Some weird details emerged about the Ahmed clock phenomenon after people actually took the time to look into it.
First off, the kid didn’t build a clock. He took an old alarm clock out of its casing, put it in a briefcase-shaped pencil case, and said he built it. On top of all the accolades that Google, Facebook, and the president are showering on Ahmed, I don’t know if a Nobel Prize is in order quite yet.
Second, Ahmed’s father is an Islamic activist who has pulled attention-grabbing stunts before. It didn’t take long for Ahmed’s family to set up a PR campaign that included press conferences, a new Twitter account, and many, many interviews with sympathetic media outlets.
School district and city officials in Irving, Texas seem happy to cooperate with Ahmed and his parents to get to the bottom of the incident, but getting to the bottom of the incident doesn’t seem to be the family’s priority. Instead, they cancelled their meetings with officials and got themselves a spokesperson from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a lobbying group for Islamic public relations.
As Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne said, “At the exact same time they were supposed to be meeting with us, they were on their front lawn with a press conference.”
Ahmed’s father isn’t the only family member who seems to be pulling the strings on their PR campaign. Mark Cuban says he spoke to Ahmed on the phone, and that when the conversation turned to the incident at school, Cuban could hear Ahmed’s sister in the background coaching Ahmed on the answers he should be giving.
Third, the city has asked Ahmed’s family to agree to release records shedding light on the police officers’ conduct during the arrest. Mayor Van Duyne said the records could exonerate the officers of any misconduct. For some reason, Ahmed’s family is refusing. Of course, by limiting the amount of information available, Ahmed’s family preserves the opportunity to build its own narrative.
The media swallowed the narrative hook, line, and sinker.
Corporations saw the opportunity to cash in on the coverage, so Facebook, Google, and Twitter quickly offered Ahmed meetings and internships. President Obama, again showing his prejudice against police, assumed the Irving officers acted unjustly and then invited Ahmed and his “cool clock” to the White House.
This kind of rush to judgment is a tiresome aspect of the political landscape. We saw the same thing in the Ferguson incident, where protestors tried to portray Michael Brown as an innocent boy killed by a racist cop, when in reality he had just robbed a convenience store and was assaulting a police officer.
Many of those who “Stand with Ahmed” probably have the best intentions, though they reacted irresponsibly before the facts came out.
But for others, this is going to be a cultural litmus test by which they can root out “Islamophobes.” Anyone who asks if the school administrators and police officers in fact reacted appropriately will be branded as Islamophobic, because this is a political opportunity that can’t be passed up.