Monday, January 14, 2008

A Daily Dose of Dumb, Doubled

Just plain ole dumb. I don't even know where to begin, but this is gonna be long.
Megan thinks the MSM, which she isn't a part of, has an unwitting anti-soldier bias, manifested in a willingness to believe soldiers come home traumatized and more likely to end up on the street or becoming dangerous or violent. After all, why would having to kill people and watch the occasional friend die have a negative effect on anyone? Once again, I feel like I should ask mikey to guest post, but I'd feel bad about making him read Megan's drivel.
So first in this descent into dumb we have a post titled Support our troops, because Shithead McMegan seems to think acknowledging their humanity and post-combat needs, and our societal failure to meet them, denigrates vets by not treating them like G.I.Joe action figures.
Then Megan pulls some figures on homelessness straight out of her ass, in an attempt to dispute a two year old UPI article. Properly counting the number of homeless in the US is an almost impossible task, and resembles, in a vague way, trying to count the dead in Iraq. The numbers tend to depend on who is doing the counting, and what they want to find. In any case 2 million total and 90% of that as displaced families aren't impossible numbers to swallow, but without verification it's just as likely Megan is is cooking the books in her own favor. If it's actually 4 million, as a quick googling suggests is possible, and 85% displaced families, that leaves 600,000 of Megan's "hardcore crazies", out of which half would be vets. (By the way, there's zero overlap between homeless vets and homeless families, or at least Megan seems to presume as much.) I'm not saying my unattributed numbers are right, just that when you pull numbers from your ass you can make them say whatever you want.
But what this really comes down to is Megan's personal experience, which, as always, is more reliable than what experts on a topic "claim".
Next time someone panhandles you, take a careful look at him. Is he in his fifties or sixties? You'll notice he is not. That is because, tragically, homeless people who live on the street tend to die very young. Almost all of them have severe mental illnesses, drug/alchohol problems, or both. Even if they weren't living on the street, these things would kill them young, but sleeping outside tends to bring on pneumonia, and the homeless are very frequently victims of violence.
So there. The fact is that if Vietnam vets were out in the street the vast majority of them would be dead by now, which means they are not homeless now and the media is biased to presume they ever were.
Then, Megan links to a rightwing blog which uses more "back of the anus" math to "prove" there isn't any "extra" violence among soldiers who've returned home, proving correct her intuition that because the Times didn't include a statistical analysis of the cluster of the seemingly post traumatic stress related violence and deaths they wrote about that article is much ado about nothing, because reporters are dumb and don't get math. It takes the kind of smarts only Megan has to perform addition and division.
The first post of our two part dose of dumb concludes with the following,
I don't, by the way, think that this is some sort of liberal media conspiracy, before the commenters start in. I think that reporters are often innumerate, and too willing to believe bizarre things about combat troops because they've never actually met any.
..... fuck you, Megan. The abstract MSM has spent, collectively, several thousand years more with vets than you ever possibly could. The following is from page 2 of the Times article in question (my emphasis),
To compile and analyze its list, The Times conducted a search of local news reports, examined police, court and military records and interviewed the defendants, their lawyers and families, the victims’ families and military and law enforcement officials.
Alas, it doesn't stop there.
You see, Megan decided, I guess because she needed to defend that post somehow, to acknowledge that soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress becoming violent makes basic, intuitive, sense. It's odd she picks this point to mount a defense against, as her own prior argument was entirely her own intuition dressed up with empty numbers, but she does nonetheless.
I can build a quite plausible story where combat makes people into crazy killers.

The problem is, it's just a story. History is full of those stories that turned out not to be true. As my commenter points out, I can also build a plausible story where combat makes you realize the sanctity of human life and makes you less likely to kill. Or where the amazing human capacity for compartmentalization makes it have no overall effect. ... To check whether your story is true, you need data.
Or at least you need to make up numbers which back your case.
Also, don't be self-reflective or see any hints of the failings you recognize in others in yourself,
Humans are designed by evolution to make some bad cognitive snap judgements. We are very prone to the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy, because that was the safest way to bet when you're a naked, vulnerable east african plains ape. These heuristics are the best we could do on the veldt, but with time for cooler reflection, the problems become obvious.
You mean like presuming a Times article which doesn't make sweeping judgments, but tells stories which are fucking documented as true, is making sweeping judgments because a rightwing blog had a negative reaction to it? It really doesn't seem as if Megan bothered to read the article she's railing against.
You see, it doesn't matter that these stories are true. What matters is whether every returning soldier becomes violent. If not, this is just anecdote. Sorry, dead people, and vets in trouble. You aren't statistically significant, according to the numbers Megan's biases lead her to believe.

Megan, when you feel self-righteous is when you're most wrong. You are not supporting the troops by denying the truth about their all too often unfortunate unhappy condition, you are avoiding your own guilt for blithely cheering the policies which put them in harm's way and scarred them for life. Yeah, yeah, you toe the line about the war being a mistake now, between supporting whatever official position is thrown out there, but there's always 2x4s.

1 comment:

M. Bouffant said...

As usual, she's full of crap. Very few of the people in the homeless shelter where I'm staying are under 30, & there are plenty in their fifties & sixties.
But they all made the choice to be there, despite the better alternatives they all had.