Hail to the traveler!

Sep. 20th, 2017 08:08 pm

In which the Bittern is pissed

Sep. 19th, 2017 02:16 pm
twistedchick: (bittern OFQ)
[personal profile] twistedchick
This so-called article is a piece of crap. It purports to provide the results of a study and conflates the numbers in the study with society as a whole in ignorant ways.

For example, second paragraph:

Just ask college students. A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.”


A fifth of undergrads? No. A fifth of the 1500 undergrad students they surveyed. That's 300 or so.


Villasenor conducted a nationwide survey of 1,500 undergraduate students at four-year colleges.


Nationwide? There are far more than 1,500 four-year colleges (for those of you not American, the word includes universities). How were the colleges chosen? How were the students chosen? How many were chosen at each university? How many overall were from the same discipline? There's no way to know. We don't even know if he chose accredited schools, or those pay-for-a-degree places. Did they ask at Ivy League schools, the majority of whose students come from well-off families? Did they ask at places like City College of New York, where the tuition is much lower and people who are there are from a variety of backgrounds, not wealthy? Ag and tech colleges, out in the countryside, or only urban colleges?

Further down it says the margin of error is 2-6 percent, "depending on the group." Oh, really? Which group is 2% and which is 6%? We aren't told. It appears we are to be grateful that a margin of error was even mentioned.

The whole thing is supposed to be about undergrads' understanding of First Amendment-protected free speech. Since we are not told the exact wording of the questions asked, it's impossible to know if the responses were appropriate to them, or if the questions were leading the students to a specific response.

And then there's this:

Let’s say a public university hosts a “very controversial speaker,” one “known for making offensive and hurtful statements.” Would it be acceptable for a student group to disrupt the speech “by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker”?

Astonishingly, half said that snuffing out upsetting speech — rather than, presumably, rebutting or even ignoring it — would be appropriate. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to find this response acceptable (62 percent to 39 percent), and men were more likely than women (57 percent to 47 percent). Even so, sizable shares of all groups agreed.

It gets even worse.

Respondents were also asked if it would be acceptable for a student group to use violence to prevent that same controversial speaker from talking. Here, 19 percent said yes....


Let's look more closely, ignoring the editorializing sentence for the moment. Half of who? Half of 1500 people is 750 people, scattered across the US. And then again -- 19% of who? Everyone? Women? Men? Democrats? Republicans? We aren't told.

Meanwhile, the entire other side of this survey is ignored. By stressing the minority and ignoring the majority, the minority's views are inflated and made more important. Let me turn this around for you: more than 80% of undergrads say that violence is not acceptable in dealing with an unwanted speaker. Try turning around all the other numbers, and the story falls apart. Instead of "students" substitute "students surveyed", and it also falls to pieces. Who cares what 1500 people out of 200 million think? If we don't know why those 1500 were specifically chosen, why should we care?

I have worked with surveys, written surveys, conducted and analyzed surveys. It is possible to have a statistically perfect survey with 1500 people surveyed, but only if the respondents are very carefully selected to avoid bias. There is no way to tell if that was done with the evidence given in this story. For all we know, those respondents could have been selected from the same departments or majors at all the colleges. The colleges could have been technical schools or enormous state universities or religion-affiliated schools. There is no way to know. Why does this matter? Liberal arts, political science and pre-law students are more likely to have read about the First Amendment than optics majors or engineers, for instance. I'm not saying the optics majors or engineers would be more conservative or liberal -- but they are less likely to have discussed free speech in a class. Improper choice of respondents can provide very slanted results -- for example, the survey that said Dewey would win over Truman was conducted by telephone, and the calls went to houses on the corners of two streets; this meant that people who were wealthier (because corner houses pay higher taxes, based on road frontage) were questioned, while their less wealthy neighbors (who voted for Truman) were ignored.

Also, by not including any context relative to current events, there is no way to know if the small percentage who thought violence was acceptable was the same as during the Vietnam War, for instance, or Desert Storm. I guarantee you, it was not the same percentage as during the Revolutionary War, when those who spoke against any prevailing view to an audience who disagreed would have been lucky to have been ridden out of town on a rail, if not tarred and feathered. (Feel free to do the research if you wish; be sure you have a strong stomach for the details of what happens when boiling tar is applied to skin.)

What it all comes down to is this: this story is written poorly by someone who does not understand how statistics should be used, and was not properly edited. It was published in order to scare people, although the publisher may not have realized its propaganda value. By not including the whole story, and by allowing editorializing in the middle of it, it slants the results.

This would not have been published during the time when Kay Graham was publisher. Editor Ben Bradlee would not have let this story pass. He would have told the reporter to rewrite it, clean it up, and get more depth into it.

