Tag: Violence

Shootout in Dallas

Early this morning, a deranged man starting shoot at the Dallas police HQ and planting bombs. No one was wounded. The police chased him down, cornered him in a parking lot, shot out his engine and then, when it appeared he wouldn’t back down, shot him.

I’ve criticized the police in this space for using SWAT tactics in domestic situations. This is one instance where it was absolutely required. As far as I can tell, they handled a dangerous situation well and no innocent bystanders were hurt. So … well done, Dallas PD.

Biker Wars

So, someone enlighten me. After this weekend’s shootout in Waco between two biker gangs that left nine dead and 18 wounded, we started getting a bunch of think pieces from the usual liberal outlets about how the media coverage of this awfulness was “different”.

Those who are using what happened in Waco to start conversations about stereotypes and media biases against black people aren’t complaining about the tenor of this weekend’s media coverage. They’re saying something a little different: that by being pretty reasonable and sticking to the facts, this coverage highlights the absurdity of the language and analysis that have been deployed in other instances, when the accused criminals are black.

I have no idea what Vox is on about. The coverage of this weekend’s events was not very different from the coverage of any other violence. You can read Ed Morrissey here where he talks about the many politicians who have denounced these gangs, the efforts law enforcement has made to reign them in, the arrest of almost two hundred gang members and the efforts made to prevent this before the weekend even started. No one is downplaying this or pretending this isn’t a problem. No one is failing to denounce them as violent thugs. And no one is trying to claim that this event was somehow justified.

Another line of commentary that’s predictable in media coverage and commentary surrounding violence involving black people has to do with black cultural pathology.

Politicians and pundits are notorious for grasping for problems in African-American communities — especially fatherlessness — to explain the kind of violence that, when it happens in a white community, is treated as an isolated crime versus an indictment of an entire racial group’s way of life.

The total absence around the Waco incident of analysis of struggles and shortfalls within white families and communities is a painful reminder of this.

What a bunch of crap. The difference between violence in the black community and violence in the white community is scale. Black people are six times as likely to be murdered as white people and eight times likelier to be involved in a murder. The community in Waco is not nearly as dysfunctional and crime-ridden as Baltimore is. Saying that violence is more endemic to black communities than white ones isn’t racism; it’s a fact.

Now what we make of that fact, how we respond to it; that’s a different ballgame. Then it’s reasonable to discuss institutional racism, the collapse of families, the cycle of violence, the destruction of inner cities, the War on Drugs, etc. I also think it’s perfectly reasonable to question why people get involved in biker gangs or why the media tend to romanticize biker gangs and have previously failed to report on biker violence. But let’s not pretend that a shootout in Waco reflects violence in our nation the same way the constant drumbeat of death and destruction in our inner cities does (Baltimore, to make one example, has had 34 murders just since Freddie Gray died).

And frankly, outlets like Vox are in a glass house on this. They seem to think it’s wrong for conservatives to talk about absent fathers as a contributor to violence. But it’s OK to discuss racism, decaying infrastructure and failing schools?

But the key thing to understand is that the criticism here is not really of the coverage of what happened in Waco. It’s of the juxtaposition of what happened here with what happens when the people involved are of a different color. The message is not that the conversation about Waco should be overblown, hypercritical of an entire culture, or full of racial subtext. It’s despair over the sense that if the gang members were black, it almost certainly would be.

Bullshit. There are about thirty mass shootings a year in this country, many of them involving gang violence. Almost of all of them are ignored by the media. In fact, I expect think pieces next week about why the media doesn’t cover shootings between black gangs with the same intensity they covered this one.

Salon, of course, takes the cake, wondering why the events in Waco weren’t called a riot (mainly because … there wasn’t a riot). CNN wonders why we react to Muslim violence more sharply than biker violence (because no biker gang ever murdered 3000 people). NPR wonders why the National Guard wasn’t called out (because all the perpetrators were arrested and the violence finished on the first day).

You can read a response from National Review, that points out that the media has had no problem labeling riots as such when it involves white sports fans or college students.

And who, precisely, is denying that organized crime syndicates are thuggish? Isn’t that generally what is meant by “biker gang”? No one is arguing that these were the Wild Hogs.

I understand that people get frustrated when conservations about the excessive use of force by police or the militarization of police gets sidelined into discussion of black-on-black violence. It is possible to denounce both at the same time (as indeed most people do). But trying to sandwich media coverage of the Waco shooting into that discussion is a stretch at best.

