8 November 2005

Fast answers

At work, I sit near a couple of wackos who hourly ... minutely ... regurgitate the right-wing wackiness they apparently absorbed that morning on the way to work. Their discussions are long and loud and have a certitude that ignores any depth in the subject matter (e.g.: the recent riots in France prove that it's an inferior country to America, period).

I was speaking with an ex-co-worker at the Octoberfestivus party this past Friday, and they commented that they listen to talk radio in order to hear the talking points that are being disseminated through the airwaves and that will inevitably be parroted later by the Sunday talking heads. It's all too much noise-to-signal for me, but I understand the impulse.

I had this idea--that may already exist or may simply be unnecessary--that a wiki should be created to address and counter the quick-forming talking points as fast as they appear. Often, they only last a few weeks (e.g. the short-lived global struggle against violent extremism) before they're either squelched by Jon Stewart or absorbed as unchallenged truth due to the difficulties of disproving them; forgotten in the mainstream but held as unimpeachable to those in the know. Many of the wacko assertions are baseless hypothesis that may require statistical data to truly disprove (such as the now-dead assertion that most of the people who stayed behind in New Orleans were criminals and drug addicts). The assertions need only be spoken to have weight, but disproving them takes effort.

It seems like the very existence of the Internet generally and Wikipedia specifically are sufficient to stop this shallow ignorance, but it's sometimes easier to ignore ignorance than take the time to dig up the truth. I was recently friend-spammed with a mass-emailing containing "proof" that social security is an evil created by the ghost of Democrats past. It contained a collection of assertions with no citations: either believe it or sit down for an hour or so of research. Luckily, the email had been copy-and-pasted so many times that someone had already addressed the lies complete with citations (alas, the information in the link was disparaged when I passed it on because, despite the citations to US law, it was found on a Democratic Web site).

So yeah, the information is there, but it'd be nice if it were collected in one place, mapped to the simple, simplistic assertions that seem to sprout too quickly. I may be just lazy, and I may be thinking of the idea in too one-sided a manner (there are certainly wacko liberal ideas to be countered).

Finally, here's the information I found when I first heard that New Orleans survivors were being labeled as drug-addicted thugs:

  1. The population of New Orleans in 2000 was 484,674
  2. 150,000 people did not evacuate (31% of total population)
  3. In 2002, there were 31,206 crimes of various types
  4. Assuming, poorly, one crime per person, that's 6.4% of the total population
  5. Assuming, also poorly, that all criminals stayed in the city, then 1-in-5 of those left in New Orleans were criminals

So, in an absurdly worst-case scenario, only 20% of those who stayed could be the societal miscreants that they were being labeled. It ain't rocket-science, but you have to have a certain amount of time on your hands to decide to look that crap up. Wouldn't it be nice it it were addressed definitively in one place?

[ posted by sstrader on 8 November 2005 at 11:47:56 PM in Politics | tagged new orleans ]