Thursday, September 20, 2018

Colin Kaepernick peddles a very big lie: Sometimes black cops kill blacks, sometimes Asian cops kill blacks, sometimes white cops shoot whites, and sometimes black cops shoot whites

Nike may well have proven its own courage by making ex-49er Colin Kaepernick its “Just Do It” poster boy
writes Benny Huang.
Or its stupidity, depending on how you look at it.

 … My primary beef with the ad campaign is that it clearly insinuates that Kaepernick’s long period of unemployment is somehow linked to his political activism, a conclusion that is speculative at best. The truth is that during the 2016 season, Kaepernick’s last and the one in which he made such a spectacle of himself, the 49ers won just two games out of eighteen. Could it be that Kaepernick was fired not for showing flagrant disrespect for his country but because he sucked at his job?

It’s hard to say. The 49ers have never said that they let their quarterback go because of the whole kneeling thing. But they wouldn’t, would they? No, they’d lie about it because admitting that they canned their starting quarterback for that reason would mean that they don’t support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. And that’s raaaaaaaacist!–just like the anthem itself.

It would also mean that they don’t support free speech—which they aren’t required to. As liberals continually remind me, free speech does not mean freedom from consequences. No one is putting Kaepernick in jail. He merely lost his job, possibly for alienating the fans—a quite reasonable justification for firing someone—and possibly for leading his team to a last place finish in the NFC.

Could it have been a combination of the two? A quarterback who was at least making the playoffs likely could have gotten away with all the anthem kneeling—and the cops-as-pigs socks, and the Fidel Castro romanticism, and the Malcolm X hero worship. But not a loser like Kaepernick.

This whole debate about why Kaepernick was fired amounts to a tricky surgical separation between two completely legitimate reasons for termination. Sure, Kaepernick’s big mouth might be to blame. Employers frequently discipline their employees for what they say. Of all the many employers I’ve ever had not one has ever offered me “freedom of speech”—or rather freedom from consequences of my speech—while on the job. I’ve always known that my words could end up getting me fired if they angered co-workers or customers. But on the other hand, Kaepernick could have just been fired because his club felt like winning again.

Given that both reasons for termination are valid, who cares which played a greater role?

For all those who argue that Kaepernick was fired solely for his activism, I would ask you to consider the fact that two other members of the 49ers organization were also fired at the end of the 2016 season: head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke. No surprise there. When NFL teams finish last in their conference they often try to make a clean break by dumping those in leadership positions. Such is life in the competitive world of professional sports.

It isn’t difficult to see why Kaepernick would want the public to believe that he was given a pink slip for taking a stand—or rather, a knee. Otherwise we’d just think that he was fired for piss poor performance.

My secondary beef with the Kaepernick ad campaign is that it fails to address the real issue underlying the anthem-kneeling. We talk a lot about whether he had a right to speak (of course he does) when we should be talking about whether what he said was actually right.

The idea that this country is beset with racist police brutality is a blood libel in the truest sense of the term. It has also led to relaxed policing where it’s needed most (the Ferguson effect) and retributive violence against cops.

In this great big country that we live in, there are bound to be episodes in which police officers use force, sometimes deadly force, in the course of their duties. In some cases that force is justified but in others it isn’t. Kaepernick and the BLM movement seem unwilling or unable to distinguish between the two.

When force is not justified we call that police brutality which is a criminal abuse of government authority. We should absolutely condemn police brutality.

But even in cut-and-dry instances of police brutality, racism cannot simply be assumed as a motive. Doing so represents a logical leap that depends on the very inexact science of attributing motives. We all attribute motives from time to time, though BLM seems to do it recklessly and with extreme prejudice.

The movement has created the impression that black people have something to fear from the police simply for being black, as if cops go out on patrol just itching to shoot a random black person. They ignore the fact that more whites are killed by police every year than blacks. Those incidents are usually featured only as quick stories on the local news because they don’t fit the narrative.

