There’s Videos, and Then There’s Videos

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Gosh, Dana Loesch is really outraged by doctored videos, isn’t she? Well, no, actually. The right-wing radio mouthpiece didn’t seem to have a problem with the doctored videos targeting Planned Parenthood — she even praised their supposedly revelatory nature. But when someone released a doctored video that featured her, she went apeshit.

Granted, it was a different ball of wax altogether; the Planned Parenthood videos were presented as being accurate, whereas the cartoonish video of her  apparently shooting herself was an obvious satirical riff on her (rather deranged) pimping video for the NRA — a playful but blunt reminder of what happens when people play with guns.

Now you could always call this video unfunny and in questionable taste if you like (I might tend to agree on at least the latter point). But Loesch wasn’t satisfied with that. She tabbed it as a threat to her life, and a typical gesture by gun-grabbing librulz; she even contacted the FBI. See if you can follow the logic here: Them librulz hate her because they hate guns and she loves guns. So they want to kill her using some of those guns they hate. One of the big problems with firearms is you don’t have to be particularly bright to own one.

She even thought it pertinent to point out that she’s a mother, which didn’t seem to stop her from hawking a product that kills thousands of children every year; yet her own children apparently are supposed to be an impenetrable shield against anyone illustrating the very real consequences of her actions.

Loesch posted the clip online, and her fan base took the bait, denouncing it as “sick”, “disgusting”, “hateful”, and entirely typical of them librulz. (And by the way, it wasn’t nearly as “grisly” or “graphic” as they all proclaim, but only implies the gunster shooting herself in the head, by a splatter of obviously fake blood.) None of them have seemed particularly outraged about her own sick, disgusting and hateful allegation that Planned Parenthood is “selling black market baby parts”.  And few if any of them have shown any outrage over reports that Trayvon Martin’s killer boastingly posted a photo of his trophy kill. But if you dare impugn The Almighty Gun, all hell breaks loose. As one commentator so succinctly put it:

People tweet gun related violence threats against government and President Obama on a daily basis, but nobody on the right cares. One spoof video and everybody loses their minds.

Let’s emphasize that whatever you may think of the video, it was the work of one person. It did not represent the “gun control” movement or any other group. Yet Loesch and her drones did their best to dishonestly link it to Moms Demand Action. And they proclaimed in loud and unanimous chorus that it was a tactic typical of gun-grabbers and librulz in general. (This is an example of conflating a small number with a large number, as discussed in a previous post.)

In short, this episode serves to illustrate a sobering and inescapable fact: the rabidly delusional, toxically polarized, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-never mentality pervading the gun culture is what makes gun ownership in America such a problematic and deadly proposition.

 

Playing Ostrich on Race

Ferguson protest

Whenever an unarmed black teen gets shot by a white guy — which seems to be becoming a trend these days –you can count on two things happening. First, there is an outrage among the public. Second, there is a campaign by many in the media, and other right-wing extremists, to gloss over the incident and the public reaction. It’s really no big deal, they try to tell you. Get upset over something else instead, they say. We saw this with the killing of Trayvon Martin. And more recently, we’ve been seeing it with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Fox “News” and company have gone into hyperdrive declaring how sick and tired they are of all the media coverage of protests in Ferguson even as they offer endless coverage of Ferguson, and how the real racists are the ones who talk about racism even as they go on and on about racism.  Fox bit off more than it could chew in one priceless unscripted segment in which Steve Harrigan was, in the condescending words of a colleague,

trying to explain the reality of what is happening now — that in the middle of the night, a bunch of people are out for show.

When Harrigan patronizingly referred to the protests as “child’s play”, he was overheard by an angry participant who confronted him and schooled him in very blunt terms — asking him, among other things, “Who’s the child playing with toys? Us or them?”

Fox, of course, is not designed primarily as a news organization, but as the voice of the “conservative movement” (one of my favorite oxymorons) which likes to play ostrich with racial tensions. Republicans sometimes bill themselves as “the party of Lincoln”, forgetting (if they ever knew in the first place) that the party has undergone a radical makeover in more recent decades, and Abe wouldn’t recognize anything about it except the name. The GOP — and Fox — often trot out the scant handful of African-Americans in their midst and pretend that they are a much larger contingent than they really are, and that everything is just peachy keen.

But anyone who’s attended a Republican convention can vouch for the scarcity of dark faces among the delegates, though there might be plenty of them in the service staff — for whom black delegates are often mistaken.  I recall reading about one African-American attendee of a state GOP gathering in recent years who, though he was wearing a badge that clearly identified him, was asked to carry bags or call a taxi six times. But if you shine a light on this lack of ethnic diversity, then wingers, rather than trying to address it, are likely to upbraid you for “playing the race card”.

The trigger-happy cop in Ferguson didn’t even give Michael Brown a chance to carry his bags. What he did was shoot an unarmed teenager — not once, but SIX TIMES, who according to witnesses, was holding up his hands and moving away from the officer. The friend who was with Brown reports that when the cop drove up he yelled at them to “get the fuck on the sidewalk”.  One witness says that he then started driving away, but abruptly reversed his vehicle, after which the confrontation started. After Brown was gunned down, his body was allowed to lie in the street for FOUR HOURS.

Now suppose you didn’t know anything about the color of the parties involved, or you knew that everyone was the same race. Wouldn’t you find it alarming that law enforcement personnel could conduct themselves in this manner? Hell, there are lots of Libertarianoids out there who seem to be on a fulltime campaign to convince people that police in general are jack-booted Storm Trooper thugs; they scout out and publicize every little instance of alleged police misconduct they hear about, and tout it as representative of police activity in general and proof that all police forces should be totally emasculated. And yet they’ve been rather behind the curve when it comes to outrage over the death of Michael Brown. Why? (It isn’t true, as some have suggested, that Libertarians have been totally silent on the matter; but they haven’t been nearly as vocal as one might expect given their obsession with all things constabulary.)

The really extreme right-wingers, however, certainly have not ignored the incident. Instead, they’ve done their best to convince you that there’s really nothing to see here, so move on. And that includes trying to convince you that the dead kid “got everything he deserved”, in the words of pundit Pat Dollard. As phrased by an article in AlterNet (“4 worst Right-Wing Reactions to Michael Brown’s Killing and the Ferguson Protests”),

Conservative media has never met a young black man it couldn’t retroactively [i.e., posthumously] enlist into the shadowy urban gangs of its fevered imagination.

