Friday, February 26, 2016
First of all, as I've said before, Bernie Sanders isn't running against Jill Stein unless he gets the nomination; and if that does happen it will be the best choice we've had since I can remember. So we shouldn't let anyone divide us so that the establishment can continue to rule without addressing the will of the people.
Also in the long run we need Instant Run-Off Elections so the establishment can't use the wasted vote argument to continue rigging the elections.
But before I get back to the political election I want to mention a couple news stories that haven't received much attention in the national media.
(Edit: additional stories have been added below to this post about hundreds of schools with lead in water around the country which haven't been widely reported in mainstream media.)
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg and will have enormous impact on our country and political activity.
Rachel Maddow recently opened her show with a couple news stories to let her viewers know that the election wasn't the only thing going on, even though the traditional media doesn't seem to be reporting anything else. I think one of them was Story So Far Porter Ranch gas leak updates (02/18/2016) and the other was about With most of City Hall facing criminal charges, what's next for Crystal City, Texas? 02/25/2016
What's next is that their water is black.
Not only is this in addition to the problems in Flint Michigan with their water problems; but it is also in addition to hundreds of other environmental problems around the country and the world that the media is hardly reporting on at all. But the local people in most of these areas are aware of them and so are people that check with a fair amount of alternative media outlets or read some of the books, routinely ignored by traditional press but promoted by alternative media outlets, that cover these stories like "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein, "Days of Destruction Days of Revolt" by Chris Hedges, "Blue Gold" by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, "Who Stole the American Dream" by Hedrick Smith, "Savage Inequalities" and "Shame of the Nation" by Jonathan Kozol, and many more.
Jumping Jack Flash Maintains an Extensive list of Fires And Explosions and on several occasions I have done my own searches (results listed in a few links below) and found much more than I suspected and the only reason I didn't find much more is I didn't have time. The amount of environmental damage being done to this country is much worse than most people realize.
It is incredibly obvious that neither Hillary Clinton or any of the Republican candidates have any intention of doing anything about this threat which is much bigger than the "Terrorism" they keep warning us about. Not that there isn't a threat of terrorism but one of the leading contributing causes is that despite all the rhetoric about religious fanaticism most of these terrorists do have some legitimate concerns, even if they don't express them very well, which includes the fact that we keep bombing Muslim countries and the enormous amount of environmental damage being done by both the military and multinational corporations.
The bigger problem is not who wins the election but how we're going to address escalating problems which are already threatening to explode, even if the media isn't reporting it and when things do explode assuming we don't address them then a lot of people are going to be taken by surprise. However if we have Hillary Clinton or one of these fanatical Republicans in office when things explode then we'll have to fight the establishment tooth and nail to get the smallest improvements done and there is a real possibility that there could be riots in the streets or worse. Even though the recent attention to police brutality has brought about a small amount of reform it might only be a token amount of accountability, so when some people stand up for their rights they could face police brutality. If they need a scapegoat it will be the police with the least political power like at Abu Ghraib when those following orders got all the blame and those giving orders weren't held accountable at all.
If on the other hand we have a sincere president in office and he or she has enough grassroots support to pressure the rest of the political establishment then there is a much bigger chance to avoid a foolish explosion of riots in the first place, or if it can't be completely avoided it can be kept to a minimum assuming legitimate concerns are finally addressed.!
Judging by a few articles from Chris Hedges including, Chris Hedges: Why I Support Dr. Jill Stein for President 02/21/2016, Chris Hedges: Bernie Sanders’ Phantom Movement 02/14/2016 and VIDEO: ‘Days of Revolt’: Chris Hedges and Jill Stein Confront the ‘Corporate Leviathan’ 02/24/2016, he doesn't think the Democratic Part can be reformed from within and he doesn't believe that Bernie Sanders can win the nomination. We'll find out soon if he can win the nomination, but whether or not Bernie Wins, Hedges still has some legitimate concerns even if I don't agree with all of them.
The Democratic Party certainly can't be reformed from within. If Bernie does win and helps reform the Democratic Party it won't be with the help of the political establishment, it'll have to be with the help of an enormous amount of grassroots pressure. Hopefully that grassroots pressure will include efforts to bring about major media reform, Instant Run-Off elections, proportionate representation, and a chance to hear from all grassroots candidates without giving an enormous advantage to the most corrupt. The interview process needs to be controlled by the public not the political establishment as I pointed out in several posts including Election Reform and Saving Project Vote Smart and improving it or replacing it.
Even if either Bernie or Jill wins we can't rely solely on them, and even they need to be held accountable. I doubt if they would disagree especially since they keep asking for help from the grassroots after the election, assuming they win, unlike most other politicians who only want it before the election to get them elected then expect us to trust them even after they betray that trust one time after another.
Unlike Hillary Clinton and the Republicans, I don't think either Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein want cult followers that believe everything they say, which is just as well since they haven't come up with plans that are good enough to finish the job even if they are much better than the corporate puppets.
In Bernie Sanders, who at this time seems to have a much better chance of winning, a couple of the concerns that antiwar critics like Chris Hedges have of him is that he still support the military industrial complex, even if it isn't nearly as much as the other traditional candidates. He has attempted to bring military jobs to Vermont, he has said that he would continue arming and training Muslims to fight ISIS, and he refused to speak out against indefinite detentions. If we didn't arm so many rebel groups in the past while simultaneously bombing one Muslim country after another we wouldn't have this problem in the first place. If there were still a few terrorists that were fanatical they wouldn't be able to attract support and we wouldn't be constantly helping their recruiting process.
I can't rule out the possibility that he is catering to a public that has been indoctrinated to believe we have to fight ISIS so he could get in office and stop inciting them; however I wouldn't consider this a good excuse from anyone else so it shouldn't be a good excuse from Bernie Sanders.
I've also expressed other concerns like both Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders haven't updated their Project Vote Smart questionnaire this year. And on a few occasions when he has campaigned for free college tuition I have tweeted him recommending that he cut college costs by reforming the inefficient copyright system and improving disclosure of education expenses. These are just a couple of the improvements that need to be done which he could do better if he's open to suggestion. However Bernie Sanders has done a far better job indicating that he's willing to listen and address voters concerns than Hillary Clinton.
Chris Hedges and other activists seem to agree that education the public is more important than supporting anyone candidate but until we have much more reform enabling an educated public to control more of the government we'll also need elected officials to do a large portion of the work. Hedges seems to support a revolution that would involve more marching in the streets like the Occupy Wall Street movement, and at least to some degree that will probably be necessary but the best educational and reform efforts will happen with more people paying attention to more reliable media whether it is alternative media before we get significant media reform or the new media after the reform that provide educational opportunities, or actual work restoring our infrastructure, economic system and cleaning the environment.
In all fairness if Hedges is right about the media and political establishment being able to rig the election for Hillary Clinton or the fanatical Republican that wins the nomination they can almost certainly rig the election against Jill Stein like they did the last time by simply refusing to cover her at all.
This is the most obvious and common method that the media rigs elections! In order to qualify for higher office a candidate needs to get media attention but they won't give it to them unless they get an enormous amount of bribes thinly disguised as campaign contributions and they also need to participate in the debates but the Commission on Presidential Debates rigs that as well so that only candidates with corporate support can get in. This guarantees that only candidates approved by corporations have chance to get elected which isn't remotely democratic.
The only way around this is for a candidate to slowly get an enormous amount of grassroots support to pressure the media to actually do their job and cover them. Bernie Sanders was able to do this since he comes from a progressive state which holds their candidates for local office much more accountable than most of the country and he slowly rose from Mayor to Representative then Senator, enabling him to get some coverage. But even then the media didn't give him fair coverage until their was an enormous amount of pressure from the grassroots. Jill Stein also manage to get enough grassroots pressure to obtain a token amount of coverage but it seems unlikely that the media will cover her more than they have to and unless there is much more it will be difficult if not impossible for her to win.
The most likely possible exception for her is if the media and political establishment rig the election for Hillary and enough people are angry enough to speak out loud and clear. If Chris Hedges is right and we are going to have a revolt marching in the streets it might happen before the election in this scenario, giving Jill Stein her best chance.
This could be more likely if the two establishment candidates get in an escalating mud slinging match, which seems like a possibility under the circumstances. Even though Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spenjd all their time among the ruling class catering to their wishes, they've both indicated that they'll do all the mud slinging they need to get elected. If one of them does get into office they'll make up after and serve the political interests of the ruling class, which seems to be standard operating procedure. When Hillary Clinton was Senator or Secretary of State she made up with both the Republicans and Barack Obama to serve corporate interests. After promising not to hire lobbyists and to put on "comfortable shoes" and march with protesters Barack Obama did the opposite on both occasions, as most other establishment politicians.
