Jill Richardson – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sat, 20 Nov 2021 04:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.8 If We could Mobilize to Fight COVID-19, why can’t we Ramp up to Combat the Climate Emergency? https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/mobilize-climate-emergency.html Sat, 20 Nov 2021 05:08:56 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201335 By Jill Richardson

( Otherwords.org ) – The recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow was the 26th attempt to get the nations of the world to fix the climate crisis. During the summit, the Washington Post reported that countries have been under-reporting their emissions, so the negotiations are based on “flawed data.”

We’ve known about the climate crisis for decades. But in these ways and more, we’ve seen a painful, frustrating failure to meaningfully coordinate action on global scale. Still, that doesn’t have to mean that real cooperation is doomed to failure.

Much of the world mobilized in a matter of weeks, radically altering everyday life, to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. We could do the same for climate — and sociology can help us figure out how.

Sociologist Kari Marie Norgaard advocates bringing sociologists to the table on climate change, in addition to the natural scientists, economists, and psychologists who usually play the roles of experts.

Climate change is caused by people acting in groups, after all, and sociology is the study of people acting in groups. We can study questions like: Why are people causing climate change, really? Why won’t people do enough about it? And how can we get people to do more about it?

Sociological findings suggest that part of the answer lies in managing fears.

Norgaard found that people who appeared apathetic about the climate crisis actually knew and cared about it, but they avoided the subject because it caused painful emotions like helplessness, fear, and guilt.

Judging by the state of the toilet paper aisle at the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 caused intense fear too. But in that case, every organization from intergovernmental organizations on down acted swiftly. So individual coping strategies shifted from panic buying to watching Tiger King and baking bread.

Individuals acting alone couldn’t fix COVID-19 and they can’t fix climate change. It’s not enough to tell people to change their light bulbs. But the government could orchestrate systemic change if it chose to, just as it did for the pandemic.

Are there sociological lessons that could guide this response, too?

In my research, I see government officials working with people across the political spectrum to manage the fallout from climate change — but without talking about climate change itself. Instead, they work together to deal with wildfires and drought, and they make some progress. If that’s what works for them, I’m for it.

Another recent meeting points to another path to beating climate change. At the White House Tribal Nations Summit, Indigenous leaders from around the United States spoke to government officials who listened.

Indigenous leaders emphasized the value of their traditional ecological knowledge not just for Native Americans, but for the whole nation. They have lived on this land since time immemorial, and their knowledge of it predates the European conquest. Several who spoke at the summit praised the value of co-management, in which tribal nations and the U.S. government share management of natural resources.

Upholding tribal sovereignty and honoring treaties signed with tribal nations is the right thing to do because it’s the right thing to do. But the U.S. also stands to gain a lot of wisdom by learning from Indigenous knowledge and co-managing natural resources.

The world has proved it can mobilize quickly to face a crisis. It must do so for climate change, and it must address the inequity between countries that disproportionately caused climate change and those who disproportionately suffer from it.

Sociology can help. And, if I am ever called upon to be a good citizen by wearing sweatpants and binging Bridgerton again, I will do my part.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

—-

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

NBC News: “Greta Thunberg Says U.S. ‘Not Really Treating The Climate Crisis As An Emergency’”

]]>
Feeding the Crocodile: Do Any Republicans Still Support Democracy? https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/crocodile-republicans-democracy.html Sun, 07 Nov 2021 04:08:28 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201072 ( Otherwords) – Republicans should heed Churchill’s warning about appeasing authoritarians: “Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, it will eat him last.” By | November 3, 2021

Investigative accounts of the Trump administration, like the recent Washington Post feature on the January 6 insurrection, routinely write about three kinds of conservatives.

First, there are the few who took a stand for democracy who have sacrificed their political careers, like Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Second, there are some who know Biden fairly won the 2020 election but placate conspiracy theorists to protect their political careers. Last, there are those who are true believers in Trump.

Republicans in the second group tell journalists, often anonymously, how they really feel about Trump and the 2020 election. Their base supports Trump, and their base believes Trump’s lies that he won re-election. They go along with their base, convinced it won’t hurt anything.

As Winston Churchill said about appeasing a power-hungry authoritarian ruler, “Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, it will eat him last.”

