Part 5—Unresolved dueling claims: Some of our most important statistics are the ones we never hear.
The American public never hears about black students’ large score gains in reading and math on the NAEP. Some undisclosed “invisible hand” seems to keep those statistics disappeared.
The American public never sees the statistics about per capita health care spending in other developed nations. In part for this reason, no discussion ever breaks out concerning the way Americans of all political stripes are being looted in this major area.
You don’t see those statistics on MSNBC, a corporate liberal “news channel.” A cynic might even say this:
The children on The One True Channel keep us busy with other topics—topics which are safer for the plutocrats who pay them their seven figures.
That’s what a cynic might say! Here’s what a finder of accurate facts would say:
You never hear about black kids’ score gains on The One True Channel. Beyond that, you never hear about the massive problem, and apparent injustice, of black incarceration rates.
Michelle Alexander wrote the book on the subject—“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness.”
Alexander’s book has been widely praised in progressive circles. But according to Nexis, she has never appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, whose host prefers to discuss the evils of botched executions.
Alexander has appeared on The Last Word just once, in June 2011. She answered exactly two questions from Lawrence at that time.
Needless to say, Alexander has never appeared on Hardball. She has appeared on All In just once, to do a segment in 2013 about a Dream Defenders sit-in in Florida.
On our corporate liberal channel, you never see Michelle Alexander, certainly not in prime time. You never hear the statistics about mass incarceration.
You also never hear the statistics about the score gains achieved by black and Hispanic kids. Instead, they keep us happy with months-long discussions the latest “murdered” black youth. Lawrence swings into action at such times, inventing piles of bogus facts which help create “perfect examples.”
In such ways, the creepy people who host these shows keep themselves in their high-paying jobs while keeping their bosses untroubled.
(Don’t miss the Maddow Show tonight! In the Friday Night News Dump, you’ll see the fiery progressive host presenting her favorite segment, in which she gets to play tape of herself from the week’s previous shows.)
Some of our most important statistics are the ones we never hear! Another important batch of statistics are the ones we constantly hear, even though they’re bogus.
In the old days, such statistics typically came from the right. Today, we liberals have our own favorite bogus statistics. On TV, our corporate stars like to bruit them forward.
Routinely, newspapers like the New York Times can’t seem to handle statistics. Sometimes, this problem may occur because journalists are deferring to preferred elite narratives.
Presumably, this explains the constant refusal to tell readers about the rise in black kids’ test scores. For whatever reason, the nation’s elites love to say that absolutely nothing has worked in the nation’s schools!
(Why doesn’t Rachel tackle this topic? We’d have to say she’s the whitest white liberal we’ve ever seen on earth—a throwback to late 60s white liberalism. In a sign of her throwback moral greatness, she’s opposed to botched executions!)
Sometimes, the New York Times seems to defer to preferred elite narratives. Sometimes, though, papers like the Times just don’t seem to have the chops to handle important statistics.
The paper spends a lot of money marketing itself as smart. Simply put, it isn’t. On the whole, the work performed by the New York Times just isn’t especially sharp.
We’re left with one more type of statistics. We’ll call them dueling statistics.
At present, there are dueling sets of (rather shaky) statistics which concern the frequency of police shootings. Another batch of dueling statistics concerns the frequency of rape and sexual assault on the nation’s campuses.
(No one seems to care a whole lot about the frequency of such crimes off campus. Can anyone figure out why?)
To what extent are young black men being shot by police? To what extent are young black men being “targeted” by police in such instances? Is the rate of such shootings on the rise? What are the real statistics?
The New York Times is unlikely to help you sort such things out. Beyond that, you shouldn’t expect to see these questions explored on The One True Channel.
The truth is, there is no sign that either news org actually cares about those questions. For whatever reason, dueling statistics about police shootings go unexplored, unresolved.
The same is true of the dueling statistics concerning campus sexual assault. There’s no sign that anyone actually cares about the truth in this area, though many people seem to enjoy advancing the various narratives.
To cote one example, are we experiencing an epidemic of campus rape? We don’t have the slightest idea! In large part, that’s because we read the nation’s leading newspapers.
