“Scientists” don’t impress me. I’m the progeny of one of the best of ’em, and I know how the sausage is made. A smart enough “scientist” can finesse any study to reflect a predetermined conclusion. Scientists go where the grant money is. And they go where the government and corporate jobs are. And nowadays, in the Cancellation Age, they go where the lynch mob demands.
I’m not saying that all scientists are bought and paid for; I’m just saying that they’re more likely to be tempted into corruption than a roofer or bricklayer or whore, all of whom have a relationship with customers where poor results are immediate and obvious and unlikely to be explained away by fancy verbiage.
Now, before I get to the meat of this week’s column, a brief diversion, just to put an even finer point on what’s to come. Back in the early 1990s, U.S. cities were experiencing an unprecedented wave of violent youth crime. Reluctant to blame the epidemic on certain demographic populations, “scientists” and assorted experts soon caught on that the best way to get an op-ed on the topic in a major newspaper was to pen a “study” pinning the violence on movies and TV shows.
An analysis of aggressive behavior in ghetto kids from broken homes? No takers. “Hollywood is hypmotizing our children into committing murder”? Hello, New York Times!
In 1994 I was invited by a Hollywood libertarian group to speak on the subject. On the face of it, the “violent media” crusade had problems. If violent movies or cartoons “make” otherwise normal kids violent, Japan would have the highest youth crime rate in the world. But I wanted to go beyond that, and pick apart some of the specific studies that were at the time being widely cited in the press.
Professor Leonard Eron of U Michigan was the elder statesman of the “blame Hollywood” crowd. Eron, a Fulbright scholar and diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology and a fellow of the Academy of Clinical Psychology, the American Psychological Foundation, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, had recently opined in the L.A. Times that TV shows “turn young girls violent.” To prove his point, he interviewed female juvenile offenders and asked if they were fans of the Bionic Woman TV show when they were younger. As many of them were, Eron declared causation.
“Black Lives Matter Protests, Social Distancing, and Covid-19” was commissioned by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The paper had five authors: Dhaval Dave (Bentley University), Andrew Friedson (UC Denver), Kyutaro Matsuzawa (San Diego State), Joseph Sabia (San Diego State), and Samuel Safford (Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies).
The study made a sensational assertion: BLM unrest, which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in cities all over the country in violation of Covid lockdowns, didn’t just not increase Covid spread, it reduced Covid spread!
The riots and protests made the pandemic…better!
The authors, who did not have their study peer-reviewed, based their astounding claim on cell-phone data, which, they held, proved that the violent riots forced people off the streets out of fear. In other words, the BLM violence made ordinary folks afraid to leave home, thus Covid was not spread. The authors claim that the cell data shows that enough people stayed home to offset any spread caused by the people in the streets….[ ]
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