem to be a set comprising "real bombs."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:49 AM on September 16, 2015 [23 favorites]


This is one more piece of evidence that my plan of giving Texas back to Mexico is the right one.
posted by eriko at 5:49 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Are these people afraid of time?

No, but since they'd prefer it move backward, they aren't big fans.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:51 AM on September 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


HE WAS WEARING A T-SHIRT EXPLICITLY SUPPORTING AN AGENCY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES

well there's your problem right there

You in Texas, son

*spittoon sound*
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:58 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Apparently you can send emails to Ahmed at istandwithahmed@gmail.com.

Thanks for this! I sent an email -- this whole thing is so terrible and it would be awesome if Ahmed at least gets a lot of support in this appalling situation.

Also, yeah, as a former teacher who once, the Monday after Sandy Hook, heard a loud noise, thought it was a gunshot and like an idiot threw myself in front of one of my students to protect him from what turned out to be a fire door slamming in the next hallway, IF YOU THINK IT'S A BOMB YOU FUCKING EVACUATE YOU FUCKING CLASS A MORONS! STUDENT SAFETY IS YOUR TOP PRIORITY! IF I WERE A PARENT AND I HEARD YOU FOUND A BOMB IN SCHOOL AND DIDN'T ENSURE MY KID'S SAFETY I WOULD FUCKING LOSE IT! Obviously in this case it wasn't a bomb but either a) they knew it wasn't a bomb or b) they were so unbelievably callous about student safety that they should all be fired.

I mean, obviously it's option a where they know it isn't a bomb but their story doesn't even hold up to the barest scrutiny because they are just lying nitwits who don't even know how to cover their own asses properly by following actual procedure for thinking there is a bomb in school. Or maybe they are too pathetically afraid of the bomb squad yelling at them for wasting time on shit that's obviously not a bomb while they enjoy their hobby of intimidating fourteen-year-olds. Christ God.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:59 AM on September 16, 2015 [68 favorites]


Current status: waiting for school or county official to say "hindsight is 20/20"
posted by thelonius at 6:05 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Perhaps they thought it was a clickman toad...
posted by jim in austin at 6:05 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hope the folks at NASA fly him out for a tour of mission control.

THIS. There's got to be someone here or on Reddit who can talk to the right people so that this happens.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:08 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


Also YouTube commenters aren't generally the people in charge of policy and large-scale decision-making.
YouTube commenters are the stupidest, most ignorant manifestation of the absolute lowest common denominator. Nowhere, not even in the most ignorant reaches of the media, is this being played as a story about how Muslims or PoC are dangerous. This is only being played as a story about how ignorant, bigoted school authorities and cops are persecuting an innocent kid. It's a manifestation of a general climate that is really bad for Muslim kids (and probably other kids who might be mistaken for Muslim) in STEM, but I think the main upshot of this incident is going to be that someone will send Ahmed to Space Camp or whatever summer robotics program suits his fancy.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:08 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan and occasionally returns there to run for president.

More on him to be found here and here (SYTL)
posted by BWA at 6:10 AM on September 16, 2015


Obviously in this case it wasn't a bomb but either a) they knew it wasn't a bomb or b) they were so unbelievably callous about student safety that they should all be fired.

That's exactly it. This wasn't about CYA and protecting the other pupils from the risk, however small, of a terrorist attack. It was about exercising authority and putting an uppity member of a minority in his place and reminding him, in no uncertain terms, who he is and where his place is. The “we didn't know it wasn't a bomb, better safe than sorry” was just a pretext; not even a very well thought-out one, but it's unlikely that anybody with authority will press hard enough to make it fall apart and prosecute the petty tyrants involved.
posted by acb at 6:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'd love to see Texas Instruments, which is right down the fucking road, issue a bloody strong public statement about this.

I found an email contact on TI's "Education Technology Contact Us" page, and used it.
posted by achrise at 6:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


The last time something like this happened, Homer Hickam paid for the girl and her twin to go to Space Camp. Downside: there was a last time something like this happened.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


Houston, we have a problem.
posted by rtha at 6:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'd love to see Texas Instruments, which is right down the fucking road, issue a bloody strong public statement about this.

I found an email contact on TI's "Education Technology Contact Us" page, and used it.


I tweeted them. Lets see!
posted by runincircles at 6:16 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also YouTube commenters aren't generally the people in charge of policy and large-scale decision-making.

YouTube commenters are the stupidest, most ignorant manifestation of the absolute lowest common denominator.


They are also a significant part of the American electorate.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:19 AM on September 16, 2015


Obviously in this case it wasn't a bomb but either a) they knew it wasn't a bomb or b) they were so unbelievably callous about student safety that they should all be fired.

I think everybody had to know after a quick inspection that it wasn't a real bomb or even a pretend bomb, but then they wanted to punish him for supposedly committing or planning to commit a bomb hoax. A thought that might not have crossed their minds, of course, if the clock had been clutched to the frilly chest of the local pastor's pale-skinned daughter, but instead the poor kid had the nerve to be a brown-skinned boy named Ahmed. That makes everybody there triply -- did you say Tripoli?!?! The capital of Libya??!#@ Everybody duck and cover! -- triply jumpy about everything he does.
posted by pracowity at 6:19 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I found an email contact on TI's "Education Technology Contact Us" page, and used it.

Likewise. Thanks for sharing the link. I encourage everyone to do this.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:23 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh what in the ever-LIVING fuck... where is common sense anymore?
posted by kimberussell at 6:24 AM on September 16, 2015


I think everybody had to know after a quick inspection that it wasn't a real bomb or even a pretend bomb, but then they wanted to punish him for supposedly committing or planning to commit a bomb hoax. A thought that might not have crossed their minds, of course, if the clock had been clutched to the frilly chest of the local pastor's pale-skinned daughter, but instead the poor kid had the nerve to be a brown-skinned boy named Ahmed.

The epitome of privilege is to be an older white person in authority, and as soon as the story indicated he fluidly explained how the clock wasn't a bomb, I knew without even reading the rest of the article how this was going to end.

We see this in Congress. We saw it with the Boston bomb hoax. We see it with Kim Davis. Ahmed attacked the privilege of an old white person set in their ways, and as soon as that was challenged, they doubled and this point quadrupled down. Because the mindset of bigoted, stupid, stubborn people like this is to try to dig their way out of a hole. Arresting a child, fingerprinting him, accusing him of terrorism, and now, sending a letter to an entire school district claiming they did the right thing... it's just the escalation of being in that hole. Because the alternative would be, gasp, copping to having been wrong and there's no way you will ever say that to the little brown kid.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:28 AM on September 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


"First they came for the young nerds trying to impress their teachers, and I had never been a you--Hey! Hold on a second!"

/entire Internet rises up in protest
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:29 AM on September 16, 2015 [54 favorites]


Technology journalist and electronic hobbist Andy Ihnatko wrote a great reaction piece to this. Here's the TL;DR verison:
All of these stories come across as Charming and Nostalgic tales of a nerdy little kid on his way to a predestined career in science, math, or technology. There was never any negative fallout. Yes, partly because it was more than a decade before 9/11.

But they’re happy stories mostly because I was a white Catholic kid named Andy Ihnatko. Not a brown kid named Ahmed Mohamed, and not a black kid named anything.
posted by SansPoint at 6:31 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


I vote everyone who did claim it was a bomb be held on federal terrorism charges until they can prove exhaustively that they really are that stupid and incompetent.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


I predict that next up we'll see the "we're sorry if anyone was offended" non-apology apology.
posted by Gelatin at 6:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think back on all the hacked-together electronics I carried to school over the years, the Swiss army knife that lived in my pocket from grade 6 through the end of my university education, and the wide variety of tools and supplies that I had with me or had access to while on the grounds at an institute of learning. Oh, and the number of teachers who knew about all of it.

I should have been arrested a hundred times over for "carrying something suspicious", if carrying something suspicious is all that it takes to be arrested. Thankfully I grew up when educators had the power of rational thought and the balls to think for themselves. It sounds like the Engineering teacher was the only adult in this chain of failure to see how it would end.

I'd like to see TI send him a box full of development kits to play with. They have some fun ones.
posted by Snowflake at 6:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


One problem here is that no one in authority, neither the school nor especially the police, will admit to making a big mistake and simply let it go. They must hang the kid on some sort of infraction, no matter how tenuous or blatantly made-up, in order to save face. Authority must persevere.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


I predict that next up we'll see the "we're sorry if anyone was offended" non-apology apology.

That's sexism and general misogyny. The apology for this one is going to be "well in our defense he is brown and 9/11".
posted by Talez at 6:46 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, and it's a good thing he didn't write a computer program to put a clock on the screen. If he had, someone would have called him a cyber-terrorist!

All of the students in that school should change the default screensavers on the school computers to show a large clock. Then when they've all gone to sleep they should report the clock to their teachers.
posted by Snowflake at 6:47 AM on September 16, 2015


Pretty soon Flavor Flav will be on the terrorist watch list

I was thinking that if the student body of the school wanted to really show support for Ahmed, they would all show up for school Monday morning with giant clocks around their necks.
posted by gwint at 6:48 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


“He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

For this part of the test, you're supposed to explain the basic concepts related to space-time, and for extra credit, the use of timekeeping in civilisations throughout history. You can't just answer "it's a clock" and expect an A*. Also, show your working.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I predict that next up we'll see the "we're sorry if anyone was offended" non-apology apology.

They sent a letter out to the entire school district applauding their actions. They've gone full New York Police Union on this one.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


I really hope that folks in IT / engineering reach out to this kid, encourage him, offer him opportunities, and let him know that this country and the professions aren't entirely populated by provincial, bigoted witch hunters. This is shameful and, hopefully, legally actionable.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:56 AM on September 16, 2015


This doesn't excuse what happened, of course, but the thing I am hopeful for is that Ahmed will receive a huge outpouring of support and will be encouraged by non-racist engineers of all types and be given opportunities that he may not have had otherwise. It is a shame that this is what it takes to make that happen, but I am ultimately hopeful that Ahmed will benefit by this.

I am also hopeful that those racist idiots in his school and his town that brought this on will be punished in some way.

I am most likely a delusional naive optimist, but I am still hopeful.

Good for you, Ahmed. Keep building stuff. You will go far.
posted by bondcliff at 6:57 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I was his age, and did stuff like that, I usually got beat up by the other kids, because nerds/jocks and the 80s.

I'm not so sure this is an improvement over that basic form.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:59 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


That makes everybody there triply -- did you say Tripoli?!?! The capital of Libya??!#@

You are giving them entirely too much credit.
posted by anifinder at 7:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ on a motherfucking chopstick. The hell is wrong with people?
posted by telepanda at 7:08 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


That makes everybody there triply -- did you say Tripoli?!?! The capital of Libya??!#@

Did someone say... Tripoli?
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
We've come full circle meta here, people! We're THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS!
posted by Talez at 7:10 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd bet some three letter agency somewhere has helpfully made a note of the kid's dad before, then the school act like a bunch of idiots and get the police involved, and it all escalates from ordinary strength Stupid to weapons-grade Stupid.

This seems pretty likely. The kid's Dad is flagged on a list somewhere, which propagates down to local law enforcement as a red flag on the kid's "Permanent Record", and Mr. Gung-Ho School Brown Shirt Resource Officer is just waiting for an excuse to call in the A-Team on the scary brown kid. On he's got a circuit board? Call in the drone strike.

This is what the Total Surveillance State looks like in practice, it's not just No-Fly lists and listening in on ISIS phone calls and twitters, it's every local Rush Limbaugh loving meathead with a badge deputized into the NSA panopticon with a Red Phone directly to the FBI.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:10 AM on September 16, 2015 [34 favorites]


Aside from the obvious racism I think this is also the inevitable outcome of the "see something, say something" maxim that has contaminated society. People can report people for the stupidest crap with zero consequence to themselves while the "suspect" faces at best a nightmare of CYA bureaucracy or at worst they lose their freedom or their life.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 7:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’

My brain is still short circuiting over the fact that an adult said this out loud in all seriousness.


Funny story, you know what movie bombs look like?

CLOCKS.

You know why?

BECAUSE MOVIES AREN'T REAL.
posted by mhoye at 7:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [40 favorites]


scaring dumb hicks who have watched 24

Just to be clear, Irving isn't hicks, though much of that area between Dallas and Fort Worth is surprisingly lightly developed. Irving is more a distillation of suburban hellhole/vortex-of-ennui, if not as pure of one as Plano.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


this is heartbreaking. a consequence of the racism and technophobia that remains in america.

kudos to him for giving the interview with such composure. when you're discriminated against by society, you sure do end up having to grow up fast. it isn't right. anyone who thinks it's right is so so so fucking wrong i don't even know what to say
posted by absolutelynot at 7:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's the dishonesty that gets me. The craven hiding. If you never intended from the start to treat him like one of your students, like a part of your community, why even let him in in the first place? Why even give the impression that he would ever be treated equally? The reason is because you are ruled by fear. You don't have the balls to admit straight out, "We hate Muslims," because you know that's just asking every right-thinking person in the country to shit on you. So what you do is kick the can down the road, until suddenly, without your realizing it, your pulsating mass of fear, weighing down and pressing on your brain like a tumor, activates itself to turn a clock into a bomb and a boy into a murderer. And then when you wake up from your seizure to see everyone staring at you, all you can do is feebly and pitifully say,

"While we do not have any threats to our school community, we want you to be aware that the Irving Police Department responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus yesterday. Please rest assured that we will always take necessary steps to keep our school as safe as possible."
posted by J.K. Seazer at 7:16 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


We've come full circle meta here, people! We're THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS!

The first country to recognize the US as independent of the UK was the (gasp!) Islamic Sultanate of Morocco, and their treaty with the US is the longest-standing unbroken treaty in American history.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:18 AM on September 16, 2015 [31 favorites]


Aside from the obvious racism I think this is also the inevitable outcome of the "see something, say something" maxim that has contaminated society. People can report people for the stupidest crap with zero consequence to themselves while the "suspect" faces at best a nightmare of CYA bureaucracy or at worst they lose their freedom or their life.

"While we do not have any threats to our school community, we want you to be aware that the Irving Police Department responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus yesterday. Please rest assured that we will always take necessary steps to keep our school as safe as possible."

Work with the system people: someone should tip off the Irving Police about the clock giant hoax bomb in the Irving Schools Stadium scoreboard. For the safety of the community.
posted by cardboard at 7:23 AM on September 16, 2015


his family has a twitter account.
posted by nadawi at 7:24 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wrote a kind but impassioned email urging him to apply to my old boarding school, in the hopes that if he does, the financial aid office would take one look at this whole mess and just wave him through. He deserves to know how many other people believe he deserves better.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:26 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The first country to recognize the US as independent of the UK was the (gasp!) Islamic Sultanate of Morocco, and their treaty with the US is the longest-standing unbroken treaty in American history.

THIS IS IT! OBAMA'S ENDGAME WHICH HAS TAKEN 238 YEARS!

Holy shit people, according to conspirative theories it's not a good time to be white person in the United States and we need to fight back! MORE BROWN KIDS MAKING CLOCKS CHARGED WITH TERRORISM OFFENSES WILL SURELY SAVE US!
posted by Talez at 7:27 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


we want you to be aware that the Irving Police Department responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus yesterday. Please rest assured that we will always take necessary steps to keep our school as safe as possible."

Well, of course if the school calls up the police and says "we have a suspicious looking device here" the police should come and investigate it. That's their job, to respond when people call them about stuff. When the device turns out to be, you know, a clock, they should then shrug and say "Um... it's a clock. Don't call us again about a clock, ok?" and then leave.

The should not handcuff the kid wearing the NASA shirt for building a "fake bomb."
posted by bondcliff at 7:28 AM on September 16, 2015 [43 favorites]


From the family's twitter: Thank you for your support! I really didn't think people would care about a muslim boy

I weep.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:28 AM on September 16, 2015 [39 favorites]


That instagram picture is heartbreaking. Ahmed sounds very much like my fourteen year old, and I suspect he and Dec would be fast friends.

As Andy Ihnatko said, "I’m angry, and I’m a little upset with myself because I want to be useful."

Not that it in any way offsets the awfulness of what happened to him, but I want to get him a bunch of IC chips, a box of resistors, or chip in on a 3d printer, or I don't know, get him something he would love and use to make new, awesome things. I bet he'll be inundated with that stuff in coming days and weeks, though.

If anyone has recommendations for relevant charities, I'd love to hear them. CAIR might be a good one.

on preview: maybe the twitter feed will have some suggestions on how to help.
posted by crumbly at 7:31 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


following anil dash is also a good move. he's collecting ideas and good wishes and is in contact with the family. he seems very cognizant of the fact that the wishes of the family come before our wishes to make ahmed a symbol.
posted by nadawi at 7:33 AM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Long story short, I had a less traumatic but still insane "unintentional hoax device" bullshit experience when I was an undergrad in the 90's and got to spend an entire day talking to borderline abusive FBI agents. It was immediately clear to everyone involved that there was no bomb, no wrongdoing, and no intention of such. The entire point of the exercise was to justify their own paranoia (they'd evacuated a building after all) and have a good time freaking out a teenager. And that part worked; good job, guys. I was pretty freaked out.

The bit that stayed with me was this: a sympathetic officer gave me a lift back to my dorm after the whole shitshow, and we got to talking. He agreed that the entire situation was bogus, but that they couldn't be too careful, because "the children of some very important people go to [university]". That sort of blew my mind, the idea that there was some sort of ordering on human lives, and here was a person right in front of me telling me that both he and I were farther down in that ordering, and that he was okay with that.

And I see this everywhere now. It's the same reason we have intense security screening to get on a flight that holds less than 200 people, but every day I get on trains that routinely carry twice that with no security at all. This kid was further down the ranking, so his dignity was forfeit.

Ugh. I'm not sure where I'm going with this so I'll just hit post before I delete it again.
posted by phooky at 7:34 AM on September 16, 2015 [125 favorites]


i thought seeing a picture of ahmed smiling would make me feel better, but it's just made me cry harder...
posted by nadawi at 7:41 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's the same reason we have intense security screening to get on a flight that holds less than 200 people, but every day I get on trains that routinely carry twice that with no security at all.

Here in Italy, since last year Rome and Milan train stations have been implementing similar security theatre infratructure/procedure: channelled entrance/exit where once there were open hallways, with perfunctory ticket check officers looking at everyone's print-out/cellphone; and after the attempted attack on that French train recently, surely some form of luggage scanning will be next, to properly "secure" train-taking - is there nothing like this being staged in the U.S./U.K. yet?
posted by progosk at 7:44 AM on September 16, 2015


i hope nasa is reaching out right now, but this is a nice note from one of nasa's most visible engineers.
posted by nadawi at 7:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


"And I see this everywhere now. It's the same reason we have intense security screening to get on a flight that holds less than 200 people, but every day I get on trains that routinely carry twice that with no security at all. This kid was further down the ranking, so his dignity was forfeit."

Security screenings at airports are mostly for show. In fact the biggest terrorist target at airports aren't the airplanes but the people waiting en masse in the security line.

This whole fiasco on the cops' side seems like them trying to make themselves seem like they know what they're doing in this scenario. Yet, according to various news sources on Google News, they agree that they knew from the beginning that there was no threat whatsoever however they're portraying heavy incompetence with the debate whether or not to charge him with a hoax bomb. They admit that there was no hoax so..... I don't get it.

The school though. The whole fiasco. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned their name:

MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas.

That name needs to be mentioned because it needs to be associated with this fiasco. This will hopefully put pressure on the school to take a good look at themselves and go "wtf"? Punishing the pursuit of knowledge like this is the opposite of what schools should be doing. Yeah, I know, no duh.
posted by I-baLL at 7:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


the facebook page for macarthur shows it to be a very racially diverse student body - far more diverse than plano was when i was there - how must those kids feel, knowing their teachers and administrators fear them? knowing they've already been criminalized in the minds of those who are supposed to nurture them? what the fuck is wrong with us...
posted by nadawi at 7:52 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Now that I'm back in Malaysia I'm trying to think of ways of bringing Ahmed and family here to meet with some Muslim scientists and young people. For all its foibles and fuckups, Malaysia does have good passionate people, including a whole lot of Muslims in STEM who would probably be more than happy to bring the kid around and be role models.

Most of my friends & contacts here are arts & media people, but there might be folk who can connect to the STEM world. If you are in Malaysia and want to help make this happen get in touch.
posted by divabat at 7:57 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


i hope nasa is reaching out right now, but this is a nice note from one of nasa's most visible engineers.

That is a great note AND God the picture to which it's responding just breaks my heart. Ahmed looks so absolutely betrayed which of course he has been.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I heard they just arrested a top hat-wearing hipster with a waxed mustache who was carrying some rope because they thought he was going to tie a woman to the train tracks.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:04 AM on September 16, 2015 [38 favorites]


I'm not sure how much authority I have in Irving, but in support of Ahmed I'm declaring tomorrow Dress Like Flavor Flav Day.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:05 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


The front page of Reddit right now has five different links all related to this story.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 8:07 AM on September 16, 2015




"Since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking." - Tock the Watchdog (Milo's half-clock-half-dog companion) in The Phantom Tollbooth
posted by oulipian at 8:09 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


Interesting post to Twitter from the mayor of Irving, TX. These things don't happen in a vacuum.
posted by mike_bling at 8:09 AM on September 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


growabrain: "Fucking fascists"

Pity no one had a guitar handy.

Seriously though, this sucks out loud.
posted by Samizdata at 8:12 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another organization you could ask to make a statement is NASA—there's potent symbolism in the fact that Ahmed was wearing the logo of a celebrated American STEM organization when he was arrested.

You can contact them here. Mention the shirt and include a link to the photo.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:13 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Interesting post to Twitter from the mayor of Irving, TX.

Wait, so is the mayor implying that fear and mistrust of 14 year old Muslim boys who build clocks *is* the right answer? Or is the shark representing school authorities and cops in this case?
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:14 AM on September 16, 2015




One of the Mars Rover operators has sent out an invite. There might not be something official from NASA, but there are a heck of a lot of engineers working there offering support on Twitter.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Good thing he wasn't wearing a Casio watch. We've sent younger Muslim kinds to Gitmo.
posted by Nelson at 8:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


RedOrGreen, the tweet is from a few months ago.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2015


RedOrGreen, the tweet is from a few months ago.

Ah, ok. I still don't get it, but at least it's not in this context so whatever.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:16 AM on September 16, 2015


Interesting post to Twitter from the mayor of Irving, TX. These things don't happen in a vacuum.

Stupidly on my part, that cartoon pisses me off not only because of the obvious bigotry but also because it doesn't make sense; Hollywood hasn't presented sharks as cuddly! If you think "sharks in Hollywood" don't you think Jaws? What Hollywood movie has ever convinced anyone that sharks just need to be understood? None of them, that's which one! Even the ones in Finding Nemo who are trying are dangerous and will try to eat you! I know I'm just channeling all the other anger I feel about this terrible set of circumstances into this one stupid thing but it's really managing to piss me off. Hollywood has never told us that sharks are anything but terrifying! YOUR POINT IS ALMOST AS STUPID AS IT IS WRONG!

Also, not sure what Hollywood movies you're thinking of that portray Muslims in a sympathetic light but frankly, unlike with sharks, I feel like we could use a lot more of them.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:17 AM on September 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


I seriously just posted a pic of flava flav to fb and said Oh noes this black man has a bomb.

I really hope that the backlash over this is such that this kid gets a benefactor who pays his tuition to some kind of private school where they'd help make his damn clock better rather than do what the fuck just happened here.

I also hope he doesn't let this discourage him and that he sees all the support he is getting.
posted by sio42 at 8:19 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Fucking fascists"

Pity no one had a guitar handy.



Maybe someone had one and it was mistaken for a machine gun?
posted by DiscountDeity at 8:20 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe someone had one and it was mistaken for a machine gun?

