Doctor Jekyll August 7, 2005 11:32 AM

The link is 404-ing right now.

404 Not Found
The requested URL ‘/comics/gm/2005/gm050804.gifynn/’ was not found on this server.
thttpd/2.25b 29dec2003

Mark August 7, 2005 12:25 PM

Yes, there was some garbage at the end of the link. Just chop off the ynn/ part and it’s ok.

David August 7, 2005 12:50 PM

Can’t take a joke seriously, of course, but humor is used to deride an “anit” position regarding profiling.

There’s a big difference between looking for a specific suspect and that suspect’s characteristics, and using a few characteristics and see if that will find otherwise unknown criminals before they commit a crime.

Tracking down a perpetrator is far more clear cut than finding a likely perp.

peachpuff August 7, 2005 2:48 PM

Talk about getting everything backwards. It’s a good thing this guy is only in charge of cartoons.

When you’re looking for a specific person, you do a lineup to help check that you’ve got the right guy. You have a bunch of similar-looking people who are known to be innocent stand next to the suspect and see if the witness can tell the difference. It’s supposed to prevent profiling by mixing the suspect in with other people who match the same profile, forcing you to pick the person instead of the profile.

So there’s always going to be at least one person in the lineup who matches the description you gave. If no one else matches the description, you will pick that person. Then the police will get in trouble because they, and you, engaged in profiling instead of identification.

Chris Walsh August 7, 2005 5:38 PM

In order to poke fun at something, it is generally necessary to understand it well. This cartoonist should probably stick to material with which he is more familiar. NASCAR comes to mind, but I may be doing my own kind of profiling.

Bruce Schneier August 7, 2005 5:47 PM

I think it’s a good cartoon, actually. The humor is in taking a smart idea — not profiling when searching people looking for terrorists — too far. Of course it makese sense to use a physical description of a person when trying to identify him. What doesn’t make sense is using a physical description when the people you’re looking for don’t match it.

peachpuff August 7, 2005 9:24 PM

I think the cartoonist is arguing in favor of profiling to find terrorists. He’s arguing that profiling is the same as getting a bunch of middle-easterners together for a lineup.

He’s missing the point that the other middle-easterners are in a lineup in order to make sure that the suspect isn’t picked out just for being middle-eastern. A lineup is when a middle-eastern officer stands next to the suspect to make sure that the witness isn’t picking based on race. Profiling is when the same officer has trouble getting on a plane because airport security is picking based on race.

It is kind of funny, and it’s an interesting conversation starter, but it makes assumptions that are way off base. Someone who’s syndicated in newspapers ought to know more about what makes a good lineup and why.

Non-direct link:

jayh August 8, 2005 7:55 AM

Some years ago the media in my area went through a period of not mentioning the race of suspects the police wished the public to look for… description included height, clothing, shoes, car, but race was left out.

Finally they apparently saw the stupidity of that.

Grainne August 8, 2005 9:06 AM

I can’t see why people get so ‘PC’ about everything. Mention of race by police (or otherwise) is fact and not meant to offend. Use of profiling in order to make the public aware of a criminal can be effective and race is an important description.

Rich August 8, 2005 10:37 AM

The comic’s author is making the mistake of assuming that all opposition to racial profiling is Political Correctness. As Bruce has pointed out many times, ethics aside, racial profiling does more security harm than good.

This cartoon doesn’t do anything to make the security uneducated more aware of the real problems with racial profiling. I guess I’m confused as to how Bruce thinks it’s a good cartoon!

Don August 8, 2005 10:42 AM

I guess it depends on if you think it only has to be funny to be a “good cartoon” or if you need it to be a perfect allegory. I think it’s amusing and for me, that’s enough.

thedukeofprunes August 8, 2005 11:46 AM

Did anyone else notice that the victim here is Uncle Sam? I think that is an important part of the message the artist is trying to get across.

Mike August 8, 2005 12:00 PM

“Did anyone else notice that the victim here is Uncle Sam? I think that is an important part of the message the artist is trying to get across.”

From the looks of it I don’t think many people did.

Davi Ottenheimer August 8, 2005 1:11 PM

Bruce, I think you should have called this log entry “profiling humorists”. I am not a fan of Glenn McCoy’s cartoons as they tend to be extremist right-wing fodder. Here is a good example:

I agree with your comments here “The humor is in taking a smart idea — not profiling when searching people looking for terrorists — too far” but I think this is what makes it a terrible cartoon.

The cartoon probably gives the average observer the idea that “PC Police” are getting in the way of solving crime. That is simply a rediculous depiction of the situation, perhaps meant to intentionally confuse the situation and fool viewers, since it mixes profiling used in an actual investigation with that used to flag suspicious passengers. Or maybe McCoy just does not understand the difference? In either case I think this is yet another bad cartoon by a patently hawkish right-wing humorist. He should stick to topics of weight loss and diets (some of his better work makes light of the low-carb craze).

Jason T August 9, 2005 12:21 AM

I agree that we should be profiling aggressively. I think efforts should be focussed on finding the bad guys, rather than trying to protect every imaginable target.

The problem is that your average “Good Guy” can’t tell the difference between an Egyptian and a Brazilian. Or Saddam and a Mexican. Or a Cuban and a Yemeni. Or a green-eyed Afghani and a Greek. Or the difference between someone who got bumped from their flight and someone who just bought a one-way ticket in cash.

Until these problems are addressed, you can stop nail clippers, but not terrorists. I am against profiling for practical reasons, not philisophical ones.

Zwack August 10, 2005 9:52 AM

I found the cartoon funny but disturbing.

Yes, it could be read as poking fun at “we shouldn’t profile” arguments being taken too far. But it can also be taken as an argument that profiling should be used more generally. Given that the victim may be Uncle Sam then I would guess that they are pro-profiling and think that my initial reading of it is wrong.

Given that it is ambiguous, while it can be found funny for the right reasons it should probably not be used as an illustration of what (not) to do…


david August 11, 2005 7:58 AM

Years ago I worked Neighborhood Watch which put me in a car for five hours a month with a member of the Very Large City Police Department. They identified suspects over the radio (at that time, anwyay) by race, alright, but the races were code-named #1 (African-American), #2 (White) and #3 (Hispanic). When I asked why they were assigned the implied ordering that they were, I was told it was in order of predominance among the “suspects” population.

Daniel August 14, 2005 7:43 PM

Profiling works.

Looking for males of Middle Eastern appearance is not the whole solution, there are plenty of Israelis, Copts and even Christian Palestinians who would never hijack a plane.

Looking for Muslims however is relevant. It may not be politically correct to say this, however the statistics absolutely justify it from any standpoint and this needs to outweigh political correctness or sensitivity.

Regrettably, with the exception of Israeli aviation security, the world’s airports are too busy looking for the weapon rather than the terrorists. As we know however, this technology fails repeatedly.

For an amusing example of precisely what I am suggesting, see

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