Of Bubbles and Bias


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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55 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    My sister emailed me one of the Tumblr pages that claimed to have identified the suspects, with some of the pictures including the men highlighted here. What I found fascinating is that one of the crudely scrawled upon images included a list of criteria that one of the photographed men (though not one of the young men here) met and which identified him as a suspect. Included in the criteria was “Brown”. It was put that simply. Wow.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Kazzy says:

      “Brown” was one of the early descriptors I saw that one of the news channels said authorities had identified as being pertinent to the manhunt.

      At this point who the hell knows “brwn” oroginally came from.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to RTod says:

        Yikes. That’s even worse.

        Don’t get me wrong… if they had good intel that the suspect was of darker complexion, that is pertinent information that should be shared with those involved in the search. Hopefully, they’d be a bit more descriptive than “brown”, but even if not, if the guy or gal is brown, they shouldn’t avoid saying as much, even if some might think it to be un PC. But my hunch is that people are just assuming “brown” because, well, you know… those people.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to RTod says:

        I was watching CNN yesterday when John King, with Wolf Blitzer, first reported that an arrest had been made. Blitzer kept pushing King to say something about whether the person was “foreign” or “domestic,” so King finally said that the person who had been arrested had “dark” skin. This was well after the photo Kazzy saw (which is on Liveleak, though I’m not sure that’s where it originated; if it did, it’s not surprising, Liveleak is a cesspool), but it shows how ubiquitous this “dark-skinned” or “brown,” as a clear stand-in for “Muslim,” is.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

          You can’t just come out and say “IS IT A TEABAGGER OR A MUSLIM???”Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            Apparently it’s more politically correct to focus on skin-tone.Report

          • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Jaybird says:

            Which I think is a big part of everything some if the people who were quick to believe it was a Muslim WaNT it to be a Muslim. Others want it to be a white militia dude and would be quick(er) to believe early reports to that effect.

            Remember the DC Sniper? Everyone seemed to believe or want to believe that the culprit was the politically convenient guy. Everybody was wrong.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to trumwill mobile says:

              I really hope it’s some lone nut or group of nuts, because the political implications of either a Muslim or a right wing group committing this act are too horribleReport

              • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Chris says:

                Me, too, but even then it’s a question of what race of nut he is. Assumptions and vindication will follow from their. I guess I would prefer white, though I wouldn’t be looking forward to that fallout, either.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                I think we can all agree the “False Flag” people are contemptable.

                Honestly, I can see…reasons, honest non-political reasons…for wanting to believe the attackers were foreign or domestic, or hoping their reasons lean one way or the other.

                It’s always easier to believe foreign evils rather than domestic ones. But domestic evils, at least here, tend to be crazed individuals or small groups — not some faceless and sizeable entity.

                About all I can say is: It was almost certainly a guy that did it. White, brown, purple — statistically, it’s almost a dead certainty the perpetrator had a Y chromosome.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:

                When I think about it, I tend to think of two primary reasons someone might do this…

                1. They have a particular agenda, be it political or social or ideological, and somehow they think that acts such as this are effective in helping them achieve.
                2. They derive some sort of sick, morbid pleasure out of seeing this sort of harm and destruction done to others.

                For whatever reason, when I think of #1, I think of foreign groups. When I think of #2, I think of domestic individuals. I don’t know how accurate or informative any of this is… just ruminating.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                And I don’t want him to be Jewish either. So, ideally, he’s white, non-ethnic, raised in some mainstream Protestant denomination but currently non-practicing, not political in the ordinary sense, with a grievance that’s both idiosyncratic and clearly wacko. And no one much would mind if he’s a rabid Patriots fan.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Hmmn, [starts looking for man with white goatee and yellow background on reddit]Report

    • Avatar Angela in reply to Kazzy says:

      Some of the confusion is that a Brown University student on approved leave, Sunil Tripathi, was mis-identified as a suspect.

      So, while there’s been a lot of “profiling” this is another cause of confusion.

      My thoughts and prayers for all.Report

  2. It looks like being rapidly cleared of any culpability only resulted in conservative media looking for new ways to slander the persons they falsely identified:

    Though at least The Blaze had the integrity to update its post with the official government response indicating that The Blaze’s reporting was “categorically false.” Not that this resulted in a full retraction, mind you.Report

    • And of course, the Breitbart folks are just doubling down on everything, insisting that the first not-ever-a-suspect-and-always-clearly-a-victim was only cleared for political reasons. I’m not even going to link that article because Pam Geller doesn’t deserve any more attention than she already gets.Report

    • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Yeah, this is pretty shameful.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Good for Janet Napolitano:

      “I am not going to answer that question it is so full of misstatements and misapprehension that it’s just not worthy of an answer…there’s been so much reported on this that’s been wrong I can’t even begin to tell you, congressman,” Napolitano replied. “We will provide you with accurate information as it becomes available.”Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Why is it that, when I watch the conservative media do this, I can distinctly hear the sound of clown car horns squeaking in the background? It’s almost disturbing. I keep looking over my shoulder.