Or a flamethrower. I saw it in a movie once, you know.
posted by nonasuch at 8:22 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


I really hope that the backlash over this is such that this kid gets a benefactor who pays his tuition to some kind of private school

I'm...sort of trying to make something like that happen. Please send me private MeFi mail if you know anything about setting up online escrow.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:24 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


That... sounds like a useful kickstarter type thing, instead of yet another "novel" iphone case or wallet.
posted by qcubed at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2015


I would suggest getting in touch with Ahmed's family (there was an email address floating up ahead) just in case someone else was already doing something similar or they had other plans.
posted by divabat at 8:29 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want to unfollow my entire twitter timeline. Everyone acting as though Texas is not part of the greater United States of America, and the zeitgeist of fear and terror of teh BROWN OTHER MALE (be he 4 or 14) is the dominant narrative of everything for this young boy's entire lifetime.
posted by infini at 8:31 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Good suggestion; already on it. I don't want to derail the thread, but do contact me if you have any experience doing something like this.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:32 AM on September 16, 2015


At least the cops didn't shoot him for carrying something in his hand that was a toy.
posted by infini at 8:32 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm just waiting for the cooking class to all get arrested because their baking flour looks like anthrax.

Worth noting that flour, under the right circumstances, is an actual explosive.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:32 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Everything about that July tweet infuriates me. The racism of the cartoon, the stupid falseness of the cartoon, the smugness of the cartoon, that racist Mayor Van Duyne chose to tweet it, that she intended it to offend people, and that she's a grinning racist fuckwit pleased at her own provocation.

How did this clock travesty happen? It happened because someone like Beth Van Duyne can be mayor of Irving.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2015 [45 favorites]


What the goddamn fuck is up w that cartoon. I had a physical reaction to seeing that because I was unprepared for it to be that bad.
posted by sio42 at 8:40 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]




I'm ashamed to admit that I graduated from MacArthur High School in '99. And while I want to be surprised, I'm actually not. This is a shameful thing to have happened. Truly ashamed of my alma mater.

The Irving Independent School District is not the most progressive or forward thinking. When I was at Sam Houston Junior High in the 7th Grade, I asked my biology teacher why we were skipping Chapter 4 on Evolution and was told straight up: "We don't teach that here." No other information or commentary was provided to me, I was told to put my hand down and get back to work. My soul died a little bit that day. I managed to seek out the information through the local library. I imagine that it has not become any better since I left Texas. I know that the city/state has become more right-leaning with regards to its politics.

The only good thing that will probably come from all of this, is that Ahmed will likely be encouraged by a larger more supportive community (online tweeps really stepping up their game) and hopefully a scholarship/program will be set up so that his passion and interest continue. Keep on doing what you do Ahmed, you're alright.
posted by Fizz at 8:43 AM on September 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


Ghost of Tesla save us from terrified white people in power.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:44 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Man. I have that same NASA shirt -- you can pick it up in the men's section at Target. If there's any sort of "post a picture to show support" thing going around, I'm in.
posted by rewil at 8:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


the smugness of the cartoon, that racist Mayor Van Duyne chose to tweet it, that she intended it to offend people

It doesn't even occur to her that people will just think she sounds like a coward who refuses to go in the swimming pool because there might be sharks in there.
posted by straight at 8:48 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Chris Hadfield has the kid's back.
posted by bondcliff at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


Interesting post to Twitter from the mayor of Irving, TX. These things don't happen in a vacuum.

That's a post to Imgur. From June. It's racist as fuck but it has nothing to do with Ahmed.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2015


Or rather, an imgur of a Tweet from June. Point remains.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:58 AM on September 16, 2015


A bunch of dorky engineers just walked by in the hall. They usually are talking loudly about arrays and stuff I don't understand. Today.... This. They were talking about this.

The one guy said man that kid looked like a kicked puppy, he has no idea what he done wrong. And all them said yep, yep, only reason was how he looked.

This is everywhere. Amazing.
posted by sio42 at 8:58 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


That's a post to Imgur. From June. It's racist as fuck but it has nothing to do with Ahmed.

It's an Imgur-hosted screenshot of the mayor's tweet, proving that the assholery in this town goes all the way to the top.

Anyway, I want to see the school's documented plan of action in the event of a bomb threat, to see whether or not they followed it. If they did follow the plan as written, then it's a phenomenally stupid, dangerous plan and they should all lose their jobs for that alone. If they didn't follow the plan (which probably involves evacuation), then we have incontrovertible proof that they knew there was no danger and just wanted to bully a minority student.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:58 AM on September 16, 2015 [26 favorites]


It's racist as fuck but it has nothing to do with Ahmed.

Quite the opposite: being racist as fuck has everything to with this situation.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


Anyway, I want to see the school's documented plan of action in the event of a bomb threat, to see whether or not they followed it. If they did follow the plan as written, then it's a phenomenally stupid, dangerous plan and they should all lose their jobs for that alone. If they didn't follow the plan (which probably involves evacuation), then we have incontrovertible proof that they knew there was no danger and just wanted to bully a minority student.

From everything we've been presented in articles and the school's own statements, they've already all but admitted it was the latter. There was no disposal attempt. The school was not evacuated. They never called a bomb squad. The "bomb" wasn't destroyed. Teachers and police at all rungs of the ladder acknowledged the device was not a bomb and at best could "look" like one.

At this point, I can only fathom they're threatening the "hoax device" charge because they're anticipating a massive lawsuit and they're attempting leverage. But it's like I said above: Every part of this is racism and privilege fueling a massive refusal on the part of numerous adults to not accept that they fucked up because of who and what they are.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:03 AM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Uncool. Uncool uncool uncool.
posted by EarBucket at 9:03 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


In addition to the MAYOR tweeting stupid race-baiting bullshit and cop-worship, the city of Irving, TX was found to be out of compliance with the Voting Rights act of 1965 in 2009 by a federal judge.
posted by mike_bling at 9:03 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Man. I have that same NASA shirt -- you can pick it up in the men's section at Target. If there's any sort of "post a picture to show support" thing going around, I'm in.

#IStandWithAhmed
posted by Fizz at 9:04 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just noticed there's a black cop behind Ahmed in his arrest photo. Can't wait for all the trolls to start on that. Sigh.
posted by sio42 at 9:05 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, Irvingites, let me translate this into cowboy for you. If you handcuff a 14 yo boy and haul him away after figuring out he posed no risk, you are yellow, you are cowards. If you double down trying justify your cowardliness, you are liars. And btw, I'm laughing at your "These Colors Don't Run" bumper stickers.
posted by klarck at 9:07 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


Interesting post to Twitter from the mayor of Irving, TX. These things don't happen in a vacuum.

mallard fillmore has to be the only comic strip in the world where it can make me, stoned, stare at it for five minutes and then, without cracking a single smile say, "I don't get it."
posted by Drinky Die at 9:07 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Is there a picture of the actual clock he built? I'm googling but not sure I'm finding what he took to to school.
posted by sio42 at 9:08 AM on September 16, 2015


Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne is also the one who heroically acted to stop the spread of Shariah Law in Texas. She doesn't understand why people were upset about that.

(For all you non-Texans, when you read "Irving" think "Dallas suburb".)
posted by Nelson at 9:08 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you want to see the image that might end up on the front page of conservative news sites, here's Ahmed and his supporters flashing the peace sign THROWING GANG SIGNS IN SUPPORT OF ISIS AND DRIVING WHILE MUSLIM.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:13 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I want to see a selfie of the lawyer's face when they got hired for this one. $)
posted by Drinky Die at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Going to meet my lawyer" on that tweet. good.
posted by twist my arm at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


people's misconceptions about texas are fucking annoying - like y'all don't have racist shits all over your states or like there's not a strong anti-muslim contingent trying to fuck everything up where you live. if you think irving is filled with cowboys you're just as bone stupid as the adults we're mocking in this thread. give it a goddamned rest.
posted by nadawi at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [35 favorites]




> Chris Hadfield has the kid's back.

That made me bust out crying.
posted by rtha at 9:16 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Chris Hadfield has the kid's back.

That made me cry. This is just awful. Isn't there an unspoken rule that no matter what, you leave the kids out if it. These pathetic cowards are going after children.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:17 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]




First Driving While Black...now Making While Brown.
posted by jferg at 9:20 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


sio42, zombieflanders, others: I totally understand that you're on the right side here, and I'm not trying to police anyone's comments—but FWIW, I'm not a big fan of the "here's the incredibly racist way the conservative media will probably try to spin this, amirite" snark. Asking me to imagine those scenarios just adds more ugliness to an already deeply ugly situation. Once the media has actually done the ugly things that they will undoubtedly do, I'll be first to call them out. Until then, I'd rather not despair prematurely.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:22 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


"Going to meet my lawyer" on that tweet. good.

Now THAT is how you be an American!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:22 AM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'll just step in here and say that cowboys are not what you think. please don't misconstrue George W. Bush, or these people involved in this completely stupid, idiotic justice-theater as a cowboys. I know it's easy shorthand for someone that acts compulsively whether or not it makes sense in the big picture, but that ain't cowboys.

Real cowboys were migrant workers that didn't carry guns. Please lay off making cowboys the bad guys. Thank you.

The phrase you're looking for is idiots. Idiots act compulsively.

/end derail.
posted by valkane at 9:23 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


> Pity no one had a guitar handy.

LOOK OUT HE'S GOT A METRONOME
posted by Westringia F. at 9:23 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Escape from potato planet: Fair enough,
posted by sio42 at 9:24 AM on September 16, 2015


(For all you non-Texans, when you read "Irving" think "Dallas suburb".)

This is important to reiterate, in the face of even my more lolhicks jokes. Irving's part of the 6th largest urban area in the U.S., with median income and poverty rates that track very close to the national average. If you think this isn't something that could happen (or is happening, on a less visible scale) in your own community, you might want to reevaluate that.
posted by kagredon at 9:24 AM on September 16, 2015 [17 favorites]





That made me cry. This is just awful. Isn't there an unspoken rule that no matter what, you leave the kids out if it. These pathetic cowards are going after children.


Being considered as a child is another privilege of being white. If you have even more privilege, you can extend your childhood well towards middle age, like the guy who escaped a murder rap on the “affluenza” defence, or the banker in London who escaped a criminal conviction for glassing someone in a pub because that would have ruined his promising career.
posted by acb at 9:26 AM on September 16, 2015 [24 favorites]


The principal put a message out over the school PA, and a student recorded it:

(my transcript)

"Right now, the media has only one side of the story. Understand that the school district can not release our statements of facts without written consent of the parents.

And we have a very different version of what happened than what you are seeing in the media. Today the disttrict will ask for written permission to release the facts. As always, ALL of our scholars are always our first priority.

Have a great day in Macarthur Texas"
posted by Devonian at 9:27 AM on September 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


So you have to get parental permission to release the "facts" here, but no permission needed to put a child in handcuffs? Oh, school administration, please go jump up your own asses.
posted by palomar at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2015 [37 favorites]


Always, always record.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:30 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Sounds like they're tripling down.
posted by mmmbacon at 9:30 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


MetaTalk for a potential crowdfunding campaign.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:32 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Right now, the media has only one side of the story. Understand that the school district can not release our statements of facts

It's so nice of them to use the PA system to spin the incident to a captive audience.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:34 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


the girl who recorded the announcement seem to be totally fuckin' awesome - she's organizing a meeting with the principal and working to collect instances of racism from teachers to students.
posted by nadawi at 9:36 AM on September 16, 2015 [61 favorites]


Literally everyone in this chain of events who could have stopped this, from the teacher through the principal to the cops, should be fucking fired. Forever.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:36 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


School should not be in session when everyone who has authority over the students is acting this dumb. That sort of thing really made me lose faith in my teachers for a long time when I was a kid.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:37 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really think cowardice is the operative word here. Cowardice drives the public pressure for officials to DO ANYTHING TO KEEP US SAFE. Cowardice is what makes people freak out at the sight of a Muslim boy carrying an unidentified doohickey. Cowardice is what kept every cop and administrator involved from admitting this was a stupid mistake before they went ahead and handcuffed an obviously innocent boy and dragged him to the police station. Cowardice is behind that craven letter sent out to parents.

I would rather get blown up by a bomb than treat an innocent kid this way, because, while I am a coward in many ways, I'm not that much of a coward.
posted by straight at 9:39 AM on September 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


Hearing an officer say, "Yup. It's who I thought it was" when I'm wrongly accused and brought before him would have scared the crap out of me as a 14 year old.

Hell, it frightens me as a 41 year old brown male.

And the photo of him in those handcuffs, getting perp-walked..Christ. Damn this country and our love of police going as hard as possible at every chance.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:40 AM on September 16, 2015 [40 favorites]


It's scary to me that the extent of the polices ability to recognize a bomb is based off of what it looks like in a movie.

"no I don't think that's a bomb, it doesn't say ACME or TNT on it. And it's not even red! "
posted by Karaage at 9:42 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


Oh gods, that photo of him in handcuffs just completely breaks my heart, with the look of hurt on his face.

Even if one thinks it's somewhat reasonable to have him escorted off of school premises, how on earth does anyone justify shackling the child to do so?
posted by desuetude at 9:43 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


how on earth does anyone justify shackling the child to do so?

This literally happens in public schools every day.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Hearing an officer say, "Yup. It's who I thought it was" when I'm wrongly accused and brought before him would have scared the crap out of me as a 14 year old.

Hopefully, it will scare the crap out of the district's legal team too.
posted by Devonian at 9:46 AM on September 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


people's misconceptions about texas are fucking annoying -

Have you ever lived in Yankeeland? I don't mean this to be fighty, but it's easy to Not Get how different Texas (and maybe Oklahoma) is from even the regular old conservative south, and how different life is on a day to day basis even in places like Buffalo that aren't very liberal. Anyway, I didn't grow up there, but I spent six years in Denton and this seems normal and unsurprising for north Texas to me, at least outside the City of Dallas proper.

like y'all don't have racist shits all over your states or like there's not a strong anti-muslim contingent trying to fuck everything up where you live

Yeah, there really is not a strong anti-muslim contingent trying to fuck everything up here that I've ever noticed. Plenty of racist shits though.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sounds like they're tripling down.

They're huddling with their lawyers right now and trying craft some sort of "set of facts" that gets them off the hook from a slam dunk multimillion dollar discrimination suit. They can't admit fucking up or apologize, lawsuits are already in motion, it's ass covering time.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:49 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


This makes me angry. I am going to work harder on organizing outreach projects to get - and keep - kids who don't look like me interested in science.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:49 AM on September 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


And maybe projects for administrators, too, to make sure they are not racist assholes.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:51 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


My heart hurts for this sweet, bright little baby nerd treated like garbage by racist assholes just for being innocently enthusiastic about school. I'd hug you if I could, Ahmed.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you need me I'll be screaming eternally into the void
posted by brecc at 9:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [24 favorites]


Well, at least for the present my prediction of a non-apology apology is unfulfilled.

Right now, the media has only one side of the story.

Yeah, the one that includes an innocent boy in handcuffs. Hoo boy, if they're playing the "liberal media" card, they must realize they don't have many cards to play.

I Understand that the school district can not release our statements of facts without written consent of the parents.

And also, the Watergate tapes would really have proved Nixon innocent! I call bullshit. I strongly doubt the school can't release "statements of facts" when the fact that the boy is suspended is public knowledge.

And we have a very different version of what happened than what you are seeing in the media.

I can't wait.

As always, ALL of our scholars are always our first priority.

Which is why you evacuated the building at the first hint of a bomb threat. Oh, wait...

It's so nice of them to use the PA system to spin the incident to a captive audience.

And when the boy is presumably suspended and not present to hear the school implicitly asserting his guilt.

I look forward to these yo-yos having to answer for their deeds in civil court.
posted by Gelatin at 9:54 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, there really is not a strong anti-muslim contingent trying to fuck everything up here that I've ever noticed.

See the NYPD.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Irving, TX. I spent 18 years there before I moved to Canada. I'm not Muslim but I am Hindu and this is not surprising at all. I have so many stories about subtle and overt racism/bigotry (both in and out of the school system), I could list them here but this thread is already depressing as hell. The second I saw this story pop up on twitter, I was nodding my head and thinking to myself: "Yup, that's about right."

There are some lovely people in Irving/Dallas and of course not everyone is a horrible piece of shit, but when something like this happens frequently enough, you start to lose faith in humanity. You lose that optimism that children and young adults so often have. You grow up very quickly this way.

*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [47 favorites]


MacArthur was one of our rival high schools in neighboring Grapevine, TX where I went to high school (briefly). A major reason why this story has unusual traction in the Dallas newspaper versus all the other random acts of racism in Texas is that Irving has been rapidly diversifying ethnically for decades, and they've had a TON of time to get used to the idea of people of color doing fairly ordinary things. So even in Dallas - not exactly the epitome of racial harmony - people are like, "WTF Irving?"

Texas created a special early entrance program to the state university system for exceptional high school students called the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science in 1987. It's now a permanent program at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX, about 20 miles north of where Ahmed lives. I saw this fpp and jumped over to the TAMS Alumni group on Facebook to cross-post it, and, lo and behold! my fellow TAMSters in earlier time zones were already trying to get the Academy administration to reach out to the kid and get him started in the application process. We've had a bunch of students from MacArthur attend TAMS already, so it's not a stretch to think that he'll be able to get outta Irving and into a school surrounded by other nerds and makers like him.

Texas isn't all hicks and morons, y'all. Other nerds right there in his backyard are already sending support.
posted by kochbeck at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [65 favorites]


ACLU of Texas
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:57 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Have you ever lived in Yankeeland?

i've lived in the pacific northwest and i didn't see a significant difference in racist shits. in fact, i had lots of white supremacists try to be friends with me based solely on my accent - something that never happened to me down south. i mean, the entire state of oregon was settled to be a white haven. regardless, to think that irving is filled with "hicks" is just plain stupid.

Anyway, I didn't grow up there, but I spent six years in Denton and this seems normal and unsurprising for north Texas to me

funny you mention denton - a town i lived in for years, for what it's worth - i was just coming here to post this awesome tweet from a denton city council member - Hey Ahmed: leave Irving and move to Denton where we're accepting, a city of makers, and TAMS would love to have you!
posted by nadawi at 9:58 AM on September 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


MacArthur was one of our rival high schools in neighboring Grapevine, TX where I went to high school (briefly).

I didn't even think about the high school sports angle. How hilarious would it be if supporters of rival teams started waving giant cardboard clocks and chanting "TICK TOCK, TICK TOCK!" during games?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:59 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]




According to the radio, the police will not be filing charges.

If the school doubles down on disciplinary action, they will learn the hard way that (for just one example) administrative idiocy will not cause college admission offers to be withdrawn. Nor any of the other invites the kid's already gotten.
posted by ocschwar at 10:00 AM on September 16, 2015


Oh God if you're the principal, even if you think he's guilty as hell of something, this isn't how you handle the situation. You don't talk about releasing your side of the story. You keep quiet and take the shitstorm. This kid is one of your kids. You set an example by respecting his privacy even if he's out there making you look bad. It's kind of a breech of Profesional ethics to make that announcement even. It smacks of impotent authoritarianism and makes them look so bad.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


@POTUS: Cool clock, Ahmed.

Shit just got real.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [42 favorites]


@POTUS: Cool clock, Ahmed.

Thanks, Obama.
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:02 AM on September 16, 2015 [107 favorites]


Yeah, I actually did something publicly (and somewhat loudly) illegal in a high school, and though the administration did not handle it perfectly, they certainly really protected me and my side of the story more than sort of "circle the wagons" bullshit from that letter and that PA annoucement.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:02 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's what makes America great.

Check out Obummer swiping Trump's phrase.
posted by Etrigan at 10:02 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


@POTUS: Cool clock, Ahmed.

The President just made me cry.
posted by anastasiav at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


They're huddling with their lawyers right now and trying craft some sort of "set of facts" that gets them off the hook from a slam dunk multimillion dollar discrimination suit. They can't admit fucking up or apologize, lawsuits are already in motion, it's ass covering time.

I wonder if they've seized all his family's computers/phones and subpoenaed his email/Facebook accounts, and are hurriedly searching for anything that could be spun into evidence of bad character, as is usually done for any black boys shot dead (“he was no angel”)
posted by acb at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


From being slapped in irons to getting the President tell you you're cool took... how long?

Oh Internet. You crazy kid.

anastaslav - me too.
posted by Devonian at 10:06 AM on September 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


RedOrGreen: "@POTUS: Cool clock, Ahmed.

Thanks, Obama.
"

The whole tweet is magic:

President Obama @POTUS
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.

posted by chavenet at 10:09 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wonder if his English teacher went home and told people she stopped a TERRORIST with a BOMB at work!!!!!!!11!!!! If so, I hope her week goes downhill.

Anyway, I'm so excited that Ahmed's future is looking up. He has a golden college essay (if he even needs one, at this point), he's about to make friends with the President and a gang of super-nerds, and he has established a solid social media presence (really useful in a huge number of career paths) at the age of 14.

Plus, if he's lucky, he won't have to go back to his garbage school!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:12 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Now I am fascinated by the timer + circuitry = bomb synecdoche. As lozierj points out, it's missing the vital part that actually explodes, and raihan_ points out how blinking lights = bomb.

Right now I am within sight of over a dozen "devices" with LEDs and circuitry, none of which are bombs. The circuitry is merely hidden beneath a plastic cover. Out of sight, out of mind.
posted by RobotHero at 10:13 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now, Obama? He's a cowboy!
posted by valkane at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anyway, I'm so excited that Ahmed's future is looking up. He has a golden college essay (if he even needs one, at this point), he's about to make friends with the President and a gang of super-nerds, and he has established a solid social media presence (really useful in a huge number of career paths) at the age of 14.

Plus, you know, his entire college fund is about to be paid for by the Irving school district.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [56 favorites]


I'm excited that Ahmed can begin his college essays with a Tweet from the POTUS. That's really cool.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Aaaaaand we're done.

POTUS just done spanked some bigots haaaard.
posted by fullerine at 10:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


These are days of miracle and wonder. I remember the old days, when you needed something explosive to make a bomb. Not anymore, bubba.
posted by Splunge at 10:16 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


President Obama @POTUS
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?


Obama is a goddamn hero.
posted by Gelatin at 10:16 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


I teared up for real at potus tweet. In fact it's hard to type right now.
posted by sio42 at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


President Obama @POTUS
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?


Holy shit yes. Voted for him twice, would vote again!
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


So...... does the clock keep good time?
posted by schmod at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?

If he does bring it, I'm gonna guess the secret service will inspect the shit out of it first.
posted by bondcliff at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2015


But, seriously, major kudos to anildash. Without him, this would not have been front-page news. You done good, kid.
posted by schmod at 10:20 AM on September 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


Every year when 9/11 rolls around, I experience a brief moment of regret for the life lost, which is quickly subsumed by boiling resentment at my country for collapsing into a state of chickenshit fear and paranoia from which it has never recovered. All that talk of American exceptionalism, when put to the ultimate test turned out to be just talk after all.

Yep. I was also living in NYC at the time, and my then-roommate had a co-worker who was Muslim; she said that she checked in with him a few times in the days just following the attacks, asking how he was holding up. He would always wince, shrug and give some kind of non-committal answer.

Then about a week or so after the attack, she told me that she got to work that and saw that her co-worker, who'd had a full beard and moustache, had totally shaved it off. "Whoa, why'd you shave off your beard?" she said she asked him. And he just smiled really sadly and didn't say anything - and she knew.

God-dammit. I actually forgave bin Laden about two months after the attacks (for certain definitions of "forgive") - but the exploitative, backward, reactionary, paranoid, ignorant reactions of my fellow countrymen, I simply can't forgive, mainly because they haven't figured out yet that it's wrong.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on September 16, 2015 [32 favorites]


Man, can you imagine how much it sucks to have the president of the united states tweet that you're an ignorant racist? wow.
posted by valkane at 10:26 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]




Valkane I'm guessing they didn't vote for him.
posted by sio42 at 10:29 AM on September 16, 2015


Devonian: The principal put a message out over the school PA, and a student recorded it:

The kids, they're alright.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Wait.

A clock?
An atomic clock?
Like a NUCLEAR CLOCK???
SEVERAL NUCLEAR CLOCKS?????
THERE'S A ROOM FULL OF THEM?!?!?!?!


God help us.
posted by schmod at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is being recognized so universally as a stupid thing. Is it possible this incident could be the poster child for a broader movement from cowardice to common sense?
posted by straight at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Can we just start describing every act of official cowardice as Afraid of Clocks or Can't Tell a Clock From a Bomb?
posted by straight at 10:39 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Can we just start describing every act of official cowardice as Afraid of Clocks or Can't Tell a Clock From a Bomb?

Too Incompetent To Operate A Clock.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:41 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


No charges will be filed.
Still waiting for an apology.
posted by monospace at 10:42 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


In international news, local school officials in Texas, the former breakaway republic of the United States, have sparked an investigation into their practices after suspending a student for bringing a clock to school. Here's our correspondent with more:

*cut to reporter in flak jacket*
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:45 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Valkane I'm guessing they didn't vote for him.

