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  • A draft of what’s on my mind lately

    Posted by Charles Cameron on December 5th, 2010 (All posts by )

    I’ve been thinking…

    *

    Reports, overstatements and underestimates

    There are factual reports of violence and threats of violence, which are within the proper province of journalism and intelligence gathering.

    There are also overstatements of such reports, generally resulting from paranoia, hatred, recruitment, or the desire to increase sales of advertising or munitions.

    And there are understatements of such reports, generally resulting from sheer ignorance or a desire to be diplomatic.

    *

    Religious sanctions for violence

    Similarly, there are factual reports of sanctions for violence in the scriptures, hagiographies and histories of various religions.

    There are also overstatements of such reports, attributing to entire religions the beliefs and or activities of a significant subsection or outlier group of that religion

    And there are understatements of such reports, avoiding the attribution of violence to religious beliefs regardless of whether the religious correlation is a “cover” for other motives or a sanction powerfully affecting the actions of those who respond to it.

    *

    Proportional and disproportionate responses

    There are actions which represent a balanced and proportional response to threats or acts of violence, whether they be made at home or abroad, by the military or law enforcement, for reasons of just war or of security.

    There are actions which present an unbalanced and disproportionate heightened response to acts of violence, into which category I would place both over-reactive military responses and over-reactive domestic security measures.

    And there are inactions which are no less unbalanced as responses to acts or threats of violence, as with political wool-gathering or appeasement, bureaucratic failures to implement realistic information sharing and dot-connection within the IC, or public aversion to factual news or intelligent, nuanced analysis.

    *

    Ideals, kumbaya and skepticism

    There are honest statements of aspiration for peaceable outcomes to current and future conflicts.

    There are versions of such aspirations which naively overlook the very real correlations between religious sanctions and violence.

    And there are skeptical aversions to such aspirations, which no less naively overlook the very real differences which are present between the most angry, the most terrified, the most politically driven, the most financially interested and the most generous members of any and every religious and irreligious viewpoint.

    *

    Let’s talk…

    It is useful to bear these distinctions of category in mind, and to make accurate appraisals of one’s information inputs in terms of which categories they fall under, and how much trust one should therefore place in them.

    There: it was on my mind and I have said it.

    This is, as my title indicates, a first draft. I hope it will spark some interesting conversations, and lead to further insight and refinement…

     

    2 Responses to “A draft of what’s on my mind lately”

    1. mrsizer Says:

      I have no idea what the context of this is, but a few thoughts on over/under reporting.

      There are two big issues that affect this: Familiarity and Tipping Points.

      Let’s say that I am a blogger who just moved to Israel. When I first arrive, my blog posts are full of “OMG! We just saw rockets being fired toward us!”. After a couple of months, this tapers off as it becomes routine/familiar. Perhaps I occasionally mention a particularly “interesting” episode, but the constant barrage is no longer mentioned.

      Then, one day, a year later, a rocket randomly kills someone locally important and (finally) raises a “something must be done!” cry. “All of a sudden” my blog is full of posts about rocket attacks.

      Nothing objective changed during the entire period. This is very common. Humans are very good at adapting to the most bizarre things as “normal” – and then stop reporting on them.

      Just a thought that might help (and I picked Israel as the example because you get into religion, too).

    2. Charles Cameron Says:

      Thanks for this — it’s very helpful.

      I deliberately left the context as open-ended as I could manage, n the hope that people would bring their own contexts, and that this would elicit a wide variety of perspectives.

      My own immediate context was a series of comments made in an earlier conversation here today, which played into some thinking and writing I have been doing (still in process) concerning religious violence.

      In writing the post, my emphasis was on such factors as clarity, bias, proportion, selective input, propaganda, “correctness”, revenge, terror, panic, etc — but you’re absolutely right, there are other factors such as surprise, fatigue and so on that need to be taken into consideration as well.