Sorry, guys. This isn’t about the media. This is about a bunch of thugs who started a brawl that resulted in nine people being killed (including, most likely, several killed by the police trying to deal with the situation). No one is defending them. No one is romanticizing them. No one is pretending this was something other than a vile incident. And if the result is crackdowns on other violent gangs, almost everyone is fine with that.

Fallout From A Murder

No matter what one thinks of police and modern policing, police violence, police racism or lack therefore, the execution of two NYPD officers over the weekend was thoroughly evil. Even if these officers were abusive and racist — and there is no indication whatsoever that they were — this act should still be thoroughly condemned by everyone.

I am not an anarchist. We can see around the world how thin the veneer of civilization is and how easily it is destroyed. Law and order are a huge improvement over the lack thereof, no matter how poorly they are enforced. It’s one thing to criticize police and demand reform and changes. It’s one thing to defend yourself if, for example, cops smash down your door in the middle of the night and you have no idea what’s going on. People can and should oppose aggressive policing and the intrusion of government into their lives. But the deliberate and cold-blooded murder of two policemen is an attack on civilization, on the idea of law and order.

The primary problem we have with policing in the United States is not a bunch of evil cops running around. It is a political leadership that has given them a million laws to enforce, authorized an aggressive war on voluntary behavior, shoved assault weapons and tanks into their hands and chipped away at accountability. The system is failing the police as thoroughly as it is failing the rest of us.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of these vile murders, a narrative has emerged that conflates criticism of policing with the murders. This has been building for a long time. A couple of weeks ago, a paper ran a really stupid anti-police cartoon. This resulted in a union head issuing a scathing letter, demanding (and getting) an apology. But this wasn’t an isolated incident nor confined to idiot cartoons.

McNesby has a history of lashing out at journalists. When Philadelphia Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman broke an incredible story about a Philly PD rogue narcotics unit that was essentially robbing immigrant-owned bodegas, McNesby called a press conference in which he called drug-using police informants “one step above” reporters like Laker and Ruderman. Someone launched a Web site specifically to attack the reporters. The two women later won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting.

(Both the state and the Feds cleared the bodega cops despite video supporting the claims of multiple independent witnesses.)

Last week, police officers demanded an apology from a Cleveland Browns player for wearing a T-shirt demanding justice for John Crawford and Tamir Rice, as if being angry about the shooting of two men carrying BB guns was completely out of line. This followed demands for an apology when Rams players made the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture before a game. A police chief in California is under fire for marching with protesters in favor less police violence.

Bill de Blasio has become a lightning rod for this. Shortly before this incident, the PBA said that de Blasio was not welcome at any police funerals for “anti-police” views.

This pushback has only intensified in the aftermath of the murders. During de Blasio’s press conference, police literally turned their backs on him. Union leaders have said there is “blood on his hands” for his “anti-cop” positions, as though a career criminal and violent psychopath only needed to hear de Blasio’s speech to go on a murderous spree. Barack Obama, Eric Holder and Rahm Emmanuel have also been accused by Howard Safir, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki of fomenting this event from their anti-cop rhetoric and “hatred” of cops.

But as Jamelle Bouie points out, none of this has been anti-cop unless you regard any criticism of police as anti-cop:

Police officers aren’t under siege from hostile elected officials. At no point, for example, has de Blasio attacked the New York City Police Department. Instead, he’s called for improved policing, including better community relations and new training for “de-escalation” techniques. “Fundamental questions are being asked, and rightfully so,” he said at the beginning of the month, after the grand jury decision in the death of Eric Garner. “The way we go about policing has to change.”

Likewise, neither President Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder has substantively criticized police. After a Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, Obama appealed for calm and praised law enforcement for doing a “tough job.” “Understand,” he said, “our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.”

When directly asked if “African-American and Latino young people should fear the police,” Holder said no. “I don’t think that they should fear the police,” he said in an interview for New York magazine with MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid. “But I certainly think that we have to build up a better relationship between young people, people of color, and people in law enforcement.”

Note that Bouie is actually quoting those accused of anti-cop rhetoric rather than making vague quote-free allegations.