Politicians clearly consider promises only necessary for duration of campaigns to get elected then they can be quickly forgotten or glossed over with propaganda if necessary.
Even if the establishment does rig it and we don't have enough marching in the street to get her elected then supporting her will be far better than accepting the lesser of two evils since the new progressive views of Hillary Clinton have little or not credibility and she might even be the greater of two evils.
More importantly if we get a much stronger showing, preferably accompanied by at least a few truly Independent, Progressive, Socialist or Green elected officials then at least it will let the establishment know that the public is waking up and unless they do their job they're going to get voted out and the Duopoly will fall apart.
This may not be enough to stop a major break down so it would be far better to elect someone who is actually going to try to do a good job. If a revolt comes it may not be because someone like Chris Hedges, Naomi Klein or anyone else is calling for it, including me. It might come because our political and economic system is no longer carrying out basic functions like providing clean water roads or education.
We can't afford to keep waiting another four years so that we can fall for the same trick again and wait eight years etc.
As I write this many of the media pundits and Donald Trump have already written off Bernie Sanders and if the polls are close then it could get worse for him before it gets better; however intentionally or not the order of the primaries seems to benefit Hillary Clinton who supposedly has stronger support in the South. And in addition to the South Carolina primary most of the contests on Tuesday are in the south. The states where Bernie can do best except for handful like Massachusetts and Vermont are coming later so if he falls behind there could be a good chance for him to catch back up especially if word get out about his positions on the issues. Hillary Clinton supposedly leads big among African Americans and Latinos which is surprising since her policies and record has been terrible for them, the only thing they might like about her is her propaganda.
The bigger problem if he does come back with more victories or does better than expected Tuesday might be the establishment using "Super delegates" to rig the nomination against the will of the people. These delegates are clearly designed to help rig elections if the establishment feels the need. The only reason they call them "Super delegates" is presumably because "Incredibly corrupt and undemocratic delegates" doesn't sound as good. Instead perhaps it gives people the impressions it is a superhero like Mighty mouse coming in and saying, "Here I come to save the day!"
This might fool four year old's.
We may also need people marching in the streets or expressing outrage one way or another if the establishment decides to rig it this way for Bernie too.
The following are some of the posts I did in the past compiling long lists or environmental disasters ignored by the media and one about Indigenous Protesters having more success than more comfortable people in the United States; if we keep going the way we are we'll see first hand how much destruction is going in our own back yards perhaps after it's too late:
Indigenous Protesters in Brazil, Burma, Nigeria and other poor countries lead the way protecting the environment
BP is just the tip of the iceberg
North Dakota explosion forgotten already now Walpole, Omaha, Mississippi, and many others also quickly fading into memory hole.
Media blackout of environmental disasters and protests continue
Edit: Shortly after I posted this a growing number of reports began coming out about lead in the drinking water in many schools around the country; however most of these reports only covered part of the problem. The first one I noticed was about lead in drinking water in five of the biggest states in the country, including, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and California. They didn't specify whether it is all around these states but the example they highlighted was a poor city in New Jersey. A few days later there was a report that added schools in Maine and an internet search also indicated that there are problems with some school in Oregon.
We are already slowly poisoning a lot of the poorest people in this country, and it is hard to imagine that Hillary Clinton, who promoted Fracking for a long time, and also supported many other corporations including those profiting from the TPP, Keystone pipeline, coal plants in South Africa and many others, will fight vigorously to reverse this. During the campaign when it became clear that there is enormous opposition to some of these including TPP, Fracking and the Keystone pipeline she reversed herself with her promises, but some executives clearly believe this is only for duration of campaign.
This has been going on much longer than most people realize; if establishment politicians wanted to address this they would have done so by now. None of the Republicans seems overly concerned with even pretending to do a better job. If there is someone who will do a better job than Bernie Sanders it is clearly Jill Stein or another candidate the corporate press refuses to cover.
The following are a handful of back up links updating these problems but a Google Search will clearly turn up much more the closer you look:
National Center for Biotechnology Information: Failing our children: lead in U.S. school drinking water. 2010
Lead taints drinking water in hundreds of schools, day cares across USA 03/17/2016
United States Environmental Protection Agency: Testing Schools and Child Care Centers for Lead in the Drinking Water
Lead Found In Drinking Water In 10 Oregon Schools 03/20/2016
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Steven Pinker "Better Angels" Provides Limited Disclosure of Human Psychological & Animal Experiments
In my previous review of Steven Pinker "Better Angels of Our Nature" I explained how he ignores most important root causes of violence; in addition to that he also disclosed a fair amount of research that may not follow reasonable ethical standards using both animals and people. He cites Peter A.D. Singer, one of the most widely know academic ethical experts in the academic world in his book on at least one occasion and makes a few references to ethical guidelines in his book; but most of it doesn't pay much attention to it. Some of the biggest problems my not be reviewed by many if any academics at all.
It is generally claimed that research is done for the benefit of all of society; or at least that is the impression that most academics and the media often try to give us. Unfortunately the research is controlled by a small segment of society and whether they use it to benefit society or for other reasons is also controlled by that same small percentage of society despite the impressions they try to give the majority of the public.
There is no reason to take my word for this when you consider how the benefits of a large amount of research is used. Medical research is often accompanied by patents which drive drug or medical expenses up so that a shocking percentage of the public can't afford it, even when the research is subsidized by the government or drug companies spend more on deceptive ads than research.
Research about psychological manipulation are distributed in locations where the majority of the public will never see it, so they can't learn how to avoid it; but those that want to use it to manipulate the public, including the media, political advisers, and advertisers among others, have much more access to it in the academic world. I have done several previous posts about a variety of these examples, some of which are listed at the closing of this article. If people search for this it is often available in bits and pieces that take enormous amounts of time so organize.
A close look at some of Peter Singer's previous work, including "Practical Ethics" and "Animal Liberation" might indicate that he raises numerous ethical problems about some of the research cited in Steven Pinker's book assuming standards are consistent. He attempts to argue logically that they should at least try to ensure that the potential benefit outweighs the cost of experimentation and that animal rights should be protected as well as people's including the poor. He is a strong opponent of research that harms animals to create more cosmetics which doesn't provide improvements in the quality of life and is based mostly on hype.
Unfortunately his review of Pinker's book, Is Violence History? By PETER SINGER OCT. 6, 2011, doesn't express any concern bout the ethics of experiments discussed in the book; instead it seems more like a summary or promotional piece, than a critical review. This is very common among book reviews which often seem to be marketing attempts for books, not sincere reviews, especially those in the mainstream media. If you agree with some of the following points that I attempt to make you should do so based on the merits not the credentials of the critic since Both Peter Singer and Steven Pinker have better credentials, officially than me.
In one of the most in depth discussions of ethics in his book, Steven Pinker writes, "Let me tell you about the worst thing I have ever done...." ("Better Angels" additional excerpts) and goes on to confess about when he was a student and was told to use a rat who was a runt, and not useful for other experiments, for a different one which winds up accidentally torturing the rats with little or no scientific benefit. He more or less admits this, and closes by saying, "The reason I bring up this blot on my conscience is to show what was standard practice in the treatment of animals at the time." He also discusses some research that was even more outrageous from previous centuries, but there were no ethical guidelines in those times and at least one of them was to demonstrate that tactics during the inquisition were ineffective, and an argument, for better or worse, can be made that it saved more lives than it cost.
This book isn't primarily about the ethics of the research that he cites and some of these ethics are discussed, at least to some degree elsewhere, so that might be part of the reason why Peter Singer doesn't express concerns about them. However the majority of ethical decisions seem to be made by people who are in the academic world or chosen by them so consideration of these ethics by the rest of the world should be worthwhile especially since the people in the academic world aren't the research subjects of their riskiest research projects.
That is usually animals, or poor people that don't have the academic background to participate in ethical decisions. This won't change until a much greater effort is made to educate the public about a large amount of scientific research and who benefits from it. This won't happen without major educational reform enabling people to access the information they need to make decisions. This will almost certainly involve reviews of copyright laws which effectively make the knowledge obtained by research the "intellectual property" of the researchers or those that finance it to be used as they wish, as I discussed in previous posts including, Copyright violators are thought criminals and Copyright Bureaucracy.
In one of the experiments that might shock many people Steven Pinker writes, "We saw how neuroscientists can implant an electrode into the Rage circuit of a cat, press a button, and set the animal on attack mode." ("Better Angels" additional excerpts) He also goes on to explain that these experiments were done with rats as well. This is the kind of research that might give some people the impression that scientists are creating a potential Frankenstein monster. This type of research is almost certainly discussed very rarely even in the academic world and even more rarely in the mainstream media which practically never mentions it at all. If it were mentioned in the mainstream media they might imply that it is a part of a bizarre conspiracy theory, and if theorists went much beyond what is publicly disclosed there might be some justification for this.