The campaign to smear Michael Brown is virtually a carbon copy of the campaign to smear Trayvon Martin. They’ve claimed he had a criminal record. Not true. They’ve claimed he had a gang affiliation. Not true. they’ve claimed he had marijuana in his system. Possibly true, but irrelevant. They’ve circulated photos of another, more menacing-looking individual, and falsely identified them as Brown. They’ve claimed that he broke the eye socket of the policeman who killed him. Not true. They’ve circulated still frames taken from a surveillance video which they claim depicts Brown robbing a convenience store earlier that day. But the video does not prove any such thing. It shows a young man fitting Brown’s description bringing merchandise to the counter, having a discussion with the clerk, then leaving — pushing the clerk, who has come out and gotten into an altercation with him. In any case, the officer who shot him did not stop him because he was suspected of robbery; his crime that cost him his life was walking in the street.

Yet pretend that all of the rumors about Brown are true. Say that he really was as monstrous as the wingers would have you believe, and then some. Even so, is it justified to shoot him six times when he’s unarmed? Would anyone ever say that a white teen, because he lived a less than exemplary life (like most teenagers) deserved to be pumped full of lead? Would people say (as some have of Brown) that slaughtering a white teen amounts to “taking out the trash”?  It wasn’t very long ago, lest we forget, that many of these people were manufacturing all the outrage they could muster because the Obama administration gunned down Osama bin Laden. So now they high-five over the same thing happening to an unarmed American kid who apparently never hurt anyone?

“Conservatives” loudly insist that race is not a factor in slayings of this type, yet they undermine their own narrative by trying to justify the perception of the victims as suspicious characters on the basis of their appearance. Fox’s Geraldo Rivera speculated that “the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as [the killer] was”. The rumors of Michael Brown being a gangster have been bolstered by the fact that he sometimes wore red clothing. And LiberalLogic 101, a site that purports to expose flaws in “liberal” reasoning but only exposes its own utter lack of reasoning skills (we mentioned it previously in the post on straw men), suggested that judging someone for wearing a hoodie or a red shirt is no worse than judging someone for wearing a Klan robe. Such is the “conservative” logic behind LiberalLogic 101. And if you really think like this, you have your head stuck in something worse than sand.

Incidentally, the folks at LiberalLogic 101 also recently ran a cartoon depicting President Obama saying, “My position on beheadings is that I be heading to the golf course”. Coincidentally, researches in one study found that they were able to manipulate the favorability/ unfavorability with which many participants viewed Obama by subtly altering the skin tone in his photograph.

Such individuals have a habit of treating each shooting of this sort as an isolated incident, wrenched free of social context, But as many people, including the author of the AlterNet article have pointed out, the killing of Michael Brown did not occur in a vacuum. Jon Stewart, spot on as usual, goes into a bit of detail about what a vacuum it didn’t occur in.

Forget that in Ferguson, 94 percent of the police are white, and 63 percent of the people are black. Forget that 92 percent of police searches and 86 percent of car stops are for black people.

He goes on to present an account of an incident in which 4 Ferguson police officers beat a 52-year-old man and then cited him for defiling government property by staining their uniforms with his blood. Indeed, the Ferguson P.D. has an apparent history of heavy-handed behavior. Its strained relations with residents, particularly with those of the African-American persuasion, was a time bomb waiting to detonate. And it has.

Stewart also hands Sean Hannity his testicles on a platter for the umpeenth time (not a particularly difficult feat to pull off) and punctures another popular right-wing talking point: that the attention focused on an event like Ferguson or the death of Trayvon Martin is way out of proportion to the attention given to the killings of black citizens that occur in some cities on a daily basis. In the words of one clueless Foxster:

If I were African-American, I would be outraged that more journalists aren’t covering what’s happening in Chicago, and more outraged that people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson don’t head to those areas.

Which is an amazingly brainless comment for at least three reasons. First, as Stewart facetiously asks, “Why all the interest in holding police officers to a higher standard than gangs?” And second, it’s not an either/ or proposition; and as it turns out, those African-American leaders whom the wingers so often upbraid for not addressing gang violence have been very involved in, um, addressing gang violence. Third, there are good reasons for the discrepancy in media coverage: see Trayvon Martin and the “Double Standard “Standard, Part 1 and Part 2.

Okay, we’re being hard on right-wingers here, but there’s a simple explanation: they’ve earned it.  Yet observers on both the left and the right tend to cloud the issue by conflating racism with racial bias. Racism is blatant and deliberate, and as such is readily noted. But racial bias is more subtle and unconscious, and therefore does a lot of damage under the radar.

Racism suggests that the Ferguson cop killed Michael Brown because he was black. That’s probably not true — although it doesn’t speak well for him that the KKK and other racists are rushing to his defense. What’s much more likely, however, is that Brown’s ethnicity contributed significantly to his being a “suspicious character” in the first place. No matter how you slice it, it’s quite possible, if not probable, that if he had been white, he’d still be alive. Compare what happened to him to what happened when a white man walked down the street brandishing a gun, threatening and insulting police and daring them to shoot him. And what did the police do? They negotiated with him for 40 minutes, pleading with him to put down the gun, and all but invited him home for tea.

The killers of both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown have, thus far, walked free. Compare this to John McNeil, a black man who is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting a white man (who was not a teen) who was armed and threatening on McNeil’s own property. Once again, let me quote Jon Stewart (Don’t you get tired of having to get the facts about current events from comedians?) because he puts it so memorably:

I guarantee you that every person of color has faced an indignity — from the ridiculous to the grotesque to the sometimes fatal — at some point in their,,, I’m going to say last couple of hours. [to the Foxsters] You’re tired of hearing about it?? Imagine how fucking exhausting it is to live it.

As he mentions, this blatant racial profiling occurs even in the “liberal bastion” of New York City.  Indeed, it’s everywhere. Research indicates that people with darker complexions are more likely to be considered untrustworthy or suspicious, and are more likely to be convicted of crime when accused. This bias is often present even among African-Americans themselves. It’s not a simple problem, but it’s a very real, and sometimes deadly problem. And I don’t know what the solution is — although I suspect that an increased awareness would go a long way toward a remedy. Whatever the solution, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve playing ostrich.

Opinion: What It Ain’t

Sibling Rivalry

As mentioned in a prior post, defining exactly what opinion is can be a bit tricky. But recognizing opinion when you see it is rather simpler; and even simpler still is understanding when something is not opinion.