Nothing here should be a surprise. Despite what these police organizations and their allies allege, there isn’t an anti-police movement in this country, or at least, none of any significance. The people demonstrating for Eric Garner and Michael Brown aren’t against police, they are for better policing. They want departments to treat their communities with respect, and they want accountability for officers who kill their neighbors without justification. When criminals kill law-abiding citizens, they’re punished. When criminals kill cops, they’re punished. But when cops kill citizens, the system breaks down and no one is held accountable. That is what people are protesting.

Given the dangers inherent to being a police officer—and the extent to which most cops are trying to do the best they can—it’s actually understandable that cops are a little angry with official and unofficial criticism. But they should know it comes with the territory. For all the leeway they receive, the police aren’t an inviolable force; they’re part of a public trust, accountable to elected leaders and the people who choose them. And in the same way that police have a responsibility to protect and secure the law, citizens have a responsibility to hold improper conduct to account.

On the subject of de Blasio specifically, Doug Mataconis points out that it is unreasonable to expect the reflexive absolute loyalty to the police that Giuliani exhibited:

Politically, DeBlasio may or may not have bungled his relationship with the NYPD during his first year in office, but that hardly makes him responsible for murder. Additionally, the fact that the Mayor may have expressed some sympathy for the people who were protesting the Garner decision is neither outrageous nor inappropriate. For one thing, it’s worth noting that he is the Mayor of all the people in New York, not just the police officers, and that as the elected leader of the city it is his job, in part, to be responsive to the concerns of civilians who see what they think is an injustice being committed by the police department and the justice system. The argument that being willing to listen to those protesters makes any political leader responsible for the actions of a violent criminal thug who traveled some 200 miles for the express purpose of committing murder is nonsense that ought to be rejected out of hand.

Yes, it is true that there have been some assholes calling for dead cops. Let’s not pretend that element isn’t out there. And people like Sharpton have been disgracefully slow to condemn such rhetoric. But this shooting does not mean the movement for better policing and more accountability is wrong. When a husband-and-wife team ambushed and murdered two cops earlier this year, it wasn’t the fault of the Tea Party. When Gabby Giffords was shot, it wasn’t the fault of Sarah Palin. When Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building, it wasn’t the fault of Rush Limbaugh. Arguing that acts of violence committed by crazed extremists discredits an entire movement is the sort of thing I expect out of the Left Wing in this country. Read Ross Douthat’s post on how isolated violent acts have been used throughout history to discredit political opponents. Nick Gillespie:

As the New York Daily News and other outlets are reporting, the apparent shooter was not only violent and unhinged but had bragged via Instagram that he was “putting wings on pigs” and “putting pigs in a blanket.”

The distance between such rantings and, even worse, the act of shooting policemen sitting in a patrol car is so vast that they simply have no relation to legitimate and even impassioned criticism of the militarization of police and the protesting of specific acts of apparent injustice.

To suggest otherwise is not simply disgraceful and cheapening to serious public discourse. It’s all too often the first refuge of people on the right and the left who are afraid to actually engage in any sort of meaningful debate.

This was an isolated incident. Last year saw the fewest cops murdered in seven decades and rates of violence against cops we haven’t seen since the 19th century. 2013 was an unusually safe year for cops and 2014 is likely to return to the 40-50 killings we’ve been averaging over the last decade. Doubtless, this increase will be cast as a “war on cops” by the usual sources. They dragged out the “war on cops” a few years ago when the number of murders went up, then went silent when it dropped back down again. But violence against cops is still at historic lows. As I note every time there is a mass shooting, these incidents are mercifully rare. These were the first NYPD cops murdered in three years.

And it’s worth noting something else: violence by cops is also down. It’s hard to tell how far down since official national statistics are not kept. But for the NYPD specifically, cop shootings of citizens is way down. So there is progress being made. But that progress still leaves us with a thousand people dead at the hands of police every year. That compares to about four a year in Germany, about a dozen in year in Canada and zero in Great Britain. Most of those killings are justified; some are not. But we have a system that has trouble distinguishing between the two.

The reaction to the killings is not unexpected. As I noted above, there has been a sustained campaign by police unions and supporters to delegitimize any criticism of the police (while ignoring provocative speech on their own side.) But let’s not pretend that there is no middle ground between the vicious execution of two cops and concern and criticism over a system that allows for consequence-free bad behavior.

Two good men are dead at the hands of a vile killer, a man who showed no compunction about shooting his ex-girlfriend before this or committing other acts of violence. Let’s not legitimize his deranged excuses by calling it a political movement.