Whether conspiracy theories about the possibility that they might use these experiments on people are justified Steven Pinker goes on to say, "When certain parts of the medial hypothalamus or striatum are damaged, the animal is more likely to attack a prey animal or an unwitting experimenter, but less likely to attack another male. And as we shall see, giving an animal (or a man) testosterone does not make him testy across the board. On the contrary, it makes him feel great, while putting a chip on his shoulder when he is faced with a rival male.58 One look at a human brain and you know you are dealing with a very unusual mammal. Figure 8–2, with its transparent cortex, shows that all the parts of the rat brain have been carried over to the human brain, including the organs that house the circuits for rage, fear, and dominance: the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the periaqueductal gray (which is found inside the midbrain, lining the cerebrospinal canal running through it). The dopaminefueled striatum, whose ventral portion helps set goals for the whole brain to seek, is also prominent."
Clearly using this type of experiments on people would be considered outrageous by any rational person; however they still try to use the experiments on animals to understand rage in people as well by comparing what they can, presumably within the ethical guidelines established by ethical review boards, assuming all academics abide by them. However, as disclosed with declassified Project MKUltra documents as well as experiments conducted by both South Africans and Nazis there have been academics that don't abide by these guidelines and they've done so with the approval of their own governments.
As I said experiments during the Inquisitions were even worse. Those with enough political power might be able to do some but those without often found themselves the targets of Inquisitions since scientific research challenged the power of the Church. Steven Pinker cites a couple of the exceptions in the following excerpts:
As I said, thanks to the irrational behavior of the Church at that time, some justification can be made that these desperate experiments prevented more torture than they created. Steven Pinker agrees that current ethical guidelines for these experiments would never allow them. Fortunately we no longer need to replicates these experiments since they have already proven to be false.
Yes, of course it is right since we have adequate knowledge to know that this type of techniques doesn't work therefore it should be banned.
You would think so, but there are still numerous examples where intimidating techniques are being used over and over again and law enforcement often argues in favor of them claiming they're a necessary investigation tool. The Innocent Project has numerous articles about False Confessions or Admissions, putting those words in their search engine turns out well over three hundred additional articles. Occasionally the mainstream press reports on one or two here and there like, Robert Davis receives pardon (12/21/2015) but they fail to report on how common they are and the "Justice" system often argues against changing policies that might prevent them. And worst of all they're often quickly forgotten by most people so that few changes are made and the get tough on crime attitude often results in making the same mistakes.
The Robert Davis was featured recently on a true crime story which probably didn't get much ratings. The officer who obtained the false confession wasn't held accountable, he was only pardoned, not exonerated and is still on probation for a crime he didn't commit and they refuse to ban this type of interrogation.
Steven Pinker, is of course not responsible for this and partially discloses it with his writing but he doesn't consider it as one of the potential contributing causes to violence. He cites increased police presence as a deterrent in his book without acknowledging much of the problems with the police. Some of his tweets seem to provide mixed messages on this issue; a couple of them The real #blacklivesmatter movement (gun control and racist cops aren't the significant issues). and Data: Police don't shoot blacks disproportionately. Problem: Not race, but too many police shootings. downplay impact from gun control or police racism, whether the articles he cites support his conclusions or not. However another one, There's no excuse for US's refusal to keep & report data on police killings & police deaths: It would reduce both. argues for better records which many police have been opposed to. From a scientific point of view this should be an easy argument; and if anyone's interpretation of some of the data is biased then other can review it and make their case.
As I said before availability of guns is almost certainly not a leading contributing cause but it is part of it. His acknowledgement of police racism seems to downplay it; and he fails to adequately address long term contributing causes of violence like early abuse or abandoned inner cities, as I pointed out in the first part of this review.
Steven Pinker also reports on relatively early efforts to form standing armies, or revived efforts when he writes, "But during the military revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, states began to form professional standing armies. They conscripted large numbers of men from a cross section of society rather than just from the dregs at the bottom. They used a combination of drill, indoctrination, and brutal punishment to train them for organized combat. And they instilled in them a code of discipline, stoicism, and valor. The result was that when two of these armies clashed, they could rack up high body counts in a hurry." ("Better Angels" additional excerpts)
This improved understanding about how to maintain disciplined standing armies is something that actually goes back thousands of years including the standing armies maintained by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Angkors, Chinese, Mayans and many other civilizations. However this knowledge has repeatedly been lost when the civilizations that used them eventually collapsed since they were expanding empires without protecting the majority of their people and corruption and war eventually causes them all to self destruct.
Records for many of the techniques to maintain these armies are sporadic; but in the past century they have improved, although these records aren't presented to the majority of the public in a manner which they would understand. As I explained in a couple of posts about the most widely known psychological experiments, Philip Zimbardo, Lucifer Effect, Stanford Prison Experiment and Eli Roth’s and Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority experiment much more extensive than most people realize, when they researched why people obey authority they claimed they were doing so to prevent another World War. However this research was financed by the military and as my previous posts on the subject indicate instead of using the research to prevent blind obedience they seem to have used it to obtain blind obedience from their recruits.
Steven Pinker mentions Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority experiments in his book, however he only repeats the same uncritical descriptions that are made in many other social psychology books and articles without pointing out that it could be used for the opposite of what they claim it is being used for. This type of research enables authoritarian sources from either side to ensure that they have armies ready to fight against each other. Eugene Debs once correctly said, "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose — especially their lives." The psychological research that Milgram and Zimbardo did enables them to indoctrinate their recruits, yet neither Steven Pinker or many if any other academic sources with political clout mention this as a contributing cause to violence that enables the ruling class to maintain a permanent state of war if they think it suits their purposes. Hermann Göring also explained how the public could be fooled into war in the following excerpt:
Neither Steven Pinker, Stanley Milgram, Phillip Zimbardo or many other psychological researchers attempted to explain to the public how this research could be used to indoctrinate military recruits; however there is plenty of circumstantial evidence, if not hard evidence, to indicate that it was almost certainly used to do the opposite of what they claim, as I explained in the posts about Milgram and Zimbardo cited above.
This is just one of many examples where the research he cites could be used to research manipulation tactics that might enable advertisers, military recruiters, union busters or political pundits and advisers to indoctrinate large portions of the public. Most of the research that he cites isn't quit as straight forward as some of the political tactics that people like Frank Luntz openly disclose on occasion but they help develop the tactics Luntz uses. the following are some of the additional research projects that could be used to study methods of controlling the public:
Steven Pinker made a point of explaining how much more ethical research standards are now than they used to be, yet many of these research projects continue and as far as I can tell they're considered ethical.
If the majority of the public was reasonably well aware of this would they agree?
Why wouldn't Peter A.D. Singer who is considered one of the leading experts on ethic have more to say about these experiments and their ethic in his review?
More importantly a close look at some of this research could enable many people with conflicts of interest to develop more effective propaganda tactics for a variety of reasons including advertising, promoting war, often based on lies, political propaganda to get candidates elected that serve the interests of one corporation or another. This isn't just a fringe conspiracy theory; the news is full of political pundits and advertisers doing just that.
Where is the effort to inform the majority of the public about how this research is being done in a manner that could enable many political operatives to corrupt the democratic system?
When people like Chris Hedges, Naomi Klein, Robert McChesney and other sources try to warn the public about at least part of this, they're often portrayed as radical fringe elements, even when their research is well documented and stands up to scrutiny better than the claims made by many traditional media or politicians.
One of the most blatant experiments that could be used to manipulate people might be research into oxytocin described in the following excerpt:
The media may have had a field day at one time, but when I read it here it was the first I heard of this. Like many other news stories they may have reported it through a news cycle for a few days then quickly forgot it. It is unlikely that everyone forgot it quite so quickly. there could be additional research being done on this without much disclosure for all I know. This could clearly be used to manipulate people for one reason or another. If there was more public discussion on this the public could be warned about how to avoid being manipulated and they might even consider regulating the use of oxytocin and other potentially mind altering drugs and research into it. Or at least warning people so they're less likely to be taken by surprise.
this sounds very similar to the experiments done by the CIA in their MKUltra experiments which included psychological manipulation as well as attempts to use drugs like LSD to control their subjects. There are also large amounts of other research into potentially mind altering medications like anti-depressants which could be using the public as research subjects without full disclosure as I mentioned in the first part of this review. If there is potential for some of this drug use to be used to control the public in a real live version Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" where drugs were used as part of a process to control the public then it should be fully disclosed to the public and they should be warned about how they could potentially be manipulated. In order for this to happen properly we need a much better education system available to all so they can fully understand it, not just those from the upper classes that study how to manipulate and control lower and middle classes for their purposes.