Whether I voted for him, or not, when the POTUS starts talking smack in my direction, I start re-thinking my position.
posted by valkane at 10:46 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the only thing that might shame Macarthur High School authorities more than President Obama tweet-shaming them would be all of the MHS football alumni doing the same thing.

Looking at their social media profiles, it's unlikely, though.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Unless it was GWB.
posted by valkane at 10:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


when the POTUS starts talking smack in my direction, I start re-thinking my position.

The conduct of the Republican Party over the past seven years suggests that not everyone agrees.
posted by Gelatin at 10:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


the MacArthur High School freshman arrested Monday after bringing what school officials and police described as a "hoax bomb" on campus.

Yeah, they describe it with that phrase in quotes? On what basis? In what context?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was thinking about this as I was walking around getting lunch, and thinking how great it would be if Obama would reach out and assure this skinny kid with a funny name that America has a place for him to. And that tweet was the first thing I saw when I got back to my desk.

You can add me to the "POTUS made me cry" list.
posted by nickmark at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ahmed's also got an invite from Mark Zuckerberg
posted by ramix at 10:49 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


It must be utterly, completely exhausting to live in constant fear of death behind every shrub/mailbox/brown person.
posted by HighLife at 10:49 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


[Comment removed; if folks want to reach a public figure they can do that, but "here's his name and number and email" as an implicit call to action is getting into sort of weird territory that we're better off avoiding.]
posted by cortex at 10:49 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


"

I was thinking about this as I was walking around getting lunch, and thinking how great it would be if Obama would reach out and assure this skinny kid with a funny name that America has a place for him to. And that tweet was the first thing I saw when I got back to my desk.

You can add me to the "POTUS made me cry" list.
"

I know you mean well but.. funny name?
posted by I-baLL at 10:50 AM on September 16, 2015


Breaking: MacArthur High School Principal has invited Kim Davis and The Lion-Killing Dentist over for tea in retaliation.
posted by fullerine at 10:51 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I-baLL - His phrase.
posted by nickmark at 10:52 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Still waiting for an apology.

We might have to wait a while. I would ask why she didn't mention that almost all of the "terrible acts committed in schools, the workplace, and in public venues" here in the good old US of A that speaks of--including (and maybe especially) in Texas--were by white guys with guns, but of course we all know why.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:52 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I know you mean well but.. funny name?

"skinny kid with a funny name" is a line Obama has used to describe himself in at least one speech he has given.
posted by palomar at 10:52 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


"a skinny kid with a funny name" is how Obama famously referred to himself (and his Muslim name) in his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, excuse me.. he used that line in his keynote address at the DNC, the speech that made him a household name.
posted by palomar at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


No charges will be filed.

From that link:

School officers questioned Ahmed about the device and why he'd brought it to school. Boyd said Ahmed was then handcuffed "for his safety and for the safety of the officers"

Riiiiiight.
posted by adamp88 at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


My partner just asked a very good question --
The school teachers (and the cops, I hope) are probably feeling a bit stupid right now (and rightly so). I wonder whether there is a way that that feeling could be diffused so that the environment there is healthier and more supportive of learning.
There's the obvious solution of "fire all the bigots with extreme prejudice," but more realistically: what practical steps could right-thinking teachers and community members take now to undo the damage this has done and encourage scientific exploration?
posted by Westringia F. at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wow, Beth Van Duyne is a shitty person.
posted by palomar at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


It must be utterly, completely exhausting to live in constant fear of death behind every shrub/mailbox/brown person.

One of the key reasons I abandoned my Green Card after 9 years. It was exhausting being a brown person in an increasingly paranoid environment. The impact on my mental wellbeing within 6 months was such a difference that it opened my eyes. Now, I can just turn the computer off.
posted by infini at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'd love to see someone ask her why the school didn't utilize any of the procedures they're supposed to use in case of bomb threat... if their concern was the safety of their students, why was the school not evacuated?
posted by palomar at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


Once the media has actually done the ugly things that they will undoubtedly do, I'll be first to call them out.

owillis: Twitchy now directing readers to hate on Ahmed. And they follow along. "Future bomb maker"
posted by zombieflanders at 10:56 AM on September 16, 2015


Wtf.
posted by sio42 at 10:58 AM on September 16, 2015


I sense I may regret this question, but who is twitchy?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:58 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, they describe it with that phrase in quotes?

The rules I learned as a journalism student have changed, but I presume the quotes are the news outlet denoting the authorities exact words in the middle of a paraphrased sentence. In other words, the writer is not describing the clock as a hoax bomb, but instead is communicating that that's the authorities' excuse.
posted by Gelatin at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


put a .com on the end.
posted by phearlez at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2015


Twitchy.com is the anti-BoingBoing, a blog and directory of un-wonderful things.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


> how on earth does anyone justify shackling the child to do so?
This literally happens in public schools every day.


I know.

I say this sentence A LOT.

It doesn't make any more sense the nth-hundredth time I see it than it did the first.
posted by desuetude at 11:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I mean, you really shouldn't unless you hate yourself. But that's how you look at what the loons at Twitchy are saying.
posted by phearlez at 11:01 AM on September 16, 2015


I sense I may regret this question, but who is twitchy?

Twitchy is a right-wing hate machine run by a longtime wingnut welfare recipient.
posted by divined by radio at 11:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ah, thanks for the clarification regarding the name thing. Had no clue about that.

Also:

"I'd love to see someone ask her why the school didn't utilize any of the procedures they're supposed to use in case of bomb threat... if their concern was the safety of their students, why was the school not evacuated?"

This. Very much this. This can't be stressed enough. If they believed the threat was genuine, why didn't they act as if it was a genuine threat?
posted by I-baLL at 11:04 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


You know how people always complain about outrage culture and people being mean on Twitter? Twitchy is that, except real.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:05 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a latecomer here but did the school suspend Ahmed? Is he still suspended?

Also, if "Cool clock, Ahmed" became a thing, I wouldn't mind.
posted by kat518 at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


last i saw, still suspended.
posted by nadawi at 11:07 AM on September 16, 2015


If these school authorities were really cranked up about electronics that are possible bombs then they need to leave alone the people with nu-Heathkit projects and instead go after the kids with cellphones. Those are the common timer detonator contraptions for improvised explosive devices, not Sparkfun kits. If they want to know what to look for in a bomb component they should look in their pockets and leave the STEM kids alone.
posted by phearlez at 11:08 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Obama really has no shits left to give. You can almost hear him saying "well this will piss off the yahoos" before he hits send.


Yes I realize that he probably doesn't actually tweet directly
posted by octothorpe at 11:08 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


QFT
https://twitter.com/POTUS/status/644193755814342656
President Obama Verified account
‏@POTUS
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.

I believe they call it the bully pulpit. well done.
posted by theora55 at 11:09 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


"The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment, and there's no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm,"

Which, you know, is what Ahmed kept saying to us, but we couldn't believe him because *cough* *cough* excuse me *cough* notwhite *cough* we have to follow protocol in situations like this.

"We live in an age where you can't take things like that to school," he said.

A clock?

wtf is this shit, I can't even
posted by nubs at 11:09 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's the clock in question. Still not a bomb.
posted by item at 11:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yes I realize that he probably doesn't actually tweet directly

IIRC @POTUS is for his use, to differentiate it from the @WhiteHouse account.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:13 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


wtf is this shit, I can't even

It's zero tolerance. It's been in schools since Columbine at the latest. It's always been exactly as irrational as it sounds now.

Here's the clock in question. Still not a bomb.

I deleted a comment saying this earlier but now I will say it: From now all all electronic devices in that school need to have transparent coverings like some schools do with bags. Every computer needs to have the circuit board visible. We need to desensitize them.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Which, you know, is what Ahmed kept saying to us

And to his own teacher, who advised him not to show it to anyone else. I hope said teacher is giving the investigators an earful.
posted by Gelatin at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


"What the fuck is a clock?!"
posted by Navelgazer at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2015


However, she declined to provide details on how school officials handled the incident, citing laws intended to safeguard students' privacy.

Which is why his perp walk is on YouTube.

"We were doing everything with an abundance of caution to protect all of our students in Irving," she said.

Which is why they failed to evacuate the school or follow any of the usual protocols in place to deal with a bomb situation.

Would the media please do its job and call these mendacious shitbags in authority out?
posted by nubs at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2015 [71 favorites]


It's zero tolerance. It's been in schools since Columbine at the latest.

kids regularly drove on to school property with their hunting rifles still in the rack on their trucks. they were never suspended or arrested for it, occasionally they were asked to take it home. but, you know, white kids...
posted by nadawi at 11:17 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Would the media please do it's job and call these mendacious shitbags in authority out?

But that wouldn't be balanced!

The media has, for the most part, abandoned its job of providing objective journalism -- which can entail pointing out that certain statements are obviously, objectively untrue, not to mention a refusal to air ouright lies unchallenged -- in favor of a bogus "balanced" model, in which two sides are presented as if they were equally valid, regardless of whether that's actually so.

And yet people still believe -- and dipsticks like the school administration exploit this belief -- that the media is "liberal."
posted by Gelatin at 11:19 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


this is what a dangerous holographic tiger pencil box from target might look like
posted by grippycat at 11:19 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Because its going to be a rough day for many of us. For all your social media and commenting needs, I provide you the following:

- picardfacepalm.gif
- infinitepicardfacepalm.gif
- louiefacepalm.gif
- brittafacepalm.gif
- kobebryantfacepalmheadscratch.gif
- wolverinefacepalm.gif
- batmanfacepalm.gif
- colbertfacepalms.gif
- daffyduckfacepalm.gif
posted by Fizz at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2015 [57 favorites]


this is what a dangerous holographic tiger pencil box from target might look like

It's a lot more EVIL LOOKING if you just show the inside of what looks like a clarinet case with some computer thingies in it though.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2015


If the school doubles down on disciplinary action, they will learn the hard way that (for just one example) administrative idiocy will not cause college admission offers to be withdrawn.

Well, when the administrative idiocy draws national media attention, sure. But for every one Ahmed there are probably ten thousand who are unjustly penalized due to "administrative idiocy" that goes unseen except by the students themselves and those close to them.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


"Here's the clock in question. Still not a bomb."

This makes the whole thing even worse. It's a circuit board, an LCD sign, and a ribbon cable. Everything is visible. Your regular clock radio looks more mysterious and bombesque than this.
posted by I-baLL at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've worn the "terrorist watch" for years, even replacing it when its rubber band broke AFTER its reputation became public because I AM AN OLDER WHITE DUDE. (And you can buy one too, it's about $11 at Amazon and Walmart.com - two of the lowest prices, are they ennabling terrorists?)

I could probably walk up to the school's principal and hand him this (while complimenting her on 'keeping our community safe') and nobody would bat an eye. (And yes, you could conceal a real explosive device in it)
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:27 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am an engineer in Texas, and I work on computer guts all the time. I know that many people don't know what a circuit board looks like, and that electronics can look scary. But...a bomb? Really? It makes me weep to think that we are driving minds like this away from STEM because we are racist assholes.

My vote counts for nothing in this state. The letters I write are similarly discarded. But I keep on keeping on, because of kids like Ahmed.
posted by blurker at 11:37 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


" If you're accepting 24 as a reliable depiction of reality, the problem is at least as much with you as it is with 24."

Well, Scalia *is* part of the problem...
posted by notsnot at 11:38 AM on September 16, 2015


Glenn Greenwald:
"The behavior here is nothing short of demented. And it’s easy to mock, which in turn has the effect of belittling it and casting it as some sort of bizarre aberration. But it’s not that. It’s the opposite of aberrational. It’s the natural, inevitable byproduct of the culture of fear and demonization that has festered and been continuously inflamed for many years. The circumstances that led to this are systemic and cultural, not aberrational."
posted by monospace at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2015 [35 favorites]


Somebody please get working on establishing this as the new hashtag for mocking the school officials: #SomeDaysYouJustCantGetRidOfAClock
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:40 AM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


I could probably walk up to the school's principal and hand him this

I kinda want to order them one...
posted by phearlez at 11:43 AM on September 16, 2015


> look forward to these yo-yos having to answer for their deeds in civil court.

It better be a Federal civil-rights suit because, as I understand it, most of the local courts and judges in much of Texas are as braindead, racist and corrupt as the actors at that school.

You know I'm a fairly bright person who works in a high tech field and I occasionally see and avoid advertised jobs in my field in Texas. I wouldn't live in Texas on a bet (no offense to Mefi Texans)
posted by AGameOfMoans at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm seeing an important trend here... with the War on Drugs winding down and marijuana no longer being a Ticket to the Big House, the racists need other justifications for filling the prisons with dark-skinned people. I previously linked to this story, which is just as awful and far less "viral" (because it happened in New York City?)
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:48 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I may regret posting this, but I actually did some research on how to easily create a bomb trigger. Not a bomb itself - just a reliable way to trigger it remotely, or on a timer. It was one of those curiosity things - You know, in case I ever need to be a secret agent with a specialty in demolitions.

I could have cobbled together a bunch of shit with ICs and RF circuitry, but it was much much less expensive, more simple, and less traceable to just buy the cheapest pre-paid mobile I could find that came with like 5 min of airtime before activated. Maybe $20... and it took very little modification to have it complete a circuit consisting of a power source and a light bulb (which could have easily been replaced with a relay, or model rocket igniter [which is where i wanted to take it but decided i'd get arrested]), especially compared with the gargantuan task of ensuring that I had a way of triggering it with cheap RF circuitry that wouldn't be susceptible to interference, and even the less hard task of getting it to work with a simple timer circuit. The small current that triggers LEDs, speakers, and backlights can easily be hijacked for this purpose... All you need is a safety switch that blocks the circuit while you power the phone on, and a bit of time playing with the phone before you wire it up to ensure that whatever you hijack doesn't have the tendency to trigger when you don't want it to.

We have enough off the shelf shit to build a remote detonation device that you can pay for in cash, without having to order stuff from a specialty store online - which is where most electronic components need to be sourced from anymore. Nobody who actually wanted to make an improvised bomb would go to the trouble to wire up ICs and solder components together on a board when it's cheaper, easier, and worlds more functional and reliable to just buy a $10 LG phone or similar that gives you the capability to trigger it from anywhere in the world with the ability to call the phone, and also has a built in timer if you want to go that road.

Anyone who sees a homemade clock and thinks "bomb" has zero knowledge of what makes a bomb, and anywhere from zero knowledge to dangerous misconceptions over the conditions in which a bomb would be deployed. The cell phone method is just one of many ways you can do this.... In olden times, it was easier to wire up a wind-up alarm clock that used a hammer to hit the bells to complete a circuit instead, followed by the cheap electronic cooking timer in the more modern era. The tools that would actually be used for an intentional bombing are going to be those that are well understood and reliable -- You aren't putting the time and knowledge into a trigger, you are putting it into the bomb itself.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:49 AM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Nobody at any point actually thought there was a bomb. In fact, you could argue that the teacher is the one that called in a hoax bomb threat.
posted by mike_bling at 11:52 AM on September 16, 2015 [44 favorites]


That's clocked up.
posted by sio42 at 11:53 AM on September 16, 2015


I think I love you, Nerd of the North.
posted by blurker at 11:57 AM on September 16, 2015


BTW, I realize that the problems are much greater than bomb recognition and not technical - and are the much larger problems. The "fake bomb" thing bugs me -- but I have a better understanding of how to explain why it's ridiculous to think that could ever be a real bomb as opposed to any understanding of how we can "fix" the problem of institutionalized racism and abuse of authority... at least any I can articulate in a post.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:59 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


President Obama @POTUS
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?


I really do love Obama, the man.

Mohamed, I hope you get a full ride to MIT through grad school. You didn't deserve any of this crap, but you do deserve that.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:59 AM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Cannot wait for the Fox News take on all this.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:00 PM on September 16, 2015


I can.
posted by anastasiav at 12:00 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Mechanic: Somebody set up us the clock!
Operator: Main screen turn on.
CATS: All your social medias are belong to us.
CATS: You have no chance to survive this newscycle make your time.
Captain: Move 'ZIG'.
Captain: For great justice.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:04 PM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't have much to say about this absurd incident other than this:

The kid's clock looks like the guts of 1980s homebrew guitar pedal project. Not scary.

This is a Teachable Moment™, America. Getting schooled, right enough.

I appreciate that a whole bunch of high-status people, starting with the Prez, are Doing The Right Thing here. If I were Ahmed's father, I would very publicly take up every one of these offers to visit the Whitehouse, NASA, Bookface, all of it.

Living well is the best revenge.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:05 PM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


I just checked out Red State to see the conservative point of view on this.

http://www.redstate.com/diary/lifeofgrace/2015/09/16/stupid-liberal-logic-profiling-caused-arrest-14-year-old-made-clock/

The conservative reality bubble can never be popped.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:07 PM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh, also that I hope Ahmed and his family are able to navigate this chapter of their lives without the 'help' of any ambulance chasers or publicity hounds of either the 'right' or 'left'.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:07 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The White House has invited Ahmed to Astronomy Night at the White House on Oct. 19, which brings students together with government scientists and NASA astronauts. “It will be an opportunity to talk about science and our solar system and the universe,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “We are hopeful that Ahmed will be right at home here.”

Good follow up, naming dates and places.

If the moderators of the second Republican debate are still looking for questions to ask the party’s presidential candidates, this is fertile soil. Yes, it’s one incident, but it can serve as a jumping-off point for a lot of issues. Is this an example of good local governance? Are Americans too quick to be suspicious of Muslims or those whom they perceive as Muslim? Do immigrants face an unfriendly American society? Are American educators able to prepare students for the technology-rich American workplace? And so on. Make up your own! It's easy.
wp

Fodder for all.
posted by infini at 12:07 PM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


i hope nasa is reaching out right now, but this is a nice note from one of nasa's most visible engineers.

Ferdowsi has been totally awesome today.

I don't know what it takes to make up for being perp-walked for Geeking While Muslim, but I'm guessing personal invitations from the President and the Mars Rover team at NASA JPL are a damn good start.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:07 PM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Excerpt from an American history book from the future:

1990-2050: The Great Absurdity
posted by Ratio at 12:08 PM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


So obviously Ahmed and his family have grounds to file a case against the staff at Macarthur. I wonder if they also have grounds for a case against the Irving PD?

I've read at least one report that says he was taken in for fingerprinting, mugshots and "interrogation" but nothing about whether he was read his Miranda rights and whether or not an attorney or a parent was present during that questioning at the department.

Given the complete cluster all the so-called authority figures turned this into, I won't trust that they followed proper procedure upon detaining young Mr. Mohammed until I get verification.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:13 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait, isn't he a minor and allowed an adult present?
posted by infini at 12:14 PM on September 16, 2015


That red state article is everything my mom will say.

I don't know how to get her to understand the hate and toxicity that view engenders.

She'd even admit that racism exists but that this is not what happened here simply bc that's not the reason given. The school would have to literally say that his being brown made this happen.

Sigh.
posted by sio42 at 12:14 PM on September 16, 2015


Wisdom from Matthew "Defective Yeti" Baldwin on misusing the word 'hoax':
The advantages of labeling something like this a hoax are obvious: you didn’t massively overreact to a situation that the average person recognized as harmless, you were tricked into doing so!
posted by straight at 12:15 PM on September 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


The epic trolling of @IrvingPD and @IrvingISD with joke tweets and pictures of things that are clearly not bombs is my way of fighting back at the ridiculousness of this entire situation. You too can join in on the fun: #ThingsTexasPoliceThinkAreBombs
posted by Fizz at 12:16 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some enterprising company needs to manufacture and sell Ahmed's pencil box clock design and give him a big chunk of the revenues.
posted by rocket88 at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2015


So... what is clocks?
posted by flabdablet at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


but nothing about whether he was read his Miranda rights

Cops don't have to read you your Miranda rights at any point ever.
posted by phearlez at 12:20 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


SpaceCampUSA ‏@SpaceCampUSA 19m19 minutes ago

Creative minds are always welcome at Space Camp, and we appreciate donors who help them come. Someone has provided a scholarship for Ahmed.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:21 PM on September 16, 2015 [33 favorites]


Yeah, Miranda, the presence of a lawyer, etc. only matter as far as being (possible) defenses against criminal proceedings. Since he's not being charged, those won't come up.

The statement of "That's who I thought it was," sure as shit will, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ferdowsi has been totally awesome today.

(MeFi's own!) John Scalzi has been pretty awesome too:
I think the president inviting you to the White House for a thing that got you suspended from school is the most epic mic drop of all time.
posted by Gelatin at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2015 [55 favorites]


I recommend using this opportunity to talk with your child about the Student Code of Conduct and specifically not bringing items to school that are prohibited.

I'd use the opportunity to explain that the adults running her school are morons.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:25 PM on September 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


Check out the latest tweet by the Irving PD. Team "Zero Tolerance" has taken on a whole new meaning!
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not a clock. It's a moron detector.
posted by Ratio at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


@lord_wolf, A parent was not present during Ahmed's questioning by the police. According to the Washington Post, Ahmed was denied access to his parents during the interrogation by police.

"Asked about why Mohamed was not permitted to call his parents while being questioned by police, Irving chief Boyd said he did “not have answers to your specific question” about the allegation."
posted by john-a-dreams at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


So now I'm wondering what happened with / will happen with the engineering teacher. Was s/he even aware that Ahmed was hauled into the office after 6th period? If aware, did this teacher speak up at the time? Or were they as blindsided as the rest of us (although obviously wary of other teacher's reactions)? Will the admin find a way to blame this teacher after all?
posted by maudlin at 12:29 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


So basically Red State et al are running with the line that the adults involved in this are simply morons and not specifically racist morons. At least we can all be united in the belief that these adults were complete morons.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:30 PM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


You know, I feel like "why am I being kept from contacting my parents?" demands a satisfactory answer a hell of a lot more than, "why did you make a clock?"
posted by Navelgazer at 12:31 PM on September 16, 2015 [40 favorites]


Will the admin find a way to blame this teacher after all?

Of course they will, that's what they're paid for.
posted by aramaic at 12:31 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Or am I reading Red State wrong? My eyes tend to roll back into my head in an attempt to kill themselves when I read that site)
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:31 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


So now I'm wondering what happened with / will happen with the engineering teacher...
Will the admin find a way to blame this teacher after all?


They'll probably discipline him for violating the unspoken "If you see nothing, say something" policy.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:34 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


So basically Red State et al are running with the line that the adults involved in this are simply morons and not specifically racist morons. At least we can all be united in the belief that these adults were complete morons.


You know, if that rhetorical concession leads to changes that protect all kids from this kind of weapons grade stupid, I'm okay with it.
posted by ocschwar at 12:34 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Asked about why Mohamed was not permitted to call his parents while being questioned by police, Irving chief Boyd said he did “not have answers to your specific question” about the allegation.

The flop sweat is strong with that one.

(Also, "allegation" my eye. The fact he wasn't allowed to call his parents is a matter of record, and the chief knows it.)
posted by Gelatin at 12:34 PM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Check out the latest tweet by the Irving PD. Team "Zero Tolerance" has taken on a whole new meaning!
Not to mention more than a hint of goatse, which I assume is entirely unintentional. But what century are these people living in?
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh, this. Man. God damn fucking ouch.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Or am I reading Red State wrong? My eyes tend to roll back into my head in an attempt to kill themselves when I read that site.

I had to read it twice before I could figure out what the writer was trying to say. Basically we're not profiling enough, because lolllllliberalMuslimlovers, and because Ahmed wasn't profiled that's why he was arrested.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


My own pet wingnut's reaction:

"Fucking liberals have ruined the public school system, as you have appropriately noticed."
posted by flabdablet at 12:39 PM on September 16, 2015


From that Popehat link: "American lives are controlled by the thuggishly mediocre." There it is. MacArthur High School has gone full-bore Umbridge.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:40 PM on September 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


Fizz: Because its going to be a rough day for many of us. For all your social media and commenting needs, I provide you the following:

There is neither enough face, nor enough palm, in the world, for this clusterfuck of authoritarian stupidity. Every bit helps though, so thanks.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:40 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


i'm a little fascinated to see what my racist prepper cop relative is saying on fb but not enough to go look...
posted by nadawi at 12:41 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Kind of echoing what a few people have already hinted at in this thread, but I really dislike that the narrative is "ha ha look at what idiots thought was a bomb."

