Thursday, July 23, 2020

And They Wonder Why We’re Cynical

“No matter how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up.” – Lily Tomlin

One study suggests that two-thirds of Americans between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four who were treated in emergency rooms suffered from injuries inflicted by police and security guards, about as many people as the number of pedestrians injured by motor vehicles.

- Jill Lepore, New Yorker

If that claim seems patently unbelievable to you it’s because it is simply not true, apparently the result of bad math and misunderstanding.The article’s subtitle, “why did American policing get so big, so fast? The answer, mainly, is slavery,” provides a pretty strong hint at Lepore’s predisposition as well as her entire case: slavery (and it’s corollary, “white privilege”) goes a long way towards explaining all the social injustice in the world - or at least in the United States.

It should be noted that Ms. Lepore is a highly respected professor of American history at Harvard, yet neither she nor her editor was struck by the sheer bodaciousness of a claim that fully two-thirds of ER visits for people between the age of 15 and 34 were due to police inflicted injuries. It’s almost as if they are predisposed to believe that the cops spend most of their day busting people’s chops.

While any reasonable person would question the absurdity of such a claim, it apparently did not strike Ms. Lepore as anything other than plausible. Despite her tendency to believe it however, it just ain’t so. As Louise Perry discovered upon nominal investigation (i.e. checking the author’s source study) it was easily disproven - spectacularly so. Excerpts from Perry’s article:

And it turns out I was right — the ‘two-thirds’ claim is not true. Not even close…But it’s not clear where Lepore got the ‘two-thirds’ figure from. Possibly she misunderstood a line from from the paper itself, which includes the finding that 61.1% of people injured by police fell into the 15-34 age bracket…

I did my best to work out a rough estimate of the true proportion of 15-34 year olds visiting the ER who had suffered legal intervention injuries, and arrived at a figure of 0.2% (you can follow my working in this thread). So I believe Lepore’s claim to be off by a factor of several hundred.

OK, I didn’t check Perry’s math either but common sense indicates that her percentage is more plausible than Lepore’s two-thirds. As Perry points out, we all know that political bias warps cognition, sometimes catastrophically. Take COVID for example. I’d also stake claim to the fact that when all the dust has cleared we will find that the “statistics” reported to date about COVID cases and deaths will prove to be equally and spectacularly inaccurate: another victim of “a small, troubling example of the effect of political bias on journalism.”

But don’t take my word for it, read Angelo Codevilla’s  long but excellent essay: The COVID Coup.

Panicked by fears manufactured by the ruling class, the American people assented to being put essentially under house arrest until further notice, effectively suspending the habits, preferences, and liberties that had defined our way of life…

What history will record as the great COVID scam of 2020 is based on 1) a set of untruths and baseless assertions—often outright lies—about the novel coronavirus and its effects; 2) the production and maintenance of physical fear through a near-monopoly of communications to forestall challenges to the U.S.. ruling class, led by the Democratic Party, 3) defaulted opposition on the part of most Republicans, thus confirming their status as the ruling class’s junior partner….

And they wonder why we’re cynical.

Scare me : calvinandhobbes