Steven Pinker also subtly tries to echo an argument in favor of torture while misrepresenting the background when he writes, "In 2001 the legal scholar Alan Dershowitz addressed this hypocrisy by proposing a legal mechanism designed to eliminate sub rosa torture in democracies.243 The police in a ticking-bomb scenario would have to get a warrant from a disinterested judge before torturing the lifesaving information out of a suspect; all other forms of coercive interrogation would be flatly prohibited. The most common response was outrage. By the very act of examining the taboo on torture, Dershowitz had violated the taboo, and he was widely misunderstood as advocating torture rather than seeking to minimize it.244 ...." ("Better Angels" additional excerpts)
I went into this same example cited by Alan Dershowitz previously in Torture as the first resort! One of the sources I cited was Alfred McCoy author of “A Question of Torture” who also went into it. Steven Pinker's claim that Alan Dershowitz trying to bring it out in the open is clearly partly true since that is what he did; but his claim that he was trying to minimize it was clearly false. Alan Dershowitz made this hypothetical designed to create a scenario where he would justify torture and under this scenario the torture would obtain the information that they need in the nick of time like an episode of "24." After this claim was made many other people took it to new extremes trying to use it to justify many other examples of torture. To the best of my knowledge Alan Dershowitz hasn't made any attempt to warn against this and in some cases encouraged it. These have repeatedly been proven not to work. Even one of the examples that he cited in his book which I cited above about torture being used during the inquisition indicates that it is a flawed hypothesis.
Steven Pinker clearly should have known better than to distort this example.
Alfred McCoy went into further detail in “A Question of Torture” where he reviewed an enormous amount of history and found that in the real world torture has never led to finding the information they need to stop a terrorist attack and has often led to false leads and incited more violence. Some of the terrorist attacks including the Boston Bombing, Paris attacks and the San Bernardino attack were almost certainly at least partially retaliation to aggressive behavior including reports of torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
I doubt if he did this so that sociologist would have an opportunity to study how the public would react and how it could be used to further manipulate them by appealing to their emotions but that is being done any way.
Steven Pinker and other academics that try to downplay or justify this could potentially contribute to reversals in the reductions in violence if more people act on it.
The current political discussion is a clear indication that it might just be happening right now with candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump promising to "carpet bomb them into oblivion," or "bring back waterboarding and worse," and a shocking percentage of the public is cheering them on even though these promises are clear violations of the Geneva Convention and will only lead to more retaliation.
Would they agree that it is justified for our enemies to torture our veterans for the same reason?
Of course not, which means that Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Alan Dershowitz, Steven Pinker and a shocking number of other academics and politicians are advocating for a blatant double standard which is guaranteed to backfire and lead to escalating violence if it is put in practice.
This is just a small sample of the research that could potentially be used to manipulate the public. Some of the most refined research is often done by political pollsters like Frank Luntz; but they almost certainly take advantage of the large amount of research from other sources when they develop their techniques. Anyone that takes the time to look at a significant amount of this research might think that efforts to educate the public about how they're being manipulated might be in order, assuming they want to preserve a sincere functioning democracy.
A close look at the current absurd political debate indicates that there is an insane obsession with using as many manipulation tactics to elect a candidate that will betray the public without fixing many of the most important issues.
Steven Pinker writes, near the end of his book, "There is a reason that I made reason the last of the better angels of our nature. Once a society has a degree of civilization in place, it is reason that offers the greatest hope for further reducing violence. The other angels have been with us for as long as we have been human, but during most of our long existence they have been unable to prevent war, slavery, despotism, institutionalized sadism, and the oppression of women. As important as they are, empathy, self-control, and the moral sense have too few degrees of freedom, and too restricted a range of application, to explain the advances of recent decades and centuries." ("Better Angels" additional excerpts)
He's right on this one but there are good reasons to question whether he is actually taking his own advise. Reason doesn't mean only acknowledging beliefs that suit any given ideology ignoring research that raises doubt about it. Selectively addressing only the research that one agrees with, without accurately refuting claims they disagree with, assuming the disagreement is justified, is not scientific. Many secularists routinely criticize religious people and fringe theorists for selectively acknowledging facts and ignoring those that don't support their beliefs, and rightly so, but all to often some of them do the same thing themselves.
Steven Pinker does this at times including his defense of Capitalism, which should include more review of the flaws that he declines to acknowledge. He cites Capitalism as helping to reduce violence when he says, "Capitalism saved the world, and there is even a heretical theory now, moving up from the level of individuals to countries: countries that trade more and have more open economies are less likely to fight wars and less likely to have genocides." Steven Pinker quotes However this is, at best, only partly true and it ignores many way that Capitalism, as it is currently practiced in an extreme manner leads to unnecessary violence and could lead to much more if it continues. I don't know if this quote is from this book but the book makes similar claims and cites data, including that nations that trade together are less likely to fight each other, which he claims to support it. However trade often leads to conflicts when there are disagreements about who receives the most benefits. It also leads to enormous amounts of oppression when the dominant economic power support tyrants that oppress their own people possibly leading to future conflicts.
There are a long list of additional problems which Steven Pinker declines to acknowledge; a long biography of books could be presented that goes into details, which he ignores, including "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein, "Days of Destruction Days of Revolt" by Chris Hedges, "Blue Gold" by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, "Who Stole the American Dream" by Hedrick Smith and many more. These authors expose how capitalism is relying on military force, often suppressing democracy which traditional academics including Steven Pinker often try to associate with Capitalism, in many cases to preserve their economic system. they also write about the growing number of sacrifice zones and how quality of life is falling apart for a growing percentage of the public as a result of the economic system Steven Pinker claims is saving the world.
Neither the traditional media or Steven Pinker fully reports on the enormous amount of economic inequality created by this system or the growing amount of environmental destruction that is destroying many innocent lives. Steven Pinker and the traditional media refuse to acknowledge that these abandoned Sacrifice zones are a breeding ground for what they often call "terrorism." Some of the religious extremism that they associate with terrorism is accurate, however what they fail to acknowledge is that some of their grievances are also legitimate and they're using religious beliefs to distract from those issues.
Epidemic problems with getting clean water and natural resources are inevitably going to escalate causing more threats to security which are a result of the economic system he is defending even though it doesn't try to fix what they call "negative externalities."
We should think carefully about how research is being used to benefit who. Steven Pinker and many other researchers often disclose a large portion of it in low profile places where the majority of us never look. It may seem absurd to think of us as being used as research subjects by a bunch of rats acting as mad scientists, but something just as bad might be true, even if this clearly isn't. However ironically it isn't that far off, since marketing researchers have convinced people to pay ridiculously high prices for flavored or colored water which is mostly just sugar water hyped up with deceptive advertisements.
The epidemics in Flint Michigan and Chrystal City Texas are just a small sample of the environmental destruction in our own country getting so bad that even the traditional media has to report it but there is much more where that came from. As I explained in the post about Human research subjects, which cited different examples of field research that wasn't planned, listed below this is also another example of a research being done using the public as research subjects as a result of neglect. they ignored the escalating pollution until it was so bad they couldn't ignore it any more than the researchers came in and started studying the problem with the residents as research subjects and in Flint Michigan they've already admitted many of the children will live with lead poisoning for life.
As long as we continue to allow the political establishment to control all the most powerful institutions without disclosing either the environmental damage or psychological manipulation then it could inevitably lead to increases in violence. Also we need to acknowledge how demagoguery is routinely used to scapegoat all the wrong causes like what Trump, Cruz and even Clinton are doing now. Renewed increases in crime may inevitably lead to scapegoating of minorities instead of addressing the real root causes of crime starting with child abuse leading to escalating violence and abandoned inner cities.
For more extensive context about some of the quotes that I based this review on see, Steven Pinker "The Better Angels of Our Nature" excerpts
There's plenty of research about how maintaining a threat of violence or at least the appearance of a threat can be used to appeal to emotions and enable draconian tactics like torture or mass incarceration that have been proven not to work.
The following are a few additional reviews followed by some of my past posts about other psychological manipulation research:
more book reviews
John Gray: Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and war 03/13/2015
Why Steven Pinker, Like Jared Diamond, Is Wrong 06/11/2013
Fundamentals of Psychology
Philip Zimbardo, Lucifer Effect, Stanford Prison Experiment
Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association
Eli Roth’s Milgram/Obedience experiment much more extensive than most people realize
Political Psychologist Are Suppressing Democracy
Human Research Subjects
Anti-violence social experiments could be part of a slippery slope
Roy F Fox on unethical targeting of children by marketers
Roy F Fox Harvesting Minds, Channel One Indoctrination of Kids
Wal-Marts unethical marketing to children
Michelle Obama pushes token advertising restrictions while ignoring research that calls for more
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Steven Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature" reviews how violence has declined over the centuries and claims that we may be in the least violent times ever. He is almost certainly at least partly correct about some of this and he backs it up by an enormous number of charts and other data; however he fails to acknowledge some of the most important research available about the most important contributing causes.
