Facts Are Stubborn Things

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  — John Adams, Esq., Argument in Defense of the British Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, Dec. 4, 1770.

We all, at some time or another, are guilty of jumping to conclusions, of believing something without adequate evidence, of accepting a particular accounting of events, because it satisfies our suspicions or even a broader worldview. If that account is later shown to be false, our willingness to admit we were wrong and accept the facts as they are now understood is a measure of our intellectual honesty.

Holder speaking about Ferguson report

Holder speaking about Ferguson report

Such premature acceptance of a particular narrative often happens when a very traumatic and (seemingly?) unfair event occurs. And it doesn’t even need to happen in our neighborhood or to people we know. With today’s 24/7 news coverage, if it is deemed sufficiently newsworthy (and this itself can be a point of contention), it will be all over local, state, even national media — not to mention the Internet. Whether it involves someone losing his/her life, livelihood, or “merely” life savings, emotions run high and people look for someone to blame. Many, especially those who can in some measure identify with the victim(s) and their family, get angry at the perceived injustice. And, in many cases, the “court of public opinion” has already tried and convicted the perpetrator long before all the pertinent facts are in.

One recent example of this was the fatal shooting by a (white) policeman of an unarmed (black) man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. With racial tensions already high in the nation, largely due to the somewhat similar shooting of Trayvon Martin two years prior, many people latched onto the story by supposed eyewitnesses that said Brown was mercilessly gunned down after raising his hands in surrender. Even professional sports teams and members of Congress expressed their identification with the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative and Brown’s assumed innocence. This narrative also had supporters in the highest levels of the Executive — namely, President Obama and Attorney General Holder.

A few days ago, Holder announced the release of the Department of Justice’s official, criminal investigation into the Ferguson shooting. Reluctantly, he admitted that “[O]ur report may leave some to wonder how the department’s findings can differ so sharply from some of the initial, widely reported accounts of what transpired.” Here is a crucial passage from the DoJ report:

“Although there are several individuals who have stated that Brown held his hands up in an unambiguous sign of surrender prior to Wilson shooting him dead, their accounts do not support a prosecution of Wilson. As detailed throughout this report, some of those accounts are inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence; some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witness’s own prior statements with no explanation, credible for otherwise, as to why those accounts changed over time. Certain other witnesses who originally stated Brown had his hands up in surrender recanted their original accounts, admitting that they did not witness the shooting or parts of it, despite what they initially reported either to federal or local law enforcement or to the media. Prosecutors did not rely on those accounts when making a prosecutive decision.”

Furthermore, Officer Wilson’s account of the incident was confirmed by witnesses and corroborated by the actual evidence. Also,

“Wilson’s conduct in shooting Brown as he advanced on Wilson, and until he fell to the ground, was not objectively unreasonable and thus not a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242.”

Short version: 1) Physical & forensic evidence do not support “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative. 2) So called “witnesses” have recanted their testimony claiming Brown’s surrender. (So, it seems some “witnesses” felt compelled to lie in order to support the larger narrative of racism and police brutality.) 3) All evidence points to a justified police shooting.

I wonder how many of those who bought the whole “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative will admit they were wrong to do so prior to a detailed investigation. After all, this report was conducted by a Justice Dept. run by Holder (a Black man), who answers to Obama (a Black man). I also wonder how many will dismiss the facts, saying they don’t matter, in favor of the “more important” issue of highlighting racism and police brutality.

Surprised Wet Yellow Smiley Face Emoticon With Open Mouth and Raised Eyebrows in SurpriseNow, let’s back up a bit from this particular story and consider a much broader range of issues and the stories that come out in the press. Since the mainstream media is known to be predominantly liberal/progressive, it is no surprise that the usual perspective (spin?) on various topics is left-leaning. (Yes, I am showing my own right-leaning bias. Sue me.) However, in many cases, a closer look at the data — at the “stubborn facts” — reveals a different picture.

An article that came out a few weeks ago serves as a brief but telling corrective on many of these issues. In “15 Statistics That Destroy Liberal Narratives”, columnist John Hawkins culled quotes from several other columnists, journalists, and commentators, who had gathered data on everything from civilian killings by police to Latino support for amnesty to the “wicked” one-percenters to gender identity. Here are a couple examples:

“6) Teenagers under 17 who use cannabis daily are 60 percent less likely to complete high school or get a degree than peers who have never taken the drug, researchers said on Wednesday. They are also nearly seven times likelier to attempt suicide and are almost eight times likelier to use other illicit drugs later in life. The data, published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, comes from an analysis of three large, long-running studies in Australia and New Zealand. — Newsmax

“10) But the evidence shows that women lie about rape all the time -– for attention, for revenge and for an alibi. All serious studies of the matter suggest that at least 40 percent of rape claims are false. The U.S. Air Force, for example, examined more than a thousand rape allegations on military bases over the course of four years and concluded that 46 percent were false. In 27 percent of the cases, the accuser recanted. A large study of rape allegations over nine years in a small Midwestern city, by Eugene J. Kanin of Purdue University, found that 41 percent of the rape claims were false. — Ann Coulter”

Alright, one more…

“15) The survey taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked a simple question of 34,557 adults nationwide: “Which of the following best represents how you think of yourself?” The five possible answers were straight, lesbian/gay, bisexual, “something else” and “I don’t know the answer.” Transgenders, the “T” in LGBT, were not included. The survey found that a mere 1.6 percent of the adult population self-identifies as “lesbian/gay,” and an even smaller 0.7 percent told interviewers they were bisexual. The bisexuals were outnumbered by the 1.1 percent who didn’t know, wouldn’t answer or said they were “something else.” This result was far from the 10 percent that homosexual rights advocates have claimed since the 1970s. — The Washington Times

You should read the rest, too. None of the topics are covered comprehensively, of course, and further investigation is always a good idea. But, should you ever need to counter the typical liberal claims about some of these issues, Hawkins’ article will at least give you a fair start. Good stuff!

UPDATE 3/12/2015:  Here is a good article that just came out which speaks to much of what I discussed above: “Inside the Leftist Mind: The Primacy of Narrative Over Facts”.

UPDATE 3/17/2015: Here is an article from a respected liberal journalist (who is Black) who admits he and everyone else were wrong about the Ferguson narrative: “‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie”.

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