Republicans who understand Trump is a threat to our democracy must organize together to protect their own party. It’s not acceptable to go along with Trump because it is expedient for Republicans’ political agenda.

Trump is such a wild card, he doesn’t even reliably help Republicans’ political agenda: Trump focused solely on his own loss in the 2020 election and failed to support the two Georgia Senate Republicans in their runoffs. The Senate now has a narrow Democratic majority.

Honest Republicans should coordinate a strategy to repudiate Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and reclaim their party. Appeasement is not benign.

On January 6, our democracy survived in part because a few heroes in the Trump administration — including even Vice President Mike Pence, who didn’t try to stop the election certification — prevented Trump from carrying out a coup. What if the coup is less inept next time? What if Trump loyalists supportive of a coup gain enough power to carry it out?

They’re certainly trying.

Republican state governments are currently passing laws to restrict Democrats from voting in the future, while taking care not to suppress the Republican vote. The 2013 Supreme Court decision repealing part of the Voting Rights Act makes it easier for states to pass restrictive voting laws that disproportionately prevent marginalized groups from voting — which is increasingly Republicans’ stated intent.

If Trump runs again in 2024, he could attempt to use loyalists in local and state governments to carry out a coup — not just by suppressing votes, but by actually overturning results.

Fortunately, preventing the coup presents no moral dilemmas, because it is consistent with following the Constitution and the ideals of democracy. If voting rights are protected and every American eligible to vote has the opportunity to do so and be counted, that should be good for all of us.

Congress has to protect voting rights to protect our democracy. We must protect our democracy by guaranteeing its most sacred rite: voting. We should do so legally, with elected representatives passing laws that allow as many eligible citizens to vote as possible. It is fitting to protect our democracy while upholding its ideals.

I also think it would help the nation if anyone involved in the January 6 insurrection and all of their supporters sit down and think about what they have done. I’m not naïve enough to expect it could happen, but it’s nice to have dreams.

Trump and his supporters tried to carry out a coup. It was violent and people died. More people could have died. The next attempt may be more successful. We must take this threat seriously and take precautions now by protecting voting rights for all eligible citizens.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherrwords

—-

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

MSNBC: “GOP Hostility Toward Democracy More Worthy Of Panic Than Democratic Loss In Virginia”

]]>
The Republican Big Lie about 2020 is Old News, but the Stakes are Still High https://www.juancole.com/2021/08/republican-about-stakes.html Sun, 22 Aug 2021 04:08:29 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199634 ( Otherwords.org ) – Unless we debunk the lies about 2020, the next election may be a lot less fair. By | August 18, 2021

Right now our nation still has two competing narratives about the 2020 election.

One is that Joe Biden legitimately won and that Donald Trump encouraged a false narrative, known as the Big Lie, that Biden’s win was fraudulent. The other is that Joe Biden did not win the election, and Trump’s claims of voter fraud are true.

For each, ask: What would have to be true for this to be accurate? How do you know you know? What information can you personally confirm from the evidence you have access to?

If you learn something secondhand, where did it originate — and would someone who said it personally gain by convincing the public it is true? How can you interpret their statement in the context of what you know about them?

For instance, have you ever seen Trump admit to losing anything? He craves public approval and he hates looking weak. Falsely claiming a win is in line with his character.

I’ll put my cards on the table.

I’ve been a poll worker in Wisconsin before, and so have several friends in multiple states. All poll workers are sworn in, and politicking is prohibited in the polling area. The penalties for tampering with an election are steep, and there are a lot of eyes on you at all times.

The one time the authorities heard a hint of evidence of potential voter fraud, they followed up with my friend who was a poll worker where it happened. One person was accused of tampering with a single vote. As small as that was — it wouldn’t have affected the outcome of any election — the authorities were deadly serious about stamping out voter fraud.

Voter fraud does not happen on a large enough scale to affect an election. Even Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr said there was no chance the 2020 election outcome was altered by fraud.

So Trump supporters should ask: Why did so many Trump-appointed cabinet secretaries and judges refuse to support Trump’s claims of fraud? Also, aside from Trump, Republicans did well in 2020. Why would someone stealing an election only steal one office?

As more votes were counted, several key states swung toward Biden. Trump supporters say this was evidence of fraud. It’s not — it’s just the order the votes were counted in.

