20.2.19

WHOSE PRIORS GET REVISED?

Sorry, I remember only enough about Bayesian updating to be dangerous, and yet the kind of conscience-cowboy who fakes a hate crime to raise consciousness provides evidence to the person whose prior beliefs are dubious about such things to revise those prior beliefs more strongly, and those actions weaken the prior beliefs of anyone who has some confidence that hate crimes exist and remains receptive to evidence.

A mini-dissertation continues below the jump.
Let's start with what sounds like the quintessentially obvious observation offered by Robby Soave at Reason.  "[I]t's important not to confuse 'reality' with 'narrative.'"  Alas, this is a world in which the narrative is the realityNational Review's Andy Ngo sees where that goes.
Jussie Smollett’s hoax is symptomatic of America’s illness. Because of the mainstreaming of academia’s victimhood culture, we are now in a place where we place more value on being a victim than on being heroic, charitable, or even kind. Victims or victim groups high on intersectionality points are supposed to be coveted, treated with child gloves, and believed unreservedly. Their “lived experience” gives them infinite wisdom. Those who urge caution are treated as bigots.
Dear reader, be careful about that "we are now."  Hate crime hoaxes reinforce the prior beliefs of the kind of conscience-cowboy who is always looking for an opportunity to hector Normals and call it dialogue.  Thus, as Rich Lowry notes, there is an incentive for publicity hounds to create hoaxes.  "The fact that you will be valorized by an enormously influential segment of the culture is obviously an incentive for these kind of hoaxes."  The problem ... there's that Bayesian updating again, is that the segment of the culture that pounces on a hoax later has to walk it back.  Perhaps in the credibility so lost is the loosening of priors.  For instance, Lisa Boothe notes,  "The media chose to believe the narrative that was most damaging to Trump supporters, even in the absence of facts or logic."  There's more at the Twitchy link.

Do you think Normals haven't noticed?  Consider a recent news item from California.  "Man punches and throws hot coffee on Sikh 7-Eleven clerk because he 'hates Muslims.'"  That is, there are still people behaving badly, and some of their bias crimes are beyond stupid.  But the nature of the reaction, from Sikh and Moslem, is unlikely to discourage more fakes.
The attack was met with condemnation from local Sikh and Muslim organisations, including the Sacramento Valley office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“We condemn this attack on an individual because of his faith,” Saad Sweilem, civil rights attorney for group, said in a statement.

Mr Sweilem continued: “This hate crime represents yet another attack on our Sikh brothers and sisters fueled by Islamophobia and those emboldened by this administration’s xenophobic policies and sentiments. We welcome the hate crime charges and encourage law enforcement to continue to take these clear incidents of bias seriously.”
The attorney is careful not to describe all Trump supporters as deplorable, although the invocation of the Trump presidency might persuade people who see the current administration as doing some things right as being beset by people who view all Trump supporters as deplorable, and the supporters might, as John Kass notes, simply retreat to their corners.  "There’s nothing new there. Trump is a political-lightning-rod president, inspiring irrational hate in some and irrational adoration in others and most likely both groups are tribal and wrong."

But in making up atrocities so as to have reason to deplorable-shame, it's going to be harder, Mitch Berg notes, to take the proper approach to genuine bias crimes.
I don’t know about you, but I think Jussie Smollett, and especially all the #Resitance media sycophants who parroted the story because, if you hate the MAGAs, it’s just too good to fact-check, just made life a lot harder for people who actually do wind up on the wrong side of bigotry.

Other than deplorables, obviously.
No, not so obviously, as the deplorables, or more accurately, militant normals, have their champion. People who are disposed not to give much credence to allegations of hate crimes have plenty of opportunity to update their belief in the direction of the more serious the charge, the more likely the evidence is phony.  Kurt Schlichter, for instance, is having none of it.


Those incidents of atrocity propaganda, and more, are documented by Eric Felten in "The Great Hate-Crime Hysteria."  He asks, "Aren't we witness to behavior terrible enough without having to make it up?"  He also cautions that repetition of atrocity propaganda tends to make people less inclined to believe true reports of atrocities when they surface.  Mitch "Shot in the Dark Berg," for example, will require a lot more evidence to reject a preliminary conclusion of hoax.  "I don’t know about you – but these days, when a accusation of a “hate crime” gets massive, immediate coverage, I’ve started to assume it’s a hoax until proven otherwise."  He's also having none of that "start a conversation" silliness.

For the people who don't see in the lengthening sequence of fake atrocity stories a reason to revise their beliefs, though, they'll just keep peddling the same stuff.


