Bob Jones on Susan Devoy

Poor old bewildered Susan Devoy.

She has copped a lashing from Bob Jones at NBR.

A week ago, wearing her race relations head banana’s hat, Dame Susan Devoy wrote a rather naïve piece for the New Zealand Herald condemning profiling.  This was typical of all idealists, virtuous to be sure but ignoring human realities.

In essence, she was saying don’t pre-judge people, citing for example, how a retailer might suspect a maori boy in a toy shop but ignore other non-maori kids.  There’s a reason for that Susan, namely the statistical evidence of Maori criminality.

The last thing retailers want is to deter potential customers but conversely, they don’t want to endure costly shoplifting.  That’s rough on the boy if, as is statistically probable, he has innocent motives, but it’s a reality of life.

Sadly, that’s true. The problem is the womble types don’t live in the real world like the rest of us.

Furthermore, in numerous ways we’re all constantly on the receiving end of such pre-judgemental responses based on a host of factors, such as age, appearance, ethnicity, behaviour and so on.  Such prejudgments, founded on one’s intuition and previous experiences, are essential coping mechanisms, specially for those with busy lives.

This is true. Bob Jones is a grumpy old bastard, which used to be called curmudgeonly but due to the failure of our education system I can no longer use that word for general writing. Profiling is everywhere, but apparently we aren’t allowed to use it. To take it to extremes you’d have to ask the point of airport security turning over their fair share of old grannies given their propensity for hijacking planes is rather low…likewise it would sensible to turn over single male muslims travelling alone, since that is the exact profile of someone wanting to hijack a plane.

Profiling is a valuable police tool.  Numerous crimes are solved by its application, this leading to the Police employing specialist profiling experts.  It can of course go wrong, leading to the self-explanatory American claim of being arrested for driving black.  But how many black women have had that experience?  I’d venture few, if any.  Given that a quarter of American black men in their 20s end up in prison, being suspicious of them in certain circumstances is rational behaviour.

Every day we all make profiling judgements based on appearance.  Most times they will be correct and the old adage of not judging a book by its cover simply doesn’t apply.  If someone applies for a managerial role, unkempt and covered with tattoos, he’s automatically disqualified.   Those two characteristics alone demonstrate his unsuitability.

I suspect Susan would argue he should receive a hearing as he might in fact be OK.  That would be silly as judgement is required in management and he’s already graphically demonstrated his lack of it.


Consider the British Bar study not so long ago, which showed that no jury had ever acquitted any woman called Tracy.  Susan doubtless would be outraged but it’s basic pragmatism.  This revelation arose in a study of negative profiling reactions to names.

On that note, entertaining two of our top commercial bankers for drinks one evening, I asked whether they would ever lend to anyone called Kevin or Shane. “Of course I would,” one said stoutly.  “Well I bloody well wouldn’t,” his rival piped up.  “Actually, I wouldn’t either,” the first then said sheepishly.  “I just didn’t want to say so.”  If Susan objects to that, I’d suggest she studies the ratio of Kevins and Shanes in our prisons, compared with say Roberts and Andrews.

Heh. Bob Jones is a treasure and he just loves delivering howlers to the precious.

As said, profiling can go wrong and have its funny side.  The former American ambassador in Wellington, Caroline Mosley-Braun, complained bitterly to me once about her pride at becoming the first black woman senator and an incident which occurred when she flew to Washington and tried to check in at the Watergate Hotel.  Two hefty security guards promptly appeared and tried to frog-march her out, suspecting she was on the game.

I told her she was a goose, that in these competitive days, to be a successful tart, prettiness was essential so she should treat it as a compliment, plus she now had a wonderful dinner party story.

“You wouldn’t say that if you were a woman,” she asserted whereupon I cited an incident a few years earlier in London when I was to be picked up at my hotel at 8pm by Anna, wife of writer David Yallop, to go to their home for dinner.  We’d agreed to a late start as I wanted to watch a boxing match coming in from Copenhagen, which didn’t bother them as both worked from home.

At the appointed hour, no Anna.  Half an hour later she managed to find a telephone and called me, (this was in pre-cell-phone days) barely able to contain her joy.  She was a pretty woman and on asking for me downstairs, had been booted out for soliciting.  Like Carol she was a lawyer but she’d have dined out on it ever since; a sensible approach.

The default mechanism today though is squealing to the Media party with howls of outrage. And when this next bit gets a bit of wider coverage not available outside the small subscriber base of the NBR there will certainly be howls of outrage.

Susan herself is a beneficiary of profiling.  She holds a prominent public office solely because of her sporting success.  That demonstrated determination, effort and grit, all characteristics her appointers would have seen as highly desirable for the job.  But, what chance would she have had if her name was Tracy Devoy?  Perhaps she would argue that demonstrates her point, but not so.  Had she in fact been called Tracy then her whole background would likely have been such, leading at best to hairdressing, and we’d never have heard of her.