As far as we know based on the original story, no one, at any point, thought this was a bomb. Instead they tried to intimidate a child for bringing in a "hoax bomb", despite him never saying it was a bomb or doing anything else remotely threatening with it.

The actual narrative is a little more subtle, but a lot more frightening.
posted by mayonnaises at 12:41 PM on September 16, 2015 [66 favorites]


i'm a little fascinated to see what my racist prepper cop relative is saying on fb but not enough to go look...

I have a very conservative cop on my FB feed, and his reaction was, basically, "wow, there are some stupid cops out there."
posted by anastasiav at 12:45 PM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Attached is a picture of the device that shows it was suspicious in nature.

Un, no, actually. What's attached is a picture of a cobbled-together digital clock in a cheap pencil case. What's suspicious is the reaction of the authority figures who should have known better.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:46 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Honestly all day long I've been hoping he would get to go to space camp.

I am so excited for him!
posted by sio42 at 12:55 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]




Where's the good guy with a clock who could have stopped this maniac?
posted by Camofrog at 1:00 PM on September 16, 2015 [44 favorites]


I hope he never has to return to that school, they don't deserve him. Rather, I hope he is whisked away to some lovely ivory tower where he can be nurtured and assured that science is cool and inventing things is a terrific way to spend your time.

Uh Oh! Is "Terrific" too close to Terrorist"?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:02 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


https://twitter.com/CNNPolitics/status/644235833092911104
.@POTUS invites a teen accused of making a bomb to the White House http://cnn.it/1YcZzAr via @Eugene_Scott


I am too mad to write coherently right now.
posted by hindmost at 1:10 PM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is infuriating every time it happens (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Star, etc) but the specific circumstances here are so awful I don't even know where to start. Acting this way toward a child ought to be a prosecutable offense on its own.

Anyway, I'm glad that email address to support him exists, and I hope a grownup is heavily filtering it. I teach electrical engineering at MIT, and this morning I wrote to offer a recommendation letter and a job in my lab when/if he gets here. We could use more folks like him.
posted by range at 1:11 PM on September 16, 2015 [23 favorites]


Is "Terrific" too close to Terrorist"?

It's difficult to say at this stage, but out of an abundance of caution we're going to have to detain you. Purely a precautionary measure, I'm sure you understand. This will all be cleared up in a week or two. Couple of months, tops. Year at the outside.
posted by aramaic at 1:12 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just imagine being a smart, geeky 14-year-old freshman starting your first month of high school. You're still trying to keep all your classes straight, you're trying to make friends and feel out the social clique landscape; there are lots of new bigger unfamiliar people and it's all exciting and loud and a little scary. In middle school you were a big fish in the small pond of Robotics Club, enjoying science and teamwork and teacher attention and praise; now you're an anonymous little fish again.

So you try to distinguish yourself a little bit by doing the stuff you're good at: tinkering with science! getting teachers to like and praise you! And it ends with you in handcuffs being perp-walked by police.

I really hope that Ahmed gets some of those scholarships so he can go to magnet or boarding school and doesn't have to go back to MacArthur HS unless he wants to. Because nobody deserves to have the "oh yeah, he's THAT Guy!" high school reputation from literally the beginning of their freshman year. He did NOTHING wrong, but he's still going to be "the Clock Bomb Guy" foreverrrrrrrrrr (in that high school [which feels like forever]).
posted by nicebookrack at 1:13 PM on September 16, 2015 [36 favorites]


But you'll never fly again.
posted by infini at 1:13 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggott: Oh, this. Man. God damn fucking ouch.

That pull quote is excellent but the whole Popehat article is also worth a read.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:15 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm just glad this little girl doesn't go to school in Irving, TX.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:18 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ratio: "It's not a clock. It's a moron detector."

And it works like a charm!
posted by chavenet at 1:18 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


“The student showed the device to a teacher, who was concerned that it was possibly the infrastructure for a bomb,” Boyd said.

Now that's just ridiculous.
posted by chavenet at 1:22 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]




My coworker kept insisting that you can't be too safe bc people can just switch so quickly. He could bring in a bomb tomorrow and no one would suspect bc he's just so normal.
posted by sio42 at 1:24 PM on September 16, 2015


As far as we know based on the original story, no one, at any point, thought this was a bomb. Instead they tried to intimidate a child for bringing in a "hoax bomb", despite him never saying it was a bomb or doing anything else remotely threatening with it.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”

That sounds pretty clear to me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:24 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


He thinks the failure of the school to call the bomb squad is the issue. Not that the kid was brown. He just refuses to see that.
posted by sio42 at 1:25 PM on September 16, 2015


I am too mad to write coherently right now.
wtf is this shit, I can't even
Oh dear god. I can't even.


This really hurts. Seeing Ahmed's face. Knowing that Ahmed is not the only Ahmed out there and knowing that this could prevent some kid from fulfilling his or her dreams.
I'm not entirely sure what to do either with all of the grar either except hold up my end of the bargain as a woman in STEM and encourage kids to be curious. Encourage teenagers to do what they love and be accessible to young people who need/want mentors (and write checks for STEM programs when I can).
posted by Sophie1 at 1:27 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Good point Sophie1. Signing up to be a mentor at the Grace Hopper conference right now!
posted by blurker at 1:31 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can't wait to see what Larry Wilmore will do with this.
posted by Pendragon at 1:35 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


My wife and I went to see the musical version of Matilda this past weekend. I had never read the book, so the entire story was new to me. Everyone kept laughing at the hijinks of Matilda's abusive parents and principal, like it was some kind of alternate reality where nothing like this could ever happen. I found the entire thing distasteful, and this incident just proves why.
posted by fremen at 1:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


He could bring in a bomb tomorrow and no one would suspect bc he's just so normal.

you should report him to homeland security.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


The laughter in Matilda is because the audience knows that the child is going to get her comeuppance.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:38 PM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Where's the good guy with a clock who could have stopped this maniac

Oh My Thoth-Hermes! I just remembered an incident from my youth.

[REDACTED] years ago, when I was just a few years older than Ahmed is now, I was once accosted by a fairly large number of cops -- weapons drawn -- for, they said, brandishing a handgun on the streets of [REDACTED] as some eye-witness had assured them.

It took me a while to figure out what they were on about and then s-l-o-w-l-y, c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y reveal the shiny chrome pocket watch I affected in those days.

So you see, mistaking timepieces for weapons is nothing new in the USA, and if things had taken a Bonnie & Clyde turn for me -- well, it was an honest mistake.
 
posted by Herodios at 1:38 PM on September 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


He did NOTHING wrong, but he's still going to be "the Clock Bomb Guy" foreverrrrrrrrrr (in that high school [which feels like forever]).
I'm hoping that it will turn into a reputation of coolness, though. Like, he'll be famous-infamous and everyone will want to show off being his friend?
I hope.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:43 PM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


My guess is that by Monday he'll be starting at TAMS with a full scholarship and walk into his new school to applause.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:46 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm hoping that it will turn into a reputation of coolness, though.

Welp, not every freshman has POTUS
posted by infini at 1:49 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I absolutely cannot fathom is how the situation made it all the way to the young man being in handcuffs withoutone of the adults involved saying"Wait a fucking minute, it's just a clock, you morons!"
posted by Mooski at 1:50 PM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]




I just sent a message of support for Ahmed to the authorities telling them his clock was totally dope.
posted by srboisvert at 1:51 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Back to 0.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:53 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just sent a message of support for Ahmed to the authorities telling them his clock was totally dope.

Hoax clock bomb was made of marijuana.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:57 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


as far as popularity goes - i've poked some at the pages of his friends and classmates and there are many pictures of him before this smiling big at things like robotics competitions, surrounded with other grinning students. he seems to have a good support structure all ready and i have high hopes for his future.

and yeah, i really hope he's transferring to TAMS.
posted by nadawi at 1:58 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


What I absolutely cannot fathom is how the situation made it all the way to the young man being in handcuffs withoutone of the adults involved saying"Wait a fucking minute, it's just a clock, you morons!"

Given what we know of the town's recent history, I could see someone not expecting this story blowing up and thinking "If this what they do to a skinny 14yo kid, what can they do to me?"
posted by zombieflanders at 2:00 PM on September 16, 2015




Press conference happening right now at this link.
posted by Fizz at 2:05 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


"He fixes my car, my phone, my electricity, my computer..." - Ahmed's Dad. :)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:10 PM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Dad says he has a real commitment to living in Texas. It's amazing of him.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:10 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ahmed's dad is great: "He fix my car, he fix my electronics. He's a good boy....."

:D
posted by Fizz at 2:10 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


"I'm thinking about transferring to another school." ~ Ahmed.
Good for you guy. Good for you, find some place better. Wants to go to M.I.T. Aim high Ahmed.
posted by Fizz at 2:12 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


he says he wants to go to TAMS, but most importantly to transfer out of macarthur.
posted by nadawi at 2:12 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ahmed says he is still suspended until Thursday. He was interrogated without lawyers.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:12 PM on September 16, 2015


He is going to the White House :)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:12 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


he's just buzzing! i love to see him smiling so big after how awful yesterday must have been...
posted by nadawi at 2:13 PM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


He sounds like such a cute kid. I was worried because this is an age at which very many kids see only the stupid, mean things that adults do, and don't realize the real work and sacrifice and love that adults have for them until years later. It doesn't sound like he's about to be embittered like that -- that is, if all these people follow through for him, and don't drop him after the news cycle rolls on.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:13 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Blue tooth magnet speakers!?! This kid, I'm telling you!?!?
posted by Fizz at 2:14 PM on September 16, 2015


Oh my god he's so great. My son is 14, with the same squeaky voice and I'm smiling so big and tearing up right now watching Ahmed.
posted by chococat at 2:15 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's really heartening to see the outpouring of support he's getting. I hope that he does take up Obama and Chris Hadfield and others on their invitations, that he does transfer to TAMS, etc.

But it would also be really awesome if some of the energy and visibility of this incident gets channeled towards structural things to fight racism for all the kids and adults who are not in the spotlight and who are not getting personal invitations and opportunities. It would be so cool to have this moment of collective internet uproar get turned into new scholarship programs or more anti-racism initiatives in STEM, or other things that could help fight the racism that poisons our country.

What a sweet kid. Heartbreaking to think about this happening to him and to all the other kids who face this kind of discrimination.
posted by aka burlap at 2:15 PM on September 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


Beyond the support of the internet, President, NASA, etc, it sounds like this kid has just got the most supportive family. That has to have helped.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:16 PM on September 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm happy to see that he has so much love and support from his family. I feel like if I was in his shoes, there's a decent chance my parents would have yelled and punished me for "causing trouble."
posted by kat518 at 2:16 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Heh, jinx, kat518.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:18 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad that he's getting an outpouring of support, because that was utter bullshit.

I've found how people are interpreting him to be pretty curious, though. His name was a definite dog whistle to those Islam-antagonistic assholes, but he's actually not brown like people are saying he is - he's a Sudanese American, which means that he's Black. Some Sudanese people and other folks have been pushing back against it, because it appears to be erasing an aspect of his story. I'm straight-up ashamed to admit that I had forgotten this, too.

The #BlackandMuslim hashtag has begun to gain traction alongside #IStandWithAhmed as people point out and then reverse the erasure.
posted by Ashen at 2:20 PM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


According to wikipedia, he's not eligible for TAMS yet, actually. Damn.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:21 PM on September 16, 2015


His dad was hilarious. He was gonna keep finding words to say how awesome his kid is and how happy he is that this turned into something good for ever if the lawyer hadn't tapped him out. Certainly don't blame him at all.

I am so glad he's not going back to that high school.
posted by sio42 at 2:23 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks for pointing that out Ashen. I didn't know.
posted by sio42 at 2:24 PM on September 16, 2015


ah dang, i don't know why i remembered it as a 4 year school. well hopefully he lands some place good that prepares him for the TAMS scholarship he deserves.
posted by nadawi at 2:25 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]




It's great the support he's getting. I'd also like to see some public consequences of the "hopefully this will make the next person in power think twice before participating in abusive injustice" variety.

My guess, however, is that officially we still want to promote a culture of involving authorities whenever we see anything we don't understand, and authority erring on the side of de-escalation-is-for-pansies-and-foreign-countries.
posted by anonymisc at 2:49 PM on September 16, 2015


I used to get TAMS kids in my intro-american-politics courses at UNT and he will fit right in when he's old enough. Thems is some smart little fuckers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:52 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Press conference happening right now at this link.

Didn't see it but I hope part of it was the principal resigning.
posted by Ratio at 2:57 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Fake bomb blunder ends with White House invite" - USA Today

No, I'm not going to link to it.
posted by sidereal at 3:04 PM on September 16, 2015


I agree with aka burlap. One initiative to take a look at: Fund Club: Pledge $100/month to fund tech projects by and for marginalized people. If you sign up, then each month, the curators suggest "a project, initiative, event or organization focused on diverse communities in technology" for you to donate to.
posted by brainwane at 3:06 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Via Jezebel: CNN Has an Interesting Take on the Arrest of a 14-Year-Old Clockmaking Boy
posted by grippycat at 3:08 PM on September 16, 2015


False imprisonment is a crime. Federal charges should be filed against Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne and Irving school officials for Ahmed's false imprisonment. The DoJ can't clean up after all the racist Texas assholes, but they can certainly start with the ones in charge who are responsible and who make excuses for the more egregious displays. Like Kim Davis, make a clear and unambiguous demonstration of what the consequences are for plainly violating the civil rights of another citizen.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:12 PM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Federal charges should be filed against Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne and Irving school officials for Ahmed's false imprisonment.

They should, but they won't get a conviction:

The federal civil rights trial against the cop who crippled an Indian grandfather ended in a hung jury because the 10 non-black jurors didn't think the cop did anything wrong.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:25 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Twitter just offered him an internship.
posted by wallabear at 3:28 PM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Because the alternative would be, gasp, copping to having been wrong and there's no way you will ever say that to the little brown kid.

You know, i know a bunch has happened since i last posted and Obama and bla bla bla, but i really think this is it.

The best possible outcome at this point will be something like the equivalent of "time served" on whatever punishment they give him. Like, "we're giving you this punishment because we were right, but because all these meanie-butts forced our hand we're basically crediting you the punishment and letting you go on your way. you're still punished though, and we're not wrong(even if we're not right, we're definitely not wrong!)"

I'm not speaking from my sphincter here either. I've seen so much of that when a person in a position of power is wrong, sometimes when it's a brown kid, exactly like you're talking about.

There's just no way this is over. They are going to drag this out and do the "full investigation" because they "have to be rigorous", even if the end result is a bunch of showmanship and the sentence essentially being commuted.

If they were open to it, and there was a fund set up, i'd contribute to some gofundme or whatever for his family to move the fuck out of texas and the south.
posted by emptythought at 3:29 PM on September 16, 2015


This can't be stressed enough. If they believed the threat was genuine, why didn't they act as if it was a genuine threat?

I know! It is one of those mysteries not vouchsafed to those of use who do not work in security, like the way airport screeners take away your water bottles and toothpaste because they are potential biohazards but then just tosses them casually in a big open bin because they are obviously not biohazards. It's almost as if policy is being invented on the spot by incompetents.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:36 PM on September 16, 2015 [32 favorites]


It's almost as if policy is being invented on the spot by incompetents.

Sometimes this is carefully thought out policy by incompetents. The end results are not distinguishable.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:46 PM on September 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


And now I have FB friends saying that "maybe he was cagey or snarky" when asked about the clock and that "it's important to understand what really happened." I pointed out that just making random shit up to make Ahmed look bad is the exact OPPOSITE of "understanding what really happened" but no traction so far.
posted by KathrynT at 3:47 PM on September 16, 2015 [35 favorites]


It's almost as if policy is being invented on the spot by incompetents.

An awful lot of people -- particularly petty officials and, in my experience, HR staff -- interpret their job as "at all times appear to be doing your job". Taking ownership of the real objective and focusing on doing things that genuinely serve that objective is just way, way beyond them. Instead you get people doing stupid shit for vaguely plausible reasons and not even giving the impression of believing them, like this here shit right now.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:03 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


If they were open to it, and there was a fund set up, i'd contribute to some gofundme or whatever for his family to move the fuck out of texas and the south.

his father was adamant that they have lived in their home for 30 years, that they love irving, that they love america, and that what happened to ahmed at school was not american - that he's eager for all of us to fight for a better america. islamophobia isn't just a texas or southern state issue.
posted by nadawi at 4:06 PM on September 16, 2015 [45 favorites]


people's misconceptions about texas are fucking annoying - like y'all don't have racist shits all over your states or like there's not a strong anti-muslim contingent trying to fuck everything up where you live. if you think irving is filled with cowboys you're just as bone stupid as the adults we're mocking in this thread. give it a goddamned rest.

Sorry but no. Yes, there's racist assholes everywhere. But there really does seem to be a specific brand of double-triple-down balls out and stupid racism specific to that area of the country. And i have more than a couple friends who moved the fuck away to get away from it and happily note how much less pronounced it is here.

Does stupid shit like this happen in my community. Yea, sometimes. But not to this frequency or degree.

Just because we're dumping on how shitty this sort of thing is there doesn't mean we're high horsing about it being perfect wherever we are. It deserves to get dumped on as hard as it does, and no one is going hurr-durr cowboys or anything. I know this is a suburb of dallas and not some ranching town. But you don't see the mayor of bellevue, -or even yakima, which is racist as shit-(along with basically all of eastern washington yea), tweeting shit like that.

To reiterate, just because we're going "wow the problem sure is problem there" doesn't mean we're going HURRDURR REDNECKS SOUTH COWBOYS HURR DURR.
posted by emptythought at 4:11 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


If I worked for the Onion I'd be scribbling out a story about how he's getting an average of four honorary doctorates per day from prestigious universities and the Nobel committee has convened a special session to award him the Prize in Physics for his clock.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:11 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'd like to see a time zone named after him.

Sorry, Texas; you're now in the Ahmed Mohamed Time Zone.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


To reiterate, just because we're going "wow the problem sure is problem there" doesn't mean we're going HURRDURR REDNECKS SOUTH COWBOYS HURR DURR.

the comment that sent me over the edge was doing exactly that (and to add insult to injury didn't even spell yella right). and you pretty much did it with your offer to save this family from their 30 year home. also, take a look at this list and count how many times texas appears - and then how many times, say, new york or california appears.
posted by nadawi at 4:18 PM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


also, something to keep in mind, "lol texans!" includes ahmed and his family. it includes mefite texans. it includes wendy davis. you're doing the same othering that you're mocking the state for by indicating that those people aren't really texans. it's shitty and it's ostracizing and we should be better than that here. get the beam outta your own eye before you look down here.
posted by nadawi at 4:21 PM on September 16, 2015 [37 favorites]




Does stupid shit like this happen in my community. Yea, sometimes. But not to this frequency or degree.

Maybe not in your community, but it's not limited to Texas or the South.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:24 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ahmed and his dad and their family are just as Texan as the racist assholes. Y'ALL MEANS ALL, MOTHERFUCKERS
posted by nicebookrack at 4:28 PM on September 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


FWIW I'm a born Texan and I'm perfectly fine calling out Ahmed's treatment as a particularly Texas problem. I might have even used the phrase "racist shitkicker Texans" in an intemperate tweet in response to the news this morning.

The problem is to a lot of people in Texas, particularly god-fearing white Baptists in Irving, people like Ahmed are not considered Texans. They're the wrong color, and the wrong religion, and this nerdy kid is doing some scary science thing and you can never be too careful with those people. Not all Texans are like that, sure, and plenty of Americans all over the country are just as awful. But Texas is particularly hospitable to religious and racial prejudice.

Texas doesn't have a monopoly on stupid. But it does have a notably higher density of it. I moved to California to get the hell away from it. We have our own kind of stupid here too (hello, anti-vaxxers) but it tends to be a little less mean.
posted by Nelson at 4:31 PM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


This isn't snark, but have any GOP politicians commented on this event, in any way? I haven't seen anything.
posted by Devonian at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2015


Fun fact. When Wozniak was in highschool he got arrested for a fake bomb. Such things happen fairly regularly in this country, tends to stay local news.

It occurs to me that possibly neither the police nor the school officials are quite so stupid as to think that this was an actual bomb. And that their reaction was simply a means of putting the scare on the kid to keep him from getting into more serious mischief down the line. And that his claiming that it was only a clock is about what a cop would expect a scared kid to say about what they saw as a bad taste practical joke. And that if a white kid had done the same thing, they would have followed the same script.

I don't know this for a fact, of course, because I do have a window into men's souls.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:35 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the Texas thing is being massively overemphasized. In my experience something like this is at least as likely to happen in Missouri, Ohio and Indiana, and those are just the ones I can speak of. Probably almost as likely in most states.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


This isn't snark, but have any GOP politicians commented on this event, in any way?

Republican Kiddie Table Debate:
3:58 PM PT: Regarding Ahmed Mohamed, the teen arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, Jake Tapper asks "How do you strike a balance between security vigilance and anti-Muslim discrimination?"

No one wants to answer the question. Pressed, Bobby Jindal says sure, no, don't arrest kids for clocks, but pivots as quickly as possible to the REAL victims of discrimination—Christian business owners who want to discriminate against LGBT people getting married.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


the difference i've seen between liberal and conservative states is how much back patting the "blue" states do about how tolerant they are - but they show up on the islamophobia watch sites just as much as we do. but whatever, you guys keep thinking this issue isn't in your backyard. i'm sure that will go well for you.
posted by nadawi at 4:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


I moved to California to get the hell away from it. We have our own kind of stupid here too (hello, anti-vaxxers) but it tends to be a little less mean.

I've lived in Georgia, Texas, and California (SF and LA) and I disagree. I hear just as many nasty things about "illegals" here in LA as I did about black people in Georgia.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


But what about the mortal terror i experience due to the inevitable passage of time and my awareness of my own mortality?

Truly, by building a clock, he has become the greatest terrorist ever known.
posted by alexei at 4:42 PM on September 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


It occurs to me that possibly neither the police nor the school officials are quite so stupid as to think that this was an actual bomb. And that their reaction was simply a means of putting the scare on the kid to keep him from getting into more serious mischief down the line. And that his claiming that it was only a clock is about what a cop would expect a scared kid to say about what they saw as a bad taste practical joke. And that if a white kid had done the same thing, they would have followed the same script.

Putting aside Irving's recent and nasty history of Islamophobia, in what world do you teach someone a lesson by going through all of the motions of charging him with a serious misdemeanor or felony, depriving him of his basic civil rights in the process, and then defend it without a single damn apology?

tld;r: lolwut
posted by zombieflanders at 4:45 PM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Also,
And that his claiming that it was only a clock

It was only a clock.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:49 PM on September 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


But what about the mortal terror i experience due to the inevitable passage of time and my awareness of my own mortality?

Clearly he's an existential(ism) threat.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:49 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hey, are we still posting awesome support tweets?

@googlescifair: Hey Ahmed- we're saving a seat for you at this weekend's Google Science Fair...want to come? Bring your clock! #IStandwithAhmed
posted by phatkitten at 5:01 PM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


....and a response to that, "Ahmed, @windsorcircle would be pleased to pick up the tab if you choose go to @googlescifair. #IStandWithAhmed."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:03 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


dammit i'm getting all teary again.
posted by sio42 at 5:12 PM on September 16, 2015


He just received an invitation to come tour MIT, live on Chris Hayes' show.

He's gonna be a very busy young man.
posted by wallabear at 5:20 PM on September 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


I was raised by a public school educator and I've worked in a number of public schools (in Chicago) in non-faculty positions doing data entry, tutoring, and tech support.

I expect a well meaning staff to
1. React quickly to any possible threat.
2. React so quickly, and probably overreact, in a way where the students are less safe than if they'd nothing at all. They do not have the adequate training or resources for this kind of thing.
3. IMMEDIATELY and publicly apologize to the student, throw their support behind the student, admit that they are embarrassed about their error, but cover their assessment by saying that it was both required by policy and an example of how dedicated they are towards protecting the safety of ALL students and staff.

That didn't happen here. It sounds like they knew full well it wasn't a bomb or a bomb threat and still went about humiliating this student with a perp walk in front of his peers, the juvenile equivalent of an arrest, AND the added insult and injury of a suspension after the fact.