The narrative is “Black man shot by white police officer”—which is automatically assumed to be because the cop doesn’t like black people. There’s no room in this tidy story for complicating detail. Was the suspect resisting arrest? Did he have a gun or what appeared to be a gun? BLM doesn’t care. Yet despite this wolf pack of supposedly racist cops roaming the streets, black Jehovah’s Witnesses selling the Watchtower on the street corner never seem to be gunned down despite being just as black as Michael Brown or Eric Garner. Clearly something else is at play here.

In reality, police officers of all colors occasionally shoot citizens of all colors. Sometimes those killings are justified, sometimes they’re not. Each incident is its own story with its own set of facts.

Sometimes black cops kill blacks, as was the case with Keith Scott in Charlotte. Sometimes Asian cops kill blacks, as was the case with Akai Gurley in Brooklyn. Sometimes white cops shoot whites, as was the case with Daniel Shaver in Mesa, Arizona. And finally, sometimes black cops shoot whites, as was the case with Justine Damond in Minneapolis.

Of these aforementioned examples, the first (Keith Scott) was justified and the second (Akai Gurley) was an unfortunate episode caused by a nervous and inexperienced cop who negligently discharged his firearm in the dark stairwell of a housing project. The last two of these examples, which involved white victims, were completely unjustified yet BLM ignores these and focuses instead on a burly thug (Michael Brown) who tried to kill a cop with his own gun and a drug dealer (Freddie Gray) who was fanatically resisting arrest.

Some evidence indicates that cops are more likely to shoot whites than blacks because they don’t believe that their motives will be second-guessed or that they will have to watch their backs for the rest of their lives. In 2015, after a sheriff’s deputy in Kentucky killed a crazed white man named John Fenwick, the sheriff himself was asked if he was afraid of public backlash—a very dumb question indeed. When has a city ever burned because a white guy got shot? Sheriff Ed Mattingley responded:
 “We do not want trouble. We are glad that he is white, and we shouldn’t have to be worried about that.”
Glad he was white!

But Colin Kaepernick never took a knee for John Fenwick. Nor does he speak up for Justine Damond or Daniel Shaver. He doesn’t care about them. He cares about blacks who are shot by police, whether justifiably or not, solely because they are black. There’s nothing heroic about that and certainly isn’t a blow against racism.

 … Colin Kaepernick peddles a very big lie—that cops routinely kill blacks for sport—which has contributed to a lot of scattered corpses and riots. …

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect: We need to start seeing the media as a bearded nut on the sidewalk, shouting out false fears

Over at PJMedia, two to three years before Donald Trump announced his candidacy, Ed Driscoll uncovered a gem on the subject of fake news, 13 to 14 years before Trump popularized the term:
[In 2002, the] late Michael Crichton coined a phrase he called "the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect," named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist:
Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.) 
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
In his speech on the prevalence of speculation in media — an idea defined by Thomas L. McDonald as "I believe everything the media tells me except for anything for which I have direct personal knowledge, which they always get wrong" — Michael Crichton goes on to say that
That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

So one problem with speculation is that it piggybacks on the Gell-Mann effect of unwarranted credibility, making the speculation look more useful than it is.

Another issue concerns the sheer volume of speculation. Sheer volume comes to imply a value which is specious. I call this the There-Must-Be-A-Pony effect, from the old joke in which a kid comes down Christmas morning, finds the room filled with horseshit, and claps his hands with delight. His astonished parents ask: why are you so happy? He says, with this much horseshit, there must be a pony.

Because we are confronted by speculation at every turn, in print, on video, on the net, in conversation, we may eventually conclude that it must have value. But it doesn't. Because no matter how many people are speculating, no matter how familiar their faces, how good their makeup and how well they are lit, no matter how many weeks they appear before us in person or in columns, it remains true that none of them knows what the future holds.