By doing a better job acknowledging and informing the public about many of these contributing causes to crime reductions could increase even more and stay down. Some good researchers have done this but they don't get adequate attention from the media. And some countries have much lower violent crime rates, presumably because they're already doing this.
Also even though he provides an enormous number of charts from a variety of sources he doesn't do a very good job tying most of them together which would take much more time, even though this is already a long book, as he points out.
In many cases when it comes to the most important contributing causes, which he often ignores, there is almost certainly a significant amount of political resistance to addressing them, since they often contradict fiscal or political ideologies of the well connected, which Steven Pinker may be catering to. This seems cynical but as I indicated in a previous post, Is the academic world defending democracy? or corrupting it? a close look at some of the most controversial research indicates that the best research often takes a back seat to the research with the most political support, although those that don't look at the details of any given subject might have a hard time recognizing it. Ironically sometimes he cites at least one source who does a much better job at addressing one of the most important issues he downplays or ignores, Murray Straus, but doesn't cover the vast majority of his work. This is almost certainly not the only one of his sources that he misrepresents or selectivity cites.
Last year I did my own series of relatively rough reviews of the root causes of crime and how to prevent them that started with Ignored evidence linking corporal punishment, poverty and crime grows, which I've been reporting on in numerous blogs and added numerous other reviews of additional contributing causes before ending with Politicians increase crime; Grass roots efforts reduce crime; Politicians steal the credit. This wasn't peer reviewed and didn't go into nearly as much detail as Pinker's book, although it is relatively long for Blog posts; however it is relatively easy to understand and confirm and each of the separate reviews also includes additional studies that were peer reviewed, and they include an enormous amount of easy to find information that could have helped his work although he didn't use it.
The most important root cause of violence which is almost certainly a leading cause for the reduction of violence is child abuse and corporal punishment which often escalates to bullying and hazing among other forms of violence. The changes in child rearing tactics escalated significantly when Benjamin Spock among other child rearing experts started advising parents how to avoid abusive methods of disciplining their children. This took place after World War Two and a rough look at the decline in murder rates clearly indicates that a lot of it took place since then, although, not surprisingly it often took years if not decades to show up in reduced violent crime rates. However Steven Pinker doesn't put much if any emphasis on this.
He doesn't mention it until the second half of his book when he cites both Benjamin Spock and Murray Straus, but then he says, "The cause-and-effect theory, in which spanking teaches children that violence is a way to solve problems, is debatable. Equally likely explanations for the correlation between spanking and violence are that innately violent parents have innately violent children, and that cultures and neighborhoods that tolerate spanking also tolerate other kinds of violence." “Better Angels” additional excerpt
While preparing to write this post I wrote to Murray Straus to ask if he had any comments about it; the following is my E-Mail and his reply which included a copy of one of his books although I still haven't had time to read it, and am relying on one of his past books along with several other sources for information that I believe raises doubts about some of Mr. Pinker's work.
Murray Straus relies heavily on statistical studies which many people have a hard time understanding; however they involve hard facts which should be difficult to dispute, unless, as many people do they're misrepresented. He has also cross checked his work with some of the same sources I have previously cited, in other posts, including Alice Miller author of "For Your Own Good" and Philip Greven author of "Spare the Child" and perhaps James Garbarino author of "Lost Boys" and coauthor of "Words Can Hurt Forever" with Ellen deLara. They provide an enormous amount of evidence indicating that early child abuse and corporal punishment often lead to escalating violence including bullying, domestic violence and hazing, including hazing in both the military and police academies.
Steven Pinker has tweeted an article How criminologists who study biology are shunned by their field implying that he believes that most criminologists focus mainly on nurture aspects of the root causes and refuse to acknowledge other views. Murray Straus clearly indicated he doesn't agree with that; however there are almost certainly many on both sides that do refuse to acknowledge the work of the others. Furthermore regardless of what the academic world does the media presented to a much broader segment of the public is far more likely to focus on a perceived "Natural born killer" belief often accompanied by appeals to emotion and vengeance generally referred to as justice, most outrageously demonstrated by pundits like Nancy Grace who is presented as an expert and all criticism of her is limited to alternative media outlets that get much less attention.
They fail to consider that many of these violent people have also stated or implied that they believe they're acting out of a sense of justice as well; although it seems to be a perverted sense of justice. However this perverted sense of justice is very similar to ones taught by many abusive parents and demagogues like Nancy Grace.
Regrettably the media seems far more concerned with the entertainment value of violence than informing the public about how to prevent it.
Researchers who do much better work like Straus, Greven, Miller, Coloroso or Garbarino rarely ever get any attention from the media. Also, for what it is worth, the article he cited, used a mask that looks like the one worn by Mike Myers in Halloween which is a blatant appeal to emotion and unreliable for research purposes. Murray Straus provides much better fact checking as indicated in the following excerpt:
Murray Straus also added additional research in the following excerpt of his "Legitimate Violence Spillover (LVS) theory," in the following excerpt:
As far as the death penalty is concerned there is a correlation between higher murder rates and support for the death penalty but, personally, I suspect that it is unlikely that the death penalty is likely to incite more murder. I suspect that it is more likely that earlier violence like corporal punishment and child abuse leads to escalating violence and greater support for the death penalty despite evidence that it doesn't work as a deterrent.
Murray Straus came to these conclusions by crosschecking dozens if not hundreds of studies, most of which he acknowledges have limitations or flaws, but he addresses them by checking different sources to minimize the flaws. This led him to recommend much more educations about how early child abuse and corporal punishment leads to escalating violence and laws protecting children and everyone else for that matter. Laws without education would inevitably fail; education without laws would have much more impact; both would be best like what the Swiss did and they managed to keep the need for enforcement to a minimum.
James Garbarino has recommended that when possible non-punitive methods should be used to reduce abuse. One of his recommendations is a home visitor program available to at risk mothers in some states; and he also recommends similar methods when teachers notice problems with children at school. These tactics have been tried and proven effective yet the media, political establishment and Steven Pinker rarely if ever mention them. Instead the media is constantly trying to recommend accountability for people without resources or education and Steven Pinker and some other academics like Robert Hare provide work that seems to justify this, at least to some.
Steven Pinker also cites Jane Goodall "who first observed chimpanzees in the wild for extended periods of time, eventually made a shocking discovery. ... a group of male chimpanzees ... And if they encounter a solitary male, or isolate one from a small group, they will go after him with murderous savagery. Two attackers will hold down the victim, and the others will beat him, bite off his toes and genitals, tear flesh from his body, twist his limbs, drink his blood, or rip out his trachea," (“Better Angels” additional excerpt) as part of his argument that that the root causes of violence is mostly if not entirely biological. However he almost certainly selectively chooses Jane Goodall's work as well. Some of her later work which discovered more violence in chimpanzees also indicated that it was often passed down from one generation to the next with abusive mother chimps. She doesn't go on to try to determine whether it is the cause of nature or nurture, that I know of; however she does provide enough additional background to indicate many similarities with people as described by researchers like Murray Straus, Alice Miller, and James Garbarino, strongly indicating that there is a major influence from abusive chimps teaching their young to be violent as well.
Steven Pinker also ignores and even tries to refute problems caused by abandoned inner cities where the crime rates are much higher. He writes, "Now let's consider the implications of the centuries-long decline in homicide in Europe. Do you think that city living, with its anonymity, crowding, immigrants, and jumble of cultures and classes, is a breeding ground for violence? What about the wrenching social changes brought on by capitalism and the Industrial Revolution? Is it your conviction that small-town life, centered on church, tradition, and fear of God, is our best bulwark against murder and mayhem? Well, think again. As Europe became more urban, cosmopolitan, commercial, industrialized, and secular, it got safer and safer. And that brings us back to the ideas of Norbert Elias, the only theory left standing." (Steven Pinker "The Better Angels of Our Nature" 2011 p.64)
First of all Norbert Elias's theory, which he goes on to explain, isn't the only theory standing, as Murray Straus and some of the other contributing causes I have cited in my previous posts indicate. Norbert Elias's theory seems to be based on older historical accounts of violence which isn't as good as some of the more recent research. Furthermore the assumption that "city living, with its anonymity, crowding, immigrants, and jumble of cultures and classes, is a breeding ground for violence" clearly appears to be true according to the List of United States cities by crime rate (2014) most large cities have higher than average murder rates and this is especially true among the biggest ones above a million in population. Only two, San Diego and New York are below average and most of the rest are much higher. New York is surprisingly low and only recently came down below average but Sand Diego has been low for quite a while, and it is lower. What has San Diego been doing right? What can New York do to keep rates down and how can other cities follow suit?
