LQCs: Preferring Simple Answers to Complex Problems

First for today, a blast from the past. From 2009.

This is a song from Les Miz, which we watched on PBS last week. Susan Boyle. Watch the clip above from the beginning, until at least about 1:15 when she starts singing, and see the judges’ reactions. It’s priceless. This is the best part of the show. And later see the backstage crew, essentially saying, or gesturing, “we told you so!”

We watched a PBS anniversary of Les Miserables last week, and even though I’d seen the movie before, though not any stage production, many of the songs struck me as never before. Thus my link to a performance of “Bring Him Home” a couple days ago.

Some YouTube searching turned up this cultural event. When a 47-year-old, frumpy British matron, appeared on “Britains Got Talent,” and performed the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Mis. It was an event because the judges, looking at this woman, were openly skeptical, smirking and almost rolling their eyes. Until she started to sing. A singular cultural moment, that went viral worldwide.


To the subject at hand. The preference for simple answers is a tendency of human nature, despite politics. Another answer: simply denying the problem (see below).

Slate, Henry Grabar, 6 Jun 2022: What the Great Pushback Against Urban Progressives Is Really About, subtitled, “It’s not crime.”

Crime and homelessness are not, in fact, the same issue at all. They are not meaningfully correlated; they do not share causes; they do not share solutions. But in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, Democrats’ inability to address the homelessness crisis is going to cost them generational progress on criminal justice, as the forces for reforming the police go into retreat.

It’s tough to watch. Reformers like Boudin (and the left wing of the Democratic Party generally) are right on principle and in practice to dismantle the system of unaccountable police, cash bail, and long prison terms for petty offenses. But they’re going to lose their chance to make it happen, because Democratic leaders have proved themselves so inept in confronting an issue that can easily be conflated with crime.


To put it more bluntly: Boudin prosecutes criminals. But homelessness, which is not a crime, is the most serious concern for San Francisco voters, according to a recent San Francisco Examiner poll. His critics have done their best to muddy the distinction. Writing about Boudin, the conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens used a typical sleight of hand to blame the state of the city on the prosecutor. “Click this link and take a brief stroll through a local train station to see how these sorts of policies work out,” he wrote, in 2021. The link is to a video from 2018, before Boudin had even run for office. Of course, many of Boudin’s opponents aren’t confused about homelessness and crime at all: They want a DA who will use prosecutorial powers to cull the homeless population by imprisoning people for the misdemeanors associated with living on the street.


Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 8 Jun 2022: Memo to the media: GOP policies — not the rare liberal prosecutors — are driving crime, subtitled, “Rising crime is a national problem, escalated by Trump policies that Democrats haven’t been able to repeal”

As Paul Waldman of the Washington Post notes, similarly-sized cities with “Republican mayors and Republican chief prosecutors” have even worse murder rates than San Francisco. In fact, violent crime is more of a red state problem than a blue state one, as 8 out of the 10 states with the highest murder rates voted for Donald Trump in 2020. The murder rate in the 25 states that went for Trump is, on average, 40% higher than that of states that voted for Joe Biden. But, as Waldman notes, the mainstream media ignores this cold statistical evidence in favor of the right-wing framework that pins the blame on liberal prosecutors. Liberal prosecutors are exceedingly rare even in Democratic cities and, as in San Francisco, often helm cities with lower crime rates than their “tough-on-crime” counterparts.

People believe stories, not evidence or statistics. And favor simple answers — lock ’em up — over complex ones.


Denying the problem:

Salon, Heather Digby Parton, 8 June 2022: Fox News viewers have no clue: Network blocks nearly all critical coverage of Donald Trump, subtitled, “Fox News viewers are almost completely in the dark about Trump’s Jan. 6 insurrection or the revelations since then”

Which is to say,

I doubt there is anyone in America who is surprised that Fox News has decided not to carry the January 6th committee hearings. Why would they want to make their audience feel disoriented with a bunch of disturbing information they’ve heard nothing about despite tuning in regularly to their favorite “news” network? It would be like getting a dispatch from another planet. It’s very upsetting, and if there’s one thing neither Republicans nor their propaganda channels are willing to do it’s make their followers angry.


New York Times, 7 Jun 2022 (8 Jun 2022 in print): Fox News Doesn’t Plan to Carry Jan. 6 Hearings Live

The group of lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot would like as many Americans as possible to learn jarring and unknown details about the attack. So they decided to hold a public hearing on Thursday during prime time, when many people are sitting in front of their TVs.

Fox News, the nation’s top cable news channel, has other plans.

When the hearing begins at 8 p.m. Eastern, NBC will go into special report mode. CBS will air a special called “Capitol Assault Hearings,” while ABC will run “Attack on the Capitol: The Investigation — An ABC News Special.” MSNBC and CNN will have wall-to-wall coverage all night.

But Fox News will not carry the hearing. Instead, the network will stick with its prime-time lineup of opinionated conservative hosts: Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who have repeatedly downplayed the assault as a mere “footnote” to American history and tried to discredit the congressional inquiry as a ruse to “purge” former President Donald J. Trump and his supporters from the Republican Party.

In the Fox News bubble, viewers will be unaware of what so many other Americans think is an egregious attack on the US government, in January 2021, by Trump supporters.

How is this not like propaganda from Russia, and other similar authoritarian regimes? Control the press, control the impression of history, control the narrative, ensure the impression of the regime’s glorious past?

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