Some people secretly believe that the future can be known. They imagine two groups of people that can know the future, and therefore should be listened to. The first is pundits. Since they expound on the future all the time, they must know what they are talking about. Do they? “Brill's Content” used to track the pundit's guesses, and while one or another had an occasional winning streak, over the long haul they did no better than chance. This is what you would expect. Because nobody knows the future.

 …  Futurists don't know any more about the future than you or I. Read their magazines from a couple of years ago and you'll see an endless parade of error.

Expertise is no shield against failure to see ahead. That's why it was Thomas Watson, head of IBM, who predicted the world only needed 4 or 5 computers. That is about as wrong a prediction as it is possible to make, by a man who had every reason to be informed about what he was talking about. Not only did he fail to anticipate a trend, or a technology, he failed to understand the myriad uses to which a general purpose machine might be put.

Similarly, Paul Erlich, a brilliant academic who has devoted his entire life to ecological issues, has been wrong in nearly all his major predictions. He was wrong about diminishing resources, he was wrong about the population explosion, and he was wrong that we would lose 50% of all species by the year 2000. He devoted his life to intensely felt issues, yet he has been spectacularly wrong.


Now, this is not new information. It was Mark Twain who said,
'I've seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it never came to pass."
And much of what politicians say is not so much a prediction as an attempt to make it come true. It's argument disguised as analysis. But it doesn't really persuade anybody. Because most people can see through it.

If speculation is worthless, why is there so much of it? Is it because people want it? I don't think so. I myself speculate that media has turned to speculation for media's own reasons. So now let's consider the advantages of speculation from a media standpoint.

1. It's incredibly cheap. Talk is cheap. And speculation shows are the cheapest thing you can put on television, They’re almost as cheap as running a test pattern. Speculation requires no research, no big staff. Minimal set. Just get the talking host, book the talking guests—of which there is no shortage—and you're done! Instant show. No reporters in different cities around the world, no film crews on location. No deadlines, no footage to edit, no editors...nothing! Just talk. Cheap.

2. You can't lose. Even though the speculation is correct only by chance, which means you are wrong at least 50% of the time, nobody remembers and therefore nobody cares. You are never accountable. The audience does not remember yesterday, let alone last week, or last month. Media exists in the eternal now, this minute, this crisis, this talking head, this column, this speculation.

 … And since [people] don't remember, as a speculator on media, you can't lose. Let me expand on this idea that you can't lose. It's not confined to the media. Most areas of intellectual life have discovered the virtues of speculation, and have embraced them wildly. In academia, speculation is usually dignified as theory. It's fascinating that even though the intellectual stance of the pomo deconstructionist era is against theory, particularly overarching theory, in reality what every academic wants to express is theory.

 …  In short, the understanding that so long as you speculate, you can't lose is widespread. And it is perfect for the information age, which promises a cornucopia of knowledge, but delivers a cornucopia of snake oil.

Now, nowhere is it written that the media need be accurate, or useful. They haven't been for most or recorded history. So, now they're what? What is wrong with it?

 1. Tendency to excess. The fact that it's only talk makes drama and spectacle unlikely—unless the talk becomes heated and excessive. So it becomes excessive. Not every show features the Crossfire-style food fight, but it is a tendency on all shows.

2. “Crisisization” of everything possible. Most speculation is not compelling because most events are not compelling—Gosh, I wonder what will happen to the German mark? Are they going to get their labor problems under control? This promotes the well-known media need for a crisis. Crisis in the German mark! Uh-oh! Look out! Crises unite the country, draw viewers in large numbers, and give something to speculate about. Without a crisis, the talk soon degenerates into debate about whether the refs should have used instant replay on that last football game. So there is a tendency to hype urgency and importance and be-there-now when such reactions are really not appropriate. …

3. Superficiality as a norm. Gotta go fast. Hit the high points. Speculation adds to the superficiality. That’s it, don’t you think?

4. Endless presentation of uncertainty and conflict may interfere with resolution of issues. There is some evidence that the television food fights not only don’t represent the views of most people—who are not so polarized—but they may tend to make resolution of actual disputes more difficult in the real world. At the very least, these food fights obscure the recognition that disputes are resolved every day. Compromise is much easier from relatively central positions than it is from extreme and hostile, conflicting positions: Greenpeace Spikers vs the Logging Industry.