Most of the administrators I've known are far more paranoid about a PR scandal than a school shooting, and it's almost quaint in a sad way that the school administrators and the police were so unwilling to believe in the innocence and ingenuity of a young Muslim student that they doubled down, doubled down again with the suspension, and doubled down again with the letter to parents. What a bunch of assholes.

Addendum: I've got to say that in the schools I've worked at, though the staff is often both cynical and paranoid, they believe in the goodness of their students, at least until they've gotten into a few fights or pissed off some teachers with attitude. It's highly unlikely that this would have happened to a nerdy, gifted 14 year old.
posted by elr at 5:29 PM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yeah, maybe some of these do gooders could spread some of the largesse around.
posted by notyou at 5:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ahmed and his dad both expressed an interest in helping others. It will be interesting to see what he does. Cause I have no doubt it will be something!
posted by sio42 at 5:41 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


He's gonna be a very busy young man.

No kidding. Professor Hathaway just admitted him to Pacific Tech to work with Chris Knight.

But he has to get revenge on MacArthur High School. It's a moral imperative.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:52 PM on September 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


It occurs to me that possibly neither the police nor the school officials are quite so stupid as to think that this was an actual bomb.
It's possible, but given that a lot of people seem to not know pretty obvious technological things, it's also possible they didn't. Having to explain what a battery pack is, because it also has solar panels? Having to explain how my Apple Watch for Android Made by Motorola works? Explaining that viewing source is not hacking?

Having first hand experience with how piss poor technological and scientific literacy is here in the States (and elsewhere), that is a lot of credit that I am not willing to extend.

And that their reaction was simply a means of putting the scare on the kid to keep him from getting into more serious mischief down the line.

Having been a nerdy kid in my youth, the simple scolding of a teacher would have been sufficient.

And that his claiming that it was only a clock is about what a cop would expect a scared kid to say about what they saw as a bad taste practical joke.

Having been raised to be an honest kid in my youth, I would have been just as factual. Indeed, I was raised to be deferent to authority figures, given that at the time we believed they operated in our best interest.

And that if a white kid had done the same thing, they would have followed the same script.

I also still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and think that real bombs look like movie bombs.
posted by qcubed at 5:56 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm getting heat from an old friend on FB for whether I would have written in support of a hypothetical white kid that this happened to. The point is that it never would, not like this.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:59 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm getting heat from an old friend on FB for whether I would have written in support of a hypothetical white kid that this happened to. The point is that it never would, not like this.

But also, yes.

Same as I support photographers that get arrested and harrassed for taking photographs of public buildings by uniformed horse's asses that have been squealing "terrorism, terrorism" for 14 years now. I don't care what color they are, and I don't care what color Ahmed is. It speaks to the profiling but not to the act.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:02 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am glad things are going well for Ahmed out of this shitty situation and he'll have a good opportunity that comes from this. My thoughts now turn to the rest of the kids that have to study under that sort of leadership at that school and whether anything is going to be done for them, especially the other kids living in this culture of discrimination.
posted by Karaage at 6:06 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Probably nothing will change at the school, given that the people who live in Irving will likely continue to vote as they have for the school board, which has made zero moves that we know about thus far in terms of changing policies or the administration.
posted by qcubed at 6:11 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm getting heat from an old friend on FB for whether I would have written in support of a hypothetical white kid that this happened to.

Yes, this whole thing is another kick in the teeth to the white man.
posted by thelonius at 6:12 PM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sadly, I expect all change if any in MacArthur school policy will come only if forced from without, which is why I hope Ahmed's family sues the school district into the ground. Maybe they'll implement some diversity/sensitivity training once their insurance company is breathing down their neck.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:14 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


While President Obama's being helpful it'd be nice if he ordered the Irving police to destroy the arrest record, mug shot and fingerprints they took. That shit follows you around.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:15 PM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan and occasionally returns there to run for president.
That's one hell of an aside.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:23 AM on September 16 [198 favorites +] [!]

****^^^^^^*******
Yes it is and the trolls are all over it. They think it's a plot...
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:18 PM on September 16, 2015


A plot to do what?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:19 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


crush western civilization with timeliness
posted by poffin boffin at 6:23 PM on September 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


His thoughts, have you ever wondered why I only drink grain alcohol and rainwater?
posted by qcubed at 6:23 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


putting the scare on the kid to keep him from getting into more serious mischief down the line

More serious mischief? He didn't do any mischief at all. He built a clock and showed it to some of his teachers.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:26 PM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


While President Obama's being helpful it'd be nice if he ordered the Irving police to destroy the arrest record, mug shot and fingerprints they took. That shit follows you around.
That's not within his authority. The president is the head of the Executive Branch of the US federal government. He does not control local law enforcement or the justice system of the state of Texas.
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:31 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I know. But if you can pardon somebody who's actually been convicted of something you damn well ought to be able to expunge a bullshit arrest record.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:32 PM on September 16, 2015


He didn't do any mischief at all.
I see Aggravated Learning in the First Degree and the kid is obviously a repeat offender. I'd say "throw the book at him" but the twisted little bastard would probably enjoy that.
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:36 PM on September 16, 2015 [40 favorites]


Yeah, the fact that a cop he didn't know said "yeah, that's who i thought it was" speaks volumes. y'know since profiling don't real, and you should just trust the officers instinct because it's their job.

Also: more on the mayor, Glenn Beck appearance, etc.

seriously, if his dad is a prominent and outspoken Muslim in this community, and the cops just happen to know who his kids are i don't think you even need the pattern guide to plug the pegs into this particular Lite-Brite.
posted by lkc at 6:39 PM on September 16, 2015 [23 favorites]


His thoughts, have you ever wondered why I only drink grain alcohol and rainwater?

What, now you need a reason?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:50 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Teen Clockmaker Arrested in One of Texas’ Most Punitive School Districts

Irving ISD, the state’s 27th largest out of more than 1,000 school districts, expelled more students than all but five districts in the 2013-14 school year, according to state data. Only four districts expelled more students to the juvenile justice system that year, and Irving ISD sent more students to disciplinary alternative classrooms than all but a dozen districts.

Like the rest of Texas schools, Irving ISD disciplined black students — which the Texas Education Agency (TEA) classifies as “African American” — at disproportionate rates. According to the TEA, African American students account for 13 percent of Irving students, but one quarter of all out-of-school suspensions. Mohamed is of Sudanese descent.

posted by anastasiav at 6:51 PM on September 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


I think the Texas thing is being massively overemphasized. In my experience something like this is at least as likely to happen in Missouri, Ohio and Indiana, and those are just the ones I can speak of. Probably almost as likely in most states.

I bet Tamir Rice would agree with you if he wasn't dead.
posted by phearlez at 6:58 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Official fundraiser link for Ahmed, as tweeted by @istandwithahmed, which is the family's own twitter account according to Anil Dash.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:58 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is one of those mysteries not vouchsafed to those of use who do not work in security, like the way airport screeners take away your water bottles and toothpaste because they are potential biohazards but then just tosses them casually in a big open bin because they are obviously not biohazards.

Gah! Don't get me started.

I get water and toothpaste confiscated, but they let me take my travel guitar on board. It has a detachable neck with metal strings, with which one could (had one the skill and strength) hit and strangle people. (Comments from my family to the effect that OMG you could play it and that would be worse are being ignored)

And once they took away my tiny screwdriver (eyeglass repair!) but left my mechanical pencil. Hmmm. Do they think I am going to unscrew the dam' plane in mid-air, or what? And could I not stab you with with a pencil?

Security theater, all of it.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 7:18 PM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Here's Texas Monthly's first take on it, from Dan Solomon: What Ahmed Mohamed’s case tells us about the American dream.
North Texas is a microcosm of a problem that extends across Texas and the U.S.—that Muslims are frequently subject to threats, violence, and humiliation.
I'll be looking forward to Texas Monthly's investigation of this, presumably published a few months from now. The magazine has done good longform journalism pieces.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:22 PM on September 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


I get water and toothpaste confiscated, but they let me take my travel guitar on board. It has a detachable neck with metal strings, with which one could (had one the skill and strength) hit and strangle people. (Comments from my family to the effect that OMG you could play it and that would be worse are being ignored)

Once, after a month- long hiking trip, I tried to go through airport security. They confiscated my travel cutlery, a $2 set that clipped together - I had forgotten that it was in my hand luggage. Actually, they didn't confiscate all of it - just the knife, which couldn't cut butter and which I had been using as a replacement tent peg for the last 3 weeks. I guess fork stabbings aren't a big deal?

They also let me go through with the 6 foot walking staff that I had carved while on the trail. Couldn't do any damage with that, no sirree bob.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:47 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


As usual, the Reddit memegineers have nailed it.
posted by Nelson at 7:49 PM on September 16, 2015 [22 favorites]




IndigoJones: " When Wozniak was in highschool he got arrested for a fake bomb. "

IIRC Metafilter's own The Woz intentionally made it look like a bomb; Ahmed made his clock look like a clock and that's all he ever claimed it was which no one doing the over reacting has yet disputed.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ahmed's dad brought pizzas for the media
I hope he wins the Sudanese Presidency, the next time they hold an election. More heads of state should publicly distribute pizza.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:15 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Although I know it's a hopeless wish, I think meme-ifying this kid shouldn't be a thing.
posted by wallabear at 9:17 PM on September 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


George_Spiggott said: Yeah, I know. But if you can pardon somebody who's actually been convicted of something you damn well ought to be able to expunge a bullshit arrest record.
The POTUS can only pardon people convicted of Federal crimes. The state Governor would do so for those convicted in-state.
43rdAnd9th said: And once they took away my tiny screwdriver (eyeglass repair!) but left my mechanical pencil. Hmmm. Do they think I am going to unscrew the dam' plane in mid-air, or what? And could I not stab you with with a pencil?
Knitting needles are also allowed on planes, no questions asked. I once impaled my foot on one left pointing upwards on the floor. Believe me when I say: those things can do some damage.
posted by Emanuel at 9:50 PM on September 16, 2015


They cuffed him and perp-walked him out the school? That's fucked up.
posted by Standard Orange


If only they were doing him a favor.
posted by Chuffy at 10:04 PM on September 16, 2015




The kid should sell these things. I would so much buy one of his clocks. It has to have the hologram tiger sticker on it though.
posted by eye of newt at 11:36 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


BREAKING: The British appear to have developed some sort of giant bomb, possibly attached to a rocket.

Not only that, but they're building an even bigger version of it in Mecca.
posted by acb at 2:11 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do they think I am going to unscrew the dam' plane in mid-air, or what?

I don't think that's how the Mile High Club works.
posted by Gelatin at 4:11 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Screw, unscrew, whats the difference? That involves technical literacy.

Arrest this person named "Gelatin"!
posted by qcubed at 4:25 AM on September 17, 2015


Jessica Huseman: Schools in Irving, Texas, Feared Islam Well Before They Thought Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock Was a Bomb
Earlier this year its city council voted to back a proposed law that rejected foreign influence on the courts. Why? Because they found out a local Islamic tribunal mediated civil cases on a voluntary basis for members of the local Muslim community. Something, I’ll point out, that Jewish and Christian organizations also do. Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne has since become a conservative darling for backing the law even after the Muslim community called it out for what it was: fear-mongering.

It’s no surprise, then, that Van Duyne’s first Facebook post after Ahmed’s arrest thanked police for keeping children safe while also touting Irving ISD’s laudable STEM programs. She later edited the post to include the concern that, if this had been her child, she would have been pretty upset. Good for her for rethinking, but it shouldn’t have come to that.

While it’s impossible to say for sure if Ahmed would have been arrested if his last name weren’t “Mohamed,” I think we can all offer a pretty educated guess. The obvious absurdity that a school with award-winning STEM programs can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a clock is almost too upsetting to think about. As is the fact that police transported a 14-year-old boy in handcuffs to a juvenile detention center because he couldn’t provide an explanation for the clock other than that he wanted to impress his teachers with his obviously impressive skills.

Schools are supposed to foster creativity. Teachers should be pushing students to their limits and praising academic behavior that goes above and beyond. Ahmed, who once built a Bluetooth speaker for a friend as a gift, has obvious talent. Instead of praising that potential, the school threw him in handcuffs and told him he was a danger to other students.

And when they realized their mistake, they still suspended him for three days and sent an absurd letter to parents asking them to review the Student Code of Conduct with their children. That code of conduct prohibits students from bringing “a ‘look-alike’ weapon” with them to school—a provision Ahmed would have assumed he was following, because a clock doesn’t look like a bomb. The school’s administration has now made a fool of itself on a national scale. Serves them right.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:31 AM on September 17, 2015 [24 favorites]




I'm becoming fairly disturbed by the public response to Ahmed's story.

There's something not being said here: Ahmed's clock is not an invention, nor is it a good demonstration of the values of do-it-yourself electronics, nor is it evidence of intellectual genius. It's not even a very good clock. What's in the picture released by the police appears to simply be the internal components of a commercial alarm clock removed from the clock's assembly and hastily screwed into a briefcase-like pencil box.

When I first heard the headline and saw the admittedly powerful picture of him standing in handcuffs in his NASA shirt, I expected this to be something where Ahmed had designed his own clock, either with an electronics kit, or using an Arduino, or using a breadboard - where he put together the fundamental circuits, and mounted it in a project box or a crude case (like one of those Altoids-tin phone chargers). That's certainly possible for a smart high-school kid. Or maybe he made a specialized clock used for an ancillary purpose, like as a chess timer, or for timing races. But that doesn't appear to be what happened.

Instead, Ahmed's clock is more like outsider art. It doesn't seem to reflect any engineering curiosity or practical concerns. The parts are strewn together haphazardly, and there's nothing in the picture that hints that the device was substantially changed by the police. It doesn't seem like much of an electronics project, and I will dare to say that it is only notable as genuinely having a similar appearance to the Hollywood conception of a briefcase bomb. Ahmed has not provided any sort of reasonable explanation for why he would want to take and show off what is pretty clearly a shoddy clock to school.

In the interviews, Ahmed's workstation looks the same way. There are lots of parts haphazardly connected in ways that, as someone reasonably versed in hobbyist and consumer electronics design, appear to be more for show than for functional use.

To me, that calls what's going on into question. But ultimately, I don't have a problem with that by itself. It seems to be a benign appreciation for the innards of electronic devices. Certainly, even though this wasn't the greatest clock in the world - and I think it was a highly questionable decision to take it to school to show it off, and I don't think the teacher who thought it might be a bomb was necessarily in the wrong to report it - the kid shouldn't have been arrested.

But here's the flipside. I also don't think, despite his issues with the police, that Ahmed should be feted for what really doesn't appear to be a very good project. The public reaction seems to be completely disproportionate to what happened, with people so enthusiastic to show they support him that he is being lifted up like Chance the Gardener in Being There or pushed into Forrest Gump's bumbling success. Sure, send the kid electronics and open up a scholarship fund, but a trip to the White House, Facebook, Google? Endless articles calling him a child prodigy?

When Karen Klein the bus monitor started receiving donations after her harassment went public it was a very sweet gesture, but after things went past half a million, it started to seem like a completely different injustice, where the court of public opinion had decreed a reward to this person orders of magnitude greater than the trials endured. Ahmed's ascent feels less like the discovery of a prodigy and more like the screeching self-righteousness of KONY 2012.

There is a terrible message emerging, and that is that publicity is more important than achievement. While Ahmed tours the White House, there will be countless other kids, many from disadvantaged backgrounds or who have to deal with discrimination in a less public way, trying their damnedest on engineering projects that are far more complex or innovative than what he has done. I'm a little worried that they might get bitter when they see someone receive so much support for what they know (and adults don't seem to realize) is such a poorly done project. Let's make sure that, in the mad rush to support Ahmed, we don't forget about them.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 8:04 AM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh for fuck's sake. He's a kid who likes to tinker with things. There's nothing wrong with that. It is ok to be a kid who likes to tinker with things and not the most amazing kid tinkerer in the history of tinkering kids.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:07 AM on September 17, 2015 [63 favorites]


But here's the flipside. I also don't think, despite his issues with the police, that Ahmed should be feted for what really doesn't appear to be a very good project.

Good news: he isn't! No one is saying that he invented a super-clock or that the clock is evidence of his genius. No one is saying that he is the Tony Stark of holographic tiger pencil case clocks (he built it in a CAAAAVE).

He's a baby nerd who took his project (which he admits was kind of thrown together at the last minute, if you watch any of his interviews) to school in the hopes of getting a teacher interested in starting a robotics/tech/engineering club, and instead was treated as a horrifying terrorist monster. The fact that scientists and science institutions are reaching out to him isn't because they think his clock is an A++++++ clock of the ages. They are reaching out to him so that his spirit of exploration and his love of science isn't snuffed out by nasty racism and authoritarianism.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:13 AM on September 17, 2015 [92 favorites]


A youthful curiosity in engineering does not begin with an adult trashing the first steps toward more advanced projects. I hope nobody shit on your childhood explorations, like you're doing on Ahmed's. I was praised for plugging trivial computer components together at a younger-than-average age, and went on to systems administration and programming from there.

The over-the-top accolades and invitations are the result of becoming a near-perfect symbol of the heinous discrimination against racial and religious minorities in this country, not because people think he's a prodigy inventor. He's bright for his age, more curious than most, and was shit on by the authority figures in his life because of his name and the color of his skin.
posted by gilrain at 8:13 AM on September 17, 2015 [31 favorites]


What?

You're judging a 14 year old boy because all he did was engineer something it took human beings thousands of years to figure out? You're upset that the public wants to support the enthusiasm and joy and innovative spirit of a little boy who hasn't yet thoroughly proven himself to be a genius?

There is a terrible message emerging, and that is that publicity is more important than achievement.

I suggest that what is emerging is a strong message that it is good to try, it is good to be curious and excited, it is good to be interested in making and doing and experimenting. The message that is emerging is that there are many many people in this country who care a whole damn lot that these virtues are encouraged and applauded. The message that is emerging is that we support you, whoever you are, whether you're a genius or not, and we want you to try and do and succeed (or fail!). The message that is emerging is that we don't want this one little boy, who was treated in such a foul and dehumanizing and soul-crushing way to actually have his soul crushed.

This is about his soul, his spirit, his enthusiasm. It doesn't matter whether the clock even works.
posted by meese at 8:14 AM on September 17, 2015 [38 favorites]


Oh, jesus christ, Tapas.
posted by uberchet at 8:15 AM on September 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


"Kid, you tried your best, and you were arrested and trashed by someone on the Internet. The lesson is, never try."
posted by Etrigan at 8:15 AM on September 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Like, when my brother was three years old, he mixed some baking soda with leftover banana peels and called them "crackers" and we all told him he did a good job and we were proud of him.

Were those crackers? No. Were they delicious? No, they weren't even edible, because they were BANANA PEELS COVERED IN BAKING SODA. But my brother was a toddler who was showing an interest in learning how to cook and sharing that exploration with his family, and responding with "this is pathetic, it is like you, a toddler, have never even read Escoffier" would have been a great way to teach him that trying was a stupid waste of time.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:18 AM on September 17, 2015 [32 favorites]


Was that comment for fucking serious? Holy shit.
posted by Kitteh at 8:23 AM on September 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


There is a terrible message emerging, and that is that publicity is more important than achievement.

What's emerging is an awesome counter to the message delivered by his high school and Irving PD, which was that conformity is more important than achievement.
posted by Gelatin at 8:24 AM on September 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


Suppose he really is a rank beginner. What if he had been freshly starting out, was learning the simplest projects (perhaps on his own time and resources), and wanted to show his teacher that he had managed something? Maybe he brought it both to say "hey, look at my initiative in making something because I'm interested" and to get advice on what to do with it next.

Instead his teachers jumped the gun (how were they in any right to report it as a 'hoax bomb'?) and he doesn't get the support he needs to move forward. Well, not until NASA et al jumped in and provided support, but he's an extraordinary case. And in this way, you're right, there are tons of kids who are in this situation who don't get Fairy Godmothered.

But I know what it's like to try something difficult, managed to make some headway, but get discouraged or unappreciated because it's not perfect. That was the climate growing up: if you weren't immediately a prodigy you should just not bother. This was how I got scared off from visual art and didn't even really dare pick up a paintbrush for more than just scribbles until some 5 years ago in my mid-20s - teachers kept telling me I "drew like a 6 year old" and wouldn't support me in growing. I could have probably been a gymnast if my initial childhood fears of tumbling weren't taken to mean "oh she's hopeless".

I also remember how, as a kid, I thought I had discovered some weird properties of numbers, and emailed a whole bunch of Very Important Math Professors to talk to them about it. One of them wrote back with interest and enthusiasm, suggesting some other things I could do with numbers to see what would happen. I didn't end up going into Math as a life vocation, but the fact that this professor - who really has better things to do than entertain a 9 year old who thought she'd reinvented the number line - reached out to me with sincerity and gave me prompts to keep exploring really made a huge difference.

I also remember how, in my super uber early years of performance art, I applied for a couple of opportunities with my local women's circus - one to be a year-long artsworker trainee, one to workshop and participate in a major state arts festival. I got accepted into both, and was easily the least experienced or skilled person out of everyone else (who'd been doing this jam since they were toddlers, probably). But what my directors saw in me was enthusiasm, willingness to learn, dedication, and a spark of a story I wanted to tell. That spark developed into a full performance piece, and that experience gave me so much confidence and validation that I eventually built up an international career and earned an MFA.

Magic can happen if you give someone a chance - and the magic gets especially stronger if you give it to someone who may not necessarily seem like the Best In The Bunch. Interest and enthusiasm counts for a lot. Should Ahmed be the only kid that gets access to this sort of thing? No, and that's why it's important for us to reach out to our local resources and find ways to connect them to other kids who may or may not be in Ahmed's position but want to learn. But does that mean Ahmed somehow doesn't deserve it either? Not at all. Even if he decides to not be an engineer when he grows up (for whatever reason), for one moment in his life, people believed in him - especially role models, and that can be such a container of strength especially for a kid dealing with isolation and lack of support.
posted by divabat at 8:24 AM on September 17, 2015 [36 favorites]


I'm not judging Ahmed for having created his clock, nor do I think it's inappropriate for kids to experiment regardless of the quality of the end results. Of course his parents and teachers should encourage him to try bigger and better things, and I certainly would if I were his parent or teacher.

I'm judging the vociferous, disproportionate support and publicity he alone is receiving. I'm encouraging everyone to use this opportunity to support minority and disadvantaged students in STEM, and not just jump on the bandwagon of pushing this one guy to the forefront. Some people are looking at the big picture. The rest of you are getting kind of scary.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 8:24 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can distill my point down further: engineering (or almost any field) starts with doing stuff literally anybody could do, only you're one of the few curious enough to do it. And it helps if you're praised, rather than trashed. And it really helps if you're even allowed childhood curiosity, rather than being beaten down by a racist system when you're still a fucking child.

And people are so tired of that last bit, that they're willing to elevate a beautiful, if average, example to the status of symbol in an effort to change culture.
posted by gilrain at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


Instead, Ahmed's clock is more like outsider art.

I'm not entirely sure you grasp the concept of outsider art as well as you grasp the concept of why this young teen isn't Johnny fuckin' Quest.
posted by griphus at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm encouraging everyone to use this opportunity to support minority and disadvantaged students in STEM

One of the best things about this whole terrible story is that Ahmed is, as well.
posted by meese at 8:27 AM on September 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'm judging the vociferous, disproportionate support and publicity he alone is receiving.

I'm not sure why you think everyone is super excited about the clock he made instead of just trying to push back against bigotry.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:29 AM on September 17, 2015 [40 favorites]


I EAT TAPAS: "I'm encouraging everyone to use this opportunity to support minority and disadvantaged students in STEM, and not just jump on the bandwagon of pushing this one guy to the forefront."

Having a narrative to point to is really important, and while every disadvantaged student may not get direct, concrete benefits from Ahmed's story, at least they can see Ahmed's story and think that if things turn out OK for him, then maybe they will turn out OK for me.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:32 AM on September 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm encouraging everyone to use this opportunity to support minority and disadvantaged students in STEM

you spent over 500 words on how shitty his clock is and how undeserving he is and under 100 on helping other kids. maybe if you want to make that second point you can just make it without the overwrought concern trolling about a 14 year old's project.
posted by nadawi at 8:32 AM on September 17, 2015 [42 favorites]


Instead his teachers jumped the gun

One of the things that saddened me about this story was that the first teacher he showed his clock to appreciated it but warned him not to show it to anyone else. I believe that teacher had Ahmed's best interests in mind, and wished for him to avoid the kind of reaction the teacher seems to have correctly foreseen, but even so, what a sad message to send to a kid whose work one appreciates and would like to encourage -- don't show anybody!
posted by Gelatin at 8:33 AM on September 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


until i find out why that teacher didn't stop them from calling the cops for a "hoax bomb" i'm not encouraged that ahmed's best interests were at the forefront.
posted by nadawi at 8:35 AM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Some people are looking at the big picture. The rest of you are getting kind of scary.