All the people who propagate the atrocity propaganda have to do is not be crazy, and they can't even do that.
You know how this works: they’ll just carry on like they always do, convinced that Republicans and those who support Trump are evil incarnate. They insult half of America and yet won’t admit when they’re wrong. Meanwhile, they’re making idiots of themselves, and inadvertently paving the way for four more years of Trump. Because, as the saying goes, “You want more Trump? This is how you get more Trump.”
I suspect I'll have frequent occasion to suggest that they only have to not be crazy during the next presidential season, and yet I suspect I'll not be surprised by the crazy.  Rod Dreher isn't.  "Why, Donald Trump himself might as well have been on the streets of Chicago, beating up poor Jussie." He continues, "When it comes to hate crime hoaxes, the Reichstag fire is eternal." I don't know if he knows Bayesian updating, but his intuition is correct. "At this point, you’d have to be an idiot to believe any of these claims until and unless there is clear proof."

Columbia linguist John McWhorter isn't likely to invoke the Reichstag fire, but he identifies a new form of "chic" that he doesn't like.
Until [Mr Smollett's story didn't check out], smart people were claiming that the attack on Smollett was the story of Donald Trump’s America writ small—that it revealed the terrible plight of minority groups today. But the Smollett story, if the “trajectory” leads to evidence of fakery, would actually reveal something else modern America is about: victimhood chic. Future historians and anthropologists will find this aspect of early-21st-century America peculiar, intriguing, and sad.
It's probably sad that so many "smart" people were so quick to credit the fake, rather than update their priors, but perhaps we have an opportunity to practice that sort of updating.  Professor McWhorter elaborates.
In John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, [c.q.] a newspaperman advises, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One take on Smollett’s story, if he turns out to have orchestrated it, will be that it was true in essence—a teachable example of the very real phenomenon of hate crimes. For a long time, the enlightened black person was to pretend that O. J. Simpson was framed by the Los Angeles Police Department, out of concern about the way the LAPD actually had treated black people for decades. For similar reasons, even today the idea that Michael Brown in Ferguson died with his hands up, although soundly refuted by all lines of evidence, retains status as almost an “alternative fact” in some quarters.
That might be so, although clinging too long to a prior belief seriously at variance with the evidence is not likely to end well.

Heather Mac Donald's intuition is also correct.  "The truth: as instances of actual racism get harder and harder to find, the search to find such bigotry becomes increasingly frenzied and unmoored from reality."  The good news is, the stories have to be ever more outrageous and ever more implausible to reinforce the weakened updated beliefs of people inclined to believe the stories so as to continue the calls for dialogue.  Normals recognize all the leper's bells of approaching diversity hustlers, whether they are the vocabulary, e.g. "dialogue" or the rest of the rhetoric, or the atrocity propaganda itself.

Sgt. Mom of Chicago Boyz issues a useful recognition chart.
Look, this whole thing smelled from the get-go, smelled like week-old road-kill left to percolate by the side of a highway in Texas in the high summer – which practically every conservative-leaning blog and news provider was helpfully willing to point out. Yet the Establishment Mainstream Media fell on it with cries of happy joy, demonstrating once again – as if there were any need for it – that they are either as gullible a set of loons who ever responded to an email from a total stranger asking them to help transfer money out of an African bank, or political operatives in the pay of a power inimical to our republic and our way of life. In either case – they are in a position which nature and good fortune has not equipped them to fulfill with any grace, let alone a shred of professional competence.

This came on the heels of a long, long, long list of sex or race-hate hoaxes which either proved to be deliberately instigated by the so-called victim, fanned by activists for their own ends at worst, or at best, a random snowflake triggered by an equally random occurrence like a pair of shoelaces accidently dropped on the ground, or a banana peel left in a tree. At this point I would guess that it’s too damn much to ask of the easily-triggered Establishment Mainstream Media that they at least try to be skeptical about this kind of cr*p, since it has happened so often, and at least as recently as a fortnight ago, with the Covington Catholic Cerfuffle.

Frankly, I’m annoyed at the tendency of the racial social justice warriors to declare that some horrific offense has been levied against them, whenever they declare that some conversation has to be had, awareness to be raised, or that some publicity has to be required, like Oprah with her haverings about an encounter in a Swiss boutique about not being shown an uber-expensive handbag by the saleslady, or some actor deciding to pull a kamikaze operation in order to keep his job in a TV series that practically no one given to wearing a MAGA hat on the coldest day of the year at two in the morning had ever watched.