In many states, less populated rural areas — which are more Republican — often report their counts first. That swings the vote to the right. Then it moves to the left all night as votes from the cities come in. That happened this year.

Also this year, many Democrats who take COVID-19 precautions seriously mailed their votes. Trump told Republicans not to trust the mail.

Where I was a poll worker, we counted the mail-in ballots last, after the polls had closed. That would also explain why Republican ballots were counted earlier and Democratic ones later. (In states like Ohio, which counted mail-in ballots first, the opposite happened.)

The debate isn’t academic. Republicans are using false claims about the 2020 election to pass laws that make it harder to vote. Here again, incentives matter.

Conservatives’ ability to win elections goes up when fewer people vote. Demographics that vote most regularly are more likely to vote Republican. When voter turnout is higher, it means more Democrats are voting.

While most Republicans don’t say they want to suppress the vote, occasionally some do admit that’s the goal. Now states are restricting voting even more, and attempting to change the rules so that Republican state legislatures can overturn the will of the voters in a presidential election.

Meanwhile, they have successfully used the electoral college, their disproportionate representation in the Senate, and gerrymandering to gain unearned advantages in elections.

The evidence adds up that Joe Biden won the election fairly in November. But unless we debunk the lies about 2020 — and fight these new antidemocratic laws — the next one may be a lot less fair.

Via Otherwords.org

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Forbes: “Texas Democrat: ‘Straight Line’ From Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ To Capitol Insurrection To GOP-Led Voting Law”

]]>
1/6 Committee: Can a Pinochet-Style Chilean Dictatorship be Forestalled in the United States? https://www.juancole.com/2021/08/committee-dictatorship-forestalled.html Wed, 04 Aug 2021 04:01:23 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199286 ( Otherwords.org) – If you believe violence instead of voting is justified, I implore you to at least consider the alternative viewpoint. By | July 28, 2021

As the congressional investigation into the January 6 insurrection gets underway, we’re learning disturbing new details about Trump supporters’ violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

As I watch, I see a chilling parallel to the rise of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Steve Stern’s book Remembering Pinochet’s Chile opens with a couple greeting the 1973 military coup that launched Pinochet’s dictatorship by toasting the fighter jets with champagne. Decades later, they still remember Pinochet fondly.

Their version of their country’s history differs starkly with its reality — and they aren’t alone.

They politically opposed the leftist Allende government that Pinochet overthrew, but that alone doesn’t explain why they would cheer a regime known for torturing and murdering its political enemies.

So, why did they support Pinochet? Because he provided an entirely false and easily disproved story to justify his illegal coup and the brutality that followed — and they believed it.

Pinochet falsely claimed that the Allende government was planning murder on a vast scale. Supporters believed Pinochet’s own crimes were justified because he was preventing something worse.

It’s possible to convince people to support a coup — and even mass murder — with phony evidence. It’s crucial to the survival of our democracy that we prevent that.

The January 6 Commission will uncover new facts about the insurrection and the lies that underpinned it. But by itself, it won’t change many minds. People don’t easily give up strongly held beliefs — even false beliefs — that tie them to groups they identify with.

Simply presenting the facts to someone who doesn’t want to believe them won’t work. But as a sociologist, there’s another framework that helps me when I want to understand multiple sides of a controversy without being clouded by my own biases.

To do this, I set aside my own beliefs temporarily. This can be emotionally challenging when engaging with viewpoints I believe are factually incorrect or immoral, but it’s worth it.

First of all, what does each side claim is factually true? Do they provide any evidence to back up their claims? Can you verify their evidence?

Second, what are each side’s professed values? These are often based in morality, and they cannot be proven true or false. “Most people believe murder is wrong” is a factual claim — something that can be proven true or false — but “murder is wrong” is a value.

Third, what does each side have to gain from their position? In this case, consider both partisan gain — raising campaign contributions and winning votes in the next election — as well as the more serious issue of risking the foundations of American democracy itself.

Often people make factual and moral arguments when they’re advocating for a position that advances their own interests. Do they really care about morality or are they just out for their own gain?

The January 6 Commission offers us all an opportunity to examine factual claims, values, interests, and language.