Snort. Bob Jones is  a living treasure.




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  • Tom

    I know of one case where an Ahrab looking woman was questioned at checkin and her bags searched. She was found to be carrying plans of an aircraft. She was subsequently detained and questioned. Turns out she was head buyer for an airline and about to purchase several new Boings. Be careful who you profile!

    • Muffin

      If a bunch of my fellow worshipers spent their time blowing up planes, I would porably be happy to be searched just becasue I look like them, nice to know I’m being kept safe, and is a small social payment for the damage my fellow worshipers create around the world.

  • PersonOfColor:WHITE


  • Somnambulist

    All those PC people who moan about profiling seem to have no objection to taking stereotypical stances on males, especially if they’re old and white and middle class.

    • FornaK

      Don’t forget us young white and middle class males!

  • lyall

    isnt this the same dame who was profiling white men a few months ago, even calling them pakehas! are irony and hypocrisy not in her vocab!

    • papagaya

      Correct. She lost her rag when Duncan Garner dared to suggest the Race Relations Office should be closed, and wrote a diatribe about how white men were the problem.

      • Ruahine

        Is Duncan Garner white?

  • Dan

    I used to get profiled at NZ airports a lot simply because an older bald guy looks odd wearing Canterbury track pants and some hoodie. Purely comfortable, but aparently the clothing of choice for some undesirable group. We usually joke about it as wands are waved over me. I now wear more appropriate for the age clothes.

    Biut you bet your bottom dollar the amount of profiling I was doing in the recent aftermath of 911 when at an airport, checking into a budget airline counter were a squadron of kaftan wearing clerics loaded to the brim with cardboard boxes wrapped with duct tape. Needless to say it took them an age to get through security with that lot.

  • Annoyed

    My brother & I traveled around Europe a few years ago and we were always getting “randomly selected”. Apparently non clean-shaven males get randomly selected quite often.

  • Seriously?

    The phrase that always amuses me is that you should not judge a book by its cover. If you are standing in a book store looking to buy a book, you have little choice. Are you meant to read the first three chapters of all of them?

    We do judge a book by its cover, we always will. What we need to avoid is thinking that we are doing anything deeper than that, losing sight of the fact that the book with the worst cover may nevertheless be the best read – it is then that our knowingly superficial (and yet very practical) judgments become prejudice.

    • Superman

      Years ago when I knew nothing about wine, I just bought the bottle with the most appealing label. I was right about 50% of the time and wrong about 50% of the time but the more appealing labels were the ones I bought. Maybe I was prejudiced against less appealing labels?

      • Seriously?

        Don’t be hard on yourself. It must be tough being a hero. You were being practical as it seems you knew that your method might be a good shorthand but that is all it was, it was not conclusive.

        Apart from the ones I know I like, I tend to go by price. If choosing between two $15 bottles where one is down from $20 and the other at its regular price I take the one on special. But I accept that the other one may nevertheless be better. I’m just judging the wine by another sort of cover – a bit like you.

        • Superman

          I’ve learned a bit about wine over the years and now those I buy regularly don’t often have the nicest labels or the highest price for that matter. Your buying the higher priced wine that’s on special is a good idea. I guess we all live and learn and have gone a bit off the point.

    • Clydesmum

      That is generally how I pick out a book, both real and electronic. If the cover appeals usually the book does too.

  • Mav E Rick

    Bob has got it 100% right. If Susan Devoy wasn’t a high profile sports star, she would have never got her job! Slam dunk right there about profiling of people.

  • axeman

    Quite simply you profile someone in about 4 seconds. It is a built in safety measure for preservation. Its part of the fight or flight mechanism. You’re at a pub some yahoo’s walk in start causing a bit of trouble you simply look at them assess the situation and the decide it is time to go to another establishment. Boom you’re just profiled them, it’s a gut instinct

    • Ruahine

      Yep same with a girl. Otherwise how do know if she is pretty and vice versa.

  • Superman

    A lot of positions like the Race Relations Conciliator are given to high profile people who are in no way qualified for the job and end up way out of their depth. Being a good sportsman or woman doesn’t mean you are good at everything, often the opposite. If a certain group of people are always high in the crime statistics or terrorism they can’t complain that others automatically assume they are criminals or terrorists. It has nothing to do with racism which means disliking or discriminating in a negative way against someone purely on the grounds of their race. If they don’t want to be profiled they have to get together and stop committing crime or terrorism.

  • Left Right Out

    In sport they profile people all the time…. in fact when I worked in sport and rec in Oz they had teams of people who would visit school and profile the kids and encourage them to do particular sports……

    I know my last rugby team profiled me….. I still thought I was a wing or fullback…. they kept asking if I’d played prop!….hmmmmmmm

    • FornaK

      It could’ve been worse, they could of asked if you did sumo wrestling!

