Daily Breaking Fair Balanced News, U.S. Edition

The ability of humans to learn from their surroundings, even when transmitted through digital mediums, allows for a fabulous amount of manipulation. It’s important to have in mind the imperfections of humans learning. Humans learn a great deal from cause and effect, even when they’re entirely independent. I think it’s similar to Pablo’s dog. If the stimulus and the result come together, they’re seen as a sort of package. The stimulus comes, one expects the result. When dealing with the ideas of juries, professionalism, and general conceptions of how people act, transmitted tones, reactions, and outcomes can be persuasive and formative, and makes the people who wield media capital very powerful. The portrayal of how jury members act, of how individuals act, permeates into how the viewer acts when in a situation. As Ascar said in her post, she knows the Miranda rights from television. It’s probable that when recollecting the Miranda Rights, perhaps like most things, the individual will be influenced by the context in which they learned it. This persists across all television shows and other mediums through which one experiences life. Then the type of person committing crimes on CSI or who’s shown as a responsible investor on CNBC’s Money Talks can influence who the individual thinks of as a criminal or an investor outside of the television medium.

In the United States, as it is in much of the world, few people own a lot. According to a post by Business Insider from 2010, 6 media companies control 90% of radio, television, and newspaper. I don’t know how they came to they figured these, so skepticism might be warranted, but I think the idea is right. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for other voices, particularly those of minorities, to be heard. Large media corporations generally produce less local news stories than smaller news businesses. In a country almost entirely controlled by big media sources, the likelihood that local news gets reported is significantly reduced.


Race and Facebook: Freddy Gray

A response for when a (probably white) commenter argues it’s not about race; it’s about if you’re doing something wrong. If you’re not doing anything wrong, a police officer is not going to stop you.

Freddie Gray made eye contact police officers on bike duty, and Freddie Gray began to run. Police officers pursued on foot after Freddie Gray, and called dispatch. When confronted, Freddie Gray submitted himself to the police. Even though police officers had no reason to suspect Freddie Gray of any crimes, Freddie Gray was handcuffed in a prone position. At this point he requested an inhaler, and indicated that he could not breathe. He was searched. He had a weapon, but it was legal by regulation. He was then restrained for transport, without probable cause of having committed a crime. While transported, he was not restrained by a seat belt, as is protocol. The police stopped, restrained him outside of the vehicle, filled out paperwork, and transported him, again using illegal restraints. While on the way to the Central Booking and Intake Facility, where they process criminals http://www.dpscs.state.md.us/locations/bcbic.shtml, he suffered a fatal neck injury because he was handcuffed and shackled on his stomach on the floor of a moving vehicle. The officers called in additional units because they were concerned with the status of his prisoner and needed to check on Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray indicated he needed help and could not breathe. The additional police officer asked if Freddie Gray required medical assistance, which he confirmed multiple times. The officers reoriented Freddie Gray in a seat but still without a seat belt, and responded to another request for police officers. When arriving at the police next scene, Freddie Gray was unresponsive. The officers arrested the other person, and loaded the person for transport in the car with Freddie Gray. At the police station, the other person was unloaded and secured inside before Freddie Gray was tended to. Upon unloading, the officers realized Freddie Gray was no longer breathing, at which point they called a medic. The medic determined Freddie Gray was experiencing cardiac arrest. He was transported to a hospital, where he underwent surgery. He died shortly after. (See: Baltimore Attorney General conference:  http://www.wbaltv.com/news/raw-video-states-attorney-press-conference-officers-charged/32687522).

When I heard about the unrest in Baltimore, I checked Facebook because why not. I found many proclamations making similar statements similar to the one at top of this post. I can find no trace of the things I saw that day. April 27th in Facebook time is hours of scrolling, and I think some have been deleted. I did check out my favorite conservative page, and found similar remarks. Here’s the “best:” https://www.facebook.com/beingconservative/posts/10152784554875911

The fabrication of charges by judicial institutions against the unliked is not a groundbreaking concept. Freddie Gray’s case isn’t unique. People really don’t want to, will do anything so they don’t have to, listen.

