WHAT ARE WORDS FOR, IF NO ONE’S HONEST ANYMORE?
I’ve been meaning for some time to post some thoughts on political lying. There’s been a bit of a problem, though. Every time I started an essay, a new and outrageous instance of lying came along, making the dishonesty I had intended to write about seem like old news.
But even worse was the reaction I kept noticing. No one seems to care what the truth is anymore. And this extends beyond politics.
Let’s start with a personal anecdote. I went to a local restaurant, (Baker’s Square, 611 W. 98th St. in Bloomington MN). I ordered a patty melt, medium rare, which the menu said they were willing to cook for me. It came medium well. I sent it back and asked for a medium rare, and the second one was also medium well. I insisted on medium rare, and the waiter yelled at me and told me to leave.
So I complained about this on Baker’s Square’s web site. The result was a form letter, my comments had been forwarded to the appropriate people, etc. Translated into honest: ‘We lied about cooking your food the way you want it, and we don’t care if our waiter insulted you.’ (And that assumes anyone read the complaint at all; quite likely they didn’t.) But they will solemnly assure you that your satisfaction is their goal.
Another personal anecdote. On Twitter the other day, a friend posted a link to a claim that this June was the warmest June ever recorded. I said I wouldn’t pay attention till the ‘warmists’ released the uncorrected raw data the keep secret. His rejoinder was that it doesn’t matter if I pay attention or not. So I asked why he posted the tweet, if he doesn’t care if people pay attention. No answer to that one.
While on the subject of Twitter, consider the permanent banning of Milo Yiannopolous. Twitter claims his posts violated their rules, but won’t say what rules violated which posts.
It’s said by Buzzfeed, which claim to have sources at Twitter, that Milo urged his followers to attack actress Leslie Jones. But no such posts have surfaced.
The recent #BlackLivesMatter controversy is an excellent example. On a board I frequent, an acquaintance posted about the ‘fact’ that the murder rate in Baltimore was going up. This was obviously due to the prosecution of police officers for Gray’s death, which supposedly led to the cops backing off from proper policing.
There were two little problems with this narrative. The first is that no evidence was offered of any change in policing in Baltimore. It was just assumed. The second problem was that the figures he posted for murders in Baltimore in 2015 and ’16 showed the murder rate was down from last year. When I and another couple of people pointed out that the murder rate was down, there was an angry reaction. The lower murder rate didn’t count, because the figures might be inaccurate, there was no context for evaluating it, you need to look at murder rates over a period of years to get an idea of the expected variation, yada yada yada. None of those arguments were made with the original poster, though, when he told the group something they wanted to believe.
And then in another thread on that board, the issue of police shootings of blacks came up. Someone tried to ‘prove’ that the number of black Americans killed by the police is not a cause for concern by posting figures he said showed the number and race of those killed by the police, and the number of police supposedly killed in the line of duty so far in 2016.
He said 130 police officers had been murdered so far this year (note well: these figures were posted before either the Baton Rouge or Dallas murders), while slightly less than 130 black people had been killed by police, and around 410 non-blacks had been killed too. Blacks, or Americans in general, were killing the police faster than police were killing blacks.
Only the numbers offered were wildly wrong. 540 killed by police, about 130 black seems about right for when he posted it. But the number of U.S. “police officers” who “died in the line of duty” this year is 68, as of 2016 July 19th, according to “Officer Down Memorial Page”, https://www.odmp.org/search/year. The figure of 130 was their total for all of 2015.
Also, “died in the line of duty” does not mean “murdered.” Twenty six had died of accidents and illnesses. The number deliberately killed by gunfire, “vehicular assault”, and just plain “assault” is 42 and was around 33 when the figures were first posted. Of the 130 “police” who died “in the line of duty” in 2015, 56 were deliberate killings.
Btw, the definition of “police officer” used by the site is expansive. It includes “correctional officers”, park rangers, “Court Officers”, game wardens, “Deportation Officers” of the Immigration service, “Special Investigators” in the armed forces, and the people who work for the American Humane Society investigating cruelty to animals.
Meanwhile, the police (not including “correctional officers” and such) had apparently killed around 990-1210 people in 2015 (the statistics are imprecise, to say the least). Blacks made up about a fourth to a third of those killed, as far as I can tell. According to a claim I spied, blacks make up about 40% of cop murderers, though I haven’t been able to check that. But it’s what I could find, so let's use it.
So, in an average week in 2015, two cops died in the line of duty. One was murdered, the other was ill or killed in an accident. Meanwhile, the police killed 18-19 people, almost all deliberately. Figuring an average of five to six black deaths by cops, and .4 police deaths by blacks, the police last year were killing blacks at 13x-15x times the rate the blacks killed them, and 18x-19x the rate the public at large killed them.
Across the Atlantic in Britain, the police killed three people in 2015. Now, Britain is only a fifth the size of the U.S. And furthermore, its murder rate last year was a fifth that of the U.S. So, let’s multiply those three police killings by twenty five. We ‘should’ have had 75 killed by police in 2015. Instead, it was 986, or 1147, or 1208, depending on source employed. So U.S. police are killing U.S. citizens at a rate of 13x-16x the rate British cops kill British subjects. Our cops seem awfully trigger happy.
Two replies get made to that. One is that American blacks kill each other at a far higher rate than the police kill them. This is somewhat true, though the figures tend to be exaggerated. For instance, writer and former minister Peter Grant posted the other day that “The criminal murders of blacks vastly outnumber those committed by police, by a factor of at least a hundred to one and probably far higher than that”. It’s actually far lower than that, maybe 25x the number of blacks killed by police. And there are far fewer cops in the U.S. than black Americans, around 765,000 to 43,000,000. So on a per capita basis, the cops kill 2.3 times as many black citizens as other blacks. Oops!
We could play statistical games here and try to define the percentage of the black population who are criminals. Let’s not. Our cops would still seem trigger happy.
The other reply is that the killings are justified, as shown by the police investigations of other police. Really?
Fifty years ago, Bill Jordan of the U.S. Border Patrol wrote a book on gunfighting, titled No Second Place Winner. In the introduction, he told an amusing tale of a Law Enforcement Officer and a ‘questionable’ shooting. The officer, a fellow Border Patrolman iirc, had shot a man on footbridge, claiming that the other guy had drawn on him. Alas, he said, the dead man’s gun had fallen into the water. Would it be found when the river was dragged for it? If yes, the shooting was justified. If not,the officer was in trouble.
Jordan relates how he went down to the bridge to take a look, and it seemed quite likely nothing would be found.
Not to worry. The operation turned up around a dozen revolvers in that very spot. You couldn’t get more justified!
Oh, I forgot to mention, when Jordan was looking at the scene, a cheap revolver he ‘happened’ to own just and just ‘happened’ to be carrying just ‘happened’ to ‘accidentally’ fall out of his pocket, and land in the river.
And why did Jordan own this cheap revolver, or carry it? Well, lots of police officers had them. “Throwaways”, they were called. If you encountered someone in dimly lit conditions, and he did something that made you think he was going to shoot you, you did your best to shoot first. And if, when you checked the body, it turned out he was unarmed? Plant the throwaway. It prevents embarrassing questions.
Jordan apparently felt no reluctance at all to say that he and his fellow officers would lie and plant phony evidence. He treated the practice as half joke, half ‘Well, anyone would do that.
A half century ago, people could laugh at such things. I did, when I read the book in the 1970s. But I don't think you can afford to laugh any longer, if you want the U.S. to survive.