Profiling is a pretty nasty practice in the public mind, but let’s face it, we all do it, every day, all day long. We make judgments based on what people wear, how they dress, their skin color, their accent, etc. There’s nothing inherently pernicious about this when it’s done to make sense of the world around us and not to marginalize or exclude individuals.
A while back, I wrote a rather strongly worded post about how what you drive marks you as a certain type of person, both politically and ethically. A couple friends of mine took me to task for being so categorical. I know they’re right, but I also know that I make exceptions to my own categories about every ten minutes. My lovely wife, however, pointed out to me the other day that my point is both obvious and widely understood (which is perhaps where I got it in the first place). She had read an article in The New Yorker about McCain and his bus, where one of his staffers made a comment about cars and how they indicate a political preference:
“And so we know, for instance, that among independent voters there are life styles and behaviors that identify them as Republicans or Democrats. For example, the GMC Yukon is a Republican vehicle, and Volvos and Subarus are the most Democratic vehicles. Republicans have Fiji water preferences, versus Democrats, who have Evian water preferences. You have a huge grouping of consumer data, so you can micro-target messages to common groups, finding pleasure points and anger points on issues.”
This is a particularly funny quote for me, since I drive a Subaru and covet a Volvo. For the record, however, I find all bottled water, to one degree or another depending on the distance it was shipped, abominable. Fiji and Evian are particularly evil. Fiji literally comes from the other side of the planet, while I once pulled an 18-page glossy Evian ad out of a Rolling Stone issue, an ad that touted the “natural purity” of the water, purity put in peril, of course, by the egregious use of paper, ink, fuel, etc.