Monday, September 21, 2015

Quacks like a Duck - Affirming the Consequent

We're liberals, aren't we? So we're primed to believe stories that fit a certain mold without question and often with a good deal of desperate enthusiasm.  An "unarmed child" is shot in the back while kneeling and begging for his life,  a kid is arrested for taking a clock to school. We don't bother with the facts, because after all, there is a history of minorities being treated unfairly and therefore we assume that if B follows A, B implies A.  It doesn't and there's a name for the fallacy.

A kid brings an apparatus in a briefcase to school, made out of clock parts and looks to me very much like the bomb timer you see in so many movies that counts down the minutes to the explosion.  If I were a teacher or Principal, I would have called an expert too and I have a background in electronic engineering. It looks very much like something the movies have conditioned us to see as a countdown timer for a bomb. Did he "invent" a clock and put it in a "pencil case" that looks like it came out of a
James Bond movie or did he take apart a clock and stuff it in something chosen to look suspicious?   Your assumptions here mean a lot. The way it's framed means everything.  As many on both sides of the political divide seem to agree:  "It looks like a f*cking bomb!"

But because police have a history of  abusing minorities, any arrest is abuse and because the kid is a Muslim, we, as dependably bigoted and privileged white people are to be presumed to be acting from bigotry.  It must be an act of racism, for are we not white? It must be racism for is he not Muslim?

The thoughts of Liberals seem to be steered by the same sloppy, emotional and instinctive pseudo-reasoning as those of Conservatives, Libertarians, Socialists and for all I know, professors of mathematics.  Go ahead, you blue eyed, blond Norwegian  Lutheran - put some clock parts, a battery and a mess of wires in a briefcase and try to get on a plane so you can claim the TSA is profiling Scandinavians.

Hands up!  Don't Shoot!  It was just a clock! The knife was Military Style!   Devious uses of the Framing Effect litter the ground and every thing we read, see and hear are attempts to manipulate opinion, but  even the huge, gilded Rococo monstrosity of this frame seems to escape our notice. Even our experienced knees jerk when tapped by the professionally wielded little hammer.

Are we, as liberals combing the news for examples and when the supply is low, are we so relieved to find yet another juicy one that we suspend disbelief, squint our eyes a little bit and react a little too passionately?

No comments: