Saturday, March 2, 2019

News That You Can Use (No. 4)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my (eventual) grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who don't yet, aka the Stickies) to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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                                  Who The Hell Is This Guy?

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars 
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse  
Iggy -- My imaginary Sticky
Dana -- My imaginary Gentlereader

"More and more, journalism seems to have hopped out of Truth's pocket and crept into another." -Henry Rollins

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies, Great-Grandstickies, and Gentlereaders,

A letter featuring interesting tidbits of news gleaned from the wild, wacky, wonderful world wide web by your favorite current events junkie.

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS - Crank's News Service) - Curbed San Francisco, in an article dated 2/15/19, published an article with a sub-headline that's a quote from the mayor of San Francisco, London Breed.

"A place where we can recognize the leather community and all LGBTQ people," says mayor

                        Warning! Dated Cultural Reference Ahead!

"Now, that's something you don't hear about every day, Chauncey."
"What's that, Edgar?"
"An LGBTQ leather focused public-pedestrian" space.
"Oh, I don't know Edgar. Right time, right place there's something to be said for a well-made pair of chaps."

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (CNS) - America leads the world in mass shootings. You are, no...

[Wait,wait,wait. This is news to you? Everybody knows this.]

As I was about to say, Dana, no doubt, you are already aware of this depressing fact. Well, cheer up America, it ain't true. It is, however, a perfect illustration of purple journalism run amok.

Purple JournalismJournalism as currently perpetrated by many news outlets that claim to be professional, unbiased, and factual. In reality, they are partisan, prone to sensationalism, and motivated primarily by the bottom line. (From King Crank's Glossary.)

I recently stumbled over another interesting article, on the FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) website, entitled* The Myth That the US Leads the World in Mass Shootings, by Jon Miltimore. 

[*Yes, I realize that entitled should be titled, however, entitled just sounds... cool. So many things to change once I become king.]

When I read the first sentence I knew I'd have to read the entire article (I'm a world class skimmer -- so much potentially useful info, so little time). "If you asked me this morning which nation has the most mass shootings in the world, I would have said, with perhaps a flicker of hesitation, the United States."

As my temporally current crop of Stickies would say -- I know, right?

The article in question summarily and succinctly proves that this alleged fact, this canard of conventional wisdom, is in fact, bloomin' baloney. 

A summary, if you please, of what I learned. 

- A couple of years ago an associate prof at the University of Alabama, Adam Lankford, released a study claiming that mass shootings -- which he defined as four or more poor souls murdered in a single incident -- overwhelmingly occur in the USA. 

- This was widely reported, and decried, here, there, and even way over there. For example, "Let's be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries." -Barack Obama

- Economist and scholar John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center begs to differ and has called out Professor Lankford. The good professor refuses to comment or release the data he compiled to generate his conclusions. 

- Believe it or not, it's more dangerous to live the social democratic paradise of Norway than it is here.

-There's even an excellent video. 

It gets better...
The fact that Professor Lankford has committed what Mr. Lott calls "academic malpractice" is not a secret. If go a-googlin' you will it reported here and there but you'll quickly discover two things.

First, the coverage of the actual facts are sparse, and often spun to fit a predetermined narrative.

Second, there are far more websites, of all sorts, that state the results of Professor Lankford's debunked study as though they're etched in stone.

And then I thought...
I wonder what the Donalds (I'm not a fan) favorite news outlet, CNN (I'm not a fan) has to say about this so I googled the phrase "mass shooting statistics and CNN."

The results? Nine hits featuring CNN coverage of mass shootings. All of them a mix of fact and opinion with an emphasis on sensationalism. See definition of purple journalisms above. None mention the debunked study.

Hit number ten was entitled "Does the US Experience Far More School Shootings Than Any Other Country?" A "fact check" by inspired by the fact the majority of the CNN stories feature school shootings (I wonder why?). Fact check result? Mostly true. The article is as ambiguous as the stated result.

After that are a bunch of hits that are other media outlets attacking CNN for misreporting and sensationalizing school shootings. Most are purple journalism about purple journalism. Ain'tcha glad you live in the information age?

THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CALIFORNIA (CNS) - The California State Legislature, vanguard of the ban the straw movement, are once again are leading the way in the seemingly endless war of saving ourselves from ourselves.

Assemblyman Phil Ting (who just happens to be from San Francisco) has recently introduced a bill that would ban the use of paper receipts in stores unless the customer specifically asks for one.

Coinkydinkally, Mr. Ting also seems to be a victim?/perpetrator? of bad science. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day. 
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Your friendly neighborhood crank is not crazy about social media (I am a crank after all) but if you must, you can follow me on Facebook. I post weekly column announcements as well as things I find on the web that reflect where I'm coming from.

©2019 Mark Mehlmauer

[I haven't got around to figuring out the official way to do this yet... but as of 12.15.18 I'm offering up my humble scribbles under a Creative Commons License. That is to say, Anyone may republish my columns anywhere -- as long as they don't alter them and as long as they credit me (Mark Mehlmauer) as the author, and, link to my website, The Flyoverland Crank.

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