Look at all of the evidence that emerges in its totality, not one or two cherry picked tidbits. Pay attention to first person accounts from people who were there. Law enforcement officers are testifying — and they’re not known for liberal bias.

In this case, I believe the perspectives of Republicans like Liz Cheney are crucial to listen to. Unlike Democrats in favor of the Commission and Republicans who oppose it, Cheney is paying a huge political price for her participation. Why? She wouldn’t do that without a good reason

Our democracy is too precious to throw away for partisan gain. The dictatorships of the 20th century prove that it’s possible to manipulate public perception of reality enough to enable a coup.

If you believe violence instead of voting is justified, I implore you to at least consider the alternative viewpoint. The costs of being wrong are too high.

Via Otherwords.org

——

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

MSNBC: “January 6 Police Testify That Riot Was A Terrorist Attack”

]]>
How Florida’s Political “Survey” of Universities threatens Freedom of Speech https://www.juancole.com/2021/07/political-universities-threatens.html Tue, 06 Jul 2021 04:02:09 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198741 ( Otherwords.org ) – Florida officials say they want to promote “intellectual freedom” — by using political surveys to target university funding. By | June 30, 2021

The state of Florida just passed a law that — to put it mildly — grossly violates academic freedom. Under the new bill, recently signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, students and faculty will be surveyed about their political views to ensure “intellectual freedom and ideological diversity.”

The real intent appears to be the opposite.

The bill doesn’t specify what will happen with this data once it’s collected. But DeSantis and the bill’s sponsor, state Senator Ray Rodrigues, have suggested the responses could be used to target schools for budget cuts if politicians find the views of student and faculty objectionable.

This is a gross violation of academic freedom, which is supposed to protect students and faculty and pave the way for the production of knowledge.

As a PhD student who teaches undergraduates, I’m having visions of professors being subjected to forced confessions, like in China’s Cultural Revolution. (Scholars were so scorned then that the word “intelligentsia” — zhishifenzi — became derogatory.)

To see how state interference with academic freedom is problematic, consider Lysenkoism.

In the mid-20th century, Soviet agronomist Trofim Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics and instead embraced a pseudoscience of his own creation. Communists governments adopted Lysenkoism as a “Communist” science of agriculture, with disastrous consequences. Stalin executed scientists who disagreed with Lysenkoism, even while Lysenko’s pseudoscience produced famines.

I hope that Florida Republicans — who are so concerned that people like me will turn students into Communists that they’re also now mandating professors teach the “evils of Communism” — will note the irony.

Florida Republicans might also like to know that a court case upholding academic freedom (Adams vs. University of North Carolina Wilmington) was essential to protecting conservative speech as well. In that case, the court sided with professor Michael Adams, who’d been denied a promotion over columns he’d written for a right-wing website, ruling that his views were protected speech.

The second part of Florida’s bill stipulates that students may not be shielded from “ideas and opinions that they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.” Again, this is not a problem. It doesn’t need fixing. Academic freedom already takes care of it.

Setting aside the irony that legislators seem to want to exclude certain views they disagree with, I also worry this law will ban professors from managing their classrooms.

I teach controversial topics regularly. They are emotional topics and many students come to class with different, sometimes opposing views. It feels like playing with dynamite because there is a lot to balance to run the class in a way that is fair and conducive to learning for all.

But what do you do when a student endorses genocide during a class discussion? And follows it up with a two thumbs up endorsement for racism? Does curtailing disruptive behavior like this, which prevents others from learning, count as shielding students from uncomfortable “ideas and opinions”?

On the other hand, what do you do when your class wants to use class time to organize for social causes, and your job is to get them to learn an academic discipline, not Rally For Your Political Ideology 101?

Or one student cries because of what other students have said? Or leaves class because it is too emotionally painful to be there?

Those things have happened in my class. Academics need to have the freedom to manage their classes, and that means finding a balance between protecting their students’ emotions and helping them when emotions get in the way of learning.

Most of all, teachers and students need the freedom to look at ideas academically — and express their views plainly — without fear of retribution from state authorities who insist on “intellectual freedom” even as they seek to stamp it out.

