Part 2—Close enough for newspaper work: Are white males disproportionately numbered among the nation’s mass shooters?
Presumably, it depends on how you define “mass shooter.” However you define the term, we will assume that males in general are disproportionately numbered among that group.
That said, among the men who engage in mass shootings, are white men disproportionately numbered? We have no idea—and there is no particular sign that Charlotte Childress and Harriet Childress know the answer either.
That said, facts and logic aren’t required when you write for the Washington Post. For decades, the gatekeepers have been down at that famous American newspaper. This explains how the following passage appeared in Sunday’s hard-copy Post, in a prominent op-ed column.
The column was written by Childress and Childress. For the record, April Fools was still one day away:
CHILDRESS AND CHILDRESS (3/31/13): Nearly all of the mass shootings in this country in recent years—not just Newtown, Aurora, Fort Hood, Tucson and Columbine—have been committed by white men and boys. Yet when the National Rifle Association (NRA), led by white men, held a news conference after the Newtown massacre to advise Americans on how to reduce gun violence, its leaders' opinions were widely discussed.You may have been struck by a puzzling suggestion found in that passage—the suggestion that the views of groups which are “led by white men” shouldn’t be “widely discussed” on the topic of gun violence.
For today, let’s move past that striking suggestion. Let’s start with the factual claim we’ve highlighted in that passage.
Is it true? Is it true that “nearly all” mass shootings in recent years have been committed by white males? When the Post put this claim into print, its editors surely knew that it would engender a race-baiting backlash, with thousands of commenters angrily detailing various crimes and crime rates among blacks.
Surely, the Post understood that this column would trigger that type of backlash. But the Post went ahead and published that claim all the same.
So how about it? Is that claim actually true?
First, a bit of background: Childress and Childress are twin sisters who explain on their own web site that they have “collectively earned eight college degrees, including one Ph.D. and four master's degrees.” They say that they have “taught college for forty years” in the fields of “pharmacy, engineering, math, physics [and] chemistry.”
For better or worse, they say they have “received close to a million dollars in grants from the National Science Foundation to research math, science, technology, and engineering education.” This is their capsule bio:
Harriet & Charlotte ChildressAfter teaching pharmacy and physics, Childress and Childress somehow began to speak about issues related to social and political change. Over more than twenty years, they have spoken more than fifty times, while traveling to ten different states.
Harriet and Charlotte are consultants, authors, and college faculty who have researched, written, and spoken about issues related to social and political change for more than two decades. They have presented their work in person to thousands of people through more than fifty seminars or speeches in ten states. Charlotte and Harriet have published two books and eighteen articles.
That said, the topic on which they opined in the Post doesn’t come from the world of pharmacy, engineering or physics. Nor is there any sign that they know what they’re talking about on this topic, although all things are possible.
Is it true? Is it true that “nearly all of the mass shootings in this country in recent years...have been committed by white men and boys?” The term “nearly all” is forgiving, of course—but even in listing their five examples, the sisters got into a spot of trouble with irate Post readers. Angry commenters challenged the claim as it relates to the Fort Hood shooting, which was committed by a first-generation American with two Palestinian-born parents.
Is Nidal Hasan a “white man” in the sense defined by this column? Only a fool would take that bait—only a fool, or a person who wants to restart decades of counterproductive culture war about crime and race.
That said, many people did take the bait, just as Childress and Childress predicted in their column. At various sites, they listed the names of Asian-Americans, Hispanics and blacks who have committed mass shootings in recent years.
Sometimes these respondents failed to obey the conceptual etiquette in which mass shooters are distinguished from serial shooters. But commenters bristled with angry complaints about crime rates among blacks.
Anyone with an ounce of sense would have known this would happen.
One can always say that the debate is worth the backlash. Having said that, we revert to our question: Is it true that “nearly all” mass shootings in recent years have been committed by white men or boys?
Remarkably, Childress and Childress made no attempt, beyond what we’ve shown you, to justify this fuzzy claim. And now we come to the larger point:
The Washington Post didn’t make them! Their extremely fuzzy claim was good enough for the Washington Post. You might say it was close enough for race-invidious newspaper work.
For years, our discourse was in the hands of (white male) elites like Walter and David. They carefully parceled out the things we rubes were permitted to hear.
On its face, that isn’t a great way to run a democracy. But neither Walter nor David was crazy. While they reigned, we the people were often spared exposure to fake facts and crazy ideas.
For decades, though, it’s been gatekeepers down! Bogus facts and crazy ideas are a giant industry now. In the place of Walter and David, we kept getting handed Rush and Sean—then KO, Chris and Lawrence.
As this unfortunate culture grew, newspapers like the Post and the New York Times kept hiring people like Maureen Dowd. Meanwhile, our biggest news orgs kept getting conned by a succession of twenty-something fabulists—inventers of facts and of persons.
For decades, it has been gatekeepers down! Last weekend, though, we hit a new low with one of the dumbest columns ever.
It came from a pair of sisters with eight degrees and two fuzzy minds. That said, it was published by the Washington Post—and it engendered the ugly reaction anyone could have foreseen.
Regarding Childress and Childress, is their basic factual claim true? We have no idea, and the Washington Post didn’t much seem to care.
That claim was very casually churned. Tomorrow, let’s ponder this column's logic.
Tomorrow: Reasoning down!