In Politicians increase crime; Grass roots efforts reduce crime; Politicians steal the credit I made the argument that the best solutions are often at the grassroots local level. Many of the cities with strongest grassroots efforts often do their part to find and address roots causes of violence whether it is corporal punishment leading to escalating violence or gang violence. Academics in far away colleges or politicians catering to campaign contributors often don't know what is going on and refuse to listen to locals. the "Leviathan" which Steven Pinker cites as a possible contributing cause to reducing violence often doesn't listen.
Benjamin, a student cited by Jonathan Kozol, gets right to this point when he says, "Put them over there in a big housing project. Pack them tight. Don’t think about them. Keep your hands clean. Maybe they'll kill each other off." (Jonathan Kozol “Amazing Grace” 1995 p.40-1) Some people with first hand experience don't need enormous amounts of research or advanced education to recognize some of the problems. Jonathan Kozol has done much more in depth research into the problems in inner cities than Steven Pinker; however the contributing causes that he cites contradict the fiscal ideology dominating the political spectrum, which Steven Pinker seems to support as well. Many of his books including "Savage Inequalities" and "Shame of the Nation" demonstrate how these schools aren't being financed and while jobs are being exported lotteries school privatization and many other counterproductive policies that benefit corporate campaign contributors at the expense of citizens are being forced through over objections of local people.
Finding money for education is virtually out of the question while finding money for prisons sometimes even for profit prisons that have an incentive to keep crime rates up is often not a problem, yet this is one of the contributing causes that Steven Pinker doesn't even consider. He does acknowledge that too many people are being held in prison but he fails to adequately discuss addressing the social problems that precedes this.
When it comes to white children most people agree that education is cheaper than prison and this is considered unacceptable as Kozol points out.
Steven Pinker writes "Why has the South had such a long history of violence? The most sweeping answer is that the civilizing mission of government never penetrated the American South as deeply as it had the Northeast, to say nothing of Europe." (“Better Angels” additional excerpts) This ignore extensive evidence that the South is much more religious and relies much heavier on Corporal Punishment to discipline and educate their children, often as part of their religious beliefs. It also ignores that people in the South are actually taught to be more obedient to authority than in the north using these child rearing methods but they don't accept government authority when it disagrees with local authorities that are often more disciplinarian. This includes more reliance on military force and military training that often uses abusive hazing which is an escalation of corporal punishment used to teach discipline.
To put it bluntly many of them are taught to believe what they're told and if they don't go along with the crowd they're often treated with intimidation and even violence. This is somewhat ironic since Steven Pinker is sometimes associated with the so-called new atheist movement, and this research does a lot to explain why many of the most religious people are often more violent. As I explained in Does lack of education increase violent crime? Religion? three of the most religious states, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi have the highest murder rates while the ones with the lowest murder rates are much less religious, perhaps with one exception, Utah.
Utah ranks fourteenth when it comes to people claiming to be most religious but fifth when it comes to church attendance yet unlike other religious states it is in the lowest ten when it comes to murder rates. Utah is the only state that is more than half Mormon and Mormons are the only religion where the leader has come out strongly against corporal punishment to raise children. Former First President of the Church Gordon Hinckley, “called physical abuse of children unnecessary, unjustified and indefensible.” He said: “I have never accepted the principle of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ I am persuaded that violent fathers produce violent sons. Children don’t need beating. They need love and encouragement.” This hasn't always been the belief of the Mormon Church as some of them claim but it may be a major part of the reason why they have lower rates of violence than other highly religious states. Also unlike some other religious states they really do strongly oppose gambling and drinking which are other possible risk factors.
Another exception might be some of the research and recommendations from James Garbarino, who believes that support from religious groups could help reduce violence and that they should be tolerant of each other. I'm not aware of a statistical method to confirm this, however it clearly indicates that not all religious people agree with James Dobson's recommendations, and there appears to be adequate research raising doubts about his work as I have indicated in Dobson’s Indoctrination Machine.
Recent political events and the reaction to the Trump and Cruz campaigns also demonstrate inappropriate support for violence and a possible connection to religious upbringing that was partially explored by Philip J. Greven in "Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse" (1991). One of the things he explores is problems that religious preachers or perceived experts on child rearing have with their own children or that they went through when they were children including Billy Graham, Oral Roberts and his brother Vaden, Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber and several more preachers. James Dobson isn't one of these preachers, although he was cited for other reasons; however it appears as he may have been going through some of the same problems with his own son, who went through a rebellious stage, while this book was going to press in 1991.
Ted Cruz is also the son of and Evangelical preacher and recently on the campaign trail he said that, “You know I’ll tell you, in my house, if my daughter Catherine, the five-year-old, says something she knows to be false, she gets a spanking.” Washington Post "Cruz: I spank my daughter when she lies — voters can ‘administer…a spanking’ to Hillary Clinton" 01/08/2016 Ted Cruz also seems to support what Rachel Maddow refers to as the "kill the gays" preacher Kevin Swanson As researched by academics like Philip Greven and Murray Straus this is almost certainly a major contributing cause to escalating violence, especially when you consider that this treatment is often taught to young children starting at a very impressionable age. James Dobson recommends that parents start spanking children as early as eighteen months before they develop any critical thinking skills or understand why they're being spanked, and at this age it is a terrifying thing although most adults don't seem to recognize this, and supporters of corporal punishment often refer to these researchers as something like the "hypersensitive left."
Rachel Maddow also shows footage of this charismatic preacher and numerous others yelling loudly and emotionally about his bizarre and extreme beliefs. Imagine how this would impress a small child that doesn't understand why she's being punished, perhaps all she understands is that she's being yelled at by an emotional person threatening to spank her but if she does what she's told and believes what she's told to she can get positive feedback from her father. By punishing her for saying "something she knows to be false" or something he thinks she should believe to be false, is he using this method to dictate the truth as he sees it to her? Would this teach her to believe what she's told from authoritarian father figures regardless of whether it makes sense? Is this teaching children that bigger people who have disagreements with smaller people, especially children, should use violence to settle them. Clearly Philip Greven, Alice Miller and Murray Straus take this seriously and provide an enormous amount of research to indicate it is a major problem.
In "The Truth Will Set You Free" Alice Miller discusses a letter to Pope John Paul II from Olivier Maurel who asks the Catholic Church to address the issue of child abuse. Neither Alice Miller or Olivier Maurel were able to get a satisfactory response from the Church. Alice Miller writs "If the Catholic Church were to open its eyes, train its gaze on the cruelty being done to children, and speak out against it, would that have a detrimental effect on the power of the church? Probably, for at present time that power rests squarely on the subjection of the faithful to its authoritarian decrees. If self-possessed believers were to begin questioning the power structures of the church, those structures would come tumbling down. Willful ignorance of the laws of psychology will, however, hardly suffice to preserve those structures."
When these abusive methods are used to raise children they're taught to believe what they're told and they're also much more likely to act out in anger.
It is hard to imagine why this doesn't get much more attention in the new atheist movement since it could go a long way to correcting misguided and extreme religious beliefs.
Regardless of why this doesn't get more attention Donald Trump and Ted Cruz often say things like they're "Going to carpet bomb them into oblivion," and they get enormously positive responses from their audiences. These audiences fail to even consider that their political leaders might be lying to them even after they have been exposed at doing just that dozens of times, including the Iraq War based on alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction which was a lie exposed to people who paid attention before the war and recognized that the media was promoting an enormous amount of unjustified war propaganda.When they do recognize that they're being lied to like many of Trump's supporters they often fall for another demagogue like Trump who is as bad if not much worse.
Trump's rhetoric and scams aren't even very good to anyone with minimal amounts of critical thinking skills.
Peace activists were ridiculed and marginalized but, as they often are, they were proven to be right.
In many cases the people retaliating against the Western World have come right out and said it was retaliation for constant bombing of civilians often referred to as "collateral damage," which is considered acceptable when our side does it but outrageous when the other side makes such a claim. In one of the more extreme examples a few years ago described in, Was the London killing of a British soldier 'terrorism'? the person who committed the gruesome murder stuck around to make a point, allowing himself to be arrested, and said "the only reason we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily" and "we apologize that women had to see this today, but in our lands our women have to see the same."
Most people agree that this is totally unjustified; however a surprising number of people who don't consider it justified think it is acceptable when our government kills their women and children or doesn't pay attention. How can this double standard be more obvious?