—–

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

MSNBC: “DeSantis Signs Bill Requiring Colleges To Survey Student, Faculty Beliefs”

]]>
If You Love Our Country, Don’t Ban Its History https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/love-country-history.html Sun, 06 Jun 2021 04:01:15 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198205

Opponents of critical race theory don’t want us to ask what we can learn from the past. But that’s the whole point of studying history.

( Otherwords.org) – Across the country, several states have passed or introduced bills that ban teaching “critical race theory.” Oklahoma’s governor just signed one. Arizona’s governor just vetoed one. Texas and North Carolina are moving ahead with similar bills.

I’d like to set aside the fact that the people most upset about critical race theory generally don’t understand what it is: a decades-old academic theory of how race and the law have interacted in U.S. history, most often taught in law or graduate schools.

Instead, I’d like to show just how absurd these bills can be.

I teach about race at the college level. In many cases, these bills ban what Republicans think we are teaching — e.g. that white people should “feel guilty” for being white — not what we are actually teaching.

In other cases, they oppose accurately teaching any negative part of U.S. history. North Carolina’s bill, for instance, says that schools cannot promote “the belief that the United States… was created by members of a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex.”

Is that what I teach? Yes and no. Yes, this country was founded by white men (we do refer to them as founding fathers) who gave themselves rights they denied women and people of color. Women couldn’t vote. Black people were enslaved. That’s our history.

But was that the reason the founding fathers created this country?

I am certain George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did not want independence from Great Britain purely to oppress women and people of color — they could have accomplished that comfortably as part of the British empire. Slavery was legal in Great Britain until 1833. Years later, the mom in Mary Poppins still was not allowed to vote, so she had to sing about it.

This aversion to teaching U.S. history accurately seems to come from the idea that we can either believe that the U.S. is perfect and has always been perfect or else it is no good at all. But the truth is seldom all good or all bad — it is complex.

Take ancient Greece as an example. The same society invented democracy and practiced infanticide. Modern Americans would unanimously condemn the latter, but does that mean we also cannot appreciate the former? Of course not.

We can let the Greeks be complex, appreciating all of the good they gave the world, while acknowledging we would not like to emulate many parts of their civilization. We can understand that they were behaving in ways that were accepted in their time and we can simultaneously be completely horrified by it. We can do the same for ourselves.

Looking at our own history, we can see that the Europeans who came here developed an improvement over the political systems of their home continent. Great Britain had begun its shift toward parliamentary rule but, as of 1780, fewer than 3 percent of the population could vote.

However, nobody can take in the full scope of U.S. history and find no evidence of racism or sexism. We all know that. In addition to slavery, formal racial segregation was legal until the 1960s. And marital rape was legal in some states until 1994.

There’s more that many Americans don’t know. In the 1800s, the U.S. government paid bounties to people who murdered Native Americans. Think about that. Murder was not just legal but also encouraged and compensated.

The question opponents of critical race theory don’t want us to ask is: How did the past affect the present? What parts of the ugly side of our history have we retained, even unintentionally? Understanding these lessons is the whole point of studying history.

We do a disservice to our own history if we do not study all of it, in all of its complexity, in order to secure a better future.

Via Otherwords.org

—-

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

The Young Turks Conversation: “The Right’s ATTACK on Critical Race Theory”

]]>
The Scientists made the Vaccines; Now can we Get Americans to Take them? https://www.juancole.com/2020/12/scientists-vaccines-americans.html Wed, 30 Dec 2020 05:01:36 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195233 ( Otherwords.org ) – With the new COVID-19 vaccine available, Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans can begin to achieve herd immunity by next summer. Herd immunity occurs when so many people are immune to the virus that it can’t spread, because an infected person won’t have anyone left to spread it to.

Yet as of November, four in ten Americans said they definitely or probably won’t get the vaccine (although about half of that group said they would consider it once a vaccine became available and they could get more information about it).

Why, after living in quarantine for nine months while the economy and our mental health crashes around us, after over 300,000 Americans are dead, is getting the vaccine even a question?

There are two ways to approach this question. The first is to dismiss it: Call vaccine skeptics derogatory names, post memes on social media about how stupid they are, and make rules requiring the vaccine.

The second way to approach the question is to try to understand vaccine skepticism in order to address Americans’ concerns.