The only people that are scary are the ones coming up with increasingly more transparent ways to make excuses for the Islamophobic school and city government officials. Perhaps you should worry about them rather than the a strawman version of the "rest of [us]," many of whom have actually been talking about the big picture you describe.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:35 AM on September 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


until i find out why that teacher didn't stop them from calling the cops for a "hoax bomb" i'm not encouraged that ahmed's best interests were at the forefront.

I don't have any information that indicates the first teacher was aware of the second teacher's and administration's overreaction until it had already happened. I don't know that he had an opportunity to stop it. Obviously if he did know about it in advance, he should have stepped in.
posted by Gelatin at 8:38 AM on September 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Some people are looking at the big picture. The rest of you are getting kind of scary.

lol okay

Look, most of us who aren't teachers don't actually encounter minority students interested in STEM (and I say that as someone who spent last year volunteering as a tutor to minority students, btw). A lot of the people are supporting him as a way to signal to other minority students that they are loved as well. He's a symbol in a lot of these discussions, not merely an individual. Your reluctance to realize that people are responding as much to the situation as Ahmed himself is, frankly, kind of weird.

He said he never thought people would care so much about a Muslim boy. Embracing him is a way of signaling to other Muslim boys that yes, yes people would care about them. People do care about them.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:40 AM on September 17, 2015 [23 favorites]


> I'm not judging Ahmed for having created his clock, nor do I think it's inappropriate for kids to experiment regardless of the quality of the end results.

Did you read what you wrote?

> not an invention, nor is it a good demonstration of the values of do-it-yourself electronics, nor is it evidence of intellectual genius...
...doesn't seem to reflect any engineering curiosity...
...parts are strewn together haphazardly...


Sounds judgey to me. Sounds like you expected him to be more than a kid with an interest in making stuff. Sounds like maybe the problem you have is yours and not his.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on September 17, 2015 [23 favorites]


that's what i'm saying - we don't know enough. i'm waiting for whatever investigation happens before i'm convinced the engineering teacher had ahmed's interests at heart because it seems like no other adult in that building did.
posted by nadawi at 8:41 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


George Takei praises Ahmed not for the engineering of his clock but for the dignity and self-possession the young man has shown.
Ahmed, you are now part of the story of America, and many will learn from your fine example. I see great things ahead for you.
posted by Gelatin at 8:46 AM on September 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah I was pretty sure everyone seems to be like "awww he's a little engineer!" not "HOLY CRAP HE'S DISCOVERED THE BOSON HIGGS IN A GIRAFFE PENCIL BOX!"
posted by sio42 at 8:48 AM on September 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


There is a point to be made that this can't end with just Ahmed. He's not the first kid to be targeted for racist reasons, and he probably won't be the last. There is a danger in making him a symbol in that we may be dehumanizing him and making demands that are not what he wants: Anil Dash said as much yesterday. Dude's just one person, he can't be The Martyr or The Savior or something.

I do hope that the momentum created in response to Ahmed does not stop with Ahmed. It's great that half the money fundraised will go towards giving kids makerspace subscriptions. More of that kind of thing, divorced from a figurehead and made more personal, would be great for all, and lessens the pressure on the guy.
posted by divabat at 8:49 AM on September 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


There is a terrible message emerging, and that is that publicity is more important than achievement.

Really? I took the message to be maybe
DON'T FUCKING HANDCUFF AND ARREST A SMART, COMPLETELY INNOCENT 14 YEAR OLD NON-WHITE KID AT SCHOOL BECAUSE YOU ARE A RACIST MORON
posted by chococat at 8:54 AM on September 17, 2015 [63 favorites]


We live in a country where people who kill unarmed black kids receive what are effectively bounties, in sums that reach into the millions of dollars, from bigoted idiots.

I don't want to speak for everybody, but I'm perfectly fine with that sad truth being offset by having folks all across the country helping, praising, and celebrating the hell out of a bright minority kid who got a raw deal from bigoted idiots.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:04 AM on September 17, 2015 [21 favorites]


And maybe all of the media exposure does make a teacher think next time before he/she reports a child to the police.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:06 AM on September 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm encouraging everyone to use this opportunity to support minority and disadvantaged students in STEM

By pointing out that a minority STEM student's project, which he was evidentially really excited by, is shit? Do you know anything about teaching or kids or education? About how the absolute best way to crush a kid's enthusiasm for education and learning is to take something they were excited to produce and tell them it's shit? Do you know what "support" means? Should we only support minority STEM students if they're ARRESTED because they made A FUCKING CLOCK if the clock is made using some trendy maker solution or somehow revolutionises the world of fucking timekeeping? If they just soldered together an alarm clock and an LED display and were really excited about it but didn't produce anything interesting should we just say "it sucks you were arrested, but maybe don't bother with STEM, this isn't very innovative".

There is a terrible message emerging, and that is that publicity is more important than achievement.

Whereas you seem to say that achievement is more important than enthusiasm, which with kids is SO fucking way off the mark I just don't know how to even begin responding.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:07 AM on September 17, 2015 [30 favorites]


I wish some of you LIBERALS wouldn't speak for all the rest of us; I'm incredibly racist and bigoted and small-minded and generally a gigantic piece of shit, but I stand with Ahmed because the idea of a "clock" - a device that can tell what time it is... without the sun???? - is a HUGE technological achievement.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:09 AM on September 17, 2015 [20 favorites]


Like, when my brother was three years old, he mixed some baking soda with leftover banana peels and called them "crackers" and we all told him he did a good job and we were proud of him.

And that little brother grew up to be...
Guy Fieri.

You monster.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:17 AM on September 17, 2015 [35 favorites]


man I thought I had a good grasp on how ridiculous people could get about "pff, but they're a FAKE geek in it for attention because I would've been inventing cold fusion" but I was wrong! So wrong!
posted by kagredon at 9:17 AM on September 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


And that little brother grew up to be...
Guy Fieri.


Can't be, it's not plausible that the quality of his cooking would have gone downhill from that concoction made at age 3.
posted by phearlez at 9:24 AM on September 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's amazing how females and PoC are always fake geeks, innit, kagredon? And how it's very very important to put out many words about how awful and inadequate they are their work is? It's as though there's something else going on there...
posted by tavella at 9:26 AM on September 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


I just read about this in a Dutch newspaper. That article made everything sound even worse than what I had read yesterday. Apparently he was first detained in a room in the school for three hours, interrogated by 4 (!) police officers. They searched his bag and forced him to confess. The principal threatened to suspend him if he didn't admit it was a bomb. And after all that he was handcuffed out of school and sent to a juvenile detention center where he was fingerprinted and thoroughly searched. I had not realized that the handcuffing was after an intensive interrogation by four police officers for three hours. It all sounds really horrible.
posted by blub at 9:36 AM on September 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Some people are looking at the big picture. The rest of you are getting kind of scary.

Are. You. For. Fucking. Serious? Are you really? Fine, let's start another hashtag to go along with #iStandWithAhmed, and make it #AllTinkeringKidsMatter, then.

In the interviews, Ahmed's workstation looks the same way. There are lots of parts haphazardly connected in ways that, as someone reasonably versed in hobbyist and consumer electronics design, appear to be more for show than for functional use.

This, this really fucking irks me. I'm sorry his workstation isn't up to your high standards. I don't know what Ahmed's situation is, but I can assure you that in my youth, because I didn't have many people hip to the ways of wires and soldering that I had to piece everything together by reading and smashing and re-doing. I didn't actually understand that the reason my soldering never worked (which, mind you, was done with a nice soldering gun I begged my parents for) was because I was using too much of it, or too little. Sometimes being a not-white kid in not-great circumstances means that doing these projects becomes a bit of a cargo culture, where you ape what you've seen, what you've been able to figure out. I'll admit, even my initial "projects", such as they were, were no more than abominable amalgamations scavenged from parts of other broken things to make something that was kinda not broken.

I don't know how much access Ahmed has to a broader maker group that could show him these things. Maybe he's got plenty of opportunity. Maybe he doesn't. But judging him based on how his fucking workstation looks is shamefully fucking privileged.

There is a terrible message emerging, and that is that publicity is more important than achievement.

You know what? If you look at the real world, most of the time it actually is more important than achievement. At least for minorities. I'm sure in many fields, from STEM, to Lit, to Theater, to all sorts of things, most people would kill for any publicity, because you could be writing the best fucking stories in the world, or writing the most beautiful proofs, if nobody else sees it, it's as good as forgotten. But don't worry, even if you don't live in that world, he definitely does. Even if he does take the "wrong" lesson here, at he'll know to pimp out each and every little thing he does so it steamrolls into better and better scholarships for him, so I'm glad that's happening--it'll be his lucky break.

And you know what? If other minority kids realize that publicity is important, maybe they'll start letting their innovations shine, rather than hiding them under a bushel. Maybe they'll start going to more Maker Fairs. Maybe they'll start hashtags that showcase their works.

I'm encouraging everyone to use this opportunity to support minority and disadvantaged students in STEM, and not just jump on the bandwagon of pushing this one guy to the forefront.

Sure, whatever. If that were the case, why cut him down faster than Iraqis cut down statues of Saddam? If that were true, why not link to a few scholarships? Why not link to outreach programs? Why not suggest places where people can donate their time, effort, or money for said programs?

Oh, I forgot. "Big Picture". Which includes shitting all over a kid's shitty project. In a way that's no different from saying "x isn't a problem because look at how bad y have it over here!"

Some people are looking at the big picture. The rest of you are getting kind of scary.

I don't think we agree on what the Big Picture™ is. I don't know what the hell you think it is other than #AllKidsMatter, but as far as I can see, there are lots of lenses to view this in, including:

- Standing up to disgusting bigotry
- Trying to inspire minority kids to stay in STEM
- The value in bringing sunlight to scare roaches away

I'm sorry if you think supporting a brown kid is "scary". I'll be that fucking boogeyman. And thanks for ruining tapas for me for a few fucking weeks.
posted by qcubed at 9:38 AM on September 17, 2015 [52 favorites]


I'm gonna go hug my nephew now and remove this timeline from my recent activity.
posted by infini at 9:40 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


That article made everything sound even worse than what I had read yesterday.

I assume it is also more accurate than anything you would read/see in a US news source, since there is not really as much of an agenda to prove.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:44 AM on September 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ahmed has not provided any sort of reasonable explanation for why he would want to take and show off what is pretty clearly a shoddy clock to school.

Have you never created something? I'm learning Python and sometimes show off what I've figured out to my S.O. (Who, thankfully, doesn't tell me my code is sloppy and looks like Hollywood's conception of "hacking.")
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:47 AM on September 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm judging the vociferous, disproportionate support and publicity he alone is receiving.

Huh, and here I thought we were judging the violent, disproportionate use of force that Ahmed received. You know, the handcuffing and arresting? I remember it like it was the day before yesterday.
posted by Nelson at 9:49 AM on September 17, 2015 [24 favorites]


My day job is teaching science to mostly PoC college students. I'm not sure what more I could be doing to promote PoC in STEM right now than I already am. Simultaneously, I am pissed off about what happened to Ahmed. Shockingly, I can do both at once.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:49 AM on September 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


When I was a kid, I tried things and did not get them perfectly on my first try. Adults like I EAT TAPAS shit on my efforts and discouraged me from trying any further. Maybe I could have been a really amazing engineer or something. Who knows? We'll never find out, because while I've done a lot of work on myself to get rid of that internal critic that pipes up and screams WHY EVEN BOTHER, EVERYTHING YOU DO IS SHIT, IF IT'S NOT PERFECT IT'S NOT WORTH ANYTHING, I'm almost 40 now, and the advantages of youth are lost to me. They're not lost to kids like Ahmed, though, which is the point of all the support he's getting. Being handcuffed and arrested after making a mediocre clock could spell no progress in skills past that point, if not for the incredible outpouring of support that shows Ahmed and all the kids like him that someone gives a damn about them and wants to see them succeed.

We don't need to encourage people shitting on kids because they're not perfect little engineers with perfect workbench protocols. That's a terrible, shameful attitude to promote.
posted by palomar at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2015 [39 favorites]


WHY EVEN BOTHER, EVERYTHING YOU DO IS SHIT, IF IT'S NOT PERFECT IT'S NOT WORTH ANYTHING

My oldest son has some learning disabilities and you can see the exact moment when this thought hits his brain - usually about 2 minutes into trying something new and different - and it scares me. I'm trying to find things to do with him that don't engender this reaction and/or find ways for me to help him through that reaction, and it doesn't help that I have the same voice in my head a lot of the time. It's scary how ingrained it becomes.

So I don't care if Ahmed's clock is shit from a technical/engineering perspective - a 14 year old took some bits and pieces and made it into a clock that works. That's what is important - he tried something, and I don't want the reaction to be an arrest and/or a condescending "not a good clock" message. What is important is trying and learning and doing shit, because it is already way too easy in this culture to give up and consume mindless media.
posted by nubs at 10:05 AM on September 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


Nobody with any sense is claiming that Ahmed is the next Nicolai Tesla. Yes, for this brief, highly visible moment he's being given opportunities beyond what his actual accomplishment would normally rate, and there's a reason for that: we as a nation are stepping up and saying "this is not how we roll. We support kids like Ahmed, we don't accuse, cuff and traumatize them."

If you're worried about the "injustice" of what you presume are more deserving kids not getting what he has, you're missing the point. This will fuel recognition of those kids. This is a reminder of what used to be a normal ambition for kids that we used to cultivate like crazy but now have largely forgotten about. Many high schools no longer have any vocational training at all, in the mistaken notion that it doesn't serve the needs of the job market and therefore doesn't serve the kids.

Well, they're wrong. Kids need the experience of making things. Nothing else prepares you for a technological world than creating something that works, with your own hands. Maybe Ahmed turns out to be a world-class talent and maybe he doesn't. But this uproar serves everyone and harms no one, and to get resentful about it is just fucked up.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:07 AM on September 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


But this uproar serves everyone and harms no one,

I, personally, am hoping it harms the fuckwits who allowed Ahmed to be arrested, cuffed, and paraded out of the school. The apparently utter lack of anyone acting like an adult and saying something during that process is really what boggles my mind.
posted by nubs at 10:19 AM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


When I was a little kid, I loved to sing. I can remember standing on the hearth of my parent's fireplace and performing my favourite songs, and my parents loved it. It was a great feeling. But I also remember my mother, incredibly supportive in all things, who never hesitated to tell me there were no limits to what I could do, telling me I was tone deaf. In music class we were all singing together, and the music teacher came around and listened to us, making her choices for the school choir. She tapped my shoulder and asked if I wanted to be in the choir, and I said no. I could hear my mother's voice telling me I was tone deaf, and there's no way I wanted to inflict that on others. I never took music or band as an elective either.

That's almost forty years ago now. I don't sing, but I'd love to. When I'm alone in the car I sing at the top of my lungs, but never when someone else is around (unless I'm trying to punish my kids). I'm sure my mother didn't mean to do it, but her comment killed any desire to actually get better at something I loved doing.

Who cares if this kid is a genius or an Edison in the making? He was doing something he loved, something fun and simple and benign, and wanted to share it with others. Ending up in handcuffs is far worse than my mother's offhand comment, and I'm glad others are making damned sure he (and every other kid in a similar situation) knows there are people looking to encourage those first steps, because first steps are the only ones that lead to giant leaps.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:21 AM on September 17, 2015 [26 favorites]


Seriously -- the first step to being good at something is being bad at something but actually doing it. He's a kid! Hell, it looks better than some of my first "fucking around with a new thing" projects and I'm a middle-aged adult.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:23 AM on September 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Glenn Greenwald
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:30 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Question: what is wrong with publicity being given to this specific situation?

Because the kind of publicity this is getting is focusing on "this kid got accused of building a bomb when it obvs wasn't", and that means a spotlight is actually finally being shone into the dark corners of American racism and Islamophobia.

This was never about how cool his clock was. This was about how much like a bomb it wasn't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:32 AM on September 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


Yes, way back in the dark ages of computing I had a Vic 20. I started teaching myself how to program things in Basic. At some point during that time my elementary school got computers. Commadore 64's if I remember correctly. I remember being excited when I found out the people were doing things with the computers at lunch and after school. I'm guessing the first incarnation of a kids computer club.

I went and remember being all excited because I already knew how to do some computer stuff. I don't recall exactly who or how it happened but at some point it was made clear to me that the fact that I had made a program that made the screen turn different colours and play music wasn't a big deal plus you know computers things are for boys cause girls are too dumb to do good stuff. Ha ha.

I stopped learning to program. At least I didn't stop liking computers. I played games and whatnot but the desire and excitement actually making things on these new and awesome machines? It was gone.

Of course I was too young to even realize what happened. It wasn't until years and years later when I was remembering the olden days that I recalled what happen. Light bulb moment and a really big fuuuuuuuck you've got to be kidding me.

There's no real point in dwelling in the what ifs but it's now close to 40 years later and I am finally learning to program. I. LOVE .IT. I feel like a kid again but it's hard and slow going. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if little 10 year old me, with my shitty colour flashing music program that I was so damn proud of, had been encouraged instead being told it was shitty and I was shitty so yeah don't bother.
posted by Jalliah at 10:42 AM on September 17, 2015 [33 favorites]


I know that people are probably getting fatigued of this story. And I know that the increasing speed and ferocity by which cases that evoke our lefty outrage get blown up nationwide, memed, and turned into clickbait is exhausting. But I think back to say, thirteen or fourteen years ago, and I can only imagine this is still better.

Picture the kid getting arrested in 2001. And instead of instantly hitting Daily Kos and Buzzfeed, he spends a few days in juvenile lockup until the Council for Arab American Relations gets wind of it and gets someone out there within, say, a week. The charges continue to progress until a sympathetic journo in say, a nearby alt weekly gets hold of it and does a piece. Then, say, The New York Times picks up the ball and does a piece, which then leads to other pieces in other outlets. By the time a modicum of public support is achieved, he's lost a semester of school and his life is chaos. Instead of being free to go same day and tickled pink by tweets from Mark Zuckerberg and POTUS, he's locked up for weeks, disillusioned and sad and probably traumatized.

So while it might be annoying as a tv viewer/internet news follower to see this descend rapidly to overkill, I am pleased as fucking punch it does because it also spurs action, and the alternative is a helluva lot more depressing to me than the mild inconvenience of an overhyped lefty news item.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:48 AM on September 17, 2015 [24 favorites]


From the mayor of Irving:

The first concern for the Irving Independent School District and the Irving Police Department is always the safety of our children and Irving citizens. We are proud to have one of the safest cities in the country and that is due in large part to the diligence and professionalism of our police department. We are also proud that Irving ISD is nationally recognized by the National School Board Association and the Center for Digital Education for the school districts use of innovative technologies, STEM curriculum, and other practices that help our students excel in an advanced learning environment.

I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat. They have procedures to run when a possible threat or criminal act is discovered. They follow these procedures in the sole interest of protecting our children and school personnel. To the best of my knowledge, they followed protocol for investigating whether this was an attempt to bring a Hoax Bomb to a school campus. Following this investigation, Irving PD has stated no charges will be filed against the student. I hope this incident does not serve as a deterrent against our police and school personnel from maintaining the safety and security of our schools.

As a parent, I agree that if this happened to my child I would be very upset. It is my sincere desire that Irving ISD students are encouraged to use their creativity, develop innovations and explore their interests in a manner that fosters higher learning. Hopefully, we can all learn from this week’s events and the student, who has obvious gifts, will not feel at all discouraged from pursuing his talent in electronics and engineering.

posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:53 AM on September 17, 2015


I'm amusing myself imagining the alternate universe where this story is not about a cool and normal kid who did something normal and got fucked over by his school and town, but is instead about a genius kid who invents a superclock (a time machine maybe?).
posted by Rock Steady at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2015


Look at the level of stupidity and doubling-down in the school's response. Just look at it:

"[The three day suspension]...ha[s] not been lifted, even though police concluded that Ahmed's invention was not a bomb.

"Even though that particular item did not pose an immediately dangerous situation to the school, we cannot allow items on campus that can be perceived to pose a threat," Weaver added. "It's devastating that schools and public places like movie theaters across our country have experienced terrible tragedies and because of that we have to learn from that."

"We have to speak up and that's what that teacher did," Weaver said, noting that multiple meetings have been scheduled with Ahmed's parents since his arrest, but the family has yet to attend.
[Note: Weaver is the school's Director of Communications.]

Again, if you thought it was a bomb, why was it sitting there in the room with you while you interrogated the apparent Diabolical Mastermind behind the plot? If you thought there was even a remote chance that it was a bomb, and an overabundance of caution is what informed all your actions, why did you not immediately evacuate the school and call the bomb squad?

If you cannot allow items on campus that can be "perceived to pose a threat" and beeping digital devices scare you, I look forward to seeing the school/school district ban all cell phones, digital clocks and watches, handheld gaming devices, laptops, tablets, and microwave ovens.

Seriously, just go full on TSA and make all the students -- except the ones who pay a hefty price and pass the background check for the Trusted Scholar Pass (TM) -- line up every morning and remove their shoes, put their devices through an x-ray machine, and walk through the damned back-scatter machine before they can enter the building if you're that scared of things you don't understand and can't completely control.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:56 AM on September 17, 2015 [25 favorites]


Just look at it:

I can't look anymore. If you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
posted by nubs at 10:59 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, lord:

"We are proud that that teacher reported something that she thought was suspicious and that was the device, not the student."

"I think there's frustration from the students," Weaver said. "They love their school, they love their community and not really appreciating the national spotlight that's been cast upon them."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:00 AM on September 17, 2015


"We have to speak up and that's what that teacher did," Weaver said, noting that multiple meetings have been scheduled with Ahmed's parents since his arrest, but the family has yet to attend.

Multiple meetings in the last two-and-a-half days?

"We scheduled a meeting at 3, but they weren't there. So we scheduled another one at 3:15, but they weren't there. So we scheduled another one at 3:30, but they weren't there. What more do you expect us to do? I mean, that's three strikes. What else could they possibly have going on, that they wouldn't want to come here?"
posted by Etrigan at 11:03 AM on September 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


I definitely agree that it's a troubling phenomenon that we lock onto one story on social media and then the person at the center of it becomes this sort of emblem for that entire topic and gets a bunch of personal attention, negative or positive when really they're just another victim/perpetrator in something that's really a systemic problem. However I'd much MUCH rather see the benefit and attention go to someone like Ahmed than someone like Kim Davis, who basically is seen as some civil rights figure by some based on her overblown negative attention.
posted by zutalors! at 11:07 AM on September 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


noting that multiple meetings have been scheduled with Ahmed's parents since his arrest, but the family has yet to attend

ahmed said very clearly he or his family would not be meeting with the school because he will be transferring and they don't think a meeting serves any purpose. if the school is still "scheduling meetings" that's on them.
posted by nadawi at 11:11 AM on September 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


as far as what these types of social media stories do - i am sort of close to one that happened a few years ago and in a small but not insignificant way it led to ordinances in town that are related to the topic that he got recognized for. these things might be a flash in the pan for the national news, but they can be used to change communities, which change states, which can change the nation. it's not nothing.
posted by nadawi at 11:14 AM on September 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't have any information that indicates the first teacher was aware of the second teacher's and administration's overreaction until it had already happened. I don't know that he had an opportunity to stop it. Obviously if he did know about it in advance, he should have stepped in.

Or he could have been, probably rightfully, afraid of getting rolled over by the Anti Terrorist Freedom Steamroller™ and thrown right under the bus with Ahmed. Probably disciplined for not following procedure when there's a credible threat(even if they weren't following it in the first place) or whatever.

I've seen at least two good teachers I can remember throughout my k-12 education get fired for defending a student, or not following procedure to punish a student when the punishment would have been completely outsized or unfair.

I see how an argument could be made that if they didn't step up they're not really a decent teacher or whatever. But what's really served by getting the one sane person in this situation fired for challenging the administration?