Which brings us to turn the mirror on this blog itself. This is not a blog of opinion, but a blog of fact and analysis.  The blog’s mission statement includes the following sentence:

We offer solid fact without becoming pedantic, and personality without becoming bogged down by opinion.

This has been re-worded several times (at one point it said “without relying on opinion”), largely in an attempt to fend off the gotcha squad — or, as Michael Moore calls them, the wacko attackos. These are individuals who deem it a matter of great importance to attempt to discredit information and ideas that clash with their beliefs, and so they comb through these posts in a quixotic quest for an instance of “hypocrisy” or “contradiction”. (You’ll often spot them when they quote back every little thing you say, followed by a snide retort which they believe to be a refutation.) Evidently they believe that if they can find a single such instance, then they can discard the entire blog with a sigh of relief and a smirk of triumph. And the possibility of finding an opinion in these pages is perhaps what entices them most: find just a single opinion, they seem to believe, and they can safely conclude that the blog is nothing but opinion.

This blog is not about me, and I’m not going to allow anyone to make it about me. I don’t consider it a matter of great urgency to defend myself from attacks — indeed, I consider it of little to no consequence at all. But sometimes the gotcha squadders commit blunders which it can be instructive to examine. And they commit several in their obsession with opinion.

The most obvious mistake they make is to conclude that a statement to the effect that a blog does not focus on opinion can be taken as a claim that it contains no opinion whatsoever. Which of course is patent nonsense, and illustrates how ideologues often zero in on the one interpretation that best suits their purposes.  It’s impossible for anyone’s writing of any length to be utterly opinion-free (at least in my opinion). Of course you’ll find occasional opinions here. Even though this is not a blog of opinion, the door is open to it; it’s just never the guest of honor.

The second point is that what opinions you will find here concern relatively minor matters. I might mention in passing that I consider the Beatles to be far superior to the Rolling Stones, and you would not be wrong to classify that as an opinion (albeit a highly qualified one — I happen to have a rather extensive background in music). But since this is not a blog about music, such an opinion would never be the central concern of a post here; it would only be used to expound upon meatier topics.

But the most significant error the attackos make is to confuse, or deliberately conflate, opinion with subjectivity in general. As we discussed before, opinion is only one type of subjectivity. If I begin telling a story, and start laughing, that’s clearly a subjective response. But is it an opinion? Or have I merely flavored my telling of the story? Someone else might tell it using exactly the same words, but begin crying. The subjectivity of the teller would be very different, but how could our respective renditions be called a difference of opinion if the wording is exactly the same? If I say “this story always cracks me up”, is that an opinion? Nope; it’s just a statement of fact. And if I say, “I think this story is very funny”, that’s also, strictly speaking, a statement of fact; but in practical use it’s so indistinguishable from “this story is very funny” that we might as well call them both opinion.

I especially hear the “that’s just your opinion” refrain from Second Amendment fanatics — not surprising, since they are among the most reactionary of demographic groups. (That’s an observation, not an opinion). Which just might be a good reason why they should not own guns in the first place. (That’s speculative analysis, not opinion.) Although if they did, it’s quite possible that they would take up the slack by committing violence by other means. (That’s speculation, which is also not opinion.)

I certainly speculate frequently here, and you often can spot it by qualifiers like perhaps, possibly, it well may be, etc. But even without such markers, the speculative nature of the comment is clear enough. And it would be a mistake to assume that I intend such statements to represent undisputed fact. It sometimes would be a mistake to assume that I even believe them myself.

One of the most curious, and therefore most frequent, attacks I’ve received from the gun gallery concerns my comments about the killer of Trayvon Martin — specifically, that he was “aggressively stalking” Martin. Aha! they say, this is clearly an opinion. Nope. Granted, the choice of words is subjective — our word choices are always subjective, in my opinion. But still, those words describe solid facts established by the evidence including a recording of his call to police.

You may say that he was armed and Martin was unarmed, and he made some unfortunate disparaging verbal references (calling Martin one of “these assholes” and a “fucking punk”) to a person about whom he knew nothing except his race, and chose to disregard the dispatcher’s instructions to stay in his vehicle and let the police handle it, and gave pursuit on foot to confront someone he erroneously regarded as a crime suspect but who in fact was minding his own business (unlike the killer) even after expressing concern because the youth was supposedly coming toward him, and the ensuing confrontation was a big misunderstanding that spiraled out of control and resulted in the inadvertent death of an innocent person. I say he was aggressively stalking the kid. You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. It’s a difference of diction and attitude, not a difference of opinion. It would be a difference of opinion if you said that Martin got what he deserved, and I said that his killer ought to be locked up.

It’s very common these days to lump all subjectivity under the banner of opinion — essays in the media, for instance, are commonly referred to as op-ed pieces, apparently on the assumption that any type of essay/ editorial must hinge on or be infused with opinion. Opinion often is present to one degree or another, but not necessarily so.

For example, you’ve probably surmised if you’ve been following these posts that I am not a charter member of the Dick Cheney fan club. I make that fact known at every opportunity. But my expression of my distaste for the man is not opinion, nor is it opinion when I recount his many vile misdeeds that prompt this response in me. They are all matters of verifiable record. What would be an opinion would be if I stated that he is unfit to empty Lord Voldemort’s chamber pot with a soda straw. After all, it’s entirely possible that such a task would in fact be ideally suited to his particular gifts.

Speaking of public officials appointed by Supreme Court fiat, it once seemed rather anomalous to speak of court decisions as “opinions”. A judge’s task is presumably to interpret law and the constitution, not to mandate opinion into law (even if opinion inevitably comes into play). While it may be semantic hairsplitting to differentiate between interpretation and opinion, there is a distinct line between ruling based on how one reads the constitution or the law and ruling based on one’s personal ideology. At least there once was.

The current majority of five “conservative” justices, however, have crossed that line repeatedly and blatantly. The watershed moment was Bush vs. Gore, in which among other things they halted the Florida recount because it was their opinion that protecting Bush’s claim to victory was more important than finding out who really won. (No, that’s not an exaggeration.)  This arrogant act has paid off in further dividends for the worshipers of opinion; the “president” they installed was in turn able to appoint two young replacements for members of their gang who were running out of gas, assuring a steady stream of such rulings for at least a generation.  Most recently, these five male Catholics decreed that religious conviction takes precedence over law — at least provided the religious convictions are their own and the law is one backed by a president whom the wingers have determined to despise at all costs.