5. The interminable chains of speculation paves the way to litigation about breast implants, hysteria over Y2K and global warming, articles in the New Yorker about currents of death, and a variety of other results that are not, by any thoughtful view, good things to happen. … The assumption that nothing can be known with certainty does have terrible consequences. As GK Chesterton said (in a somewhat different context),
“If you believe in nothing you’ll believe in anything.” 
That’s what we see today. People believe in anything.

But just in terms of the general emotional tenor of life, I often think people are nervous, jittery in this media climate of what if, what if, maybe, perhaps, could be…when there is simply no reason to feel nervous. Like a bearded nut in robes on the sidewalk proclaiming the end of the world is near, the media is just doing what makes it feel good, not reporting hard facts. We need to start seeing the media as a bearded nut on the sidewalk, shouting out false fears. It's not sensible to listen to it.

We need to start remembering that everybody who said that Y2K wasn't a real problem was either shouted down, or kept off the air. The same thing is true now of issues like species extinction and global warming. You never hear anyone say it's not a crisis.

 … Personally, I think we need to start turning away from media, and the data shows that we are, at least from television news. I find that whenever I lack exposure to media I am much happier, and my life feels fresher.

 …  They live in the world of MSNBC and the New York Times. And they've forgotten what real, reliable information is, and the lengths you have to go to get it. It's so much harder than just speculating.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A French Veteran of la Résistance During WW II: "Use the word Resistance only if, by misfortune, the duty to Resist were again to arise for real"

When Le Monde commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Summer of 1940, several French readers, many if not all of whom lived through the German invasion in World War II, wrote to share their memories. (Thanks for the InstLink.)

The most interesting letter is probably that of Normandy's Jacques Gindrey, who protests the abusive usage of the word "Resistance" (with a capital R) to denote all sorts of activities that didn't really call for a massive amount of courage by, say, picking up a rifle and putting one's life at risk:

" Résistance "

Résistance, avec un grand " r ", on en trouve partout, bien plus qu'en 1940-1944 ! Résistance d'un instituteur contre de nouvelles modalités d'enseignement, Résistance contre les atteintes aux droits des Roms, Résistance contre l'EPR... Nous ne sommes certainement pas plus de 20 000 survivants à avoir résisté effectivement, fusil en main (ou l'équivalent : renseignement, etc.) avant septembre 1944, et encore moins avant le débarquement du 6 juin 1944. Alors, ne mettez plus de grand " r " à votre opposition à ceci ou à cela, gardez-nous notre Résistance, et n'utilisez ce grand mot que, si par malheur, surgissait le devoir de Résister " pour de vrai " !
Jacques Gindrey Vire (Calvados)
These days, the word Resistance, with a capital R, is to be found everywhere, far more prominently than in 1940-1944! The Resistance of a teacher against new teaching methods, the Resistance against infringements on the rights of the gypsies, the Resistance against nuclear power… Today, there are certainly no more than 20 000 survivors to have effectively resisted, rifle in hand (or the equivalent: work in intelligence-gathering, etc…), prior to September 1944, and even fewer prior to the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944. So do not put a capital R on your opposition to one thing and another, leave us with our Resistance, and use that great word only if, by misfortune, the duty to Resist were again to arise for real.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The silent oppression of the consensus: The leftist politics I had held were a version of the norm, and I had done nothing more than tout the company line

On September 11, 2001, I was sitting on the floor of my sister’s living room [in Gothenburg, Sweden], babysitting her one-year-old daughter
recalls Annika Hernroth-Rothstein in National Review (tack så mycket till Instapundit).
I had just gotten back from a year in France. A few months earlier, I’d been standing in a crowded bar on Place de Clichy, celebrating my 20th birthday. I remember that night, although several bottles of bad white wine say I shouldn’t. I was surrounded by my peers, other upper-middle-class liberals who had fled to Paris to fulfill their fantasy. We had come to this historical city to live the life of songs and books and Technicolor movies. We were radicals. We were heroes. We were going to change the world.