Sociologist Jennifer Reich tied vaccine refusal to messages that treat health like a personal project, in which consumers must exercise their own discretion, and a culture of individualism in a world where there is not enough of anything to go around — jobs, money, health care, etc.

In this view, everyone must look out for themselves so they can get ahead, and that’s more important than doing your part to achieve herd immunity for our collective wellbeing.

Reich’s research on anti-vaxxers comes from before the current pandemic. She studied parents who refused to vaccinate their children for preventable diseases like measles. But it’s still worth considering in this new context. Reich believes it is unsurprising that some people do treat vaccines like a consumer choice and disregard that when they decline a vaccine, they endanger others too.

Another take on COVID vaccine refusal comes from Zakiya Whatley and Titilayo Shodiya, who are both women of color with PhDs in natural sciences. They focus on Black, Latinx, and indigenous communities, who often distrust doctors. Their suspicion is not unfounded, given how much racism in medicine has harmed people of color, historically and in the present.

Scientists hold the power to define what is true and what is not in a way that non-scientists do not. Consider the power relations within medicine: When a patient goes to the doctor because they are ill, the doctor assesses their symptoms, makes a diagnosis, and prescribes a treatment.

Scientists determine what is recognized as a diagnosis and which treatments are available. Powerful financial interests (like pharmaceutical and insurance companies) play a major role too. The patient’s power is more limited: they can look up their symptoms on WebMD, accept or refuse the treatment prescribed, or go to a different doctor.

Sometimes lay people react to being on the less powerful end of the relationship by simply refusing to believe scientists. They might resist by embracing conspiracy theories or “barstool biology” that uses the language of science but not the scientific method.

Natural scientists have done their part by creating vaccines that are safe and highly effective. To get people to take the vaccine, we need social science. We must learn how to rebuild trust with people who have lost it. And we will do that by listening to them and understanding them, not by calling them stupid.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

—-

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Yahoo Finance: ” Coronavirus vaccine: Helping dispel myths about the coronavirus vaccine”

]]>
Time to Value our New Americans: Trump Spent 4 Years Telling Monstrous Lies about Immigrants https://www.juancole.com/2020/12/americans-monstrous-immigrants.html Sun, 20 Dec 2020 05:02:00 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195077 ( Otherwords.org ) – New data confirms what’s been true all along: Trump built his brand selling fear-mongering lies about immigrants and crime. By | December 16, 2020

As Donald Trump leaves office, it’s worth remembering how he first launched his campaign: by calling immigrants “murderers” and “rapists.”

This was outrageous then. And there’s more evidence now that it was, of course, false.

A new study finds that “undocumented immigrants have considerably lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants across a range of criminal offenses, including violent, property, drug, and traffic crimes.”

The study concludes that there’s “no evidence that undocumented criminality has become more prevalent in recent years across any crime category.” Previous studies found no evidence to support Trump’s claim, but now we have better data than ever before.

Put another way, Trump was telling a dangerous lie.

Sociologists Michael Light, Jingying He, and Jason Robey used crime and immigration data from Texas from 2012 to 2018 to find that “relative to undocumented immigrants, U.S.-born citizens are over 2 times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and over 4 times more likely to be arrested for property crimes.”

Unfounded accusations of criminality are a longstanding tool of racism and other forms of bigotry across a range of social categories.

When anti-LGBTQ activist Anita Bryant wanted to discriminate against gays and lesbians in the 1970s, she claimed we molest children. More recently, when transphobic people wanted to ban trans women from women’s bathrooms, they falsely claimed that trans women would rape cisgender women in bathrooms.

Consider how much anti-Black racists justified their actions in the name of “protecting white women” from Black men. In 1955, a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, wrongly claimed that a 14-year-old Black boy, Emmett Till, grabbed her and threatened her. White men lynched Till in retaliation. More than half a century later, Donham revealed that her accusations were false.

In 1989, the Central Park Five — five Black and Latino boys between the ages of 14 and 16 — were wrongly convicted and imprisoned for raping a white woman. They didn’t do it. In 2002, someone else confessed and DNA evidence confirmed it. (Trump, who took out full-page ads calling for their execution then, never apologized.)

Racism and bigotry are about power and status. Yet instead of openly admitting that some groups simply want power over others, most bigots find reasons that sound plausible to the uninformed — even if the reasons are completely untrue. Bigotry is much easier to market if it can masquerade as fighting crime.