      Now as a partisan hack liberal and Democratic Party supporter I should probably be pleased at this cavalcade of self destruction, but I’m not. It’s frightening. These idiots are still within striking distance of the levers of power. That scares me spit less.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to North says:

        I think in this case what scares me more is that they’ve actively set out to destroy the lives of two entirely innocent people, have no remorse or willingness to acknowledge being wrong, and, as a result of having no remorse or willingness to acknowledge being wrong, may well succeed in destroying the lives of two innocent people.Report

        • I really hate Britain’s libel laws, because they are so ridiculous and demand the accused libeler of proving the truth of what they’ve written, but there are times when I think stronger libel laws are probably necessary especially in cases like this.Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    Wait…isn’t this just the liberal media failing to get after real news because it doesn’t serve their agenda or am i on the wrong thread.Report

  4. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Too bad we can’t fine a news organization $50K every time they report something unsubstantiated by facts or official statements that is proven false or suspect within 48 hours.Report

  5. It looks like we finally have officially released pictures of persons officially deemed “suspects.” They’re extremely grainy, and do not appear to be of anyone about whom there was previously speculation:

    Hopefully, someone, somewhere will be able to figure out who these two are so they can be properly investigated, and either arrested and convicted or cleared.Report

  6. Avatar Plinko says:

    The question as I see it – if it turns out the real perpetrators happen to actually be ‘brown’ – is there any way these media organizations and the throngs of loyal consumers react in any way other than beating their chests that they were right all along?Report

  7. Avatar Patrick says:


    Well, imagine that. Two white dudes are the prime suspects.Report

  8. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    At times like this, I imagine that I have a glimpse of what some white people pitythink about black people, as I pitythink about middle eastern people. Strangely, I don’t pitythink about white people when the suspects turn out to be white. I have much uglier thoughts. A failure of mine, I think.

    *(pitythink: thoughts of strong empathy, focusing on pity, mainly from a superior position in society towards an inferior group, usually minorities)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to John Howard Griffin says:


      A genuine question… what are your feelings when you suspect someone is pitythinking about you or people like you? I know that I sometimes fall into this, but am at least progressing in recognizing when I do so. On the one hand, it’s better than being completely unempathetic towards others; on the other… ugh… pity.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy says:

        I second this question.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to Kazzy says:

        My feelings are complicated on this.

        At times, I’m offended and feel as if I’m being looked down on (it’s Official now that a white person has felt it and said it!). Other times, I feel incredible anger (you can’t possibly know how it is for me and my group!). Still other times, I feel a certain gratitude and a little shame (see, they’re not as bad as you think, JHG, and actually are quite a bit better!). And, most of the time when I have the feelings above, I feel like a hypocrite (you do exactly the same thing to this other group, dickhead!).

        Sometimes all of the feelings come and go, like a carousel.

        I wasn’t trying to call out anyone here for their pitythinking. My apologies for making anyone feel uncomfortable or bad. I was actually trying to pitythink about white people a little bit, and show that I do it too.

        Everyone pitythinks. Some white people do it a lot. Those white people are much better humans, IMO, than the white people who don’t do it, because the latter have no empathy or have outright hostility towards inferior groups.

        We all have it better than some. Empathy without pity, then doing something with that empathy, is the journey. You know, the whole “know thyself” joint.

        Not sure if this really explains it, but those are my thoughts on it this morning.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

          Thanks, JHG. This is very helpful. And I did not feel as if you were calling out me or anyone else; rather, you touched on something I know I struggle with but never put to words and I appreciate you taking the time to explain your personal thoughts on it.

          For me personally, what usually triggers that I am going about things the wrong way is when I realize I my feelings are less motivated by empathy and more by guilt. Which is not to say that there isn’t a place and purpose for guilt, but I shouldn’t mistake the one for the other.

          Again, thanks.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

          What you say above is helpful, but if you’d ever want to offer further ideas for approaches/phrases/ideas that people should interrogate more critically or avoid altogether, I’d be very interested to read them. I’m not just asking about phrases to avoid, but whole ways of approaching problems of race and social power that lead to this kind of insulting way of talking about them. …And ways to express any of the worthwhile ideas there are that are being mis-expressed in this way that are better. (Obviously you can’t know exactly what people intend to say that might be redeemable when they do this, I realize, so I understand if you’d rather decline to speculate on that)?