If you would have a little practice in identifying and distinguishing between observation, analysis and opinion, try reading a few movie reviews (of which I’ve written quite a few in my time). All three are generally present in any given review, and they’re often organized in more or less discrete chunks.

Typically, a review will begin with observation and analysis. How long is the film? Is it in black and white or color? Is it a comedy, drama, thriller, slasher, mystery, satire, sci-fi/ fantasy, or some combination thereof? Who are the actors, writers, directors and designers? Does it appear to be influenced by Hitchcock or Bergman or some other master? Does it contain elements of film noir, nouvelle vague, or cinema verite?  There may be some subjectivity, of course, involved in answering such questions. The answers sometimes may even cross the border into the Domain Of Opinion. But there are usually definite “correct” answers that even critics can supply. (That’s a joke, critics.)

Then the second part of a review tends to focus on opinion. Is the ending effective? How well did the cast perform? Is the pacing good? Is the gore excessive? Should Woody Allen have quit while he was ahead? There are no definite right or wrong answers here. (Well, except maybe for the part about Woody Allen). Such opinions will give the readers a better idea of whether or not they should see the film, based on their opinions of the reviewer’s opinions.  But while reviews almost always contain opinion, and often are largely opinion (or at least highly opinionated), that isn’t always the case. When I wrote reviews, I considered it more important to give prospective ticket buyers an idea what to expect for their buck than to bring the world up to speed on my personal tastes. Accordingly, I kept opinion in the background just as I do with this blog.

The next time your immediate impression is that something in a review, or a blog post, or anywhere else, is opinion, you might want to take a closer look. You may find that you’ve been painting with too broad a brush.

 

The (Poorly) Armed Assault On “Gun Control”: How the Gun Culture Manipulates Statistics (Part 2)

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In the first installment in this series, we discussed what we have termed The Chicago Gambit, named after the city most often used as an example, at least for the time being. The Chicago Gambit entails cherry picking data to make the case that stricter gun laws cause an increase in crime, or at least in homicide. Now we take a look at the flipside of this tactic: the argument that liberalizing gun laws results in general crime and/or homicide decline. The gun culture also has a favorite target for this approach: a large and very influential city that has been very much  in the crosshairs of the legal battle over firearm legislation. Namely, the nation’s capital.

#2 : The D.C. Gambit

In 1976, Washington, D.C. passed The Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, which placed severe restrictions on the private ownership of firearms in the city. It did not, as is often claimed, ban guns altogether, though it did make the possession of handguns illegal. Then in 2008, the “conservative” Supreme Court overturned that law by giving the Second Amendment a major overhaul — decreeing among other things that the prefatory clause explaining the purpose of the amendment is really just garnish, and can be ignored. And what happened after that? Well, let’s turn again to JustFacts.com, which has some really handy facts about “gun control” in an easy-to-read visual format. Here is its graph of the homicide trend in D.C., with the point of the court’s ruling marked by the second red dot.

DC homicide

Unfortunately for JustFacts, this chart duplicates the blunder that so many pro-gun propagandists commit: including too much information for their own good, and thus sabotaging their own argument. Yes, the chart shows a sharp murder decline after the strict gun law was overturned. But it shows that the same sharp decline already had been in progress for several years before the ruling.  It started falling off abruptly after an extremely sharp spike during the city’s particularly severe crack epidemic; and neither the spike nor the drop appears to be related to any change in gun laws. Claiming it does is rather like having a boat pull you through the water on a rope for 95 yards, then letting go and coasting for 5 more yards, then asserting you just swam 100 yards. Furthermore, homicide has been falling nationwide in recent years, so D.C. was not bucking a trend.

JustFacts also, like many pro-gun propagandists, omits certain facts that are not supportive of its cause. For example, there is the fact that the city of Washington has undertaken enhanced crime-fighting measures to which officials attribute the drop in homicides.  Or that improved trauma care has helped reduce murder rates across the nation even though far more people are getting shot. Or that the D.C. homicide rate is very much  on the rise again this year. That’s a very short term trend at this point; but the gun culture loves to cite short term trends or isolated quirks as “proof”.

Furthermore, it’s cherry picking to limit the discussion to homicide alone. Because one of the main mantras of the gun culture is “more guns, less crime”. All crime. This is founded on the belief that when citizens are armed, they make a big difference in reducing the crime rate. In other words, there are many instances of defensive gun use (DGU). And here’s where the gunsters really shoot themselves into a corner.

We’ve examined the problem of accurately estimating incidences of defensive gun use several times already in these pages. See previous posts: Make My Day; Mention Gun Defense Statistics; Estimating Defensive Gun Uses Reasonably; More On Defensive Gun UseBut to save you a little time at the moment, here are the Cliff’s Notes.

Gunsters frequently make very extravagant claims about the number of times per year an armed citizen uses a firearm in self defense. The numbers they cite are derived from various “studies” which are really surveys that determine how often gunsters claim such events occur. These surveys, the most frequently touted of which is the deeply flawed Kleck “study” projecting 2.5 million DGUs annually (this has become the very backbone of the Gunster Gospel), are wildly inconsistent not only with each other but with themselves. More to the point, they’re wildly inconsistent with the real world.

Notice that in the story mentioned in a link above (here it is again), the homicide is of a sort that often gets classified as a DGU, even though its defensive nature is, to say the least, highly questionable. Likewise for the homicide Trayvon Martin’s killer committed. It was presumed self-defense in large part because only he survived to tell his side of the story. But it’s quite clear that he initiated the confrontation; and had he not been armed, it’s unlikely that he would have engaged in the cowboy swagger that caused it to turn violent.

Whatever criteria one uses, actual statistics, though they’re almost certainly incomplete, verify only a few hundred DGUs per year, as confirmed by media reports and/or law enforcement records. Gunsters have two handy dandy responses to account for this Grand Canyon of a discrepancy. First, they insist that the vast majority of DGUs are kept secret, even though in an incident that would genuinely warrant resort to a firearm, it would be irresponsible not to report it. Second, they say that most of the incidents that are reported don’t get covered by the media, because the media are all involved in a vast left-wing conspiracy to suppress anything that promotes the gun culture — never mind that violence, crime and sensationalism are the very lifeblood of the media. (This response tends to corroborate a point I’ve made before: that contemporary gun culture dogma is founded on political fanaticism at least as much as putative “gun rights”.) They have no explanation yet for the fact that gun-friendly websites which tally DGUs collected from many sources including submissions by fans still are unable to come up with a total greater than that reported in the media.