And the reason I am writing this is that this is not the only paper that misleads with statistics, and you need to be aware of this, and of what to look for when someone is quoting a study, badly, misleadingly, in a way that bids fair to be used for propaganda. Be cautious and critical when you see numbers and statistics, and look for whether the writing is made personal/editorialized. It matters.

On memorials

Sep. 11th, 2017 04:49 pm
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
No, I don't think Sept. 11 should be a national holiday. National holidays are designed to be cultural celebrations, times when people gather to celebrate something good or notable or remember a good event.

9/11 doesn't do any of these.

9/11 is like Dec. 7, 1941, the day when Japanese kamakazi flyers attacked Pearl Harbor. It's not a day to celebrate. Neither is the start -- or the date when the US joined the allies to fight -- in World War I. Neither is the anniversary of the Spanish-American War, the Mexican War, the War of 1812, the Korean War or the Vietnam War.

July 4 does not celebrate a war. It celebrates the official date on which the United States was declared to be a separate country. The war came afterward, mostly (yes, yes, Boston was first), but that's not what is celebrated on July 4.

9/11 is a day like Armistice Day, when we can pause and remember what happened, and then get back to work, or play, or whatever we were doing. It is not sacred, sanctified, official or anything else that deserves a national holiday.

Moreover, such a holiday would be used now to stir up and reinforce hatred against Muslim people in the US and elsewhere. I remember being a child in the 1950s and -60s, when hatred for anyone Japanese still burned in so many WWII veterans. I don't remember anyone ever calling anyone Japanese among the older relatives; it was always "The Japs", often with some choice curse words in the middle of the phrase. Uncle Louie was awarded a Bronze Star for standing on a South Pacific beach and throwing live grenades into a Jap machine gun emplacement in the rocks above; he was always the pitcher on the neighborhood baseball team when he was a kid. Uncle Sam's photos of Japan, when he was stationed there during the Occupation, didn't include anyone who was Japanese; they included bombed-out buildings with him and his buddies in front of them, or similar touristy things. Nothing about the culture, or the people.

And, to bring this into focus: this kind of hatred, disdain and rejection of the worth of an entire people, was the reason that Bruce Lee could not get hired to play a role created for him on television, that was filled by a white actor, because "Americans don't want to see Asian actors; it's too close to WWII". He could be a second banana, playing Kato for the Green Hornet, but not a lead. This is the reason that George Takei was the first Japanese actor on a major television show in a named role. That's how strong the hate was, and the prejudice, that many years later.

There's enough hatred in America already. There's enough anti-Muslim bigotry. I do not want a holiday to enshrine more of it. We don't need it.

On Sept. 12, 2001, every country in the world sent its sincere condolences. We lost that goodwill within the year, with Bush's insistence on whipping up a war over supposed uranium stashes that didn't exist. We have lost more of it ever since, with every Republican in the presidency.

I've had enough of hatred and bigotry and prejudice against people who aren't pale. I've had enough of ignorance and stupidity and mistreatment of people who have come to the US within my lifetime, by people whose parents came here a generation ago, or two or three. We are all immigrants here. The only people who aren't immigrants to the US or to the Colonies that preceded it are those whose ancestors came to this continent more than 10,000 years ago.

So no. I don't want a holiday on Sept. 11, or on Dec. 7, or on VE day or VJ day or the day of the fall of Saigon. I want Americans to remember what happened -- all of it, not just the comfortable parts -- and then get on with their lives. Isn't that what the people in the towers would have wanted, anyway?
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
Add to the natural disasters of the day the strongest earthquake in a century in southern Mexico, killing dozens of people and wreaking destruction on buildings.

And in terms of destruction, 90% of the island of St Martin/St Maarten (jointly owned by France and the Netherlands) has been destroyed -- buildings, airport, hotels, cars, beaches, resorts, all blasted by wind and water. No electricity, no phone, and limited health care because the hospitals were blasted as much as everywhere else. I have been there, for a week in the mid-90s; I don't think the places I stayed and visited are there now. It was a beach resort with small sturdy houses, built by Americans who moved down there years before. In the photos of the lagoon, it's not there now.

A view of what Hurricane Harvey says about risk, climate and resilience.

Cornell University is offering a free course on climate change online, starting Sept. 11.

The world's most accurate prediction for Irma.

***

Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize: by her callousness toward the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in her country, where she still has authority in the government, she does not deserve to keep it.

SPLC on Trump's decision to deport our children because of paperwork.

***

Decyphering the Voynich Manuscript.

8 practices for a more emotionally just organization.

An Irish look at a racist who screws up his political statement in Gaelic and ends up saying something he doesn't mean at all. Ah, the joys of not knowing a language well enough to understand that you don't just pick words and put them in English grammatical order and make any sense at all.

Gal Gadot on becoming the year's biggest action hero.

What it's truly like to be a fashion model.

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