I am starting to cross a line on Facebook. Until tonight I refrained from commenting on foolish political posts. But I’m not sure I can do that any more. I’ve posted more outrageous things than the truth on Facebook, so shame the devil and tell the truth.
Tonight a friend shared a bogus claim about murder in the United States and gun laws, bungling false numbers and logic all in one. Of course the implied message here is gun laws fail to prevent murder and protect people, but as I found in checking the claims made here, nothing in this statement can be verified. Moreover, this statement doesn’t just misinterpret the data, it doesn’t even get the data right from the start.
In 2012 the cities listed in this blurb totaled 1081 murders. As a matter of fact, New York and Washington DC had large decreases in murders in 2012 and possibly record lows based on rate, which would seem to contradict the idea that the “toughest gun control laws” fail to reduce the occurrence of murder.
According to the FBI, the total number of murders in the United States in 2012 was nearly 15,000 so the murders in these four cities account for about 7% of that total number, which is high, but these cities represent large populations.
You have to look at the rate of murder.
The United States is indeed near the top in murders throughout the world— nothing to be proud of, but not 3rd, by the way — when measured by rate. That leaves more than 150+ countries below the US, most with rates per 100 thousand well below 1% versus a US rate of 4.7% per 100,000.
So the numbers don’t work, but the point of these bogus claims is to reinforce a broader ideological agenda. It’s nothing more than a tribal drumbeat. The point isn’t to tell the truth, the point is to get people riled up so the drum beats louder.
It took me two minutes to check this statement and what I found is readily available from credible sources for anyone to find. I took an extra minute or two to corroborate the information. Less than five minutes revealed the flaws here and thinking through the flaws reveals much more.
One might be served well to see who is posting these statements, track the comments made where they appear, and search related posts. For the most part, these are nothing more than rhetorical garbage.
But people need to speak up. Maybe Facebook is something like a neighborhood picnic where people should politely avoid confronting statements like this, but I sense that a gentle nudge here and there isn’t only a good idea, it is essential if we ever expect people to be accountable for the beliefs they hold and espouse.