August 17, 2009

What kind of profiling was Bob Dylan subjected to?

Walking while being an old, weird American.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


headache said...

Attempted gentrification!

Henry Canaday said...

Maybe the neighborhood had one of those "Neighborhood Watch" signs posted. You know, the kind that shows a dark silhouette of a guy with his raincoat collar pulled up and his hat brim pulled down that seems to say, "This neighborhood is on the look-out for bad Humphrey Bogart imitators."

Anonymous said...

If this were 30 years ago, I'd say there was a really great Saturday Night Live skit in there.

albertosaurus said...

The great psychologist Egon Brunswick explained the mechanism underlying profiling about half a century ago.

Human being like all animals (at least mammals) have a nervous system that assigns weights to stimuli based on their experienced validity.

For example there are about seven cues that we use to perceive three dimensionality. These include binoccular parallax and motion parallax. It can be shown that the mind's interpreation of 3D reality is proportional to the organism's experience with the validity of each of those cues. Assigning weights to cues is the way all animal's nervous systems work. It's part of what allows us to survive.

That's why Jesse Jackson famously gets nervous when he is approached on a dark street by a black man. He hates his reaction but it's not a moral flaw, it's just the way animals are constructed.

Profiling means drawing conclusions from experience. It takes a lot of effort to suppress a couple billion years of adaptation.

I'm inspired by the left's ability to deny external realities. I'm going to quit dieting and just deny gravity.

Anonymous said...

I travel a lot and I like to drive around and explore the places I go. I like getting off the beaten path a bit and if I see some interesting old houses in a downscale neighborhood I'll take a look.

If the police want to know who I am and what I'm doing I'll certainly explain, but I don't know that just being someplace out to bother them that much. But don't think of telling a cop what should bother him, and in all fairness they are in the business of being bothered by things and looking into them. The alternative is they eat donuts and wait for 911 calls, and for what they make they ought to do a little more.

I'm guessing they assumed a scruffy old white guy in a minority neighborhood was looking to buy drugs, and who's to say he wasn't?

Anonymous said...

I've seen some claims that Dylan wasn't just walking around the neighborhood, but that he actually looked in someone's window, and that's why someone called the police.

It makes a difference. If he was just walking around than what happened was even more random and unjustified than what happened to Gates, and it certainly makes a good counter to the claim that this sort of thing only happens to black folk. But if he actually did something suspicious then you really can't blame the police for picking him up and insisting on verifying his identity.

outlaw josey wales said...

headache, unrelated question for you:

Have you seen District 9? Any thoughts from a saffer perspective?

BTW I have met a number of people from South Africa, and their stories about black/white race relations are truly sad (i.e. how a business has to have a black partner, etc.) I don't understand why people even live in Joburg...the place seems like a war-zone. My brother went there and told me certain sections are controlled by Nigerian gangs. Fun!

James Kabala said...

Recent Dylan remark in response to a use of this phrase (by Douglas Brinkley, of all people):

"I never thought the older America was weird in any way whatsoever. Where do people come up with that stuff? To call it that? What’s the old weird America? The depression? Or Teddy Roosevelt? What’s old and weird?"

I'm not really a fan of Dylan's music, but I do like his curmudgeonliness.

Anonymous said...

-I'm guessing they assumed a scruffy old white guy in a minority neighborhood was looking to buy drugs, and who's to say he wasn't?-

I drive through Newark to work. In order to avoid traffic, I sometimes get off the main drag into black areas. Been pulled over a few times, once by a black cop. Never screamed racism though.

josh said...

I wonder how many times newspeople indulged their desire to use the phrase "complete unknown" w/regard to this story?

Concerned Netizen said...

Dylan apparently stepped onto property that had a "For Sale" sign and the inhabitants called the cops.

This is all a tempest in a teapot. The people in the house were right to call the cops, the cops responded reasonably, and so did Bizarro Bobby. Also, I heard that the young lady cop-ette did know who Dylan was, she just didn't believe that the old guy w/o the ID was Bob Dylan. Would you? Imagine this exchange?

"Sir, what is your name?"

"Bob Dylan."


"Ain't got none."

"Please come with us."

Meanwhile, Malcolm Gladwell has another bullshit article about the limits of liberalism in the New Yorker. Does he write these things WITH a computer, or ON one?

Anonymous said...

My blue-eyed blond haired daughter has been stopped by police in 2 different municipalities in the past year. I think the cause is that she is 4'11" - Driving while short??

She explains that she is not on drugs and has never bought illegal drugs and they harumph a bit and let her go. In both cases the officers were female - maybe avoiding stopping big scary guys?

Mr. Anon said...

What I want to know is this:

Bob Dylan:

Margaret Hamilton:

Are they in fact different people?

Or not?

Svigor said...

"This neighborhood is on the look-out for bad Humphrey Bogart imitators."

Lol, yeah, I can think of a few more appropriate silhouettes.

kurt9 said...

You know, in all of these kinds of cases, the cops operate on the "prudent" person basis. What would a prudent person do? People who do not act as prudent people tend to arouse the suspicion of the police, rightly or wrongly.

Steiner said...


Egon Brunswick? Surely you mean Egon Spengler...

Anonymous said...

A Greil Marcus reference? Steve, you really do have the cultural tastes of an upper middle class liberal combined with the political views of an Edwardian English junior officer. Not that I'm judging-- it's what makes your blog so interesting.

Bill said...

Seems pretty obvious to me:

Old white guy in the hood, looking around suspiciously...

Dirty old man.

Cops thought he was a john. Maybe he was.

Anonymous said...

I read an account how one guy was eating in a restaurant when he overheard from next table, where was a Jewish family gathering, an elderly lady explaining: ... Robert has been very successful in music business, even made some phonograph records of his own, the the bad thing is, he has so called fans and these are sometimes rather horrible beings ...etc.

And there was Bob eating silently ...

robert61 said...

A buddy of mine who is an ex London cop describes patrolling as essentially walking around with your head on a swivel, looking for people who don't fit with the surroundings. If you see a black guy in whiteland or vice versa, or a poor guy in richland or vice versa, you walk up and engage.

I tend to lean libertarian, and don't think the two offences one might plausibly suspect Dylan of - drug-buying or whoremongering - should be criminalized, but I wouldn't think a cop was out of line for approaching me under the circumstances. Nor would I be shocked if they hauled me in if I claimed to be, say, Bruce Springsteen.

Neither did braying Bob, to his credit.

Anonymous said...

I don't say a police state is useless in modern-day America. I just observe we have one, and that is one damn shame.

Anonymous said...

Hey - speaking of profiling - anyone wanna run a least-squares regression on the following data versus ethnicity percentages?

90% of U.S. currency tainted with cocaine. Which city's is the worst?
August 18, 2009 | 5:18 am

Not surprisingly, the money was especially contaminated in bigger, more evil places like Detroit, Boston and Baltimore. Also in Miami, Orlando and good old L.A. All right around 100%. Mostly in $5s, $10s, $20s and $50s.

But get this: The contamination was nearly as bad -- as in 95% -- in Washington, D.C.

According to an ACS news release, the scientists studied banknotes from nearly three dozen cities in five countries -- the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Japan and China. The two North American countries showed the worst contamination, averaging between 85% and 90%. Brazil's was 80%. Toronto's was 88%.

China (20%) and Japan (12%) had the cleanest bills...