Cops Murdered

As you no doubt have heard, this weekend a man attempted to murder his ex-girlfriend in Maryland then drove to New York where he cold-bloodedly shot two cops. He then killed himself. I’ll maybe post something later on in the week on the reaction to the events. But not right now. Right now, here are the two men who were killed:

And a heart-breaking message from Ramos’s son:

The Ferguson Decision

(Note: As I was writing this, Thrill put up his own post, which I recommend you read as well.)

As you have probably heard, the grand jury refused to indict Officer Darren Wilson tonight. A few thoughts:

First, this is not a surprise. Grand juries are reluctant to indict officers even when there is solid evidence of excessive force. They are reluctant to convict officers when there is clear evidence of excessive force. Three years ago, a group of police officers beat Kelly Thomas to death. He was unarmed but mentally disturbed. On the video tape, he tells the officers he is trying to cooperate, tells them he can’t breath and calls out for his father. He died from the massive injuries inflicted on him that night. The jury acquitted the officers who killed him. Earlier this year, John Crawford was walking around Walmart with a toy gun. Officers, responding to a 911 call, gunned him down almost immediately after seeing him. The jury did not indict.

Keep something in mind, though: it is incredibly rare for a grand jury to not indict. You can read a first-hand account from Ken White, a former prosecutor, here, about how the grand jury process tends to work. What the DA did in this case: not asking the jury to consider a specific charge, was unusual and made it a lot more likely that no true bill would be returned. This is not a degree of skepticism that is applied to average citizens. It is only applied to those on the side of government.

Second, I don’t know what happened in this case and neither does anyone except Officer Wilson. A lot of people have been claiming that Wilson had been “vindicated” by some of the physical evidence (Brown’s DNA in the car, etc.). I don’t see that. Parts of his story check out. But the one part of the story that is most critical — his claim that Michael Brown fled 50 yards down the street, turned and charged into a hail of bullets — is still unproven. Whether Michael Brown was a choirboy or not is irrelevant. What matters is what happened in those critical seconds. And there are conflicting witness accounts of that.

Third, none of this changes the fundamental problems that are still present in Ferguson and in other cities: a gung-ho militarized culture, an extensive use of military-grade weapons, a hatred of sunshine that led to the arrest of two reporters and a ban on air travel that is now known to have been implemented to keep the media out. In the aftermath of the Brown shooting, the police still pointed military weapons at peaceful protesters, still responded to taunts with tear gas, still responded to FOIA requests with a incident report that was essentially blank. If they had wanted to enrage people, they could not have picked a better strategy. And the underlying problem, presented in start detail by Radley Balko, remains.

Fourth, anyone who responds to this incident with violence or looting is not helping. For the most part, these are thugs taking advantage of the situation. They are outnumbered by the peaceful protesters but they will be the face of this. The windows they smash, the cars they burn — that is what people will remember. And that’s a terrible pity.

There are real things that can be done about this. But it will involve a lot of hard work to change our government, our culture and our law enforcement. Is anyone willing to do that?

McCollum and Brown Freed

Chalk another exoneration up to DNA evidence:

Thirty years after their convictions in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in rural North Carolina, based on confessions that they quickly repudiated and said were coerced, two mentally disabled half brothers were declared innocent and ordered released Tuesday by a judge here.

The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man whose possible involvement had been somehow overlooked by the authorities even though he lived only a block from where the victim’s body was found, and he had admitted to committing a similar rape and murder around the same time.

The startling shift in fortunes for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, provided one of the most dramatic examples yet of the potential harm from false, coerced confessions and of the power of DNA tests to exonerate the innocent.

It’s cases like this that have moved me to a neutral position on the death penalty and now have me leaning against it. Had we gotten the speedy execution that many wanted, not only would we have executed two innocent men, the real murderer might never have been identified.

In the end, the case against the death penalty is not a liberal one. I’m not terribly moved by appeals to mercy for those who have none. Nor do I think executing men who rape and murder little girls makes us “no better than them”; there is a colossal moral difference between raping and murdering a child and executing that murderer. No, the case against the death penalty is a conservative one: that the government has demonstrated, a couple of hundred times now*, that it can not be trusted with the power to execute people.

For death penalty supporters, the horrifying facts of the girl’s rape and murder only emphasized the justice of applying the ultimate penalty. As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr. McCollum’s booking photograph on campaign fliers that accused a Democratic candidate of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.

