Agitprop Smackdown – Kohn Artist Edition
Twitter addicted agitprop specialist Sally Kohn recently penned an article which originally claimed that 10,000 “kids” a year are “killed” by guns. The article humorously advertises the sort of fallacy based thinking that is de rigueur among those prone to populist thinking and politics in the title “We regulate toys, so why not guns?”. I thought that 10K was an amazingly high number considering that there are about 30,000 deaths from bullets per year for all age groups in the USA and half of that 30K are suicides which are mostly adults. That means that all of the non-suicide, non-child shootings that are fatal that happen every year in the USA amount to about 5,000. Something about the math is suspicious to me. How is it that kids are taking up two thirds of the total non-suicide gun related deaths per year. I smell some dirty dirty lies being spread by a dirty dirty bird.
As is normally expected, the fact that the 10K figure was complete bullshit didn’t escape those that are keen to check sources. As Karnak would predict the Twitter-sphere went completely ape-shit and called her out on the flatly wrong statistic originally quoted and she finally updated her article with the 10K number referring now to firearm related killed or injured kids. Ok, but that still seems high to me. The math I did above is one reason I was suspicious but not the only one. Think of how it would be if it were not bullshit. If we were having 30 actual children per day wounded or killed; either by accident or stupidity or malice, we’d never hear the damned end of it. Cable news, local news, radio news. For sure none of them would ever let 30 bloody kids a day go by without finding a way to make some ratings from it and waving bloody t-shirts around.
Not content to simply read the article, I also read the articles it referenced which were seriously orthogonal and labored poster cases for the point she seemed, by slow degrees, to be trying to make. That point was basically nothing but Sally going forth (pun intended) to go full Helen Lovejoy. Advocating the restricting of a constitutional right based on a “Oh won’t somebody puh-leez think of the children!” sort of appeal to emotion fallacy decorated with an incipient slippery slope fallacy. Typical agitprop nonsense. That might not otherwise bother me but, it is not just sloppy thinking. It’s plum dangerous because it denies that there might be actually important and consequential outputs from a discussion were it to be had in some rational and logical way. Substituting inane talking points for important dialogue is unproductive. It’s a shame really that this is the only way policy is discussed in the USA anymore. We’ve left behind the time in our history when civil discourse on important topics was able to be had and all we’re left with now is aggressive advocacy in support of narrow concerns by people uneducated in the topics they’re vehemently supporting.
I noticed at the bottom of Kohn-girl’s article that she uses The American Academy of Pediatrics as a source for the 10K number. Ok, well no actual article or study is cited but AAP is reputable enough that we can go there and check so I Google “american academy of pediatrics child gun injury”. The second result in the return is directly from AAP LINK. Reading over the AAP doc I notice that the first several references their article gives are from the CDC so I take a trip down that link and end up on the WISQARS system which is an inelegant but easy to use query system for injury data.
Here’s a link to the actual query system I was using. Provided so you don’t have to do like I did and go on a spelunking expedition though a typically shitty government web site to find the fucking thing http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_us.html
My initial suspicion was that the 10K number was probably based on including adults age 19-25 in the data set and so I started with a query that stops at (inclusive) 18 years old. Well, that returned about 1800 inuries. That’s kinda far from 10K. So I add firearm injuries to 19-25 year old’s into the data set and get 7300. Well that’s pretty close but shit folks, 19-25 isn’t a kid by any definition other than the disproportionate likelihood of them living in a basement that belongs to at least one of their parents and the inverse likelihood that they’re paying any rent.
Finally I’m starting to get really irritated and a bit giddy with anger at being lied to so blatantly and I resolve to figure out exactly what in the actual hell AAP considered to be “children”. I include ages 0-29 (because you should never trust anybody over 30) and get just a tit over 10K. Well, that’s technically enough but I know it’s not going to be enough reliably year over year. It’s going to be too close to 9,999 in a mellow year to get the kind of propaganda points that TEN THOUSAND does so we make it 0-30 and bang. The number we’re looking for and it’s far enough above 10K that we don’t have to worry about a relatively peaceful year fucking up our efforts at carefully misleading the public.
Well, now I’ve revealed to myself exactly what level of gullibility and blatant and unrepentant lying Sally Kohn is capable of and what sort of poorly concealed and utter dishonesty The American Academy of Pediatrics is prone to. I’ve also discovered that the CDC is a vastly better resource for information than I might have previously given them credit for. CDC has a tough mission. They’re charged with dealing with threats to public health but what exactly the definitions of “public” and “health” are vary from administration to administration and like all branches of government in the USA their actions and directions of research are heavily influenced by politics. They can be trusted well to gather data but I wouldn’t ever trust them for policy advice.
When I probed the CDC firearm injury data further I did find something shocking and terribly sad. It looks like when you get to 70 years old you’re suddenly much more likely to die or be injured by a bullet. I would assume that this is a spike due to suicide and it speaks to the loneliness and discomfort of aging and the horrifically low level of care or time or thought that people under 50 spend giving any fucks at all about those over 60. Call your mom and dad sometime and just say hi. No long protracted chats, just say hi and care a little. Call your grandparents or hell, go visit them if they’re still alive. They won’t be forever.
The kind of dishonest rejiggering and clouding of data sources by “news” organizations that goes on today is stunning. They’re responding to a flattened market and trying to pull as much money off the table as possible. They’ve taken to doing that by treating headlines as news. Headlines are not news. Headlines rarely have useful information in them. They’re the old fashioned version of click bait meant to distract you, not to inform you. News is complete information, well researched and TRUE regardless of point of view. To CNN’s credit the editor notes at the by-line of the article noting the author is an activist which is basically shorthand for “FUCKING LIAR”. It’s clear that she’s an activist first and a journalist not at all. A properly written article would have links to sources but no. I had to go and tear through the article, then figure out what the source for her information was, then find the source that that source used and then finally figure out how the actual source data was interpreted (misinterpreted in this case) and then expose how that misinterpretation was carried, knowingly and dishonestly, to the readership of CNN’s web rag opinion articles.
Here’s the actual data. Numbers below 20 are considered (by the CDC) to be unreliable for uses of statistical analysis. Notice what happens after you turn 18? Yeah, you’re a college student or young adult and you do stupid shit and get killed and injured at a disproportionate rate that goes nuts until 25 and then starts tapering down. By adding 18-30yo’s into the data set what’s been done is precisely cherry picking and worse yet, it’s dishonestly purposed cherry picking. It’s being done expressly for political and rhetorical purposes and in the face of the actual meaning of the data. American Academy of Pediatrics? How about American Academy of Polemics.
Be sure to follow Sally Kohn and let her know how much you appreciate liars. https://twitter.com/sallykohn
|Age in Years||Deaths||Population||Crude Rate|