aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Bennett and race and what we know to be FACT
It seems the great conductors of the world once innocently believed that men were innately better musicians than women and orchestras were male bastions. When one day, through a set of fortuitous circumstances, a male maestro auditioned a woman he thought was a man (she auditioned from behind a screen) he hired her. And when screens were broadly adopted it became clear to everyone that women were every bit as talented musicians as men.
What once was “obvious,” that men were better musicians, is now obviously not.
His story is to illustrate the power and peril of subliminal snap judgments. Says Gladwell [clip]:
There are certain things about somebody that all of us are really really good at knowing right away, and certain things that we may think we’re good at knowing that we are profoundly not…
Sexual attractiveness, you can do like that…
When we have real experience with something we are good at making profoundly good snap judgments, but in almost every other situation where we do not have that level of expertise our snap judgments are bad. And as a society I feel we are way too cavalier about the products of our snap judgments.
Because what is wrong with his statement is that he makes an unproven statement of supposed FACT that is racist in its core assumptions. Blacks are convicted of disproportionately more crime than whites, but they also exist in a specific marginal economic position in American society. Partly, it’s that they commit more crimes because of their poverty, but partly it’s that their activities are criminalized at a higher rate than parallel activities of non-blacks. The difference in conviction rates and prison sentences for crack cocaine versus powder if merely the most dramatic.
To this I would add from Gladwell what I have seen said no place else [clip]:
I have become convinced since writing this book that juries should never be able to see the defendants in a jury trial; that that is just crazy. Why? Because the kind of snap judgments a jury is likely to make about a defendant from seeing the defendant are all irrelevant…
Every year someone stands up and points out that there are huge differentials in the conviction rates and sentences for blacks and whites convicted of the same crime. And yet we make that observation and kind of shrug and say, “Well, that’s America.”
We don’t have to live with that. Why don’t we do something about it?
I would bet every dollar I own that if we put the defendant in a backroom and had the defendant answer all questions by email that the gap between black and white defendants, the sentences and conviction rates would shrink.
I absolutely believe that.
So do I.
Fake news illegal
So says the GAO, an independent nonpartisan arm of Congress:
Federal auditors said on Friday that the Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush’s education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.
In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated “covert propaganda” in the United States, in violation of a statutory ban.
They also found this new instance of propoganda:
In the course of its work, the accountability office discovered a previously undisclosed instance in which the Education Department had commissioned a newspaper article. The article, on the “declining science literacy of students,” was distributed by the North American Precis Syndicate and appeared in numerous small newspapers around the country. Readers were not informed of the government’s role in the writing of the article, which praised the department’s role in promoting science education.