In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request to review the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection.

This crime was particularly heinous. If there was anyone you’d want executed, it would be two mean who raped and murdered an 11-year-old girl. But does the horror of the crime justify potentially executing the wrong men? Is that horror not compounded by the man who committed this horrible crime getting away with it for thirty years? We were lucky he was arrested before he could do it again. In the Michael Morton case, where an innocent man was sent to prison for life because of prosecutorial misconduct, we were not so lucky. The real killer likely murdered another woman two years later. Would we know that if Morton had been unjustly executed instead of being sent to prison for 25 years?

Ultimately, I keep circling back to the victim in this case, a girl who was the same age as me when she was so brutally killed. If she had not been slain by Roscoe Artis, she would now be 42, possibly with a family of her own. When a child is murdered, an entire universe of possibility is destroyed. For all the mocking Scalia is getting on the liberal blogs, he was right: it is hard to argue against lethal injection for someone who would do such a thing. Frankly, it’s hard to argue against beating them to death right there in the courtroom. But an execution wouldn’t have brought Sabrina Buie back. And I don’t see there is any value in adding two more tragedies to that one. And for someone depraved and evil enough to do such a thing, I don’t think the threat of the death penalty is what’s holding them back.

Two innocent men have been freed and a guilty man identified. That’s something and we should be happy about it. But we came very close to killing two innocent men for a horrifying crime they didn’t commit. And it’s not the first time. That should give us all pause.

(*Hard numbers on the number of death row inmates exonerated are surprisingly difficult to come by. Anti-death penalty advocates say it’s a couple of hundred. Pro death-penalty advocates say it’s less than that, but admit to at least a few dozen.)

Less Violence; More Hysteria

This weekend, a couple of anti-government nuts engaged in a murderous act of domestic terrorism, killing two cops and one civilian who attempted to stop them with his own weapon. They claimed the revolution had begun before killing themselves.

As is usual in these cases, the far Left is almost gleeful as they dig through the extremist politics of the killers. They are touting this as indicative of a huge surge in right-wing anti-government violence, supposedly caused by Sean Hannity and Fox News. Today, they are also touting a supposed surge in school violence since Sandy Hook. All of this is bent toward the ongoing effort to morally bully the American people into supporting gun control (and Democrats).

They are also full of it. Jesse Walker, who has written a book on conspiracy theorists:

As I’ve noted before when writing about the militia movement, violence on the far right often comes from hotheads who have been kicked out of the more mainstream militias. (Is “mainstream” the right word? It’s all relative, I suppose.) When actual organizations talk up non-defensive violence, they are often isolated and despised within the larger militia milieu. Yet these divisions are frequently missed in public discussions of the issue, which often lump all the “extremists” together—and, as a result, look in the wrong places for terrorist threats. Even when analysts argue that lone wolves acting on their own are a more likely source of violence than militias acting as groups, there’s a mistaken tendency to treat “radicalization” as the problem and to ignore all the cross-currents within a particular radical community. (J.M. Berger offers some strong arguments against that habit here.)

We are being shown a lot of footage of these two terrorists at the Cliven Bundy Ranch. What’s being ignored is that they were kicked off the ranch because Bundy and his supporters thought they were pushing a violent anti-government agenda instead of focusing on the issues at hand. And the Bundy supporters wanted no part of that.

One last thought: I see The Washington Post is already tentatively tying this to other “slayings…linked to hate movements.” So it’s wise to remember the sociologist Joel Best’s comment that “crime waves” often turn out to be “waves in media attention: they occur because the media, for whatever reason, fix upon some sort of crime, and publicize it.” Shortly after Obama’s election, a flood of stories suggested that right-wing violence was on the rise; a few years later, a study from the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point indicated that incidents of that sort actually declined in that period. So don’t assume that a new age of domestic terror is dawning. The Vegas killers seem to have believed they were the vanguard of an uprising, shouting “This is the start of a revolution!” before they opened fire. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they were wrong.

It bears repeating: violence is way down in our society. Gun killings are down 40% over the last twenty years. Gun assaults down 70%. Our cops are safer than they have been in over a century. School shootings are down, as well, to half the level they were in the 90’s. And no, mass shooting are not “rising” no matter how much Mother Jones tries to cherry-pick the data.