The people with me in that bar were a random sample of the political atmosphere of Europe at the time. Militant feminists, pro-Palestinians, members of the autonomic environmentalist movement, and your run-of the-mill anti-government thugs. Having a friend who had been jailed for rioting was as necessary as a Malcolm X T-shirt and a back-pocket paperback of Catcher in the Rye. I gladly picked up that uniform, just as I picked up rocks and banners knowing that this was the ticket to ride.

Raised in a family of academics, this was a natural evolution on my part and a result of a serious political interest. I identified as an intellectual and as a political thinker with a critical mind. What I failed to acknowledge at the time was that my country was a controlled environment and that the spectrum on which political analysis took place was limited. Not unlike The Truman Show, where the choices you think you are making were already made for you long ago, and any dreams of a different fate are swiftly corrected.
I left my one-bedroom apartment in the chic slum of the 19th Arrondissement in June 2001. I was headed back to Gothenburg, Sweden, and the mass protest against the EU summit and George W. Bush. I planned to be back in time to see the first leaves fall on the Champs Elysées. Turns out, that didn’t happen.

Night fell and morning broke before I managed to get off that floor to answer my phone. On the other end I heard my boyfriend’s voice, chanting frantically:
Two more towers! Two more towers! Two more towers!
He and his friends were having a party, celebrating the attack on America. He called to invite me, and to this day I have never felt such intense shame.

During his speech on September 14, 2001, President Bush said that adversity introduces us to ourselves. Well, on that day I was introduced to who I had been and who I truly was. I saw my own place in the context of history, and how the ideas that I helped promote, the accusations I had met with silence, all had a part in shaping the world I now saw burning before me.

It wasn’t a game. I had played it, but it was never a game.

In the weeks that followed, I watched the American news with one eye, and its European counterpart with the other. It was like seeing the slow shifting of the tectonic plates, dividing the world through op-eds and analysis. On September 12, 2001, the headline of the largest Swedish newspaper read, “We Are All Americans.” A few weeks later, that beautiful creed had already been forgotten. The one time my country could side with the U.S. was when America was on its knees, but when it refused to stay down it quickly went back to the smug relativism of World War II, the icy efficiency of a country never having to fight for either ethics or its existence.
Soon enough, the narrative was clear. The end of the story had already been written: The U.S. was unjustly acting as the world police, once again. Bush was a moron and a puppet. America was killing innocent people for oil. It went on and on, and all I could think was that if I know that these things are not true, then what other lies have I accepted as truth throughout my life?

So I pulled at the thread of my ideology, and it all unraveled before me.

On September 20, I watched Bush’s address to Congress. I had heard him speak before, but on this night, I listened — and one sentence jumped out and grabbed me:
“Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.”
So I asked myself if I was free. Not free in movement or by law, but free in thought and intellect. I was not, nor had I ever been. The politics I had held and protected so violently were a version of the norm, and for all my intellect and breeding I had done nothing more than tout the company line.

I left everything that year; it was like walking away from the scene of a crime. I remember thinking that it would have been easier leaving a cult — at least then there would be a welcoming, sane majority on the other side. Or if there had been a physical wall to climb and a dictator to topple, instead of the silent oppression of the consensus.

My country did not change that day, but I had to; the tectonic plates where shifting, and I decided to jump.

When I stood in that bar toasting myself, I thought I was a radical. Today, as a neocon in Sweden, I know I was wrong.

I was raised in a country where that neutrality — that indifference before right and wrong — is a badge of honor. I was taught that morality is weakness, faith is ignorance, and the concept of good and evil is cause for ridicule.

On September 11, 2001, I saw, for the first time, the difference between fear and freedom, and I vowed not to be neutral between them, ever again.