          Obviously you don’t have to be importuned to do that, and I understand if you can’t or would rather not; it’s a very involved one and you have your own affairs to attend to. But if you want to reflect on it I’d be interested to hear what you have to say whenever you might want to share it.Report

          • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Well, people much smarter than I am (and who have college degrees and everything) have delved into this, so I’ll just point to some places to start.

            Microagression offers some insight. Pitythinking can be a form of microagression, and usually is, IMO.

            Here is a more in depth article on Racial Microagression (pdf warning).

            Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities.

            I had a short conversation with Mr. Likko about Microagression some time ago in another thread.

            Here’s a test about whether you have demonstrated microagression: Have you ever thought “I don’t think of you as White. You are just a normal person.”? My guess is that most people have not, though I have no idea about what you have thought. My guess is also that most people have thought or said “I don’t think of you as Black/Hispanic/A Woman/Gay/Disabled/Etc. You are just a normal person.”. This is but one example of the microagression that some groups receive from individuals and society. They are different from the norm, and the norm is never singled out in this way.

            In my opinion, the difficulty with color-blindness is that it is an ideal we wish to achieve and is certainly worth working towards, but it ignores the current reality of systemic privilege of certain groups and the microagression towards other groups.

            The “norm” is the ruler by which most (all?) people measure other people, without realizing the impact that measurement has on some (all?) other people. Like Heisenberg said, the act of measuring affects the thing being measured.

            The thing to remember is that microagression is incredibly common (IME) and even people who “don’t have a racist bone in their bodies” do it. You just don’t see that you are doing it. And, how could you, if you don’t experience it?

            A warning: I am only one human being, not an entire race. YMMV with anything I say/write/do.

            To really have this discussion will take some time, and I’m not sure this thread is the place for it. But, this is my contribution to the start of the discussion, for what it’s worth.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

              Yesterday I was at Safeway. There was a little girl, about three or four, who was running up and down the aisles. Her mother called her, and she turned on a dime and ran towards her mother, but as she passed me her shoe came off. So I picked it up, waved it to show I had it, and started to walk towards them. The mother told the little girl to go get her shoe, so she ran up to me and I handed it to her. Then the mother prompted “What do you say?”, and the little girl thanked me. I said “You’re very welcome.” Then the mother said “Sorry” and I told her it was no trouble at all. Pointless story that happens every day, right?

              Except the little girl and her mother were black. So I worried, first “Am I acting like I disapprove of her parenting skills?” And then “Or am I acting like I don ‘t even disapprove because I have such low expectations?”

              Race makes people weird.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                You should have said: “Here you go, Cinderella!”

                You know, in Canada, that back-and-forth dialogue would simply have been the rather elaborately casual way we interact with strangers. A kind of kabuki ritual to acknowledge an act, thank the actor, slightly elevate the exchange to a brief acquaintanceship, and then move on. I’ve done that particular dialogue a number of times.

                (Back only to check on something and it was Mike, so he’s cool.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to DRS says:

                You should have said: “Here you go, Cinderella!”


              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Race makes people weird.

                And now, I will relate incident #412 why Glyph is convinced that Larry David is spying on his life to mine it for socially-awkward trainwreck material.

                One afternoon when my oldest son was about 2 or so (just starting to walk), rain prevented our daily jaunt to the park, so we went instead to the nice mall nearby that has an indoor play area.

                Upon entering the play area, my son was immediately knocked to the ground, hard, by a slightly older and bigger black/biracial kid (maybe 3 or 4, – and if “black/biracial” seems irrelevant to you, rest assured that at the time it also did to me, but stay tuned) who was barrelling full-tilt around the play area perimeter and basically just stiff-armed my son.

                I picked up my crying son, dusted him off, sent him on his way, and thought no more of it – maybe the other kid was going too fast to avoid the collision, and in any case, you know, kids, right? It happens.

                But as I am sitting there on the bench, I realize the moms next to me are observing/discussing this kid, who is, to put it bluntly, a terror. I start watching him too. Knocking over other kids also at every opportunity. Taking their toys and taunting them with them, or throwing them. Just generally bullying everyone there.

                His mom, a somewhat-distracted-appearing Asian woman on the other side of the bench from us, is doing nothing to intervene in any of this; smiling indulgently and ruffling the little tyrant’s head with the hand that’s not holding the phone, whenever he shows up with the latest purloined toy or whatever.

                So anyway, my son is on the far side of the play area where they have one of those “stage flat with face cutout” things – you know, wood paneling that’s painted on one side to look like a pirate or whatever, so the kids can put their faces up to the hole and they appear to be a pirate to observers on the other side of it.

                My son is putting his face through the hole and just starting to grasp the concept and smiling when this other kid walks up to him, looks around to see if anyone’s watching, and smacks my son full in the face.