So why is there suddenly all this hysteria about “rising” gun violence? Several reasons. One, people are naturally prone to panics especially when goaded by a media that has no interest in objective reality. One thing you’ll notice about the school shooting map is that these occurs somewhat regularly but the media coverage tends to cluster whenever there is a high-profile shooting

Second, the biggest declines in violence have been in our inner cities and among minorities. This seems to matter less to our media and our commentariat than two vile people shooting up a Walmart.

Third, the current anti-government violence may pale in comparison to that of the past. But that past violence from the Left Wing. So our commentariat are more than happy to sweep it under the carpet to the point where the perpetrators can be … I dunno … friends of a future President. I recently read The Skies Belong To Us, a very good book about the “golden age of hijacking” in the 1970’s. What astounded me was how often even violent left-wing terrorists were hailed as heroes by left-wing media. I defy you to find any mainstream right-winger expressing admiration for right-wing terrorists.

But mostly it’s because these facts do not conform to the agenda. The agenda is that we are in danger, that we are under assault, that we could be shot when we step out of our door and it is all the fault of the evil Republicans, the evil NRA, the evil Fox News and the evil Rush Limbaugh. These are the villains who stand between us and “sensible gun control”. (Well, them and the vast majority of the American people, the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court as well as a body of research indicating that gun control does not curb violence).

Never mind that you’re safer today than you’ve been in fifty years. Never mind that today’s right-wing political terrorism is far less common, far less deadly and far less excused than the left-wing political terrorism of the 60’s and 70’s. Never mind that your child is safer in a school than they are just about anywhere else. You have to panic! Because cracking down on “right wing” groups and seizing guns is something will only happen if the American people take leave of their senses.

The TSA Shooting

I’ve been holding back on commenting on Friday’s shooting since I wanted to wait for facts to come out. Much hay is being made of the shooter’s crackpot views about the New World Order and the fact that he obtained his guns legally. Of course, this tells us very little since most gun violence does not involve political views at all and involves guns obtained illegally, according to the FBI’s own research. Focusing on these factors is once again focusing on the tiny sliver of gun violence that garners most of the media attention.

I’m going to assume the man had mental issues (based mostly on the fact that he, you know, shot up an airport). Such people tend to be drawn to crackpot conspiracy theories and anti-government views. This does not invalidate the anti-government views any more than the Unabomber’s killing invalidated environmental issues. His disturbing behavior was noticed and his dad alerted police but they just missed him. As always, this emphasizes my point that ordinary citizens are our best line of defense. We don’t see the shootings that are stopped because a parent, a teacher or a friend got scared and made sure a horrifying incident was prevented. We only see the times they aren’t able to stop it. And in a nation of three hundred million people, the odds that one person it nutty enough to kill and “lucky” enough not to get stopped beforehand are unfortunately high.

I do want to comment on one aspect. By all accounts, this man deliberately targeted TSA agents. I and many other people have been extremely critical of the TSA for their security theater, their tendency to abuse authority, their lack of accountability and the constant propaganda at the TSA blog. It goes without saying that none of us advocate violence against the TSA (if anything, this will make things worse as Pistole is likely to call for TSA agents to be armed). It is absolutely horrible that a man is dead because some nut decided he was going to kill a innocent member of an agency he didn’t like. I want the TSA disbanded, not killed.

Nader Off the Deep End … Well Deeper

Let’s be clear: there is no evidence that violent video games cause real-life violence. None. There are a few people with axes to grind who will wave a handful of studies in your face. But the comprehensive studies, including the US government’s own study, have shown, at best, a tenuous link to mildly aggressive behavior.

Every time a mass shooting comes up, the video game thing surfaces because the shooter has usually played some. Of course, that’s like saying he also went to the bathroom. Almost everyone plays video games these days and almost all men (and criminals are almost all men) have played some violent video games. Trying to ban a game because a spree shooter played it is like trying to ban tennis shoes because he wore them.

These facts do not stop the game grabbers, of course, because they’re interest is not in facts (or violence, for that matter). What drive them is a dislike for violent games. And so they will do and say whatever they can, take advantage of any tragedy, use any invective to get what they want. I had thought the rhetoric had reach a low when David Grossman called first-person shooter games “murder simulators”. But Ralph Nader found a new bottom:

Speaking of today’s presidential inauguration, Nader let loose on President Obama and threw a wild punch at video games while he was at it.

