Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week

Moment of Truth: September 24 2016


The Pitfalls of Counter-intuition


Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Before I begin, I'd like to pre-amble on a personal note and say that, based on my experience the morning after, I don't think vegan pepperoni is any healthier for you than regular pepperoni.

In other news, the redundantly named Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (as opposed to the Massachusetts Supreme Arthurian Court, maybe?) has vacated charges of illegal possession of a firearm based partly on its findings that it's reasonable for a black man to run away from the Boston police. Yes. If you're black and you run away from the Boston police, your flight can't be considered probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the cops to stop you. Harassment of black citizens by Boston cops is so disproportionately frequent and abusive that the Supreme Court of Massachusetts deemed it completely sane, normal, non-suspicious behavior for said citizens to flee from them. It's like running away from a rattlesnake, a ticking time bomb, or any other possibly lethal nuisance.

Speaking of possibly lethal nuisance: Mike Pence, professional asshole, running mate of GOP presidential candidate and celebrity id Donald Johann Drumpf, tweeted recently about Skittles. He's suspicious of them. He seems to think three out of every 72-or-so Skittles is laced with cyanide. And he compares this with his feeling that three out of every 72-or-so Syrian refugees is a suicide bomber. And he believes we as a nation should make policy based on his candy paranoia, which is evidently rooted in a trauma-induced eating disorder he has yet to engage professional help in dealing with.

A similar calculation was attributed to Vice President and amoral ambulatory conflict of interest Dick "Dick" Cheney by journalist Ron Susskind in his book, The One Percent Doctrine, summarized in this slightly edited quotation from Cheney: "If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty. It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence.”

Not about evidence, just about what we want to feel about stuff and make others feel in order to get what we want. Susskind helped elucidate the difference between the reality-based community and the ideologically-driven petro-mafia wing of what was by then an already discredited Republican Party. Incredibly, the GOP has sunk even lower in the esteem of those of us who take events in the world outside our own heads into consideration when making decisions such as whether to destroy a country thousands of miles away. Or, say, prevent those fleeing the destruction of their nation from taking refuge in ours.

The long and the short of it is this: it has been the policy of Republicans to make decisions catastrophically affecting the lives of millions of people based on their feelings about petroleum availability, arbitrarily-calculated risk, and their suspicions about bowls of candy. These are some of the least intuitive people on earth, making drastic decisions based on intuition. Letting them run the country is like letting a blind person pick out your wallpaper, if an unappealing wallpaper choice had a tendency to cause your house to explode.

The Massachusetts high court, on the other hand, relied on studies of actual police activity. And based on the data the court used, it's not only reasonable behavior for a black person to flee a police officer attempting to stop him or her, it can be read as an entirely natural act of self-preservation. Figure in specific nationwide examples and data of black people losing their lives during interactions with the police, and one wonders what would happen if the nation's black population decided to live according to some hybrid of the Cheney and Skittles approach to possible danger.

Viewed in this light, it is evidence of remarkable restraint on the part of black citizens that they choose for the most part to march in protest rather than attempt to preemptively incapacitate law enforcement. In fact, every morning white people wake up with their heads still attached to their necks is a testament to the patience of everyone else in the world.

 The incident in Tulsa, Oklahoma ending in the shooting death of hapless motorist and innocent black man Terence Crutcher provides a window through which one can view two universes as once.

Have any of you read Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby's side of the story, incidentally? You really get the sense that she's terrified of Terence Crutcher, this large but utterly innocent black man with his hands in the air. Shelby says again and again that he was not following her commands. She sounds like someone who isn't listening. She sounds, even as she explains her thought process, like a panicked individual incapable of assessing a threat level. She remarks that Crutcher "put his hands up in the air, even though he was not instructed to do so, which [she] found strange." Yes, how odd. A black man keeping his hands in full view of a police officer. I can imagine – well, I don't have to imagine, because it's on the video – Shelby and other cops present spastically barking orders while Crutcher can't get a word in edgewise to explain his situation. I've had one or two experiences with cops in this state of mind, the non-assessing or prejudging of a situation, the filling of the event with the sounds of their own aggressive commands – Shelby clearly had a reason to shoot, but that reason was based on a fantasy assessment, not unlike the Skittles and One Percent method of intuitive statistics.

Crutcher, in contrast, though not running away, was operating in response to fairly well-established precedent. He had every reason to put his hands in the air when confronted with an emotionally disturbed or overreacting police officer. Shelby thought Crutcher putting his hands in the air was "strange." Had she not been paying attention to what's been happening between cops and black men? Or has she been, but drawn unrealistic conclusions based on assumptions about the behavior of certain men with certain features and complexion?

Crutcher had certainly been paying attention to current events, and drawn conclusions as well. His, sadly, were based on assumptions about police behavior that turned out to be accurate.

Along with their magical thinking about climate science, members of the Skittles- based community seem to inhabit a reality diverging ever more drastically from the world as it is. Terence Crutcher's actions meant one thing to him, and I think the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial (as opposed to Handball) Court, with its opinions based on the study of police behavior, would back him up. Crutcher's actions meant something entirely different to officer Shelby, though, something wildly divergent from their true nature – so divergent that she and Crutcher seem to have been in separate universes, until that cosmic gulf was finally bridged by a few bullets, and unity was achieved.

So, don't say violence never solved anything. It brought two completely separate realities together into one, a collision so profound that one man literally died.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Moment of Truth


Share Tweet Send