I’ll save and alter this rebuttal, and hope it will be useful somewhere for some of you, and have some effect. The work of rectifying society is a lot of words and thinking, but far more worthwhile than candycrush and liking your crushes photos.

Apathy and Agitation

Bias in our justice system is empirically proven. Despite this, courts and legislators have been historically reluctant to change their procedures to mitigate the court’s bias. Social scientists and law officials are aware of racial disparities at various judiciary levels: at police stoppings, court procedures, sentencings, at many level of the judicial system not entirely explainable except by race. Bias should be considered a flaw in the system. The courts contended in a certain Supreme Court case that seems to escape my memory (McGautha vs. California, I believe) that resource constraints prohibited their capacity to pursue bias: If they were to pursue every hint of bias, they would be overwhelmed and would never accomplish anything. However, most typically, incidences of bias are against marginalized groups. Would they have been inactive, grounded themselves judgment over justice, if the bias was reported against the majority group? It correlates with some informational items which circulates claiming whites are less likely to mobilize against systematic bias in the judicial system if they know its targeting blacks, and the amount of financial aid one is willing to give in disaster circumstances depends of the victims. It seriously questions whether individuals in the majority group are unwilling to change their procedures because they aren’t being (negatively) affected by them. The logic of this can be explained through the concept of political apathy.

Apathy toward individuals of different races is political in nature for the opposite reaction, action, would change the current power structure, a power structure the majority group (generally) benefits from. In modern times, covert racism is more important to the perpetuation of racial inequality than overt racism. Action would portray the oppressing class as less worthy of the privileges they enjoy, or be faced with the idea that the individual has prejudiced beliefs, both of which they might find uncomfortable. Ignoring the “social reality of race in a racialized social system” allows its perpetuation in formal governmental institutions.

It seems to narrow it down to apathy by the masses isn’t enough. Individuals are generally reluctant to believe facts against their beliefs, such as that a systematic bias exists in a system glorified as fair and impartial. Bias against facts incongruent with their beliefs, as articulated in a news article by Scientific American written by the research conductor, solidly sums up what seems like one of the biggest problems and conundrum of Americans and our politics, particularly with systematically discriminatory institutions:

“We presented 174 American participants who supported or opposed same-sex marriage with (supposed) scientific facts that supported or disputed their position. When the facts opposed their views, our participants—on both sides of the issue—were more likely to state that same-sex marriage isn’t actually about facts, it’s more a question of moral opinion. But, when the facts were on their side, they more often stated that their opinions were fact-based and much less about morals. In other words, we observed something beyond the denial of particular facts: We observed a denial of the relevance of facts.”

The connection to institutional is almost too clear: When evidence of institutional discrepancies in an individual’s treatment is in favor of the individual’s argument, the individual bolster’s the evidence’s importance; and vice versa. The particular relevance of justifying action or inaction in each situation (the study claims) would be supported using very different reasoning. I would be willing to bet (all of my laundry quarters) this is broadly applicable to a variety of inter (and perhaps less relevantly intra) social group relations.

So (pick and choose as you feel compelled): Do you believe political apathy is a thing, and is/how is it racialized? Are there discernable patterns of fact bias and apathy, or an example you can think of? Do you see a symbiotic relationship in bias against contradictions to one’s beliefs and political apathy? And, more generally, how do you persuade a public unwilling to be persuaded?

Crouching Tilt, Hidden Discrimination

How does one determine if an individual holds prejudice? Structuralist theory claims that every interactions is coded in a historically constructed context, that every person-to-person interaction is underlain with culturally formulated stereotypes based on assumptions each person has about the other. Structuralism provides that individuals attribute meaning to the other’s actions based first on race and gender. And, for every person, the assumptions are at least a little different. Conducting analysis of the racial structure of a society is based on individual-to-individual interactions, with no two individuals alike. So, we guess each individual acts differently in different social settings, dependent on the racial, gender, etc. composition of the individual’s environment, and the individual’s assumptions about these “indicators.” How the individual acts is a reflection of the individual’s assumptions about the individual’s peers and the environment.

