Thursday, November 15, 2007
In the November 12, 2007, New Yorker magazine, Malcolm Gladwell has a marvelous article -- "Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling Made Easy," available here. The article is a devastating critique of criminal profilers. Here's an example of the sort of guidance that FBI profilers gave to detectives in Wichita, Kansas, who were looking for the serial killer who called himself BTK (for "Bind, Torture, Kill"):
"Look for an American male with a possible connection to the military. His I.Q. will be above 105. He will like to masturbate, and will be aloof and selfish in bed. He will drive a decent car. He will be a 'now' person. He won't be comfortable with women. But he may have women friends. [!] He will be a lone wolf. But he will be able to function in social settings. He won't be unmemorable. But he will be unknowable. He will be either never married, divorced, or married, and if he was or is married, his wife will be younger or older. [!] He may or may not [!] live in a rental, and might be lower class, upper lower class, lower middle class, or middle class. [!] And he will be crazy like a fox, as opposed to being mental."
As Gladwell notes, even assuming that you could make sense of that garbage, it was preposterously off the mark: "BTK was a pillar of his community, the president of his church, and the married father of two."