People raised in a violent manner are much more likely to remain in denial and support "carpet bombing them into oblivion," even though it will only incite more retaliation and an enormous amount of the victims will be innocent children.
This research indicates that early abusive authoritarian upbringing not only leads to escalating violence but should be considered a threat to the democratic process when people support this kind of extremism that is leading to a permanent set of war until either past reductions reverse themselves or we learn to recognize the most important root causes of violence and prevent them, whether it is corporal punishment leading to escalating violence or political leaders starting wars based on lies.
Steven Pinker doesn't seem recognize that relying on escalating accountability without addressing root causes of violence or other social problems when he writes, "In some cities, like Boston, the police were accompanied by parole officers who knew the worst troublemakers individually and had the power to have them rearrested for the slightest infraction." (“Better Angels” additional excerpts) He also fails to mention that this wasn't the original version of "Community Policing" that was presented to the public in the Boston area in the 1990s.
In the articles about Community policing that I remember they wrote about how the police were often accompanied by social workers instead of probation officers. The clear implication was that when they had domestic violence calls they would try to understand, and address the root causes of the problems and advise them how to avoid them before arresting them, which presumably would only be done as a last resort if they were unable to resolve things otherwise. In “The Rise of the Warrior Cop” Radley Balko discusses how some of the original promises about community policing including social workers trying to solve problems didn't get implemented in practice in most cases; instead an increasingly militarized police force was often put into place without addressing many of the root causes. Balko also describes how some programs addressing root causes began in the sixties as a result of recommendations of Kennedy advisers. President Johnson also tried to implement many of these policies, at the domestic level, although he changed positions on foreign policy. But starting with the Nixon White House there was an increasing emphasis on getting tough on crime by punishing the offenders without accepting excuses or worrying about many of the problems in abandoned inner cities. Robert Caro author of "The Passage of Power" also confirms some of this.
In several posts including A Brief History of Cops Convicted of Murder I explored how many police have been convicted of murder and that they have higher rates of domestic violence within their own families. Part of the reason for this is almost certainly their training which is an extension of the authoritarian upbringing often started at an early age with corporal punishment then escalates to hazing in the police academy. There are similar problems with veterans who are taught to obey orders in boot camp using intimidating tactics that I believe were almost certainly developed with help from research projects including Philip Zimbardo, Stanford Prison Experiment and Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority which were both financed by the military, which has an incentive to learn how to teach their recruits to obey without question. This also teaches them to deal with problems with more violence and it can't always be controlled as much as they would want. Even Sarah Palin recently came out and said so about her own son although there are more reliable sources that provide better research to indicate this.
Steven Pinker tries to argue that part of the reason for declines in violence might have been antidepressant medications when he says, "The early 1990s was the era of Prozac Nation and Running on Ritalin. The massive expansion in the prescription of medication for depression and attention deficit disorder may have lifted many parents out of depression and helped many children control their impulses." (“Better Angels” additional excerpts) However there are numerous examples that indicate that these medications may have had the opposite effect. Furthermore if these medications are prescribed without addressing the social problems caused by early violence or abandoned inner cities they will be ignoring one of the major contributing causes and perhaps only treating the symptoms.
In The Dark Side of a Pill they explore numerous cases where people who weren't previously violent became more violent and committed major crimes after going on anti-depression medications. They have whistle blowers including a former salesman that discloses how they promoted their drugs regardless of how effective them might be. One research project in the Netherlands to someone that was on trial for murder indicted that he was more easily provoked when he was on medications. They cite an example in Canada where a judge rules that without the medications there wouldn't have been a crime. They have several physicians who think they're worthwhile in some cases but have concerns about how they're being used excessively.
They even disclose how German authorities refused to allow one medication because of health risks but instead of disclosing this the United States authorities as required by law they covered it up to get their medications approved. This eventually lead to a major court case when it was disclosed. The clear implication is that advertisers, lobbyists and businessmen were often making decisions that should have been made by researchers and profits were routinely put ahead of the well being of the patients.
I don't have the background to guarantee that all of these prescriptions are inappropriate but some of the researcher that do have raised major questions and are often silenced by political people. Furthermore, when reviewing some of the recommendations by psychologists like James Garbarino, even though he neither confirms or refutes problems with anti-depression medication it might indicate a more effective alternative. His recommendations often focus primarily on spending more time with children in non-punitive discipline, like home visitor programs. these home visitors often try to teach at risk parents how to deal with their problems better. In many cases the reason why they have problems in the first place is because they may have come from families who also had problems and never taught them properly to begin with.
By treating these social problems they often avoid the need to consider medications. While many people, including those described in The Dark Side of a Pill might skip over this and simply prescribe pills which they often have financial incentives to do. There might be many cases where it is appropriate to do both but it is unlikely that there are many, if any, where ignoring the social problems when it is easier to prescribe pills is the right way to go. Assuming that this is a major contributing cause to the decline in violence without a closer look at some of the details the establishment is covering up is highly unreliable.
Intentionally or not, by prescribing these drugs without addressing social problems they may be setting the stage for an unintended research project using children as research subjects without adequate ethical review.
In further support to his focus primarily if not entirely on biological causes to violence Steven Pinker writes, "As we saw, the regions of the brain that handle social emotions, especially the amygdala and orbital cortex, are relatively shrunken or unresponsive in psychopaths, though they may show no other signs of pathology." (“Better Angels” additional excerpts) Robert Hare who I reviewed in a previous post, Children Psychopaths? And Mitt Romney’s Bullying History, also relies on similar research without focusing much if at all on potential social problems that lead to escalating violence. Robert Hare even goes so far as to deny that early child abuse leads to escalating violence, although on some occasions he makes statements that partially contradict this. Robert Hare, like Steven Pinker, also fails to review some of the best research that I know of indicating that child abuse leads to escalating violence. In Robert Hare's case, in his book "Without Conscience" he doesn't even mention any of them by name, instead he makes vague references to academics who claim that psychopaths are a result of early abuse and says they're naive. This is ironic since in his book he describes how when he was younger starting to research psychopaths in a prison setting he tries to make friends with them and explains that they betrayed or fool him. Robert Hare is much less credible than Steven Pinker and I went into his problems more in the previous post about him.
I don't refute that people who're considered psychopaths have differences in their brain scans as both Hare and Pinker claim; however to the best of my knowledge neither of them have explained if they could find out if these differences were there when they were children. This is to be expected since they wouldn't be likely to know they would grow up to be arrested for violence when they were children and give them brain scans. However until this kind of research could be done it might be worth considering the possibility that early abuse might have led to the differences in the brain scans not genes.
Dorothy Otnow Lewis, author of "Guilty by Reason of Insanity" hasn't done that specific research into their brain claims, that I know of, but she did research the background of many murderers who might be considered psychopaths. And she always found evidence of early abuse to those she investigated, often with police or hospital records indicating that the murderers were abuse as children long before they became violent. Unlike some researchers that argue that this could be considered mitigating circumstances and that murderers abused as children should get shorter sentences, Dorothy Otnow Lewis claims they may be difficult if not impossible to rehabilitate, like Robert Hare, and should be kept in jail to prevent them from killing again. However she does acknowledge that early abuse is a major contributing factor to their violence unlike Hare or perhaps Pinker.
It would be difficult to determine if these brain scans are a cause of the early abuse but if some of these murderers considered psychopaths with damaged brain scans have children that weren't raised in abusive environments and perhaps others that might have been they can check their brain scans assuming appropriate ethical guidelines are considered. This could help determine if abuse causes long term brain damage and figure out whether it is more from nature or nurture; however the work from both Pinker and Hare as well as other researchers that I have seen doesn't consider this, so for now it remains inconclusive.
When it comes to foreign policy, Steven Pinker also writes, "One of the tragic ironies of the second half of the 20th century is that when colonies in the developing world freed themselves from European rule, they often slid back into warfare, this time intensified by modern weaponry, organized militias, and the freedom of young men to defy tribal elders." (“Better Angels” additional excerpts) However he fails to mention a lot of the history behind this and that prior to colonization by the Western World these developing countries had their own governing system, however primitive. These governing systems were often tribal and local so the people making decisions were nearby and understood, at least to some degree, the consequences of their action.
When they were invaded by Western countries these governments were destroyed so they no longer had a system to teach them how to govern themselves. After the Western Governments left they often left things in control of rulers, often tyrants, that were sympathetic to corporate interests. This essentially means that they weren't really completely freed from European rule at all as Pinker claims. These new rulers often used weapons sold to them by the same Western powers to oppress their people and provide good business environments for multinational corporations.