There has to be a penalty attached to announcing and perpetuating a hoax of his kind. A penalty very public, as public as the initial accusation – because with all the fake racial-hate crimes being publicized by the Establishment Mainstream Media, and later walked back – who on earth is going to believe the next for-real no-sh*t victim of a hate crime?
Here's more from Ms Mac Donald.
The Smollett and Covington cases, and others, are grounded in the #BelieveSurvivors mantra of the Kavanaugh hearings: the Left demands utter credence toward any claim of racism and sexism, and the merest act of questioning these claims or trying to pin down details is regarded as hateful. Anti-racism—preferably of a performative nature—is now the national religion of white elites, who would rather blame themselves (and the deplorables) for nonexistent racism than speak honestly about the behavioral problems and academic skills gaps that lead to ongoing socioeconomic disparities.
I'll leave out the otherwise obligatory reference to inculcating the skills of the middle class.  She's on a roll.
The current anti-racist frenzy is the product of a poisoned academic culture that has declared war on Western Civilization and that teaches students, more than anything else, how to hate—to hate the greatest accomplishments of our civilization, to hate America, and to hate one another.

We continue to play with fire.
Gail Heriot elaborates.
Somebody needs to start worrying about a different kind of “irreparable harm”–that being done to our social fabric by false accusations—especially those that aren’t found out … or those that receive huge publicity in the media until it turns out that they are false and then are quietly forgotten.

We are not a perfect country. Now and then ugly things will happen in 2019—though knock me over with a feather if they involve nooses, the KKK, or screams of “This is MAGA country.” But impressionable young people and immigrants are being convinced that Americans are far worse people than we actually are. Without a more realistic sense of the dangers of ordinary American life, we will all eventually lose our freedoms and our fortunes. Public trust is a precious thing.
No, public trust is just another social construction. Probably oppressive at that.

What takes its place, though, will probably be worse, and it won't be good for the next victim of a no-s**t bias crime.

Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan, who has long documented the faking of bias crimes in the service of Diversity or whatever, reinforces Professor Heriot's caution.  "UD has learned over the course of this blog that the business of staging things is sickeningly common. And of course incredibly destructive to efforts to take seriously actual hate crimes."

She concludes with a call for Bayesian updating in the light of new evidence.  "This case is an object lesson in what happens when people in positions of political and cultural authority abandon critical thinking and pressure those who don’t abandon their circumspection under pain of being smeared as bigots."

There's also a call for revising priors in the presence of new evidence in Professor McWhorter's closing argument.
Did it not occur to Smollett that if this blew up in his face, he would be tarring by association actual and legitimate claims of racist and homophobic abuse? As someone seeking to be seen as a concerned activist in the vein of his mother and Angela Davis, could Smollett really not understand that a stunt all about making himself more famous was not exactly the wokest approach?

But that’s just it—Smollett, if the latest reporting is true, was an eager puppy, jumping with joyous inattention into American social politics as he has encountered it coming of age in the 21st century. He would have known that in this moment, very important people would find him more interesting for having been hurt on the basis of his identity than for his fine performance on an interesting hit television show. He would have known this so well that it didn’t even occur to him that his story would have to be more credible than the dopey one he threw together about being jumped in near-Arctic temperatures by the only two white bullies in America with a mysterious fondness for a black soap hip-hopera. (Yet again, I’m assuming the latest reporting is accurate.)

Only in an America in which matters of race are not as utterly irredeemable as we are often told could things get to the point that someone would pretend to be tortured in this way, acting oppression rather than suffering it, seeking to play a prophet out of a sense that playing a singer on television is not as glamorous as getting beaten up by white guys. That anyone could feel this way and act on it in the public sphere is, in a twisted way, a kind of privilege, and a sign that we have come further on race than we are often comfortable admitting.
His use of "we" is a restrictive "we," referring to Atlantic readers rather than to Americans more generally.

The updating of priors, however, is something that might be long overdue.  Kira Davis explains.
Until now, the conservative complaints about the bias and malfeasance of the mainstream media have been like shouting into the wind. Smollett’s story is a unique convergence of pop culture and politics and thus brings that conversation to the forefront of our entertainment-obsessed society. It’s no longer confined to the political wings of media. Everyone is talking about this.

This is a fantastic time to calmly explain frustrations with the media, why the term #FakeNews is rooted in genuine concern and discuss how we can disagree about political strategy and policy without labeling each other as the enemy.

I don’t expect any liberal to suddenly turn their backs on their ideology just because they may be finally seeing how the media is shaping their bias in the most sinister of ways. Neither should you.

Helping people to be just a little more critical of their media sources and the politicians they love and trust is a healthy “win” for the entire country.
What evidence do you require, dear reader, to revise your priors?

I'll give Robby Soave, who appeared in the opening statement, the closing argument.  "None of this means that racism and other forms of bigotry are nonexistent, or even that they're rare. But reality is often quite complicated, and it's important for reporters to add context, clarification, and caveats when discussing the news—no matter how much this displeases the automatically-believe-victims crowd."

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