An analogy to bring us to a question: Imagine a friend; have the friend tell a story in front two different groups of the friend; vary the content; you many not have to travel far to get to a memory; imagine yourself.

Why does the character of our communications change in different environments? What does this reflect? And when does this bias become discriminatory and how does someone detect it? Can we create a measure of discrimination that transcends culture? I like to think so. To be fair, I’ll attempt to answer some the posed questions from a personal perspective. Your insights are much more interesting to me than my own.

I tend to believe I change my speech to become more transmissible, understandable. I want the group I’m with to understand the ideas I’d like to convey, and understanding seems kind of habitual. For example, I think I learn much more efficiently if the knowledge is presented in a familiar fashion, a fashion by which I successfully learned information before. I guess this is true for other people. With prior exposure, I have some tangible basis off by which I can make realistic assumptions: I know X studies political science, so X will understand if I convey the idea as similar to this school of thought; Y doesn’t care, so I’ll condense it a lot; Z is four, so use four-year-old language; I’m familiar with this friend’s speech patterns, so this expression conveys what I want to convey (I catch myself using colloquial phrases that I’m consciously against); etc. These are personal as well as categorical. So, when I’m presented to a new person, how they act, especially in the first moments, is reflective of what I am assuming about the culturing of the other (as well as habitualized cultural actions of my own). These assumptions are based on past interactions with groups I, conciously or unconciously, associate with the other.

I would be discriminatory if my speech alterations are fabricated on false assumptions or those I know are cognitively based on false information. However, being exposed to an idea, even tangentally, can influence you, whether you believe it or not1.

The line between discrimination and accomodation in these situations is thin. I’m making assumptions about how the individual learns, and they’re based off of shallow understandings of the other person, and probably shallow understandings of the group I’m associating with the individual. I’m conciously aware that the most inarticulate person may have the most sophisticated understanding. But, this seems a necessary act: Each of us have been in a situation where we could not understand the other solely because of the manner of presentation.

In practice, it’s very hard to discern what is an assumption based on proper assumptions and what is based on culturally constructed assumptions. Structuralism and social psychology can perhaps inform me what this says about me, and other people; sociology may hold the methods.

I’d thought previously that an excellent trove of data could be created through an analysis of university students at dinner. This could further our understand better how gender composition affects speaking power dynamics. A more recent addition (derived from Bonilla-Silva, Rethinking Racism) is to use theories of structuralism. The most telling points, I think, would be the first moments that the sitting group or individual meets the standing group. Comparing these initial reactions, especially following the indivdual from group to group, should tell us a lot about assumptions individuals in the communities have towards race, gender, etc, and, since I would lalalove to conduct this here, a lot about tolerance at Denison. And a lot about power dynamics2. (Some thought derived from this article3, though after the original thought had its foundations.) However, I know how freaking unethical this sounds, and, I suppose, could be. So.. Until further fruition.


1 I wish I could cite it, but I read an awesome study on how birthers – those who don’t think Obama was born in the U.S. – were exposed to the idea that Obama was in fact an American citizen and many records of it exist, they were more likely to believe it wasn’t the case. Absolutely amazing. I think this is related.

2 The original idea was to study power structure by gender composition. That would have been superfun.

3Nice Girls Don’t Ask uses stories to illustrates normative roles for women, and Scaring the Boys (both from a book by Babock and Lascherer titled “women don’t ask,” chapters 2 and 3, respectively) reveals various (mostly economic, some social [successful women less likely to be married and have child) environmental factors which contribute to women’s power/economic minority status, in a hasty summary, how fulfilling societal norms increases individual self-esteem.