That is, of course, assuming they even knew before it was too late.
posted by emptythought at 11:20 AM on September 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


whatever, I hope that teacher does start a Robotics Club, even if Ahmed won't be there to help with it.
posted by zutalors! at 11:25 AM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I see how an argument could be made that if they didn't step up they're not really a decent teacher or whatever. But what's really served by getting the one sane person in this situation fired for challenging the administration?

I dunno, but on the flip side what's the point of having the one sane person in a field of awful? We're (well, me anyway) pretty comfortable suggesting that a cop who looks the other way and does nothing when other cops misbehave doesn't get to be called a good cop. My moral stance for my own personal behavior is that I'm not being a good person if I don't make an effort to be a force against bad, even if there's potential cost to me. But I do agree in so far that I am not going to blame someone who needs their job if they really think they can't intervene in the moment. Here's hoping that this teacher would have stood up and vouched for AM if national opinion hadn't showed up in a positive way.
posted by phearlez at 11:30 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The three day suspension]...ha[s] not been lifted, even though police concluded that Ahmed's invention was not a bomb.

Is this the part where I say I called it? Because I called it.

Such horseshit. Not just a non apology, he's still getting at least sort of punished because they're not totally wrong and they had like, honest intentions.

If I added up the time me and my close friends spent suspended or otherwise punished for shit they later backpedalled on after our parents(or ourselves with the support of eyewitnesses saying that's not what happened) called them out it probably adds up to an entire school year. Fuck, one of my friends dropped out over a shitmess over something he was being punished for he never did, just because they wouldn't admit "oops, false alarm". Yea, we were stupid troublemakers but in a completely innocent way and were punished WAY outsize of what we did, which at its worst was like, use the photocopier to make a bunch of cartoon dicks.(and was very often way less, or just nothing)

And it's just small enough of a punishment that it doesn't knock out enough time to really be worth suing over, because he'll just be back in school before they even get the gears turning.

Man, this stuff makes me like blowing dragon flames angry. It's like pure, cartoon injustice. "We were wrong, I guess, but we THOUGHT we weren't, so you're still in trouble anyways for causing a hassle, and to show the other kids not to be a bother".

Fuckkkkk youuuuuu.
posted by emptythought at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


"I think there's frustration from the students," Weaver said. "They love their school, they love their community and not really appreciating the national spotlight that's been cast upon them."

Well that's just too damn bad. Tell them to blame their principal for being such a jerk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:37 AM on September 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Small people with just a little power are the same the world over.
posted by phearlez at 11:44 AM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Even though that particular item did not pose an immediately dangerous situation to the school, we cannot allow items on campus that can be perceived to pose a threat," Weaver added. "It's devastating that schools and public places like movie theaters across our country have experienced terrible tragedies and because of that we have to learn from that."

Obviously you haven't learned anything from that, since you're going after brown kids with obvious science projects instead of white guys with guns.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:47 AM on September 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


"I think there's frustration from the students," Weaver said. "They love their school, they love their community and not really appreciating the national spotlight that's been cast upon them."

weird, i read multiple social media pages from the students yesterday that said racism was something they struggled with from their teachers, many of them had one on one interviews with the principal yesterday where they aired their concerns. and they mostly seemed amused by the emails from the new york times and buzzfeed. their frustration seemed to be squarely with the administration and "resource officers."

also that little dig, "they love their community" is meant to suggest that ahmed's family doesn't - something i see no support for after listening to ahmed's dad talk about the community.
posted by nadawi at 11:50 AM on September 17, 2015 [20 favorites]


Here's the ridiculous Texas law. As noted, the question is why the administration wasn't charged under it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:56 AM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


As a parent, I agree that if this happened to my child I would be very upset.

I don't remember where, but I saw a post somewhere with screen shots indicating that this third paragraph was added after the fact, and the initial statement by the mayor was only the two paragraphs of praise for the school administration Doing Such A Great Job.

Is this the part where I say I called it? Because I called it.

Better than I did; I predicted at least a non-apology apology rather than the full metal "what's your problem?" these jackasses have been spewing.
posted by Gelatin at 12:04 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't remember where, but I saw a post somewhere with screen shots indicating that this third paragraph was added after the fact, and the initial statement by the mayor was only the two paragraphs of praise for the school administration Doing Such A Great Job.

You can click "Edited" on facebook next to the timestamp on an edited post, and it will show you the original text. There was a third paragraph, but it was... different:

"We have all seen terrible and violent acts committed in schools, the workplace, and in public venues. Perhaps some of those could have been prevented and lives could have been spared if people were more vigilant. I hope this incident does not serve as a deterrent against our police and school personnel from maintaining the safety and security of our schools."
posted by Roommate at 12:13 PM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Larry Wilmore killed it.
posted by Pendragon at 12:35 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


But in the next segment of the Nightly Show, Ricky Velez was (as usual) totally irritating.
posted by Pendragon at 12:42 PM on September 17, 2015


Ahmed has a clock
posted by flabdablet at 12:54 PM on September 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Even though that particular item did not pose an immediately dangerous situation to the school, we cannot allow items on campus that can be perceived to pose a threat," Weaver added.

I skipped a bunch of comments in this thread, can someone tell me if Weaver is an actual weasel? They say the clock did not pose an immediately dangerous situation to the school - did they think it might become dangerous if left to ferment for a couple of years in a basement or something?
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:07 PM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fuck racism, fuck paranoia, fuck fear, and fuck authority.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:19 PM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]




From the above interview:
Ahmed asks if he can use my phone to Google the Late Show host and then says: "I'm worried about your data." I tell him it’s unlimited. “OK, phew.”
That is a fundamentally nice kid right there.
posted by GuyZero at 1:42 PM on September 17, 2015 [24 favorites]


Awesome article.
A teenage girl sees me eating: "Take a picture of this white man eating." Someone else says, "I'm gonna tweet it right now. Hashtag: white man eating Sudanese food.”
hahaha
posted by zombieflanders at 1:43 PM on September 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


"I got suspended and I didn't do anything about it and so when I heard about Ahmed, I was so mad because it happened to me and I didn't get to stand up, so I'm making sure he's standing up because it's not right. So I'm not jealous, I'm kinda like — it's like he's standing for me."

aww geez right in the feels

What an amazing, supportive, warm, down-to-earth family.
posted by kagredon at 1:54 PM on September 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Ever heard that phrase, ‘15 minutes of fame?'" I ask him.

Ahmed looks at me, fat grin on his face: "This is gonna be soooooo much longer."
Smart kid indeed.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:55 PM on September 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ahmed has a clock

I seriously can't laugh at at any of the parody videos of this, and think they're fairly tasteless. Same with the image macros/meme stuff. I mean i get that it spreads awareness of how stupid this is, and i understand where they're coming from, but it just rubs me the wrong way. Especially when it's white people doing the joking. Like it's not as bad since no one died, but it reminds me of that white couple fake choking eachother behind the news camera right after the Eric Garner situation(which i tried and failed to find the video of now, but it got posted on here in that thread). Pretty much, in really poor taste.

I skipped a bunch of comments in this thread, can someone tell me if Weaver is an actual weasel? They say the clock did not pose an immediately dangerous situation to the school - did they think it might become dangerous if left to ferment for a couple of years in a basement or something?

They're basically saying "we reserve the right to act on anything we don't like the look of because of our prejudices and preconceived notions even if it's openly just prejudiced".

Whenever you hear or read a sentence like that, the person or organization is saying "we reserve the right to be racist and profile"

So yes, legitimate weasels are involved.
posted by emptythought at 2:12 PM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Actual weasels are useful and kill rodents.
posted by phearlez at 2:16 PM on September 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


Something very similar to me happened as a freshman in high school. At the time the administration used Columbine as justification. It's amazing how crazy this shit gets. It's almost as if schools use their authority and zero-tolerance policies in particular simply to deprive people of their individual rights and not really for public safety blah blah blah.

I hope Ahmed gets the fuck out of Irving and never looks back. Wish my parents took me out when they had the chance.
posted by orangutan at 2:21 PM on September 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


What an amazing, supportive, warm, down-to-earth family.

Yeah, it's convenient for the anti-immigrant xenophobes to point to a few zealots who harrass women for showing too much skin and say "See! See! Call us intolerant well look they brung their intolerance with them and are trying to go Sharia Law on us!" Well, I feel pretty safe in saying that Ahmed's family is a lot more typical, and when someone's being an asshole it's not because they're an immigrant it's because they're an asshole, and we grow plenty of those right here.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:55 PM on September 17, 2015


i felt the same way about the white people jumping on the picture with clock meme, right up until i say ahmed had retweeted it - and i mean, it's not my place to tell him where he gets to find support, comfort, or humor.
posted by nadawi at 3:13 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]




“This Florida Teenager Knows What Ahmed Mohamed Is Going Through. It Happened to Her in 2013.” Laura Moser, Slate, 17 September 2015
Two years before Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to his suburban Dallas high school, Kiera Wilmot, then 16, brought a science-fair experiment to her school in Bartow, Florida. After she mixed toilet-bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a water bottle—an extremely popular YouTube science experiment (1,430 results right here)—the lid popped off and smoke poured out.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:49 PM on September 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Given the fact that googling for aluminum foil and water bottle will take you to a slew of pages about "bomb" making, I'm not sure that's the best parallel.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:59 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I seriously can't laugh at at any of the parody videos of this, and think they're fairly tasteless. Same with the image macros/meme stuff. I mean i get that it spreads awareness of how stupid this is, and i understand where they're coming from, but it just rubs me the wrong way. Especially when it's white people doing the joking.

The "Ahmed Has a Clock" video made me laugh out loud. I think there are no white people in it (a couple of characters are in partial shadow, or people I'm not comfortable pinning a racial classification on). I was actually watching it and thinking about how even people in really bad situations are able to make humor out of it, to use humor to raise their spirits, built community, and find comfort, and also as a tool for political education. But I get your discomfort, as well, and I tend to mostly stay away from these things as well—not sure why I clicked on that one. But I wasn't sorry I did.
posted by not that girl at 5:04 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm mostly just really, really happy to hear that Keira Wilmot has landed on her feet. She was expelled from school and had to attend a crappy alternative school for troubled kids, and I don't think it was at all guaranteed that she would end up ok. I'm glad to hear she's in college in an engineering program.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:02 PM on September 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


So the backlash I'm seeing on Facebook is "Obama invited Ahmed to the white house but what about all the children of cops who were killed that he hasn't invited to the white house. He only invited this kid because he's a Muslim and it suits his agenda."

Not linking because fuck those guys.

But, yeah, many people are awful.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:13 PM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Was there no FPP about Keira Wilmot? I'm not finding one.
Right now I'm at Bill Duncan Opportunity Center, which is for students who were kicked out of school. People are teasing me and calling me a terrorist. And the school is actually quite easy. I'm not getting the challenge that I used to have. I don't have homework. There is no German class, and there is no orchestra. I probably couldn't even bring my cello because I was told the students would steal it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:20 PM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]




Well, the reaction of the school would've been totally consistent with Famous Fake Atheist Sam Harris's view of "Islam and the Future of Tolerance". Because we should be profiling potential "suicidal jihadists", and any other view is a "regressive backlash" (big bigot link). Chaser from P.J. Myers, Real Atheist.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:51 PM on September 17, 2015


“13-year-old takes Obama to task over Ahmed Mohamed's White House invite,” Ramon Ramirez, The Daily Dot, 17 September 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 7:02 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


“13-year-old takes Obama to task over Ahmed Mohamed's White House invite,”

OK, kid. Let's see your clock.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:19 PM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


God damn, even giving that kid airtime here is eye roll inducing. It's only getting reposted because like the whole "transracial" thing it fits the derail that conservatives want to create.

I don't think this kids message is being used in the way he intended, or for the purpose he presented it. But i guess that's just like, my opinion.
posted by emptythought at 7:35 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I said: it's sad they thought that kid had a bomb.
She said: they didn't think he had a bomb.
I said: yes, they thought he made a bomb and even called the police.
She said: They just wanted to humiliate a little Muslim boy. They didn't think he had a bomb.
I said: Don't be a conspiracy theorist. They might be a little prejudiced, but I'm sure they thought he had a bomb.
She said: OK.
But they didn't evacuate the school, like you do when there's a bomb.
They didn't call a bomb squad - like you do when there's a bomb.
They didn't get as far away from him as possible, like you do when there's a bomb.
Then they put him and the clock in an office: not like you do when there's a bomb.
Then they waited with him for the police to arrive, and then they put the clock in the same car as the police.
Then they took pictures of it.

They never thought he had a bomb.
as seen here
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:09 PM on September 17, 2015 [26 favorites]


Australian cartoonist First Dog on the Moon has weighed in.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:54 AM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Crossposting what I typed on Facebook:
"The Glorification of Ignorance

By now, I'm sure you've heard of the events from Monday involving the clock making 14 year old, Ahmed Mohamed. If you haven't feel free to take a moment and look it up. I'll wait.

It is a goddamn travesty what happened to that poor kid. I still barely have the words to form how angry it makes me. Basically every authority figure in that situation did everything in their power to quash that child's creativity, his wonder, his imagination. He didn't need any help being ostracized, it isn't as if geeky kids need any help with that. Or kids who belong to a minority group. Particularly a minority group that is already ostracized because of another group of extremists idiots happened to claim to have the same religion as this kid.

Here is this kid, who made something he thought was neat, and wanted to share his discovery, share his joy. Rather than being encouraged to share that curiosity with the world, the teachers, the principal, the police officers involved, EVERYONE took the literal worst possible course of action at every turn.

They don't deserve the benefit of the doubt, because even if they truly and honestly thought it was a bomb, they never evacuated the building, showing that they are either idiots, or woefully negligent.

I am incredibly happy for the outpouring of support I've seen for Ahmed, as well as the wonderful words of his father, who seems to be a wonderful father and person. Despite the best efforts of the (not related to him) adults in his life, this kid has a wonderful future ahead of him.

Part of this was plain ol Islamaphobia and racism, but it has a twist of the Glorification of Ignorance/Shunning of Intelligence that has become so popular in 'Murika the past decade and a half or so.

Please, if you take nothing else from this, take this: We CANNOT survive as a race if we continue to quash the spirits of fledgling geeks like Ahmed. I plead with you to keep Idiocracy a work of fiction and not make it a documentary."
posted by Twain Device at 4:24 AM on September 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think if the last thousand years have shown us anything it is the sad truth that we can indeed behave this way and survive as a race.
posted by phearlez at 6:04 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock Was “Half a Bomb,” Says Anti-Muslim Group With Ties to Trump, Cruz.
posted by adamvasco at 8:02 AM on September 18, 2015


Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock Was “Half a Bomb,” Says Anti-Muslim Group

So is a bucket of nails. Arrest all the general contractors!!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:17 AM on September 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


I think their math is wrong, since "improvised" and "device" clearly make up 2/3rds of a bomb.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:20 AM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock… and Ourselves.
Ahmed Mohamed didn’t invent his own alarm clock. He didn’t even build a clock. Now, before I go on and get accused of attacking a 14 year old kid who’s already been through enough, let me explain my purpose. I don’t want to just dissect the clock. I want to dissect our reaction as a society to the situation. Part of that is the knee-jerk responses we’re all so quick to make without facts. ... Amhed’s clock was invented, and built, by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidary. Catalog number 63 756.
Disclaimer: I strongly disagree with the author's view that the school's reaction was appropriate, not to mention the toxic "we STEM folks are too rational to be concerned with things like ethics and society" BS. But at the same time I'm pretty disappointed that the "invention" was nothing of the sort. I hadn't seen actual pictures of the clock until now, and it's quite obviously not the work of a hobbyist.
posted by teraflop at 8:30 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


The thing is, the people to be disappointed with about that is the media. They're the ones who can't wrap their head around just futzing with some components even if it's nothing more than taking apart an off the shelf gadget and putting it into a different format.

As far as an achievement goes, for a young hobbyist? That's plenty. I imagine the majority of us of a certain age here who are tinkerers got started by taking apart shit and making small changes. I was lucky to come of age in the Heathkit era and when I could buy kits and things at Radio Shack. I didn't learn to use a soldering iron properly by populating my own circuit boards which I'd laid out and etched. I did it when I was finding broken components and replacing them so I didn't have to throw something away, or so I could make something that someone else threw away work again.

So yeah, "invented" or "built" a clock is bullshit. But that's not really relevant for why this was a fucking social meltdown nor for whether this kid actually has potential. The reality is that if you can pull apart your nightstand clock and put it back together into a different casing you've already surpassed 98% of the population. That you had an interest in doing it means maybe you're going to head down the road into actually doing better things.
posted by phearlez at 8:38 AM on September 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


The reality is that if you can pull apart your nightstand clock and put it back together into a different casing you've already surpassed 98% of the population. That you had an interest in doing it means maybe you're going to head down the road into actually doing better things.

Oh yeah, totally agreed. At the same time, though, it seems like Ahmed might have put himself in an uncomfortable position by not being up-front about it. I'm just imagining how awkward it would be if he brings this thing to the White House, gets asked about how he built it by a well-meaning techie, and then has to either BS or be all "well, actually..."
posted by teraflop at 8:50 AM on September 18, 2015


When Challenger was about to launch, I showed my teacher how I had invented a formula for rocket fuel. She smiled. Clearly she should have said, "You just wrote down a bunch of symbols from an advanced math book and drew an arrow pointing it to a rocket. STOP WASTING MY TIME."
posted by Countess Elena at 8:50 AM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


This strawman constructing and rampant hyperbole is really obnoxious. Can we not just have a polite conversation about the way the media relays this stuff and maybe how teenagers might be overly impressed with their own achievements without turning it into this screaming about how it's the same as yelling EVERYTHING YOU DO IS SHIT?

Maybe Ahmed sold it that way and maybe he didn't, teraflop. I can't imagine a situation less likely to result in knowing reality than this one. But even if he said he made a clock or misused invent or whatever, all that means is he's like every other damned teen ever.

I think if there's any danger of this overstatement of what he's done its not giving him or anyone else a taste of fame and attention, it's setting him up to hit a wall when he tries to move to the next level and discovers just how intricate it can be to start working from scratch. Maybe the media's sloppy reporting is going to create a sense of expectation of work from him that will be really hard.

But who gives a fuck? Most of us discovered that even journeyman mastery of stuff was way harder. Some people never discover it, including people who are theoretically my peers. There's the classic joke about an engineer who says something about software engineering being easy and him pointing to proof in the form of a 10 line program he wrote for his own personal highly specific use.
posted by phearlez at 9:19 AM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


But at the same time I'm pretty disappointed that the "invention" was nothing of the sort. I hadn't seen actual pictures of the clock until now, and it's quite obviously not the work of a hobbyist.

Ahmed himself has already said that it wasn't his best work, though - it was something he sort of just threw together so he could show teachers that "this is the kind of shit I do in my spare time, but it's kind of obviously crap, so is there a robotics club that could help me get better?"

In other words - Ahmed ALSO AGREES WITH YOU that it's not very good work. that's why he brought the thing to school in the first place - he was asking for help.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 AM on September 18, 2015 [25 favorites]


> not being up-front about it

The teacher who reported him and the cops who arrested him did not care that it was "built" or not "built" depending on who defines "built" and in what universe. That was irrelevant to them, because they were not concerned about if he is the correct kind of hobbyist using proper terminology and giving credit to this or that kind of kit.
posted by rtha at 9:24 AM on September 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


I hadn't seen actual pictures of the clock until now, and it's quite obviously not the work of a hobbyist.

At his age, I built radios and clocks and other electronic doo-dads from kits - back in the 80s, electronics was a hard thing to get into by yourself, but point is, that work putting those toys together (and taking apart, and troubleshooting what broke) laid the groundwork for my degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, becoming a licensed HAM Extra and a 20+ year long career in IT.

I still have the first FM receiver I "built" from a mail order kit. Sure, it was mostly assembled already, I just had to connect a few wires and whatnot. But, I was super proud of it, and learning what the different parts of the board did, even if I didn't solder them on myself was an amazing learning experience.*

Everyone starts from somewhere. Criticizing this kid for the work and interest he has seems especially stupid given that fact.

I often brought my projects and creations to school. They usually got confiscated and given back at the end of the day, which is disappointing, but probably not inappropriate.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:51 AM on September 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


The teacher who reported him and the cops who arrested him did not care that it was "built" or not "built" depending on who defines "built" and in what universe. That was irrelevant to them, because they were not concerned about if he is the correct kind of hobbyist using proper terminology and giving credit to this or that kind of kit.

I agree, and I thought my comment made that pretty clear. If not, I apologize.

Everyone starts from somewhere. Criticizing this kid for the work and interest he has seems especially stupid given that fact.

Yeah, it would be stupid to criticize him for that. I'm not sure what that has to do with the comment of mine that you're replying to, though.

As far as the media coverage goes, I still maintain that there's a pretty fundamental difference between "building" or "inventing" an alarm clock, versus buying one and giving it a case mod. It's totally insane for either one to get you dragged out of a classroom and arrested, but one is a lot more likely to get you congratulated by the President on Twitter than the other.
posted by teraflop at 10:12 AM on September 18, 2015


What DirtyOldTown quoted MUST be repeated at maximum volume:

"They didn't evacuate the school, like you do when there's a bomb.
They didn't call a bomb squad - like you do when there's a bomb.
They didn't get as far away from him as possible, like you do when there's a bomb.
Then they put him and the clock in an office: not like you do when there's a bomb.
Then they waited with him for the police to arrive, and then they put the clock in the same car as the police.
Then they took pictures of it.
They never thought he had a bomb.

They just wanted to humiliate a little Muslim boy."


Mission Accomplished.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:19 AM on September 18, 2015


I think if there's any danger of this overstatement of what he's done its not giving him or anyone else a taste of fame and attention, it's setting him up to hit a wall when he tries to move to the next level and discovers just how intricate it can be to start working from scratch.

Yeah, smelting silicon is a hell of a wall.

Give the kid some credit. He's already got a leg up on his teachers, since he knows what the inside of a clock looks like.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:19 AM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Hang on, if Ahmed's clock was both identical to Iranian military IED timers and made from a Radio Shack kit, does that mean that Radio Shack is selling bomb timers to Iran? Shouldn't Homeland Security be looking into this? I think we may have bigger problems than a kid making something.
posted by acb at 10:20 AM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think their math is wrong, since "improvised" and "device" clearly make up 2/3rds of a bomb.

But didn't you see the really brave and informative post further up? He didn't improvise anything, he just took apart a clock! And look at how feeble his workstation is anyways, he's not improvising anything there!
posted by emptythought at 11:12 AM on September 18, 2015


Kind of astounded that people still want to dissect the 'legitimacy' and 'authenticity' of his clock project. That's really what you're taking away from this?
Pretty sure the President isn't inviting him to the White House because he believes he's finally found the elusive clock-inventing genius he's been looking for all these years.
posted by chococat at 11:16 AM on September 18, 2015 [26 favorites]


one is a lot more likely to get you congratulated by the President on Twitter than the other.

I'm really not sure this is true. The thing that got him national attention wasn't the clock itself, afterall, it was actions of the school district. It's not about the clock...It has never been the clock, even at the school (see the quoted text from DirtyOldTown).

And those actions weren't just shitty in the moment, they've also opened him up criticisms because now people are picking apart the merits of his project, was it good enough, is he really a hobbyist, is his work station good enough, did he describe it correctly, maybe he wasn't "upfront" enough. None of which he signed up for by throwing something together to take to school to try and get a robotics program going.

So maybe a little over correction is OK (if it is over correction, I'd say it's more just a bunch of people seeing someone being treated shittily and saying, "That's wrong." The world might be better if we all did that more often).
posted by ghost phoneme at 11:28 AM on September 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


"It has never been the clock" is the best six-word-story summary of this whole sordid episode I've yet seen.
posted by Etrigan at 11:32 AM on September 18, 2015 [13 favorites]




...does that mean that Radio Shack is selling bomb timers to Iran?

Not any more, they're not. Jack Bauer has put an end to their fiendish enterprise.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:47 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


“Police Knew Ahmed Didn't Have A Bomb, Arrested The Teen Anyway,” Sebastian Murdock, The Huffington Post, 18 September 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 12:50 PM on September 18, 2015


"Kind of astounded that people still want to dissect the 'legitimacy' and 'authenticity' of his clock project. That's really what you're taking away from this?"

No, aside from a few people with suspect or outright hostile motivations, I don't think it's what anyone much wants to talk about or that they think it's ultimately that important.

