When Disrupting Terrorists, LAPD Prefers Inoffensive to Effective
I take you now to an iWATCH call center in New York, where culturally sensitive operators are fielding calls from concerned citizens. We join one such call in progress:
Culturally Sensitive Operator: Thank you for calling iWATCH. What would you like to report?
Concerned Citizen: I think my neighbors might be terrorists.
CSO: Say on! And what has brought you to this opinion?
CC: Well, they’re Muslims, and —
CSO: Ah ah, I must stop you there. We don’t accept reports based on religious faith. Islam is the religion of peace, after all.
CC: Um, okay, but they’re also from Pakistan.
CSO: Again, I must caution you. Their country of origin is of no interest to us here at iWATCH. The American tapestry is all the more vibrant for the threads interwoven from countries like Pakistan. Why, if we didn’t have Pakistanis, who would drive the taxi cabs?
CC: I don’t know. The Russians, I guess. Nigerians, too.
CSO: Perhaps. What else has aroused your suspicion of your peace-loving Pakistani neighbors?
CC: Well, sometimes I can see inside their apartment when they open the door, and they have a picture of Osama bin Laden on the wall.
CSO: How do you know it’s Osama? Could be an honored relative.
CC: Well, he’s a pretty recognizable guy. I’ve seen his picture lots of times.
CSO: Exactly. He’s well known. Maybe your neighbors want to be familiar with his face in the event they should bump into him around town. Tell them to give us a call if they do.
CC: They’ve also got other pictures on the walls, like the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge.
CSO: Lots of people have those pictures. Walk down any block on Broadway from Midtown to Battery Park and you can pick one up for five bucks. Ten bucks nicely framed. Your neighbors are no doubt proud to live in the vicinity of such world-famous landmarks.
CC: But I heard them talking about the structural supports of the Brooklyn Bridge. Who talks about that?
CSO: David McCullough wrote an entire book about the Brooklyn Bridge. Big seller for him. You wouldn’t call him a terrorist, would you?
CC: Well, no, but —
CSO: Listen, we appreciate the call, but I’m afraid you’ve given us nothing to go on. And I must warn you against any further ethnic stereotyping. Your name, phone number, and address have been entered into our database, and you may be ordered to attend cultural sensitivity training if you persist in these unfounded and offensive —
CSO (to coworker): He hung up.
CSO #2: Anything worthwhile?
CSO: Probably not. And anyway, what’s the worst that could happen?