As it happens, I used Washington, D.C., for various reasons, as an illustration of the absurdity of the Kleck figure.  A city with the population of Washington, particularly given its crime history, would be expected to experience about 4725 DGUs annually. Yet in scouring the pro-gun websites that collect such anecdotes of such acts, I was unable to find a single one within the previous 17 years! Whereupon some gunsters cried foul. Of course there were no DGUs in D.C., they proclaimed. The gun “ban” meant that law-abiding citizens were left defenseless.

One response to this response is to point out that even the NRA, which had been collecting such incidents since 1958 (18 years before the gun law was passed) had assembled only 24 DC DGUs since then — and many of those were quite questionable. But perhaps the best response is five little words: “from these cold, dead hands”. Recognize them? They were the rallying cry of the supposedly oppressed gun culture during the Heston era, and many gunsters still live by them. Never, never, never will they allow the government to “take away” their guns, they declare. But apparently, we’re to believe that this applies only to gun owners who don’t live in the nation’s capital, where gunsters so fully trust the government that they totally comply even with laws they consider an infringement on their “liberty”.

My selection of D.C. as an illustrative example had nothing to do with its gun laws and much to do with its suitability as an American Everycity. Conduct the same thought experiment with any other city and you’re likely to get similar results. Furthermore, if we assume that the absence of DGUs in places with strict gun laws can be attributed to those laws, then we’d also have to assume that places with lax gun laws would have to produce much more than their statistical average in order to result in that total of 2.5 million. Which makes the utter absence of DGUs in those locations all the more striking.

Still, let’s play along. Let’s say that during the time the gun law was in effect, law-abiding gunsters followed it to the letter and totally abstained from their passion for 32 years, and that accounts for the almost total absence of verifiable DGUs during that span. (We’ll just pretend those inconvenient years before the law was passed don’t even exist.) But once the Supreme Court issued its fiat, there was no reason for them not to stock up, eh? (Actually there was, but we’ll get to that in a  moment.) So we should have seen a dramatic increase in DGUs during the past few years. But guess what? We haven’t. From what I can determine, the average yearly total is still just as zero as it’s always been.  It appears that one or more of these things is true, at least for Washington: (a) “law-abiding” gun owners often aren’t exactly so law-abiding, but hoard guns in defiance of the law, and/or (b) the frequency of DGUs has been very, very, very, very, very overstated.

As you can see from this table of crime stats for D.C., the prevailing long-term trend, beginning about 1996, is a sharp decline in overall crime. (The table is not always in precise agreement with the final figures provided by city officials, but it’s close enough to give an accurate indication of the trend.)  Overall, crime dropped from a yearly average of about 65,000 to a yearly average of 35,000 to 40,000. In contrast, crime has risen during 2 of the 4 complete years since the Supreme Court’s edict (not including 2013). The average is still in that 35-40 thousand range, but it’s been ticking steadily upward; and that’s a very far cry from dropping by 4725. Note that the population of the city has increased considerably during that time, so the crime rate really hasn’t increased. But it also hasn’t decreased.

Ironically, by focusing on just the drop in homicides, the gunsters overlook what is perhaps the strongest chance they have to make their case: the steep plunge in overall crime in 2009, the year after the Heller ruling. It’s their best chance, but it’s still not a very good one. The crime drop in 2009 followed a steep crime increase in 2008, the year the ruling was handed down from Mount Scalia.

That was near the end of June, which means that the first half of the year had the gun law in effect and the second half didn’t. While I don’t have a monthly breakdown for general crime in D.C. in 2008, the breakdown for homicide is depicted in this chart from the metropolitan police department’s website:

2008 dc homicide

As you can see, there was an increase in killings of more than 100 percent in July, the month following the ruling. Furthermore, the second half of the year produced 113, compared to 73 during the first half.

But wait a minute. Time out. Isn’t it unfair to focus on such a short-term trend? Bingo, my friend. The following month, and even the following 6 months, is too short a period to expect an accurate judgment about the impact of the ruling. So, for that matter, is the following year, and possibly even the following 6 years. Not that immediate results never can be obtained by changing the laws, but they just can’t be expected — particularly when, as here, there is good reason not to.

Contrary to what the gunsters are suggesting, the Heller ruling had no immediate impact at all. The city of Washington had plenty of other measures up its sleeve to help stem the flow of hot lead in the city. Indeed, more than three years later, The Washington Times — which, as part of the late Rev. Moon’s right-wing media empire, has an interest in protecting the profits of the gun lobby — ran an article bemoaning the fact that purchasing a firearm in the city was still enormously difficult, and residents were doing so at the rate of “only” about 250 per year. Given that, it’s naive and ill-informed to expect that increased gun availability was responsible for reducing crime in 2009, only a few months after the ruling — or for generating the concurrent decline in homicide.

In short, it is impossible to determine from simple crime statistics alone that either the 1976 gun law or its repeal has had an effect, either positive or negative, on the D.C. crime rate or on homicide specifically. For that kind of conclusion we must turn elsewhere.

For example, a 1991 study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared incidences of gun violence 10 years before and 10 years after the 1976 law went into effect, and concluded that the latter years represented a significant decrease in gun homicides and suicides in Washington, even though deaths by other means did not decline, and gun deaths did not decline in the surrounding municipalities. This doesn’t prove that the gun law was effective, but it offers evidence much more solid than the purported evidence that its repeal has been effective.

I probably don’t have to tell you that gunsters have come out against this study with six-guns ablaze. Their main contention is that the  period studied “conveniently” ends just before the city’s tsunami of homicide (which, as we’ve observed, was almost certainly occasioned in large part by the crack plague) even though the authors of the study address that very objection in the study itself. The gunsters’ determination to find fault with this study is hilarious, given that they’re so often eager to swallow the Kleck malarkey wholesale. And that they so often stand on the thinnest slices of cherry-picked statistics.

(More to come on this topic.)

9 Ridiculously Predictable Responses to the Trayvon Travesty

Trayvon-Martin-2

1. The victim was put on trial.

Supposedly, it was the shooter who was tried for a crime. But the jurors were not allowed to hear the testimony of voice experts who say that he was not the one screaming for help in the  911 call.  They also were not allowed to hear about the accused’s arrest record, his alleged history of domestic violence, and other facts from his past that might paint him as a trigger-happy hothead unfit to watch anyone’s neighborhood.

They weren’t allowed to hear about Martin’s past, either (except for his pot smoking, which evidently was considered a vital ingredient); but there was no need. Propagandists already had done a thorough job of saturating the American psyche with an unflattering portrait of the youngster who was not around to defend himself, and suggesting that because he might not have been a model teen, he deserved whatever he got.

This included lies about his height and weight and photos falsely purported to be of him — circulated by individuals raging about the dishonesty of the “liberal” media for printing actual photos of Martin that were not up to date.  Heck, the brat even had — brace yourself — GOLD TEETH. Die, monster, die!

2. The verdict.

You seriously weren’t surprised, were you? Trayvon Martin had the NAACP behind him. His killer had the NRA. Get real. Nonetheless, one juror has stated that the accused “got away with murder”.

3. The media predicted riots.

Again.  And they failed to materialize. Again. Although some folks did their best to stir up trouble.

4. People made irrelevant comparisons.

It’s like clockwork. “Well hey, blacks kill each other in Chicago every day, so why make a big deal out of this killing?” The reactionaries don’t stop to consider that if indeed it “happens every day”, that makes it by definition less newsworthy. And why imply that we have to choose whether to care about a single murder victim, mass urban violence, or war overseas? Even the smallest of minds is capable of caring about more than one thing at once.

And of course they also trot out the instances in which a black person kills a white person, and ask where’s the outrage over those.

My old friends over at my favorite gun propaganda website, called (natch) The Truth About Guns, jumped on this bandwagon with a story titled “Black Man Shoots White Teen, Jury Says Self-Defense. And Nobody Cares”.  I assume the writer drew the conclusion that “nobody cares” because there hasn’t been the same level of media coverage or public outcry over the case referred to. He forgets to mention that the story is four years old. But more to the point, he incorrectly characterizes this incident as an “inverse image” of the Martin killing.

Not by a long shot. The black gunman, Roderick Scott, confronted not just one teenager but three. And he wasn’t stalking them or playing Batman; he discovered them actually committing a crime — i.e., burglarizing cars. Furthermore, he warned them that he was armed and ordered them to stay put until police arrive. Whereupon one of them charged him and he opened fire.  The one constant is that it appears both gunmen may have acted rashly, lending substance to the belief that possession of a firearm tends to induce an individual to use it unnecessarily; but the circumstances under which Roderick Scott took a life were quite different from those under which Trayvon Martin was gunned down.

Yet the writer of the piece on TTAG  lumps the incidents together and jointly moralizes thus:

Run with a bad crowd, bad things can happen. Act a certain way, dress a certain way, mouth off to the wrong person, and bad things can and do happen.

The problem with this grouping is that one might infer that by dressing and acting “a certain way”, and perhaps “mouthing off to the wrong person” Trayvon Martin was surely guilty of something that warranted his death. And that the boy Roderick Scott shot, who was actually committing a crime, was killed only because he was acting and dressing ” a certain way” or perhaps just “running with a bad crowd.” It’s creepy to realize that so many people who think this way are carrying loaded weapons.

Look closely at the supposedly parallel cases people throw at you, and you’re likely to find substantial distinctions like these. But in case you’re losing sleep over it, it’s probably true that there is more media coverage of whites killing blacks than the reverse. I’ve outlined some of the reasons for this in two previous posts on the topic. (Here and here.)

5. The gun culture waved its bloody flag.

The NRA attacked the media for covering the story, and attacked Attorney General Eric Holder for suggesting that states should review Stand Your Ground Laws — which supposedly means Holder is “pushing Obama’s (shudder) gun control agenda”.  The NRA’s solution for preventing more tragedy of this type is, of course, to pass even more Stand Your Ground laws. Stand Your Ground, which influenced at least one juror’s decision, is a type of law that makes it easier to gun someone down and claim it was self-defense. Except for when it backfires. In fact, Trayvon Martin was the one who stood his ground in Florida, and by reports he was doing well at it without the benefit of any metal implements. But then George someone invaded his ground and killed him.

6. All the usual suspects mouthed off.

Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh. Sean Hannity. Ted Nugent.  (The latter has such a long and fruitful tradition of bigoted, inflammatory, utterly delusional rhetoric that it was inevitable he would end up on the NRA board of directors.) They and their kindred were, as always, locked in mortal combat to see who could make the biggest ass of himself. Or herself — Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin are invariably in on the action as well, determined to demonstrate that they can be Stupid White Men along with the worst of them.

7. White males felt threatened.

Many of them seemed to fear that since it was a black youth killed, it might appear that all white men are killers of black children. Never mind that the killer was only half-white; it pays to be preemptively reactionary. There was even a meme in circulation to the effect that “only in Obama’s America could a brown man kill a black kid, and the white man get the blame.” Notice the linking of the whole thing to a racially mixed president? A nice, classy touch.

Folks. The racial tension Americans have inherited is directly descended from a very long and very brutal history of racial oppression by — drum roll, please — white men. So yeah, it kind of is the white man’s fault. Sorry to be the one to break the news.

8. “Conservatives” attacked “liberals”.

It is an unwritten but immutable law that any time a tragedy occurs, right-wing fanatics must exploit it for political purposes, and use it as an excuse to trash “liberals”. Always. Every time. With no exceptions. Ever. While accusing “liberals” of doing what they themselves are doing.

Accordingly, in one of those twists of Bizarro Planet logic that make the wingers so endlessly entertaining, they proclaimed that them librulz, by drawing attention to racial inequality are actually creating it — that by discussing the ethnic aspects of the Martin case, they are guilty of “race-baiting”. Because we all know that the only way to deal with a problem is to insert your head deep into your ass and pretend it doesn’t exist.

They even attacked President Obama on the same grounds.  (They’re under the illusion that he’s one of them librulz himself, but that’s another story.) One meme making the rounds said “If Trayvon Martin had been killed in Afghanistan, Obama wouldn’t even know his name.”

WTF???  Can you think of any president — or the leader of any nation — in the entire history of the world who was able to rattle off the name of every soldier who’d died in the line of duty? This has nothing to do with anything — except that Barack Obama is expected to perform 200 times as brilliantly as any mere mortal in order to avoid being classified as an evil failure.

