Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bill Maher's natural experiment in hypersensitivty

Following good advice from Ken White, I try to avoid categorical thinking and tribalism, such as concluding that my intellectual and political opponents are guilty of more bad behavior than "my side," as it's very natural for people to wrongly make that assumption. He's right, and this post is not absolute proof of that effect.

But as an anecdote, it sure does raise eyebrows.

Bill Maher likes to say what he really believes, and last week he insulted the rabid fanatics who are dominating the discussion of the Michael Brown case. He called out people from both sides who are leaping to conclusions that compliment their own world views. In particular, he said:

You know what else I find disturbing is that everybody in America just sides with their own people and doesn’t look at the facts… The cops,I saw on the news a couple of weeks ago,were wearing bracelets or something that said, “I am Darren Wilson.”Why do you want to throw your lot in with this plain murderer? 
And Michael Brown’s people. I’m sorry, but Michael Brown’s people say he is a gentle giant. Well, we saw that video when he was in that 7-11. No, he wasn’t a gentle. He was committing a robbery and he pushed that guy. He was acting like a thug, not a gentle giant. He certainly didn’t deserve to be shot for it.

Notice that Bill Maher is reaching conclusions about an ongoing investigation and declaring that police officer Darren Wilson was not justified in the shooting, as opposed to my stance to withhold judgment until the trial is conducted and all the facts are presented. Still, he did cast a pox on both sides.

So which side had more freak-outs and calls for his head? The left, which was initially invested in presenting Brown as a law-abiding citizen. As Maher said, his crimes did not warrant a street execution, but that didn't stop the angry essays and calls for boycotts from the left.

I am not merely idiot hunting this and saying a few people on social media represent all of the left, like some critics have done. In fact, the majority of the left have said nothing about this issue, and it's important to separate the leftwing criticisms of Maher for the Michael Brown remarks and criticism of his recent remarks on violent Islamic extremists.

My point is not that the left as a whole has reacted foolishly to this, but that this anecdote brought out more hypersensitivity from the left than the right in this single case. It's not definitive, but it's not nothing.

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