Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Who cries the loudest wins

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Something I have seen again and again is that issues are not judged based on the facts at hand, factual arguments, comparisons with other issues, or similar—but on who cries the loudest and who has the best sob story, greatest scare factor, whatnot. (Of which almost all are exaggerated, most are misleading, and many are detached from reality.) In a bigger picture, outside the scope of this post, what amounts to popularity contests are all too common (c.f. e.g. my discussion of Harriet Tubman and the twenty-dollar bill or any number of TV shows following a certain template).

This is particularly dangerous when combined with opportunistic politicians (of which there is no shortage…) who are keen on keeping the majority and/or those most likely to switch allegiances happy*. Similarly, it is a major contributor to some problems like athletes being sanctioned or people being fired for having the wrong opinions or saying the wrong things, because many decision makers fear landing in the cross-hairs of e.g. the politically correct or whoever cries “offensive”** the loudest. Another recurring problem is the common case of “apologies” being issued for which no apology should have ever been needed, as with the recent Denise Young Smith incident***, or the absolutely horrifying Larry Summers’ incident****.

*An interesting, but slightly off-topic, example is the issue of migration, which within my life time has moved from an issue like any other to a taboo, where to even mention any opinion other than politically correct orthodoxy was grounds for a shunning even among those parties who have a history of skepticism—but where the public opinion and the success of political new comers (e.g. the German AfD or the Swedish SD) is now making the topic acceptable again (outside of the Left). Of course, this is all for the wrong reason: They are not standing up for their ideals or what they believe is good for the country—they are, by all signs, just fishing for votes.

**To which I note that many of the allegedly offensive things are not so to a neutral and rational third-party, that offensiveness is inherently subjective, that I consider much of what happens in the PC movements offensive—including, among many others, the presumption of defining what is offensive, the obsession with avoiding it, and the too common accusations towards others. As Eminem put it: You find me offensive. I find you offensive for finding me offensive.

***A black woman (!) claims that a group of white men can be diverse too—and is shouted down and vilified for it. Her claim, however, is 100% correct: The problem is that her new enemies live in a world where any difference in outcome is seen as ipso facto proof of differences in opportunities, cultural indoctrination, or whatnot, in a severe case of reality detachment—and often where women, Blacks, Hispanics, gays …, all magically have some talents or abilities that no straight White man has. To boot, it is highly naive, as some do, to see it as an automatic positive to have a certain mixture of people in a certain setting: Positive is to have people with the right capabilities and sufficient motivation in the right place—even if this means that we have e.g. more male engineers and more female social workers.

****He mentioned the possibility that some of the differences in outcome between men and women could be based in different abilities (in both case referring to groups or distributions, not individuals)—a claim with scientific support that explains the results that we actually with great economy (while e.g. feminist theories fail to provide such explanations without going through extreme contortions and making unproved and often implausible postulations). It followed a protest campaign of great hatefulness, irrationality, and ignorance—and repeated apologies from Summers. Apologies from his persecutors would have been far more called for. (As an aside: In the past, I have repeatedly referred to his being fired over the incident, and originally intended to give him as an example one sentence earlier. There is a fair chance that this is true, in form of a forced resignation, which would make the situation all the worse; however, based on “common knowledge”, it is at least possible that he resigned for other reasons.)

To look at some examples:

  1. Breast-cancer campaigns: While the noise has died down over the years, it was not that long ago that breast-cancer campaigners had celebrities lined up, everyone and his uncle was carrying pink ribbons, and breast cancer had gained an image as possibly the most important health issue around (in at least some circles).

    Now: If these campaigns had been directed against cancer (in general), I would have had no beef and be short one truly excellent example. So, why were they not? (Even though cancer is necessarily a bigger problem than any single special case of cancer; and even though breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates.)

    Similarly, why has there been so great an emphasis on mammography, to the point that I have repeatedly heard claims that the rate of mammographies is too high*?

    *I lack the expertise to judge this issue and do not necessarily say that these claims are correct. However, arguments around cost effectiveness, the number of false positive, and the relative benefit of testing for one specific type of cancer and not another, do not seem obviously unreasonable. If I do not misremember, I have also heard similar claims about prostate-cancer checks.

    The explanation is the mixture of scare factor and symbolic appeal: Very many women do not primarily see the risk of death, but the risk of losing their breasts. This hits home harder and opens the road for manipulators, both well-meaning and more sinister.

    (Many charities and other forms of campaigns are similar, e.g. in that an “aid to Africa” charity is unlikely to cite facts and extremely likely to show an image of a black child on the verge of tears, preferably an emaciated one: Emotional connection over intellectual connection.)