“Tomorrow I’ll watch another rendition of political bullsh-t by the newly reelected president, full of promises that he intends to break just like he did in 2009,” Nader said. “He promised he’d be tough on Wall Street, and not one of these crooks have gone to jail—they got some inside trading people, but that’s peripheral.

“We are in the peak of [violence in entertainment]. Television program violence? Unbelievable. Video game violence? Unprecedented,” Nader said. “I’m not saying he wants to censor this, I think he should sensitize people that they should protect their children family by family from these kinds of electronic child molesters.”

We might be at the “peak of video game violence”. But you know what else we are at, Ralph? The trough of real-life violence. Real-life violence has fallen by more than half in the last 20 years, at the precise time gaming was surging. Not much of a correlation, is there, Ralph?

(I’m calling a new rule: whenever anyone talks about violence and does not acknowledge the precipitous drop over the last two decades, you can ignore anything else they have to say. By ignoring one of the most important facts about violent crime, they have waved a big red flag that they are not really interested in violence; they are interested in whatever ideological issue they are pushing. With government-worshiping Ralph, it’s clearly censorship.)

You know, I tired of Ralph Nader. I tiring of hearing about how principled he is. Ralph Nader is a wealthy man who, according to Schweizer’s Do As I Say, Not As I Do has made tons of money off monopolists, outsourcers and businesses that benefited from his activism. He has fought against unionization of his organizations, which are infamous for using “balloon payments” to pay their employees sub-minimum wage. He himself is infamous for overworking and underpaying his own people. He made his name on claims that the Corvair was unsafe; claims that proved to be true of most other cars at that time. He was a apologist for Communism, claiming he admired the austerity of the lifestyle.

There were always reasons to just ignore him. Now we’ve got one more.

The Collapse of Violence

The WSJ has a fantastic article today on the decline of violence in humanity. You really must read the whole thing.

Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.

This claim, I know, invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger. We tend to estimate the probability of an event from the ease with which we can recall examples, and scenes of carnage are more likely to be beamed into our homes and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. There will always be enough violent deaths to fill the evening news, so people’s impressions of violence will be disconnected from its actual likelihood.

He goes through evidence of incredible violence in pre-historical societies, where one in six died with a rock in his skull. He then goes on to the middle ages, when robbery and assault were as common in Europe as unemployed Spaniards are now. And he concludes with the current trend, where violence — both private and state-sponsored — are down to the lowest recorded levels ever.

The rise of capitalism and trade are strong drivers of this peaceful trend. It’s much easier to avoid violence when you can obtain things peacefully and aren’t starving. The rise of competent states has also played a role as governments have become legitimate sources of order, rather than organized gangs of plunder. Even the worst welfare state that Michael Moore could imagine doesn’t have a scratch on a typical 19th century mercantilist empire.

But the biggest reason for the recent collapse of violence?

The most immediate cause of this New Peace was the demise of communism, which ended the proxy wars in the developing world stoked by the superpowers and also discredited genocidal ideologies that had justified the sacrifice of vast numbers of eggs to make a utopian omelet. Another contributor was the expansion of international peacekeeping forces, which really do keep the peace—not always, but far more often than when adversaries are left to fight to the bitter end.

This is exactly what P.J. O’Rourke told me during a Q&A session in Austin. When communism fell, two-third of the world’s civil wars ended. And with them went most collective farming lunacy and a significant number of planned genocides.

There are a few other factors I would cite. Pinker dismissed the effect of nuclear weapons as violence has fallen in non-nuclear states. I think he’s wrong to. In a previous era, the US and USSR would have had a war at some point. Just thirty years ago, we would have seen more wars against Israel or open war between India and Pakistan. But nukes, ironically, by unleashing the greatest destructive in human history, have prevented wars. Hand-in-hand with his is American military power. Our ability to project power anywhere in the globe and our willingness to defend our allies has also prevented wars and bloodshed.

But I would also add that humans have found better outlets for our fundamentally violent nature. Sports, violent video games, violent movies, even shooting our mouths off on blogs — I would argue that all of these have worked to channel our aggressive instincts in harmless ways.

Violence will never leave human nature. We can’t stick a fork in the human experiment just yet. But we’re a good way there. And the experiment of the West — freedom, capitalism, science and the peaceful use of arms — is a big reason we’re so far along.