9. Most people got it wrong.

Okay, so many of them librulz did make themselves easy targets. Not by “race-baiting”, but by focusing on the wrong question — just like practically everyone else.  It isn’t a matter of racism, but of racial bias/ racial inequality. It’s unlikely that Martin’s killer harbors any blatant hatred of African-Americans. What’s far more probable is that Martin’s ethnicity was a factor (even if an unconscious one) in his being targeted for harassment that led to his death.

I once attended a talk by former NBA superstar Bill Russell, who said something I’ll never forget: “I don’t care what color you are, if you say you’re not prejudiced, you’re lying.” He said prejudiced rather than racist, but they’re two markers on the same scale. And it was quite a punch in the gut to my teenage self who’d smugly assumed that I’d purged every remnant of my Southern WASP heritage.

I don’t know if Mr. Russell was entirely correct, but he was definitely on the right track.  As I’ve subsequently learned, most people do make snap judgments based on superficial characteristics, including skin color. Among other things, this means that people tend to consider darker skinned persons less trustworthy — and this attitude even prevails among darker skinned persons themselves! It’s a complicated problem with no pat solution. Sometimes its manifestation is very subtle and unconscious; sometimes it’s overt and ugly. But it’s always present.

Do them librulz sometimes go overboard in their consideration of race as a potential motive? Sure. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong to consider it all. Trayvon Martin is dead because someone regarded him as a “suspicious character”. And his killer is a free man because the jurors, despite their misgivings, felt compelled to accept his claim of self-defense — even though he instigated the altercation, aggressively stalking the youth even after being told by police to knock off the Rambo routine. If you’re really convinced that race couldn’t possibly have been a factor in all of this, you’re living in cloud cuckoo land.

 

Trayvon Martin; and the “Double Standard” Standard (Part 2)

My wife likes to joke that her special superpower is an extraordinary ability to state the obvious. That’s actually a very handy skill to have, since so many people have an extraordinary capacity for ignoring the obvious. This has become quite clear in the public discourse about the death of Trayvon Martin. The degree of outrage it’s provoked, and the subsequent amount of media attention, have been attributed to such things as media bias and nefarious “liberal” subversiveness. The real explanation is much  more conspicuous: the burden of history.

A Brief History Refresher, for Those Who Really Need It

There was a time when African-Americans could be shot, lynched, set on fire or beaten for any reason or no reason. This was not called hate crime. It was called wholesome entertainment.  And forget about anything resembling a fair trial if they were the victim of, or the suspect in, a crime.  All in the distant past, you say? Not nearly so distant as we’d like to believe.

Many Americans are alive today who can remember when a 14-year-old black boy named Emmett Till (pictured on right) was tortured and killed because he allegedly committed the grave offense of flirting with/ speaking to a white woman. (One report was that he simply whistled at her; but he frequently whistled, at no one in particular, to curb his stuttering habit.) His murderers were acquitted, then freely admitted the killing. And some can remember when African-Americans were gunned down for the crime of trying to vote, and the police would declare it to be a traffic accident. (This was before the development of more sophisticated means of eliminating the “wrong” voters.)

More recently (1964), five civil rights workers (three black, two white) were brutally murdered in two incidents in Mississippi –with the assistance of local law enforcement personnel! The two whites who had the audacity to support racial equality were just lynched; the blacks were savagely beaten before being dispatched. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Is it really so surprising that the police pummeling of Rodney King or the shooting of Trayvon Martin should spark such an uproar?

The other side of the coin is that blacks are far more likely than whites to be accused of, convicted of, and even executed for crimes than whites – particularly when their alleged victims are white. Furthermore, there is a much greater tendency to extrapolate generalities from an incident involving an ethnic minority. When a Caucasian goes on a shooting spree and kills a dozen people, you never hear anyone say, “Well, that’s just like a whitey”. But if a black person commits an assault of just one person, you’re likely to hear a number of people say, “that’s just like a (fill in epithet of your choice)”.

So given all of this, would it really be surprising if indeed some journalists were reluctant to play up offenses or alleged offenses committed by blacks against whites? If there really is a discrepancy in how those offenses are reported versus how extensively offenses are reported by whites against blacks (and I don’t know that there is), it could well be inadvertent, and if anything is surely a correction of an anti-black bias rather than an indication of “anti-white” bias.

We have to wonder what would have happened had the shooter been black instead of white. Well, maybe we don’t have to wonder; we already have the example of John McNeil. He fatally shot a man in Georgia, which has a “Stand Your Ground Law” similar to Florida’s. But McNeil is currently serving a life sentence. Did we mention that he’s black? Double standards, anyone?

Okay, okay. We’ve already made the observation that apparent instances of double standards usually entail some striking differences. So let’s look at the differences here. McNeil did not shoot the man on the streets. It happened on McNeil’s own property. He didn’t start the altercation the way Trayvon Martin’s killer did,  and he wasn’t following the man; the man was aggressively pursuing him – and indeed had been prone to threatening behavior toward other people, even to the point of stalking.  He was not unarmed like Trayvon Martin, but was carrying a knife. And unlike Martin, there’s no doubt that he was posing a threat – he even pointed a knife at McNeil’s son. But John McNeil is serving a life sentence. Did we mention the guy he killed was white?

Turning the Tables

But now let’s move from the obvious to questions that are perhaps not so obvious: Why the reaction to the reaction? Why the state of denial that racism still exists? Why the claims of “double standards” and “media bias”?  Why the intensive campaign to vindicate the killer and vilify the victim?

It’s surely no coincidence that most – well okay, approximately exactly all of this reactionism is being perpetrated by radical “conservatives”.  Some right-wing websites have even circulated an unflattering photo  falsely identified as Martin. Are these folks just being racist? Not necessarily, though it wouldn’t be wise to rule it out. Although “conservatives” often vehemently, even indignantly deny it, racism is an implicit building block of modern faux-conservatism. But please, don’t take my word for that. I’ll gladly defer to the ultimate authority on the topic: the most revered Founding Father  of the movement, the late great William F. “Billy Bob” Buckley.

Still, there are other factors besides racism that might explain why right-wingers like to pretend that everything is peachy-keen as far as race relations go.  For example, they generally oppose policies designed to remedy racial inequality – e.g. affirmative action. Of course, they will maintain that their reason for doing so is that such programs are ineffective; and sometimes they might even have a valid point. But I really suspect that this is not so much a motivation as is a fundamental resistance to addressing social problems in any form. Accordingly, such individuals are often in obstinate denial that racism exists – except among blacks!

