Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A little media review

A horrible crime has happened in UK this month: a group of thugs attacked a man, stabbed him twice, poured acid over him and into his throat, and smashed his face with bricks. According to some sources, he lost both eyes; according to some sources, only one. Sme sources estimate burns at 50% of his skin, some 90%, and all of them say he lost his tongue.

Thoroughly unpleasant business. The public naturally wants to know who would do such thing and why. I decided to see what kind of coverage the press provides, and chose as my sample the first Google News grouping of that story that I found by googling acid+attack. The first 20 links that came up.

The actual facts of the case appear to be: a Danish Muslim man of Asian (in the British sense of the word) origin was friends with, or possibly had an affair with, a Muslim woman who was born in Britain and is of Pakistani origin. A group of people (in the loose sense of the word) consisting wholly or partially of the woman's relatives did the deed, seven were arrested, five of those released on bail, then one of those rearrested.

I have an unexplainable gut feeling that origins of the participants are not entirely irrelevant to the way the thing went, and should be mentioned. Let's see how good my 20 sources are at it:

Out of 20:

17 mentioned that the man in question was Danish, clearly the most relevant fact,
16 mentioned that there was a married Muslim woman involved in there,
9 said that the Danish man was Asian (in the British sense of the word), but only 3 said that he was Muslim,
13 mentioned honor, as in "honor crime",
4 mentioned the Pakistani origin of the woman,
3 mentioned that at least some of the perpetrators were the woman's relatives.

Of course you can make the case that they don't need to mention religion or culture, either because this is one of those unfortunate events that can happen to anyone with approximately the same probability, or quite the opposite: that anytime a man gets brutally attacked after spending time with a Muslim woman everybody with two brain cells knows who did it. I am not however sure that I approve of such journalism.

The honorary mention goes to BBC: here and here the only origin or motive detail they offer is that the man was Danish. No mention of Muslims and/or honor at all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Oh my God! The racist police came to check on a break-in! You bastards!

When I was young and my parents bought their first home the police came over a few times to check on a possible burglary in progress. The reason was a malfunctioning alarm system. They came over, asked a few questions and left. Everything was very civil. After a few times we disconnected the alarm system altogether.

Later, in their new home, this happened again, this time due to an overly concerned neighbor. The last time she called the police was when my parents ordered an air conditioning system delivered. They weren't even home, and the police came and somehow managed to figure out that the workers delivering the air conditioner were not in fact burglars.

Happens all the time, really. Happens to the white, the black, the Asians and the Hispanic, and probably the Native Americans. Surely happens to the blacks more often than to everyone else, but usually everyone, including the black people, manages to sort it out with the police perfectly well.

It really takes a professor of African-American studies at Harvard University to fuck it up.

Henry Louis Gates was trying to force his own front door for some prefectly good reason, which was not, however, ovbious to a casual observer. A neighbor called in a possible burglary, which is not an unreasonable assumption to make if somebody you don't recognize is trying to break into a house. By the time the police arrived Gates and his driver already got through the back door and managed to force the front door.

At this point the cop usually says "hi, I am investigating a report on a possible burglary" or something along those lines, the owner/resident says "oh, my name is whatever and I live here", papers are checked if the police finds it necessary, both say "oops" and the cop leaves.

"I live here" is the right answer. "Why, because I am a black man in America" is the wrong answer, and so is "you have no idea who you are messing with". He is not messing with anyone, he is doing his job, which, among other things, includes investigating burglaries in progress. Whether or not the neighbor would have called it in if those were two white men forcing the front door is something you can speculate about in your African-American studies class, but for the sake of all our front doors I certainly hope she would've.

You especially don't follow the officer outside and keep screaming at them. This is what gets you arrested for being disorderly, which is exactly what happened to Gates.

Now the incident has made the national news, the mayor has apologized, the charges have been dropped, the officer has refused to apologize and he-who-cannot-be-called-chimp-in-chief has also criticized the police.

One thing is not entirely clear: what does Gates want the police to do if there is an actual burglary in progress? Come there, see if the burglars are African-American and decide that asking them about anything would be an undue act of racial profiling?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jewish rage boy

There've been riots in Jerusalem lately, by ultra-Orthodox Jews, and in a way that makes me think that they are also trying to contend for the title of the religion of peace.

The original reason for the riots was The Most Unholy Parking Lot, which the city decided to keep open on Saturdays, which the ultra-Orthodox were a bit miffed about, partly because the Lord doesn't allow parking cars on Saturdays (surely must say so in the holy book somewhere), and partly because most of them can't afford a car.

The second reason was a differently sane ultra-Orthodox woman who did not bother feeding her three-year-old son. He is in a hospital now, and she is in a different hospital. The protesters maintain that she is not insane, she is ultra-Orthodox. The city is too polite to elaborate on the difference.

The city is, however, suing the protesters for vandalism. The city has also suspended municipal services to them (live and learn, France).

So far they have only burned 250 dumpsters, smashed 70 traffic lights and damaged some municipal vehicles. Sounds like a regular night in France, sure, but then Meah Shearim is a lot smaller than France.

Here is a picture gallery (flash). And hey, we got our own Jewish rage boy: making a speech, running away, caught.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Liikaa viinaa, munat kadoksissa

Lauantaina tuli juotua sen verran, että nyt on munat kadoksissa. Kananmunat. Neljä munaa, tai pikemminkin neljä valkuaista.

Muistan sen illan varsin hyvin, paitsi että en sitä, miten munille kävi. Jos olen vahingossa kaatanut ne pois, niin se ei ole suuri menetys, mutta jos ne on siellä jossain ja niissä kohta kehittyy älyllinen elämä...

Friday, July 10, 2009


Somewhat in connection with the previous post:

IMO it's natural for people to form stereotypes of various groups of people: one extrapolates from the evidence available, and uses those rules in the absence of the further evidence.

Moreover, if the issue in question is something really important to the person forming the stereotypes, they tend to be stronger: it is really important to all of us not to be attacked in the street, and we avoid the kinds of people that we deem to be the most likely attackers, even if we are fully aware that most likely they aren't. We just don't want to take the risk.

Going from the specific to the general seems quite natural to me. What I don't understand about the stereotypes is some people's tendency to go from the general to the specific, especially in the presense of the evidence to the contrary. Surely people must realize that not everything in the world conforms to their stereotypes, and that stereotypes are just guidelines, and not always good ones. Many of them are rooted in reality, but quite a few aren't.

What is this tendency to ignore the evidence based upon? Surely can't be evolutionary.