Let's recall what he thought at first: Eric Levitz is offering good sound advice about mass shootings in schools.
We shouldn't exaggerate their frequency, he says in this New York magazine post. We'd call that good sound advice.
Levitz points to the bad effects which may result from a moral panic about the frequency of such events. Indeed, consider where things currently stand:
Very few people are sufficently disturbed to want to commit a mass shooting at all, let alone at a school. If our detection systems would stop failing so often, we'd be able to stop a good number of such disturbed people before they commit such an act.
But because we feel we can't get a handle on this kind of problem, we're now talking about "hardening" all our schools and arming the teachers inside them. We're talking about massive changes in our longstanding public school culture because we can't find a better way to stop these fairly rare events before they actually happen.
This doesn't exactly make sense. But bad decisions often result from ill-considered moral panics.
Levitz is offering good sound advice (and information) concerning the frequency of these events. Still, as we read his piece, we thought about what he said he believed at the start.
The last time around, Levitz cited the bad information which started to flow in the wake of the Parkland shootings. Especially on MSNBC, we were told, again and again, that this was the eighteenth school shooting this year alone—in just the first six weeks of the year!
To its credit, the Washington Post ran an analysis piece to show how bogus that statistic was. Levitz said this about that:
LEVITZ (2/22/18): In the wake of the Parkland shooting, progressive activists and commentators (including this one) repeatedly claimed that there had been 18 school shootings since the start of this year. When the Washington Post looked into that statistic—and found that it included a suicide in the parking lot of a long-closed elementary school, and that there had only been five incidents that resemble the popular understanding of a “school shooting”—some progressives mocked the paper for its callous pedantry.According to Levitz, progressive activists had been saying that there had been eighteen school shootings this year. As it turned out, the actual number was, at the most, five.
This sort of response struck me as defensible—until the victims at CNN’s town hall began using the supposed ubiquity of school shootings as a justification for policies other than gun control.
For the record, there had been no previous mass school shooting this year. A very large misconception was being bruited about.
People had been saying eighteen; the actual number was (at most) five. But when the Washington Post corrected the record, "some progressives mocked the paper for its callous pedantry"—and Levitz thought this reaction was defensible, until he realized that such exaggerations could produce a moral panic with undesirable policy outcomes!
How about this? How about agreeing that we won't repeat bogus, false or grossly misleading statistics at all? Also, that we won't name-call newspapers which correct bogus claims?
How about agreeing that progressives should just go ahead and tell the truth? Should avoid misleading the public?
Granted, that would kill a whole lot of fun. But how about maybe growing up? How about not acting like children, as we humans are wont to do?
How about making accurate claims? Making accurate statements, full stop? As a basic rule of the road, is that too much to ask?