A mix of the funny, academic, and political. This edition is slanted heavily towards academic reflections on the shootings in Sandy Hook, along with a bit of silly as a Unicorn Chaser.
Post-Sandy Hook Reflections and Analysis
1. The focus on mass shootings obscures over 99 percent of homicide victims and offenders in the United States.
2. The focus on mass shootings leads to unproductive arguments about whether imposing sensible gun controls would have deterred the undeterrable.
3. The focus on mass shootings obscures the real progress made in reducing the high rates of violence in the United States.
4. The focus on mass shootings exaggerates the relatively modest correlation between mental illness and violence.
5. The focus on mass shootings leads to high-security solutions of questionable efficacy.
Points one, two and five dovetail nicely with the Telegraph article. Point four addresses the other big discussion that seems to have taken over the internet in the past few days: the role of mental illness and the identification and treatment of mentally ill youth in particular.
In the wake of the Connecticut shootings and in light of the hints dropped by Obama at the vigil for the victims, it seems we should be prepared for a debate in the coming weeks and months between those who advocate greater gun control to protect innocent lives and those who make a competing moral claim that such regulations infringe on the more important right to bear arms, which is supposed to be part of a general value of freedom. But that’s bullshit. Human beings with a moral compass who live in any kind of society do not have total freedom. Never have and never will. Total freedom is incompatible with any notion of morality, whether liberal or conservative, and makes collective living impossible.
Alright, let’s move on from the excessively depressing…
Other Academic Links
The self is not a unified center of consciousness and will, but rather a loose and contingent collage of psychological, physiological, and neurophysiological processes; that the impression of a unified self is a post-facto illusion; and that acting, thinking individuals are coalitions of a heterogeneous and often conflicting group of cognitive, emotional, and practical processes.
The common thread in Against Security is that effective security comes less from the top down and more from the bottom up. Molotch’s subtitle telegraphs this conclusion: “How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger.” It’s the word ambiguous that’s important here. When we don’t know what sort of threats we want to defend against, it makes sense to give the people closest to whatever is happening the authority and the flexibility to do what is necessary. In many of Molotch’s anecdotes and examples, the authority figure—a subway train driver, a policeman—has to break existing rules to provide the security needed in a particular situation. Many security failures are exacerbated by a reflexive adherence to regulations.
Let’s hope the next edition finds a happier subject to obsess about, like why Peter Jackson is making nearly nine hours of 3d, 48 fps movie out of a single slim novel…