  2. Nuclear power: For decades, nuclear power has been commonly seen and treated as a great evil. In Germany, there is a long history of active and destructive, sometimes even violent, protests; some parties (in at least Germany and Sweden) have had the fight against nuclear power as a central item for years; during my school years, we were basically told* to be proud that Sweden was the first country that had decided to abolish nuclear power; …

    *Generally, my Swedish school years contained a lot of indoctrination of a type I (as an adult) consider unethical. Notably, topics like nuclear power, at least before high school, were treated in a black-and-white manner, without a presentation of positives and negatives: This is bad. This is good.

    At the same time, fossil fuels kill more people and do more damage to the environment each and every year than nuclear power has throughout its entire history.

    Nuclear disasters and radioactivity scare people in a very different manner than does the continual damage through fossil fuels, likely aided by the association with nuclear weapons* and many inaccurate fictional depictions. There is a lot of concern about various types of pollution and their effects, but there is nowhere near the type of fear and urgency so many people appear to suffer from with nuclear power.

    *In turn sometimes, in some contexts, vilified out of proportion: Consider e.g. that the conventional bombings of Japan during WWII killed more people than did the two nuclear—yet the former is almost without exception consider merely war and the latter very often a war crime.

    To boot, the image of nuclear disasters is often horribly distorted: Even a far worse disaster than Chernobyl would be highly unlikely to cause any type of rapid death outside the plant it self, likely even outside the immediate vicinity of the reactor. (In fact, I would be unsurprised to see radiation risks lose to e.g. risks through steam and steam explosions on the day of an accident.) The reactor will not explode with the force of a hundred Hiroshima bombs. The nuclear core will not travel through the earth and re-surface in China. Etc. For that matter, I would rather see a repeat of Chernobyl at my city of residence than I would a Wanggongchang or a Bhopal disaster.

  3. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict* (and many others through the years): There are a great many examples of some Palestinian group provoking a situation and then casting blame, fishing for sympathies from the international community, or similar, in a grossly intellectually dishonest manner, similar to the way some children manipulate their parents vs. their siblings: Punch the other kid—and when he punches back, go crying to mother. Cf. e.g. the Mavi Marmara incident.

    *Note that this item deals with a particular aspect of the argumentation around the conflict. I do not claim that Israel would be guilt- or flawless. This particular behavior, however, is comparatively one-sided.

  4. The Left and the extended PC crowd provide many examples, including scenarios* like the Zimmerman–Martin tragedy and the Jason Stockley situation , the drive for “equal”** rights for transgenders, or the whole recent “kneeing sports people”*** phenomenon. See also above and many past articles.

    *These cases are picked because the latter is a recent article and the former covers the same recent theme on this blog. They are not necessarily prime examples in other regards.

    **Which often have nothing to do with equal rights and a whole lot with prioritizing the special interests of one group over another, as e.g. when transgenders want to use another bathroom than they biologically would (what about the women/men who do not want to share a bathroom with biological men/women who might or might not be honest about being transgenders?), or when biological men want to compete against women in sports (despite having a massive unfair advantage).

    ***In many or most cases “useful idiots” who pledge themselves to issues they have a simplistic or outright faulty understanding of. More generally, it is quite common for celebrities to be loud in their support of issues they simply do not understand, often based of injustices that have been exaggerated/misrepresented or do not even exist (especially in the area of feminism).

As an honorable mention*, what prompted me to finally write this post: The claim (by German TV sender ARD’s video text) that European courts had decided that it would be “discrimination”** to apply the same size standards to male and female police applicants. This is wrong on a number of levels. Most notably, this amounts to requiring that a different standard is applied to men and women when judging whether they are capable of performing a particular job duty***, unethically and unfairly skewing the process in favour of women—and doing so at the potential cost of the citizens. This is just one example of how laws against unfair discrimination is arguably used to institute exactly unfair discrimination. An earlier example that ticked me off very badly was a German ruling, some years ago, that it is illegal to apply different health-insurances fees to men and women, even when the actual payouts show statistically significant differences.****

*It is not a perfect topic match, but is at least over-lapping.

**Presumably of the illegal type: The utter inability of e.g. journalists to understand what discrimination actually means and implies is astonishing.

***It can to some degree be disputed whether a size requirement makes sense in this particular instance; however, either it does, and the application of different standards is wrong, or it does not, and then size limit should be removed completely. In other cases, e.g. when actual physical performance tests are concerned, the question is quite clear. (Consider, for instance, the U.S. controversy over criteria for firemen and soldiers.) To boot, if the principle is taken to its natural conclusion, it would also have to apply to any ability test or performance evaluation where there was a difference in results between men and women, including e.g. that women are admitted to college with lower SAT scores (or men with lower GPAs, except that discrimination pro-men would likely be unacceptable).

****Another instance of “either it makes sense or something else must be changed”: Either insurance companies are allowed to use statistical group criteria (e.g. sex, age, education level) when setting fees or they are not—end of story. There must not be a rule “you may use such criteria, except for sex” (or, worse, “you may use such criteria, but only if specifically women have no disadvantage”).


Written by michaeleriksson

October 22, 2017 at 7:46 pm

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