                My son, stunned, doesn’t react or move. The other kid looks around again, and as no consequences appear forthcoming, smacks my son in the face again.

                I turn to his mom, exasperated, and say “Do you have ANY intention of ever controlling your kid, AT ALL?!” and stride across the play area.

                I reach the other side and crouch down so I am at this other kid’s eye-level and I say in a firm voice, “NO. You do NOT hit other kids in the face. NO.”

                I am very careful not to touch him in any way and to keep two or three feet of space between us, but my face and his face are level, and I have the kind of voice that carries under normal circumstances, let alone when there’s some fire in it.

                My son starts crying now, because he thinks HE’S in trouble (or maybe his nervous system has finally registered the two blows to his face), so I gather him up and take him back over to get his shoes on so we can leave. The other kid’s mom collects him too.

                While I am getting my boy’s shoes on, a black woman (completely unrelated to this kid, they just happened to observe the interaction) comes up with her husband and starts berating me.

                Her (accusingly): “You scared that kid!”
                Me (levelly): “Hopefully, because that was my intention. He can’t hit other kids in the face.”
                Her (growing more agitated by the second): “You cannot get in a kid’s face like that!”

                I’ll save the blow-by-blow, except to say that she was growing increasingly upset, and escalating her rhetoric to the point of telling me that she would have had me arrested if that had been her kid (a suggestion I must admit mocking with an eyeroll and “Yeah, OK, arrested for what?!”)

                Meanwhile, her husband was much more calmly/reasonably trying to get in a word edgewise, saying that I had overreacted (a perfectly legitimate possibility; had it just been him and I discussing the topic, I believe we probably would have reached a shared agreement and understanding and maybe a rueful laugh, you know, “kids, right?”) He can also see how this is going, and is trying to get her out of there.

                MEANWHILE meanwhile, the actual mother of the kid is now intervening in the argument ON MY BEHALF…telling the black couple, “It’s OK, don’t worry about it, it’s fine…” She feels bad for ME. And I just corrected her kid!

                The whole shouting match has become surreal, and I have to scoot out of there before my wife turns on the nightly news, to see reports of some sort of crazy white/Asian/black race-riot next to the local Food Court.

                Thinking about it as I was driving away, the explanation that made the most sense to me is that all the black woman saw was a bearded scary-looking white guy yelling in the face of a helpless black kid, though I should note that she did not say anything explicitly-racial to give me this impression – I didn’t get called “cracker” or anything; it just seemed to have explanatory power as to why things had gotten out of hand so fast.

                I just couldn’t understand otherwise why someone would intervene (and escalate) in a situation that did not involve them, and was frankly already over until she approached me.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                When I worked in Hollywood, I was in a studio meeting one time with lots of big, powerful people, trying to work through a difficulty. At one point, one guy, who was white, (exasperated) said “Let’s just call a spade a spade!” And, the discussion went on.

                Afterwards, he came up to me and whispered “Hey, man, I’m really sorry about that”. The look in his eyes was very sincere, especially for Hollywood. I said “About what?” and he said “You know, the ‘spade’ thing. I’m really sorry.”

                I kind of thought for a moment and said “Call a shovel ‘a shovel’ and a trough ‘a trough’, right? I ain’t no shovel.”

                I got a glimpse, then, that sometimes white people feel guilty of overstepping into microagressions without really realizing what microagressions are – a more intuitive thing. It was heartening to see that. And sad, in a way.

                There must be layers of awareness about microagressions that the dominant group is aware of (or some are). Whites, in this case. And, maybe that explains why some people block out or deny some (or a lot of) microagressions and racism. Because it’s too hard to have to keep thinking about those things (like in your example and mine) all the time, but not always knowing what to do. It would be paralyzing, I expect. Sort of the same thing people do about driving in cars and the potential for injury or death. It’s the most dangerous thing most everybody does every day. But, we block it out, and only think of it sometimes. When it’s safe.

                (/end rambling)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

                I think that is actually a really, REALLY good way of describing it.

                And a sort of “Princess Bride”-esque paralysis does set in… “I should do X because Y is racist.” “But X is really pandering, so Y is preferred!” “But that is what I’d be expected to think… X it is!”

                And I want to stop.

                But then I remember that being able to stop is a form of privilege. So soldier on I must.

                Then I applaud myself for being a “good” white person and it starts all over.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

              And you should write a post about this. Seriously.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                In the work I’ve done on “diversity”, learning about the theory of microaggressions is probably the most powerful thing I’ve come across in the past couple of years. Thanks, JHG, for sharing these links and I encourage others to look them over. And, of course, more from you (on this or any other matter, really) make this a better place.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to John Howard Griffin says:


              Thank you so much for taking the time.Report