  • XCIA

    My sister commonly referred to as “no passport, deport Diana” was a “gate keeper” based up at AIA. She could profile a paperclip, but she was always running foul of the changeable Dalziel. One day it was decreed from on high to let certain category’s in, the next day it was send them back. Eventually, her Irish DNA came to the fore and after telling the Dalziel drones their heritage, she moved on to much greener pastures.

  • KatB

    I do know a girl named Tracy who is a hairdresser, also Tracy Barlow on Coronation Street was a killer. Of course we profile, it’s natural instinct, it’s how we keep ourselves safe. I would guess though, the Maori boy in the shop would perhaps be looked at more closely because of his actions, in particular if he’s actually looking shady, than just for being Maori. It’s like all the cries of racism from the African Americans when they get pulled aside for questioning. It never crosses their minds that they were chosen NOT because of their colour but because they were hiding their faces under a hoodie, wearing sunglasses at night, with jeans around their builders crack and running away when the cops tried to question them.

  • John Q Public

    I dated a Tracy once. Lovely girl, but couldn’t get past the stupid name. Its kind of like a name you give to a cat or something, not a human. Like Fluffy.

    • Ruahine

      I actually knew a joker named Tracey. Yeh. First Name. Wot a drip he was, at least when I knew him Better not say his surname.

  • Eiselmann

    Travelled into Dover from Calais back in 2003 and got pulled out of the queue by customs as I fitted a profile of traveller…(on my own ,male ,white ,with a backpack). that is often responsible for bringing in objectionable adult material. .

    Suffice it to say they found nothing and i was on my way in relatively short order, the thing is, if Britsh Customs didn’t do this sort of profiling then those most likely to bring in some really disgusting stuff would have a far higher success rate… Devoy’s logic she would object to that sort of profiling , or does she only object to profiling of people her sensitivity courses tell her are victums of ‘the system’.

    The thing is everyone gets profiled …me, I’d rather a single muslim male answers a few questions before boarding a plane, then have a plane blow up because people like Devoy felt those questions were insensitive.

  • david W

    We live in Huntly, which is a wonderful small community but a bad rep. I used to have what my wife called a huckery Honda. It had a ding gone rusty, a coat hanger for an aerial, no hub caps, and paint was fading and looked very shabby.

    It clearly screamed out to cops, quick stop this driver cause we will find something to book him with. Driving it around cops would do a U-turn to pull me over. The funny part was most of the time it seemed I was going to my job in a suit. So the look on their face was quite funny as they didn’t expect a man in a tie driving the car.

    The other good thing about Huntly is that there are not that many cops, so after a few months of this behaviour they all had clearly pulled me over and figured out they were not going to have any luck.

    Made me realize that profiling would be a pain in the ass if you didn’t have everything up to scratch, as you would be bleeding out money all the time. But in terms of policeing I totally agree you have to concentrate on the groups of people who are more likely to be not obeying the law. Otherwise you would never get anywhere!

    • david W

      And the other funny thing is I was teaching first impressions….. in relation to job interviewing, but first impressions no less. The students didn’t see my car so I guess it was ok ;)

  • Sailor Sam

    In the couple of years after 9/11, when travelling to or from the USA, both my wife and I were pulled aside a number of times only because we had one way tickets.
    Why? Because the alleged hi-jackers all travelled on one way tickets.
    Why did we have one way tickets you might ask – we were travelling to and from my ship, joining it for a 4 month stint or going home on leave.

  • Fuglybud

    Susan must surely ban jury selections. Always used to wear a smart suit and tie and eyeball everyone important….worked every time

  • Oh Please

    As I tell my kids – “There’s a reason for stereotypes – generally they are correct”.

  • KatB

    I got asked for ID at the supermarket one day. I think I was around the age of 30 at the time. I was so shocked and elated that I completely forgot it was only sparkling grape juice that I was buying, the girl behind the counter not realising either when she asked me for ID.

  • sandalwood789

    One of the reasons that Israeli airline El Al is apparently one of the safest in the world is that they do profiling and *lots* of it (and I’ll bet they wouldn’t apologise for it).

    It’s a cold hard fact of life – for example, most terrorists are Muslims. No surprise at all, given the pure hate pumped into them from the day they’re born.

  • Usaywot

    Love Bob Jones. Wish we could clone him. Why did the Herald sack him?…oh, yes, that’s right, he didn’t fit their PC agenda.

  • Bluemanning

    Bob Jones ferments commonsense, which sadly is lacking within the PC brigade.

  • Uncle Bully

    Living treasure for sure. I can’t wait to see his face printed on the new $7 bill.

  • Right Wing Uni Student

    Of course the profiling of “heterosexual white males” as being privileged, arrogant, and racist remains perfectly acceptable. Despite the fact that a tiny minority would fit into this category.