But, for me, there's something that's bothered me about the gulf between "building a clock" and "taking a clock out of its case and putting it in a pencil case". Nothing about what bothers me is a criticism of Ahmed, but rather a criticism of everyone else confusing the two (which, among other things, just reinforces the absurdity of both the school and law enforcement response) and how it tilts the scales, possibly, away from "positive reinforcement for a bright kid" toward "setting unrealistic expectations that he's not likely to meet". The thing is, many of the kids his age who will end up at MIT as EE majors are at least building something like this from kits, and are more likely building it from components.

Again, the real issue here is the islamophobia/racism of the adults involved and how that intersects with institutionalized obstacles for minorities. Even though I've thought the same things as other people since I saw a photo of his clock, and even though I have these concerns I have about how the overpraise may be setting Ahmed up for failure -- which I totally agree is eminently questionable -- I've not mentioned it because it's a side-issue that can distract from what's important and, in fact, some people are doing so deliberately.

But I don't think anyone here is, not even TAPAS, who wrote a very problematic and bothersome comment about it. The others, like the previous exchange, are just -- wisely or unwisely -- talking about something they noticed and have been thinking about.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:57 PM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


“Police to review handling of Texas student handcuffed over clock,” Suzannah Gonzales, Reuters, 18 September 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 1:25 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


So much ass-covering for an open-and-shut case of bigoted harassment. If Ahmed's lawyers can get the venue out of that cesspool, he'll never have to worry about Student Debt... he'll be able to buy the school district. But then again, your average Texas court might put him on Death Row.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:49 PM on September 18, 2015


oh my god who the fuck cares? No one is seriously saying to enroll him in the winter session at MIT on the basis of this clock, they're contacting him with age-appropriate outreach opportunities as a way to demonstrate that what happened to him was wrong and that there's a better way.

Maybe he will be winning a Nobel prize in 40 years, or maybe he'll be teaching high school and coaching the robotics team, or maybe he'll have discovered an overwhelming passion for theatre and the most engineering he'll do is fixing his alarm clock on the weekend and having a light chuckle at the weird thing that happened when he was 14. All of those are perfectly fine outcomes. I just hope he grows up to be secure enough in his intelligence that he doesn't feel the need to show off by nitpicking teenagers on the Internet. That would be pathetic.
posted by kagredon at 1:49 PM on September 18, 2015 [33 favorites]


I've only heard Ahmed to say "I built a clock, and I brought it to school to show my teachers because I thought they would be impressed by it." There's a fairly common (in my experience) colloquial definition of "built" to mean "put together". If I bought a bunch of computer parts and assembled them inside a tower case, I would say that I built a computer, and it seems unlikely that anyone would object to my phrasing, even though I didn't solder my own motherboard. Taking a digital clock apart and reassembling its components in a different housing falls under this definition of "built", I think. As for whether or not it's impressive: he thought it would be. That isn't to say that it is in fact objectively impressive. That isn't to say that we should necessarily agree with him, or that his teachers would, or that professional engineers on the internet do. Whether or not it is actually impressive to anyone is beside the point. I'll be honest, when I saw the picture of the clock, my first thought was, "huh, that doesn't actually look like much." My second thought was, "but what do I know, I've never tried to build a clock, maybe it is impressive." My third thought was, "anyway, it doesn't look like it could be a bomb."

The reaction of "well, it's not that great" is because Ahmed is getting a bunch of offers to go do stuff and see stuff that other kids don't get, maybe more talented kids or kids who have accomplished more. I get it. But the thing is, that will always be true. There will always be people who deserve the opportunities you get. There will always be people who worked harder than you, did more than you, and were rewarded less. You'll always be more deserving of a spot that goes to someone else instead. That's just how it goes. That's not a reason to criticize the people who do get those opportunities or to tear them down for their good fortune. In our current culture war climate, everything popularly visible receives an outsized reaction as it is made symbolic of one pole or another. That gets pretty annoying and pretty grating at times. Still, there are lots of ways in which Ahmed's reversal of fortune could be made to serve many. Maybe in following this story, a kid hears about a summer program they didn't know about and applies, or learns about a field to which they now aspire. Maybe some 12-year-old goes, "huh, I can do better than that" and then does better than that. In this story I see a lot of promotion for STEM education and programming, and if Ahmed getting an honorary invite to an institute is good publicity for the institute, is that really so bad?
posted by Errant at 2:42 PM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


First, a mea culpa. I certainly worded my original post too strongly. This was mostly due to the desire to emphasize something I thought was very dramatic and strange that was being completely overlooked. There was not yet a discussion, either in the media or in personal conversation, about the clock itself, and I ended up going in too deep and too personal and ended up subverting some of the points I was trying to make.

I want to assure you all that I'm not J.K. Simmons in Whiplash berating kids across the country because their homemade clocks don't keep perfect time. I agree with everyone who responded to my post saying that we always need to foster creativity in children, especially in regards to exploration with STEM. It was not my intention to detract from the important message this incident is spreading about racism interfering with school and STEM exposure.

That being said, I have to admit I'm pretty relieved by the Artvoice column that largely reiterates my concerns, and even went so far as to identifying the single model of clock that Ahmed disassembled.

With that, perhaps foolishly, let me try again. kagredon, you wrote:

oh my god who the fuck cares? No one is seriously saying to enroll him in the winter session at MIT on the basis of this clock, they're reaching out to him with age-appropriate outreach opportunities

Here's the thing. Even those who support the most basic encouragement towards all involvement with STEM, the age-appropriate outreach programs are way, way beyond what Ahmed was doing with the clock or what he was discussing with the other videos.

For example, in addition to the invitation to the White House, Ahmed was invited to the Google Science Fair that's coming up in a few days. Take a few moments to look at the projects last year's winners had started when they were Ahmed's age: the three young girls from Ireland using diazotroph bacteria to substantially increase crop yields, or Mihir Garimella, who designed and built small flying robots designed to evade threats based on patterns of fruitfly flight. These kids are doing some seriously advanced and valuable work.

While I'm sure Google has created a respectful environment where every contribution is rewarded, I'm pretty worried about what happens when he's sitting at the same table as the other competitors. There is an unbelievably massive gulf between the kinds of skills Ahmed demonstrated with his clock and with the descriptions of his other projects and the kinds of far more advanced experimentation a large number of other 14 year olds are doing across the country.

Even if everyone's nice and supportive at these events, I cringe when I imagine the interactions that are going to ensue. Many of the responses to my original post were from folks who were berated by adults for their not-entirely-successful experimentation, saw me criticizing Ahmed's work in a manner similar to situations where they were unfairly burned, and I totally get that. But as a kid who did a lot of tinkering, and who was both berated and encouraged, the thing that has always burned me the most is the disappointed reaction of an adult or friend who had overestimated my abilities, and had realized I wasn't as smart as they thought I was. You can do a lot of damage by unjustifiably shooting someone down, but you can also do a lot of damage by unjustifiably praising and accidentally putting people in positions where they are likely to fail. There are any number of former child prodigies who have never quite made it in life because adults pushed them in the wrong direction or pushed them too hard when those adults either did not truly understand or overstated the abilities the child had, resulting in early burnout. Watching this situation unfold, I can really see that happen to Ahmed.

So, in a nutshell, I'm worried that we're setting Ahmed up for failure by suddenly pushing him into the White House or the Google Science Fair or silicon valley companies, into that top tier, like plucking a young boy from a baseball field at his local park who hit a couple of runs and adding him to the roster of the Giants. I'm also worried that when and if he does fall from grace, it will diminish some of those lessons about STEM education and the eradication of racism that the story has temporarily spread, and I don't want to see that happen.

Thanks for hearing me out.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 2:51 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


the three young girls from Ireland using diazotroph bacteria to substantially increase crop yields, or Mihir Garimella, who designed and built small flying robots designed to evade threats based on patterns of fruitfly flight. These kids are doing some seriously advanced and valuable work.

I think you might be overestimating these kids' abilities. I'm fairly sure they had some significant help from adults. And while they did a lot of stuff and are probably actual geniuses, if any groups of people can get past that in a social situations, it's probably 14 year-olds.
posted by GuyZero at 2:54 PM on September 18, 2015


I think you might be overestimating these kids' abilities.

OK, I officially give up.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 3:09 PM on September 18, 2015


Come on.

the three young girls from Ireland using diazotroph bacteria to substantially increase crop yields

Actual adult geniuses don't do this kind of research in isolation. They got at least as much support as an adult graduate student would get doing this kind of research, which is a non-trivial amount.

Perhaps I misunderstood you. Do you mean to imply that those three girls did that science project without any support from adults at all?
posted by GuyZero at 3:14 PM on September 18, 2015


Jesus, can we not argue about this? It's not really important and it's not productive.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:14 PM on September 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I EAT TAPAS, I hear what you're saying, but I think you're mistaking invitations to attend for invitations to present. "We're saving you a seat at the science fair this weekend, bring your clock" isn't "hey, in the next two days put together an elite presentation which will be judged for prizes". It's an invitation to go to the science fair, see what's going on and what kids his age are also doing, to get inspired. That's not setting up expectations Ahmed can never meet, it's "you like science! we like science! let's science! also, hey rest of the world, did you know about this science thing we do?"

Also, I'll mention again, Ahmed brought the clock to school because he was pretty sure he would impress his teachers. That doesn't strike me as the action of a kid lacking in self-confidence. If setting unrealistic expectations is detrimental to a kid's development, so too is convincing a confident kid that he should be much less sure of himself. Overreaching and underachieving both have their pitfalls, but, in my opinion, fear of either one is more crippling than their actual consequences.
posted by Errant at 3:15 PM on September 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


The "big fish in a small pond" effect can be very damaging in its own way. When I was Ahmed's age, I got a life-altering educational opportunity that put me in touch with other kids who were, let's say, high-achieving (I've talked about this before on mefi, you can search my profile if you want the long version.) Some of them were doing things well beyond my abilities, because they'd had access to previous advanced learning, or because they were prodigies in the true sense of the word. We would teach each other, we would encourage each other, we would compete with each other, and that I think is actually what was critically successful about that program, not the access to college coursework. I'm sorry you had bad experiences with people coming down on you when you were younger, but the way to prevent those is not to constrain kids who are curious and willing to try new things, it's to give them chances to try and sometimes fail in ways that aren't punished.

Ahmed's family, too, seems to be involved and careful about making sure that the experience doesn't become overwhelming (screening emails and such.) It's a balancing act, sure, but if anyone can do it, it's this family.
posted by kagredon at 3:16 PM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm still trying to figure out what kind of person goes from "Muslim kid gets handcuffed and arrested in Texas for being a tinkerer" to "is it really fair this Muslim kid is getting all this attention? Does he really deserve it?". It's revolting.
posted by Nelson at 3:24 PM on September 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


Holy.
So all of these people inviting him places, do you think they were so blown away by his clock in a pencil case? The unbelievable innovation and science of it? They all think he's the fucking Stephen Hawking of clock making?
And it's only you who can see that he just took apart a clock or whatever?
I still don't get it. The clock has nothing to do with anything. Get over the clock.
He was messing around with electronics just because he's interested, and he got brutally, unfairly punished for it and now people are responding with support and goodwill. Nobody is going to collapse in shock and regret, betrayed and humiliated, when they realize he can't build a perpetual motion machine.
posted by chococat at 3:27 PM on September 18, 2015 [32 favorites]


also I actually cannot think of a more damaging message than "STEM is only for genius prodigies who have already got a couple patents under their belt by puberty." People like that do exist, certainly, but I've found they will be the first to tell you was as much about having the right opportunities and encouragement and community as it was about talent. And as a Real Live Scientist, my job is not about A Beautiful Mind-ing my way through discoveries that are Just Obvious to me and my planet sized brain--it's mostly about reading and tinkering and trying to understand things long past the point where I can rely on intuition.
posted by kagredon at 3:41 PM on September 18, 2015 [33 favorites]


There was not yet a discussion, either in the media or in personal conversation, about the clock itself....

Perhaps that's because there need not be one, because this was never about the inherent quality of the clock itself. It was about a kid who decided to tinker with a thing and bring it to school to say "hey, look, I do electronic mechanic things. Is there a club at school for that?" And instead of being happy he wasn't tp'ing the school in his spare time, the school went "eek he's a Muslim kid doing something weird and electronic-y it must be a bomb because he's Muslim".

If it doesn't look enough like a clock for your taste, pick something that you would believably think could be made by a 14-year old geek and pretend it was that he was trying to make.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:45 PM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm still trying to figure out what kind of person goes from "Muslim kid gets handcuffed and arrested in Texas for being a tinkerer" to "is it really fair this Muslim kid is getting all this attention? Does he really deserve it?". It's revolting.

In fairness to our userbase, I'm pretty sure this question comes up every time a kid does something noted by the popular science media. I recall this thread about Taylor Wilson which held very similar criticisms, and he was a 14-year-old white kid who built/maybe only helped build/says he built a fusion reactor. I don't think the Muslim part is playing into the science criticism part very much.
posted by Errant at 3:51 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


the thing that has always burned me the most is the disappointed reaction of an adult or friend who had overestimated my abilities, and had realized I wasn't as smart as they thought I was

So, the fear of failure is what makes this kid not worthy of having opportunities opened up to him, where he can then fail or succeed on his own merits?
posted by qcubed at 4:48 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, the fear of failure is what makes this kid not worthy of having opportunities opened up to him, where he can then fail or succeed on his own merits?

Even worse, it's not even Ahmed's own fear of his own failure. It's a bystander's fear of HIS own failure that is making the bystander pass judgement.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:15 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


The kid that I do worry about is Ramon Ramirez, the black "conservative teen" who was plastered on Youtube. Ahmed was thrust in the spotlight through no fault of his own or his family, but this kid is being used as the right-wingers' good boy. No one should have a public, permanent platform for their political views at age 13. (Alternatively, you could say Ramon's family is taking care of him by giving him a platform to give him a shot for a life at conservative think-tanks, which I understand is pretty sweet. But I don't hold with it.)
posted by Countess Elena at 5:15 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


oh jesus fucking christ don't even glance at the comments on that artvoice article
posted by qcubed at 5:16 PM on September 18, 2015


In fairness to our userbase, I'm pretty sure this question comes up every time a kid does something noted by the popular science media. I recall this thread about Taylor Wilson which held very similar criticisms, and he was a 14-year-old white kid who built/maybe only helped build/says he built a fusion reactor. I don't think the Muslim part is playing into the science criticism part very much.
It's possible you are right -- certainly nothing productive is likely to come over arguing about posters' motives.

Here's the thing that I would ask people to be cognizant of, though.. We've had a lot of discussions this year about minority members who have been treated awfully. And there's a repeated pattern that crops up in every single discussion, here on Metafilter or in the larger political sphere. It starts out "What happened here was regrettable, but.." and then, well, it doesn't happen every time, however an awful lot of the time you get some pretty racist stuff coming out of those "but"s.

So.. you can hang your hopes on #NotAllButs and go ahead and point out the issue that you believe qualifies, modifies, or reduces the awfulness of what has happened. Or, and I sincerely hope this is what most will choose to do, you can take a deep breath and think for a while about whether the side-point you are going to try to make is really relevant to the bigger issue. Use your judgment by all means, but be aware of the context in which many at least superficially similar comments have been made and understand before posting why that might cause your own similarly framed point to be received poorly.
posted by Nerd of the North at 5:33 PM on September 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


[I'm not sure the conversation about the clock itself is super worth continuing at length, and it seems likely to turn into meta-debate. Please move on. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad at 8:08 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


So... trying to understand the events, I made up the following story. A kid has something in their bag that makes a noise, interrupting your lesson. He shows you the thing later, it's got wires everywhere and a digital time display, and the kid is Muslim. Your mind goes to "bomb". Now, you know it's not a bomb, so you don't evacuate the school, etc., as pointed out much upthread; but still, the visual means bomb to you. Now, you assume the kid understands as well as you do the way Muslim+wires+digital time display suggests bomb in your mind (and not just yours, of course), so you conclude that this is the impression the kid wanted to give, that they're using that cultural context to make a prank, or to scare the grown-ups, or something like that. That's a pretty serious transgression in your books, so you escalate. When the cops come in, they agree that it's not a bomb but the kid wanted it to look like one, and they agree that this needs punishment, or at least they think they should scare the shit out of the kid so he doesn't try this again. When interrogating him, they deliberately pitch the questions at a more serious crime than the one they actually think he committed -- they figure, if they accuse him of trying to make a bomb (which they don't think he did), then he'll be scared enough of the consequences of that to say, no no, I just wanted to scare people, admitting what (they think) he actually did. When he doesn't admit that, they double-down on the intimidation, handcuffs, perpwalk, following their strategy of scaring the kid straight.

This story isn't racist stupidity sufficient to misidentify a clock as a bomb (which is an interpretation I'm seeing lots of places), it's racist projection and authoritarianism.

Am I just catching up here? Is this what everybody thinks happened? Alternatively, is this nonsense? Have I overlooked something that completely doesn't fit?
posted by stebulus at 7:11 AM on September 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


(And, just to be clear: this story isn't intended to excuse the actions at all. On the contrary, if it's accurate I find it far more damning than the mere idiocy required to think the thing was a bomb.)
posted by stebulus at 7:15 AM on September 19, 2015 [3 favorites]




Yeah, stebulus, that seems to me like the most probable narrative of what they were thinking. And you're absolutely right -- it doesn't in any way reduce the offensive injustice of how they treated Ahmed, it makes it clear just how wrong they were.

It's precisely an example of how endemic, institutionalized bigotry and discrimination expresses and reinforces subconscious biases that people think are self-evidently true and commonsensical and, when the bias and bigotry of it is pointed out to them, they become extremely defensive and work very hard to a) argue that they are being sensible and acting how anyone else would act, and/or as necessary, b) there were other good reasons justifying their actions. It's a performance that people do over and over and over and over again. I'm really damn tired of it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:25 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


When you've dug yourself into a ditch, it's often hard to say you made a mistake and climb back out instead of "staying the course" and digging deeper. It's much harder when you're pretty sure digging deeper is the best decision, and you don't want to look like you're backing down or "flip-flopping" in the face of public (and non-local) opposition. This is made worse by people in power who see challenges to their authority everywhere, and are made uncomfortable by people who are more intelligent than they are.

Then there's people like Bristol Palin who what this whole thing to be downplayed as "police made a mistake" yet blow it up and make it part of something bigger by saying that Obama's invitation for Ahmed to visit the White House "encourages more racial strife that is already going on with the “Black Lives Matter” crowd and encourages victimhood" and "put(s) more people against (the police)," while conveniently ignoring the fact that abuse of power by whites against people of color is what started national Black Lives Matter movement.

I wonder how this would have all played out if it were part of a science fair , where he was surrounded by other projects that could possibly look like movie versions of bombs, but made by white kids. Foaming volcano? MOVIE BOMB! Two liter bottles filled with weird liquids? MOVIE BOMB! If only every day were science fair day at schools ....
posted by filthy light thief at 1:36 PM on September 19, 2015


According to the NYTimes, "He said he took it to school on Monday to show an engineering teacher, who said it was nice but then told him he should not show the invention to other teachers"

Good advice. Not clear if he mentioned this to the cops, or asked that the teacher be called to vouch for him, which might have ended the matter right then and there. Not clear why he didn't bother to unplug the thing, or disarm the alarm either.

Also according to the Times, "Asked whether the police would have reacted differently if Ahmed had been white, Chief Boyd said they would have followed the same procedures."

Well, of course he would say that, wouldn't he?
posted by IndigoJones at 1:45 PM on September 19, 2015


I'm sure if we look hard enough, we can find some way to blame the 14-year-old.
posted by kagredon at 1:52 PM on September 19, 2015 [17 favorites]


if Ahmed had been white, Chief Boyd said they would have followed the same procedures."

Considering they followed no apparent procedure, that's a hell of an achievement
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:48 PM on September 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Well, everyone knows Irving has a real problem with Islamophobia. What my assertion presupposes is...maybe they didn't?"
posted by zombieflanders at 6:17 PM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Regarding zombieflanders's comment (and kagredon's), I feel like I'm missing something. Was a comment deleted or is this in reference to something that was linked?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:32 PM on September 19, 2015




Ivan Fyodorovich: there's a number of comments way, way up thread, but this one is a good start.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:11 AM on September 20, 2015


Was a comment deleted or is this in reference to something that was linked?

This is reference to the people who keep on trying to make this about Ahmed Mohamed somehow being at fault for everything that happened. He made something that "looked like a bomb," and yet none of the safety precautions for that were ever taken. That maybe we're all jumping to conclusions about an environment of Islamophobia, despite multiple actions by officials and residents of Irving that easily fall into that category. That he didn't listen to a teacher or a policeman, so it's totally his fault. Not being said, of course, is that being a dark-skinned Muslim named Ahmed Mohamed with a politically-active family who speaks out against Islamophobia.

As for my most recent comment, it's based off a line from The Royal Tenenbaums. The character speaking it tries to come off as an intellectual, but in reality is just kind of an incoherent airhead riding on the coattails of others. Both the character and that specific line are the perfect encapsulation of this continued "surely Mohamed is to blame here" wankery.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:57 AM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would like to chime in.
What's more suspect:
Ahmed's clock, which was brought to a science gig.
Or
Clavdivs with an old safe in the backyard that has been drilled open.
posted by clavdivs at 3:57 PM on September 20, 2015


I have a relation who a defence scientist with double masters who spends his work hours building classified weapons system prototypes. One year for a joke, we gave him a crystal radio kit set for Christmas.

He couldn't make it work! It was hilarious, the intense frustration of the engineer trying to assemble this $12.99 box of plastic junk. Eventually, he got extra parts from work and repaired it to make the damn thing function but it was very amusing to see him poking and prodding at the pile of cheap bits and slowly turning purple.

What he did with the clock was a fun messing-about part of learning to work with electronics - it's like playing a great piece of music vs composing a piece of music, both something to demonstrate your hard work and interest. And apparently in my extended family, something that would require two masters.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:35 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Clavdivs with an old safe in the backyard that has been drilled open.

get back to us when you smelt your own safe and drill
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:37 PM on September 20, 2015


What he did with the clock was a fun messing-about part of learning to work with electronics - it's like playing a great piece of music vs composing a piece of music, both something to demonstrate your hard work and interest. And apparently in my extended family, something that would require two masters.
A beter comparison is sampling, I think. Which is really the essence of professional engineering. This kid is taking components of a system and re-arranging them in an interesting way. Maybe he had plans to improve them. Maybe he was just curious.

But it doesn't matter if he designed and programmed his own FPGA, etched a PCB and baked the SMD components on with a modified toaster oven, or was just pulling a Dadaist prank. There was no reason to harass and arrest the kid. The message from the corporate gifts and institutional visits should be: don't mess with kids. Let them learn!
posted by b1tr0t at 9:41 PM on September 20, 2015 [6 favorites]




Yes, we are now at the point where imagining the existence of explosives is evidence that they have captured a terrorist.

To be fair, that was the official reason for the invasion of Iraq.
posted by flabdablet at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


Well Ray, I do have experience in metallurgy. I can cast a key from bees wax. And I do the Charelston.

I sure hope the young fellow didn't pull a stunt, that seems idiotic, his project was a piece of brillant work.
Yeah, creating an atmosphere of fear only impedes learning and only hope it doesn't interfere with Ahmed's many scientific and scholastic endeavors.
posted by clavdivs at 8:54 PM on September 23, 2015


“Race, local politics and a teenage clockmaker's arrest in Texas,” Allie Yee, Institute for Southern Studies, 25 September 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 12:36 PM on September 25, 2015


That article is just stunning.
Mayor Van Duyne won re-election in 2014 with less than 5,000 votes across the entire city, which has a population of 232,000. Single-member district races for city council are decided by margins of a couple hundred votes.
That at-large seat (which the mayor and 2 others council members are now) won with the support of 2.2% of the city. Even with huge sections of the non-white population unable to vote because of citizenship issues or fuckery like felony bans they wouldn't need to turn out too many folks to turn a complete upset.

Of course the moment the panicked crowd saw a sign of organization they'd wet themselves and actually bother to show up at the polls, I'm sure. But it's amazing that the line is so slim and that they're still so lily-white even while trailing the latino population by a full quarter.
posted by phearlez at 2:01 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The 13-year-old darling of the Right who took Obama to task for inviting Ahmed to the White House is in a bit of hot water for lying about being blocked from the @POTUS Twitter account.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:24 AM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]






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