Monday, May 23, 2016

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Activist Lies

There's a problem with a number of sources of "journalism" today, and it isn't the usual suspects in the right wing politicized echochamber that seems to desire nothing but the election of their team.

What thankfully limits a lot of extreme rhetoric is that it is shamelessly political. There are indeed people that think men screaming on talk radio or television qualifies as news, but that society seems to more or less work is some evidence that this is not a majority viewpoint.

Often more frustrating is how popular "legitimate" news sources, "concerned" community organizations, "social justice" activists and issues-based activist organizations that have used "the facts" and "data" to create ideas that are plainly lies.

Here are only a few of them:

The Lie: "Toddlers kill more Americans than Islamists."

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: This was "true" for a 5 month span of 2016. Turns out America has existed outside 2016, and the claim is a ridiculous lie. Yet it turns out the Mic article was plagiarism of a dumb idea, as Benjamin Powers announced weeks before the San Bernardino attacks that toddlers had somehow killed more in 2015. 

Who's spreading it: Linda Sarsour, Zak Cheney-Rice, Reza Aslan and the Edmonton Public Library, Benjamin Powers. Meanwhile, Saladin Ahmed thinks there are more astronauts than American victims of terrorism.

The Lie: "94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims."

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: 
  • The data is compiled using a FBI table that uses a very dictionary definition of terrorism, that cites bloodless attacks from "Earth Liberation Front" and "Animal Liberation Front" about 40 times, yet cites 9/11 as a single line item. Pretending that the crimes in the table are similar is to play a semantic game that is insulting, cynical and dismissive.
  • Even if the data had meaning, was accurate, and counting by event instead of fatality was somehow useful - it's still absurd that a subset of 1% of the American population would be responsible for 4% of the count.

Who's spreading it: Dean Obeidallah, Sally Kohn and a number of other idiots talking about "FBI statistics on terrorism".

The Lie: "Right-wing extremists have killed more Americans since 9/11 than Islamists have."

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: 
  • It's misleading to exclude 9/11, USS Cole, 1993 WTC bombing, and other events arbitrarily as there's no indication that Islamism is somehow "over". 
  • It combines a heterogeneous set of extremists and motivations (tax protesters, "pro-life" terrorists, racist groups, non-Islamist anti-semitic attacks) gives them a single label and compares them against a more ideologically uniform group of jihadis.
  • It isn't actually true. If one looks at murders of Americans only on American soil, "right-wing extremists" win by a marginal amount - about 3 murders out of about 50 total for each group. Once one includes American citizens travelling abroad (for example, visiting a club in Bali), the situation changes drastically, with Islamists killing at least twice as many Americans as everyone else combined. 
    • There have been higher estimates than 50 domestic deaths due to right-wing extremists, cited in studies by outlets like ThinkProgress. But these higher estimates (sometimes running into the hundreds) do not actually happen to list what has qualified as a domestic terrorist. (Perhaps armed toddlers?)
Who's spreading it: Most notably, The New York Times.

The Lie: "1 in 5 women on campus are raped"

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: This manipulation is constructed by first doing a study of women, asking if they have experienced "forced kissing" or "unwanted touching" of a sexual nature. Then, when around 20% say yes, the study authors categorize these experiences as "sexual assault" even though the surveys typically ask no such question explicitly. Finally, the waters are muddied further by treating "sexual assault" and "rape" interchangeably. It's like a game of telephone, but played deliberately to generate a "feminist" call to action.

Who's spreading it: Salon, The Guardian, and almost all "feminist" blogs - people like Jessica Valenti be found mixing definitions to suit their ideology.

The Lie: "Only 2% of rape allegations are false."

Where it comes from and why it's a lie: The statistic is typically created by asking different law enforcement organizations (like the FBI or CPS) how many prosecutions were based on malicious falsehoods which are crimes in themselves. The numbers floating around are then anywhere from 1% to 8%, depending on the source of the data and which part of the criminal justice process is being examined. Whatever the statistic cited, the reality is that the veracity of rape allegations cannot be perfectly examined in the justice system (i.e. a failed prosecution is not going to be counted as as a false allegation unless absolutely proven so) and the vast majority of infamous cases in recent memory are not actually documented in the criminal justice system - instead, they are subject to the law of Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.

Who's spreading it: Whoever still thinks Rolling Stone was correct about anything at all.

Where are the corrections?

Lies on the internet are not a new thing and not something to lose one's mind about. However what is very disappointing about this particular collection of "facts" is that this phenomenon is not limited to forwarded emails from a grandparent that has been debunked on Snopes or long understood to be an urban legend. These lies are intentionally written and published by people that seem to want to be taken seriously. Crafted by minds that have been formed by decades of expensive schooling. These kids on the edge of seventeen are a generation's investment.

Some of these champions of reason even accepted debt to ultimately not have a primary school grasp of percentages, comparisons and basic kindness. Clearly what these "journalists" fail to understand is that while it would be understandable to spread misinformation as a funny meme on an anonymous message board - after all, no one expects a pseudonym to be charitable - it is something entirely different to sign off on an "insight" in one's own name.

While these hacks believe themselves to be snarky witnesses of important social change, they spawn entirely new problems from their ignorance and failure to recognize truth from petty political soundbites. It is a nihilistic journalism where numbers really do not matter and retractions do not exist - all that matters is a climax, an orgasmic drop of "truth bomb" at a faceless opponent that is not "woke" enough. One need not play this game wherein players only love one while they are playing.

You can go your own way, go your own way.

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