Are we experiencing an epidemic of campus rape? In recent months, the ludicrous people at Rolling Stone invented a “perfect example” to illustrate the alleged epidemic, which may or may not exist. The nation then watched as their “perfect example” fell apart.
This embarrassment tells us nothing about the actual rates of assault, of course. But what are the actual rates of rape and assault? And are they on the rise?
Dueling statistics seem to abound. News orgs like the New York Times aren’t likely to puzzle them out.
Some of the most dramatic claims in this area are coming from the “left.” In last Sunday’s New York Times, a professor extended some familiar portraits as she challenged this earlier piece by Judith Shulevitz:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/29/15): I am dismayed by Judith Shulevitz’s belittling response to student trauma. I teach an undergraduate class on “Sexualities and Race.” We discuss challenging issues like campus rape, human trafficking, pornography and sex work. “Scary ideas” certainly. Tragically, for some students these ideas are also scary realities. My students engage these issues with intellectual rigor and great courage. Yes, I give trigger warnings, and try to make my class a safe space.We thought Shulevitz was a bit snarky about some of these matters too. That said, were five students in that class (apparently out of 36 students in all) “recently raped?”
Five students in my class were recently raped. One sits at the back so she has walls behind her, close to the door in case panic overwhelms her. I wonder how Ms. Shulevitz would deal with a student triggered into a major panic attack. Or a student whose friend was murdered by a cop. Making cheap jibes at a safe room with “cookies” and “Play-Doh” infantilizes the real-life traumas these students face too young, and belittles their right to face these intellectual and personal challenges in safe ways.
The writer is a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
We have no way of knowing. That said, this anecdotal claim advances the notion that an “epidemic” is taking place on the nation’s campuses.
In her letter, this professor also paints a picture of students being “murdered” by “cops.” It hasn’t been long since our latest “perfect example” of this alleged behavior basically fell apart.
Is an epidemic of sexual assault occurring on the nation’s campuses? You’d think news orgs would want to explore such important claims, but the New York Times doesn’t seem to want to be bothered—and neither does The One True Liberal Channel!
On The One True Liberal Channel, one time capsule host from the late 1960s is worried about botched executions—but she hasn’t examined the dueling statistics concerning that other topic. Is there any chance “network” doesn’t want such downbeat fare discussed?
Is a rape epidemic occurring on campus? Like you, we have no idea. In December, Emily Yoffe discussed the dueling sets of statistics in this lengthy piece at Slate. (Scroll down to Part 4.) In Yoffe’s view, “the studies suggesting this epidemic don’t hold up to scrutiny.”
That may or may not be an accurate judgment. In this earlier piece at Slate, Emily Bazelon challenges the methodology of one of the surveys Yoffe cites, a survey which has found a relatively low rate of assault.
That said, the gaps seem to be extremely large between the dueling sets of statistics concerning this important topic. But so what? Despite this widely-noted paradox, our major news orgs make little effort to analyze these important statistical claims.
Given the way our major news orgs stumble and fumble around with statistics, that may be a blessing of sorts.
The New York Times had a rough time with statistics last week. On Tuesday, the paper did a truly terrible job examining a new study of the gender income gap. One day later, the paper did a peculiar job with a Justice Department report which apparently found that Philadelphia police do not disproportionately “target” blacks when they use their guns.
The paper had its usual tough time handling some basic statistics. We’ll close with a couple of thoughts:
Our public discourse routinely turns on bogus statistics—bogus statistics designed to drive some preferred narrative. In many areas, if it weren’t for bogus or selective statistics, we’d have no statistics at all!
All in all, facts play an increasingly minor role in our clownish public discourse. Again and again, we end up debating anecdotal events designed to showcase some alleged problem—anecdotal events in which basic facts have been disappeared or invented.
More and more, we spend our days thrashing “perfect examples” of some alleged problem. As soon as one such case falls apart, we go out and invent another.
For liberals, it should be embarrassing to see the extent to which our tribe now plays this game.
It should be embarrassing, but it isn’t. Our perfect examples keep falling apart. Long live our perfect examples!
Coming tomorrow: What Lawrence said this past Wednesday night!
This week’s perfect examples: For this week’s perfect examples of evil, once again, just click here.