The G Factor

But most significant of all, perhaps, is the fact that Trayvon Martin was killed with a g-u-n. And neo-“conservatism” is quite cozy with the gun culture, which tends to regard gunpowder as the ultimate panacea. After every school shooting du jour, they will pipe up in thunderous chorus to insist that guns were not in the least to blame, and those 27 people just as easily could have been killed by a pencil, and this kind of thing would never happen if only we had more guns in our schools. No, that’s not an exaggeration. People really say things like that.

So maybe, just maybe, they are attacking a dead kid and glorifying his killer because they want to defend the illusion that nobody ever gets killed with a gun except bad guys and the victims of bad guys – which ignores the nagging fact that one of the fastest ways to create a bad guy is to take a good guy and give him a gun. Maybe, just maybe, their real intent is to prevent people from reaching the “wrong” conclusion: namely, that a firearm is a lethal toy that never should end up in the hands of … well, a “fucking punk”.

Trayvon Martin, and the “Double Standard” Standard (Part 1)

Not long after the news broke about the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, many people began circulating reports about another attack on a teen, a 13-year-old boy who was set on fire in Kansas City. What’s the connection? Well, none, really. But while Martin was black, the victim in Missouri was white and his attackers black. So, many people want to know, why hasn’t there been more coverage of the latter? Why the double standard? And surely this must reveal, somehow or other, something unsavory about “liberals” – we must never, ever waste an opportunity to politicize a tragedy.

Well, on one point these folk may be right: perhaps there should have been more coverage of the Kansas City attack. That is, if indeed there should be media coverage of such violent assaults at all, which is debatable. But contrary to what many people claim, there has by no means been a “blackout” in the media on the event – it was even covered by the New York Daily News, the nation’s fourth largest newspaper. And the fact that it also appeared in The Huffington Post. doesn’t lend a lot of credibility to theories about a left-wing conspiracy to suppress the story.

But let’s look more closely at the points of contention, shall we? They illustrate how readily people are often willing to discard facts, even glaringly obvious facts, when they don’t fit an ideological narrative.

Rush to Judgment

Was the Trayvon Martin killing triggered in part by racial factors? Some have concluded it probably was. But many are saying no way.  After all, Rush Limbaugh says it’s all baloney, and he wouldn’t say something that wasn’t true, would he?

The facts about the episode are murky, as there were only two witness who saw and heard everything, and one of them has been permanently indisposed. But what we do know is that the shooter was the captain of a “neighborhood watch” team. Now I’m sure that neighborhood watch teams do some nifty things, but in my experience – and I do have some – they can also be a magnet for individuals who are as capable of causing mischief as preventing it. Introduce firearms into that mix and you have a tragedy waiting to happen.

The shooter apparently referred to Martin as a “fucking punk”  and also commented  that “these assholes always get away”. He was talking about someone he knew nothing about except that he was black and wore a hoodie. Does this sound like a person who is mature and level-headed enough to be entrusted with keeping an eye on a neighborhood – particularly while armed?

For some reason, he found Martin “suspicious” for being in an exclusive neighborhood – where he was visiting relatives. He called 911 and was instructed not to follow the youth.  He did anyway, very aggressively, and Martin ran away from him. At some point they exchanged words, perhaps even blows, and the gunman apparently substituted his gun for his brain – hardly the first time anyone has ever done that.

The killer claims that he was acting in self-defense, that Martin jumped on him and was beating him to a pulp and even threatened to kill him. In which case he surely should show some signs of physical trauma.  The 911 recording does reveal someone screaming for help, but it sounds like Martin rather than his killer. And if, at such close range, he was incapable of shooting the kid in the leg, what business does he have even being armed in the first place?

While all of this suggests that the shooter was a hothead looking for a fight (not to mention a liar), none of it proves that his is a racist. But that isn’t the question. The question is whether race was a factor in his classifying Martin as a “suspicious” character. And the answer, in all probability, is the affirmative.

The unsettling truth is that Americans in general have an overwhelming pro-white bias, and a tendency to regard persons of color with greater suspicion. Whenever I visit the Deep South, which is quite often, I almost invariably hear a comment along the lines of “them Niggers just can’t can’t be trusted”. And that attitude ain’t just a Red State thing, bro.

In his groundbreaking book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses this bias, and talks about the Implicit Association Test, a psychological assessment you can take online, that may reveal more about your own biases than you care to know or admit. Millions of people have already taken it, and the results show that more than 80 percent associate being black with less desirable traits. Interestingly, even 48 percent of blacks who have taken the test also show this result!

But the real kicker is that Gladwell himself has taken the test several times, and he also has demonstrated color bias. Which is fascinating not only because he is a well-educated and highly intelligent Northern urbanite, but also because he is half Jamaican!  He notes that, having a somewhat swarthy complexion, he himself is sometimes regarded as a suspicious character – if he is wearing his hair in his usual Afro style, but not so much so when it’s shorter.

Bottom line: if you’re really convinced that his race can’t possibly be a reason that Trayvon Martin is dead, it is my solemn duty to caution you that you are in dire danger of suffocation from having your head inserted so deeply into your rectum.

Double Double

As for the matter of a “double standard”, we first should observe that quite often when people make such a complaint, they are comparing apples and potatoes. And that, to a large degree, is the case here. The victim in Kansas City, though wounded, is alive, and as yet nobody even knows who the attackers were, much less what their  motive was (it’s presumed to be a racially-motivated hate crime, but that’s only presumption). Trayvon Martin is dead, and we do know who his killer is; yet he has not even been arrested.

So is there a double standard? So it appears – but in a very different way from what some people assert.  The killer of Trayvon Martin, who has an arrest record and has been accused of domestic violence, is being hailed as a hero for killing an unarmed kid.  Trayvon Martin, who had no arrest record, is being portrayed as a villain – again, by people who know little about him except that he’s black and dead. And just which of these conditions is supposed to justify such venom? They’ve even combed through hundreds of his Tweets looking for something to incriminate him with. Seriously. So what if the lad wasn’t an angel? Do you really believe his killer is? The real question is whether on this particular occasion he was doing anything that would warrant paying the ultimate price.

But when people complain of “double standards”, of course, they’re always talking about other people’s rather than their own. In this instance, they’re miffed that the media are paying more attention to the Florida incident than the Missouri incident. But it really isn’t that hard to see why: the Martin killing has garnered more public outrage, and even celebrity protest. Which makes it pretty hard for the media to ignore.

But why has there been such a strong public reaction? If you really gotta ask, we’ll cover that in another post.