One of the well known researchers who explores these details in more depth is Noam Chomsky who often co-authors some of his articles or books, including "Manufacturing Consent," with Edward S. Herman who wrote an extensive review of Steven Pinker's book, Reality Denial : Apologetics for Western-Imperial Violence Review of Steven Pinker's Book by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, (06/29/2014) exposing many of it's flaws; however in at least one case they may have exaggerated things in the other direction. Most of what Herman and Peterson write is probably accurate but they imply that there hasn't been much of a reduction in violence, at least when it comes to international wars. In many cases their claims are accurate but the overall trend, at least after World War II or perhaps the Vietnam War is probably towards less war, or at least less direct involvement by Western powers.
One of the most obvious examples of this exaggeration in the other direction might be comparing carpet bombing and drone strikes. In the past ten years there has been a alarming in the number of drone strikes killing large number of people; this is of course a serious concern and could be much worse if it isn't reversed since it makes killing by remote control more acceptable, where the people making the decisions don't see the results. However the numbers aren't nearly as big as those killed through carpet bombing in Vietnam. This large scale killing is almost certainly not nearly as extensive.
However they still have many legitimate concerns including a political system that uses the threat of war to control their own populations and manipulate the democratic system through fear. By refusing to acknowledge the root causes of crime and keep the decision makers out of danger while the rest take the blame they create a global culture that results in what some people including Peter W. Singer call "Peace in the West war for the rest," although with a few recent terrorist attacks doubts might be raised about whether or not we can count on peace being preserved in the West.
The current global political and economic system is controlled by a small percentage of the public that control large global institutions which Steven Pinker defends and credits with at least partial credit for reductions in violence. These institutions are what many people refer to as oligarchies but Steven Pinker seems to refer to as the "Leviathan." This is accompanied by the illusions of democracy; however six oligarchies control over ninety percent of the media and enable their candidates to get enormous amounts of coverage while refusing to cover grassroots candidates at the local level. This effectively rigs the election process and enables a small percentage of the public to control most if not all powerful institutions masquerading as a democracy.
Unfortunately the "Leviathan" that Steven Pinker credits with reduction in violence isn't concerned with preserving functioning social and economic systems around the world, whether it is the abandoned inner cities that have rising crime rates in the United States or third world countries that are having their environment destroyed and their natural resources plundered by multinational corporations. This creates an unstable environment that could reverse the reductions in violence if the political establishment doesn't do a better job recognizing the best research acknowledging the leading root causes of violence and preventing them.
Steven Pinker does an enormous amount of research into this but fails to acknowledge many of the most important contributing causes; instead he wastes a large amount of time on relatively trivial things like table manners, whether abortion eliminates unwanted children that become more violent and an enormous number of charts that aren't tied into each other very well.
A close look may indicate that his politics might have a major impact on his research. He credits the upper class with reductions in violence first and indicates that they might set a better example for the middle and lower class; however they control most of the resources and use their control to deprive lower classes of the necessities to keep reductions in violence from reversing. The assumption that the wealthy are becoming less violent also avoids giving them credit for the wars that incite. If they were blamed for the enormous amounts of deaths resulting from wars based on lies they would be considered the biggest mass murderers on the planet not people setting a better example for lower classes. They often avoid doing this by relying on propaganda that enables them to redirect the blame. Steven Pinker's work may be part of that propaganda.
When he talks about how he had a hard time resisting peer pressure on at least two trivial occasions that he makes a big deal out of he may be indicating a pattern of behavior that might involve going along with fiscal ideologies that ignore root causes of violence. At one point he spends a lot of time explaining how tough it was to abandon a faux pas about not using a knife to push his peas onto his fork and on another he explains how he rebelled by not wearing a watch and explained how his grandmother lovingly expressed shock and gave him a watch which he has to this day. As trivial as this seems, it might indicate a propensity to go along with peer pressure. However more important would be the evidence that can be confirmed about many contributing causes that he ignores or misrepresents.
As I said in the beginning of this post I have done a series of posts about the contributing causes to crime and how to prevent them covering a variety of subjects and tried to do a review that sorted them out. In most if not all cases I found peer reviewed studies that confirmed them, yet they often contradict Steven Pinker's views and the political establishment is almost always promoting policies that ignores or even encourage them. Steven Pinker and other academics provide research that seems to justify this but it wouldn't stand up to scrutiny if the best research received equal time.
The most important contributing cause of escalating violence is almost certainly child abuse leading to escalating violence which I have written about in many posts and the following are some of the most relevant posts about other contributing causes:
Ignored evidence linking corporal punishment, poverty and crime grows
Does lack of education increase violent crime? Religion?
How much does Income Inequality Affects Crime Rates?
States with high murder rates have larger veteran populations
Teach a soldier to kill and he just might
The tragedy of gambling politics in United States
How does gambling and gun control impact violent crime?
Politics, not technology, caused botched executions
Troy, Cameron, Gary all innocent? And executed?
Democrats do a bad job on crime; Republicans and the Media are worse!!
Politicians increase crime; Grass roots efforts reduce crime; Politicians steal the credit
Life Insurance and media companies are encouraging lots of murders
Union Busting adds to corrupt bureaucracy and incites crime
Steven Pinker repeatedly indicates his political bias in many of his tweets citing articles that often also ignore many of the most important contributing causes of crime as well including, Why parenting may not matter and why most social science research is probably wrong. If he was just trying to indicate that genetics also plays a role as well as parenting he might have a point as Murray Straus indicates, but this claim goes one step further and says parenting doesn't matter, which is absurd, which the article opens up by acknowledging as part of it's effort to dismiss it.
He also expresses his opposition to gun control or police accountability in several tweets including Would Cracking Down on Guns in the US Reduce Violence much? This is a sacred belief, but the answer it not so clear. and How Many Mass Shootings Are There, Really?, via @nytimes. the statistics he cites about changing in the way they classify Mass Shootings is partially correct but he fails to mention the transition when some of the gun control advocates revised the way some of them compiled information. unfortunately a major effort hasn't been made to reconcile this retroactively, but this wasn't changed in secret as he seems to imply. And claims that gun control wouldn't reduce violence needs a little perspective. The post I previously covered this subject clearly indicates that there is a correlation between more effective gun control laws preventing mentally ill or violent people from getting weapons without infringing on second amendment right with lower murder rates and especially suicide rates which are much worse in states with weak gun control laws especially Wyoming and Alaska.
However, in all fairness at least when it comes to murder rates it doesn't seem to be that big of a difference, and research about child abuse and corporal punishment leading to escalating violence, and poverty and abandoned inner cities as well indicates they're almost certainly bigger contributing causes. this means if the political establishment addresses the gun control issue without paying any attention to other issues they can't expect much if any improvement since they'll still be ignoring the most important root causes.
However even though Steven Pinker might be close to the truth about gun control only having limited impact on violence reduction he also ignores many of the most important contributing causes of violence.
Steven Pinker does acknowledge that poverty is a contributing cause to violence; and he also seems to spend a lot of effort worrying about good manners, judging by his other books and some of his posts.
I wonder if he would consider it good manners to discuss how poverty leads to high crime and one of the contributing causes of poverty are insurance scams targeting the poor to take what little they have at a dinner party with Alex Trebek. Probably not, since Alex Trebek is a spokesperson for Colonial Penn, a blatant scam. He might not consider it polite to discuss war crimes while Henry Kissinger is at a dinner party either.
Don't get me wrong I'm not recommending bad manners but good priorities are more important and looking the other way while war crimes or massive scams are being committed against the majority of the public while the wealthy make out like bandits and use poor people as scapegoats and entertainment is not what I would consider the lesser of two evils.
I actually think mass murder and massive scams are worse manners than mentioning them in polite company.
Some of the best financed research about crime isn't designed to find the most effective solutions to it; it seems to be designed to avoid blaming the most powerful people and Steven Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature" is among this research that does that.
As I indicated in previous posts the best research and prevention often comes from alternative media outlets or academic sources that don't have the most political clout. When this is followed up by sincere efforts at the grassroots level to educate the public and stand up to the political class that is when the lowest crime rates happen.
Changing this would require major media reform and political reform educating the public before they choose their candidates without limiting to ones approved by the media.
For more extensive context about some of the quotes that I based this review on see, Steven Pinker "The Better Angels of Our Nature" excerpts
In addition to exploring reductions in crime this book also partially disclosed many research projects that are being done on animals or humans including psychological manipulation tactics that are rarely mentioned in high profile locations. I followed this up with another posts exploring them, Steven Pinker "Better Angels" Provides Limited Disclosure of Human Psychological & Animal Experiments, which reviews how inadequate ethics are for both animal and human research and how it is used primarily for the benefit of those that control the research despite claims that it is to benefit all.