Patterico's Pontifications


A Letter On Justice And Open Debate

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:06 pm

[guest post by Dana]

I’m just going to leave this here. Missing the irony, but better late than never, I guess:

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty…


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I think it’s a great letter — signed by a lot of people I admire — and along toddles a leftist to serve as a performative proof of the dangers the letter describes:

This is a threatening letter that insinuates that its author faces a hostile work environment — meaning it’s an implicit threat of litigation. In any event, this thin-skinned loser is definitely trying to harm Yglesias (someone for whom I have very little respect, but for whom signing this letter was an act of courage). If this delicate snowflake did not exist, the letter author(s) would have to create said snowflake.

Authors of Controversial Paper on Police Shootings: We Retract Our Paper So It Won’t Be Misused

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

This is odd, to say the least. From Retraction Watch:

The authors of a controversial paper on race and police shootings say they are retracting the article, which became a flashpoint in the debate over killings by police, and now amid protests following the murder of George Floyd.

The 2019 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), titled “Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings,” found “no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.” It has been cited 14 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, earning it a “hot paper” designation.

. . . .

As Cesario and Johnson note, the article earned heavy criticism for its methodology. The article led to an exchange of letters in PNAS in January, and then in April, the journal issued a correction to the paper in which the authors acknowledged flaws in their analysis but stood by their central argument.

Have they discovered further flaws since, that undermine the central thesis of the paper? No. They say they want the paper retracted because they don’t like the way it has been used by people pushing a certain agenda.

We were careless when describing the inferences that could be made from our data. This led to the misuse of our article to support the position that the probability of being shot by police did not differ between Black and White Americans (MacDonald, 2019). To be clear, our work does not speak to this issue and should not be used to support such statements. We accordingly issued a correction to rectify this statement (Johnson & Cesario, 2020).

Although our data and statistical approach were valid to estimate the question we actually tested (the race of civilians fatally shot by police), given continued misuse of the article (e.g., MacDonald, 2020) we felt the right decision was to retract the article rather than publish further corrections. We take full responsibility for not being careful enough with the inferences made in our original article, as this directly led to the misunderstanding of our research.

I do not have time to dive into this subject further this morning, to see what the data say and what their correction said, to see how Heather MacDonald used the data, and then to place it all in context. I plan to look at those issues in greater depth when I have more time. But the reason offered for the retraction request got my antennae up. Remember: they already corrected the alleged error in their portrayal of the data. They don’t contend the paper remains flawed.

Let’s be clear: researchers are retracting a paper that is racially controversial, not because they believe that the paper is flawed, but because they don’t like the way it has been portrayed by people with an uncomfortable agenda.

That strikes me as similar to the overreactions we have seen with things like The Office editing out a scene making references to blackface, even though the point of the joke was that every sensible person in the show was appalled at blackface.

Society has gone insane, and the insanity looks to be spreading to data itself. If the data is inconvenient to the narrative, we’ll simply suppress the data.

I have a feeling I will saying a lot more about this.

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