It wasn’t just Trump himself. During the Trump administration, officials like the U.S. solicitor general argued before the Supreme Court that undocumented immigrants are disproportionately likely to commit crime. Data: None. Claims: False.

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

So when you hear a claim that a particular group of marginalized people are criminals, question it. What is the evidence for the claim? What is the evidence against the claim? Why is the person making the claim, and how will they benefit if people believe them?

If someone cites research, who performed the research, and who funded it? Do the funders have a financial stake in the research findings? Was it published in a peer-reviewed journal? Is the data publicly available for others to replicate the findings?

In this case, the research debunking this racist lie was government-funded, peer-reviewed in a major journal, and the data is available to the public.

Hearing that particular group of people poses a threat to your safety can be frightening. But because such claims have been used throughout history to spread bigotry against marginalized groups, they should always be fact-checked.

In this case, the evidence is clear. Trump stoked anti-immigrant sentiment in the name of fighting crime, and his claims were baseless and false. The lie should end with his presidency.

Via Otherwords.org

——–

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Democracy Now! “Rights Groups Demand Biden Reverse Trump Immigration Changes as COVID Surges in ICE Jails”

]]>
The Worst Possible Leader in a Pandemic: Trump’s Authoritarianism is all about Him https://www.juancole.com/2020/07/possible-pandemic-authoritarianism.html Sat, 25 Jul 2020 04:03:53 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=192205

Even if he’s wearing a mask now, he’s still trying to conceal data, silence experts, and block funding.

( Otherwords.org ) – The Trump administration is apparently undertaking its latest effort to make 2020 more of a Kafkaesque nightmare than it already is. Yes, we’ve got murder hornets and a swarm of flying ants that can be seen from space over in Ireland, but maybe the scariest plague of the year is the president.

Since the start of the pandemic, Trump’s only concern has been his poll numbers. He wants to go back to the reality we left behind in 2019: an open economy and no mass casualties from a novel virus.

We can’t do that, so he’s done his best to pretend: downplaying the pandemic, falsely claiming his administration has it under control, urging a quick economic reopening, and inaccurately claiming the economy is strong anyway.

When he can’t pretend everything is fine, he blames the Chinese. But China is not responsible for Trump’s botched response to the pandemic.

Now the Trump administration is actively interfering with the pandemic response.

Hospitals have been instructed to send COVID data to a central database in Washington, bypassing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The information will no longer be accessible to the public, raising concern that the data is being hidden for political reasons and the lack of transparency will make it easier for the administration to mislead the public.

The administration is also blocking CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield from testifying before Congress about the safety of reopening schools. They are attempting to block GOP senators from allocating billions of dollars to the CDC, Pentagon, and State Department for pandemic response. And the administration even opposes sending billions to states for testing and contact tracing.

Trump’s message to states has largely been “you’re on your own,” declining a national leadership role and placing responsibility for handling the pandemic on the states. He’s also suggested that governors should “treat him well” to receive federal aid, using the pandemic as a bargaining chip to silence dissent from governors who disagree with him.

Earlier in the pandemic, when personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies were limited, the federal government was even seizing PPE shipments.

In normal times, I would say the president should not be abdicating his leadership responsibility on the pandemic response. Under this president, I think we’re all better off if he and his political appointees interfere as little as possible and let more capable people do their jobs.

Despite his recent conversion to mask wearing, Trump’s authoritarianism is ill-suited to a pandemic. You cannot lower mortality rates by claiming the pandemic is under control and trying to force schools and businesses to reopen, regardless of the risk to workers. You can’t prevent the economy from tanking by insisting that it’s fine.

Trump’s top concern appears to be his own approval ratings, not our national welfare. He seems to believe his denial will be enough to save the economy — a plan that will fail and cause further mass casualties along the way.

The administration has created a terrible situation. All of our choices between our health and our economy are tough, and no choices will fully protect us. More than 140,000 people have died, and our economy is a mess.

We need to govern with facts instead of fantasy. If Trump can’t handle the job, he should get out of the way.

Via Otherwords.org

—–

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Young Turks: “Trump Restarts Coronavirus Press Briefings”

]]>