Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Not Even Approaching Stimulating Debate

I write this as the U.S. Government technically goes into a shutdown. Ideally, people would understand why this has come to pass, and have an opinion on it based on facts and a knowledge of what is really happening. Slightly less ideally, if people did not understand what was happening or why, they would refrain from having a strong opinion on it until they educated themselves.

This, however, is the Social Catastrophe.

I can imagine reasons for disliking portions of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare". Let us go to my Facebook feed and see how close family members are weighing the pros and cons of this complicated piece of legislation:

My Brother or (I hope) his Wife shared Rebel Without A Cause's photo.

Ban Obamacare!!!!

The best interpretation of this? "Hey, I'm just joking around". Actually, I find that interpretation fairly likely to an extent. On the other hand, I also know the political leanings of the potential people who could have posted this.  If it is serious, it is embarrassingly ridiculous. If it is jokey, it still kinda sucks.

If you've read the Social Catastrophe, you know the drill. Breakdown time! I am going to break down this obviously stupid picture. In my head, you are a reasonable enough person that you will think that the stupidity in this picture is so obvious and apparent, that picking it apart is completely unnecessary. It would be like the ol' "shooting fish in a barrel". Again, I would love to agree. Still, Facebook is full of this stupidity day in and day out. Not from some isolated crank ideologue, but from many people you went to school with, members of your own family. I so desperately want the bar to be raised, because sometimes it feels like it's laying on the fucking ground, and idiots are tripping over it. Anyway... let's do this:

  • Before I even research any of the shaky claims in this picture, I wish I knew the sources or time frames involved. I'll see what comes up.
  • Umm, that is not how math works! 603% of 323 is 1,947 (and a bit). I am skeptical of the claims from an unsourced e-card on Facebook, even before it demonstrates an inability to differentiate between percentages and multiples. Isn't that, like, 4th grade math?
  • The statement starts by referring to modern sporting rifles, then switches to referring to assault rifles. Why? Is it claiming these are the same thing? If so, why use one term at the beginning and another at the end? I'm guessing it uses "assault rifle" in the end because it has stronger rhetorical effect.
  • 195,000 deaths are attributed to medical malpractice. The next sentence then attributes these deaths to Obamacare. What change introduced in the Affordable Care Act does the poster attribute these deaths to? Does this number of deaths represent an increase or decrease in the rate of medical malpractice deaths?
Time for me to go to the internet and do a bit of research on these claims. What did I get?
  • The Affordable Care Act was passed on March 23, 2010. Not all of the measures included in it are in effect, and they are rolling out over time. Today, for example, is the day that the insurance market place is supposed to open up at https://www.healthcare.gov/ . You can find a fairly detailed outline of the provisions and when they went or will go into effect on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provisions_of_the_Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act 
  • As for this "323 deaths attributed to to modern sports rifles" figure, it appears to come from FBI statistics for 2011, which can be found here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8 The number appears to refer to rifles, and not to include handguns, shotguns, other guns, or "Firearms, type not stated". Surely there are more rifles in the "type not stated section", but they are unknown. As for the assault rifles referenced in the crappy e-card, assault rifles are not well defined and there is no such category in the FBI statistics.
  • As for the 195,000 deaths due to malpractice claim I saw many sites, including conservative sites comparing malpractice deaths to gun homicides, refer to a particular article located at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/11856.php . It is difficult to get accurate counts on deaths related to medical malpractice, and I was unable to find any articles or pages referring to trends in this area. I will note, however, that this article claiming 195,000 deaths due to medical malpractice was published in August of 2004. This is 9 years ago, before the Obama presidency and of course before the Affordable Care Act. If one wishes to maintain there are still 195,000 deaths due to medical malpractice per year, it would seem to indicate that the Affordable Care Act is not making this problem any worse.

I bothered to look this all up. Say I presented this information to the person who posted the above e-card. Would it matter to them at all? Would they feel bad for posting this shitty e-card? Is there any hope this person actually cares about stimulating, real debate about the Affordable Care Act? This really sucks, but I'm pretty sure the answer is, "No". Facts do not matter. There is no shame in posting logically incoherent garbage. The post wasn't about the person intellectually engaging or believing in anything. It was just group identification, declaring membership in a tribe. "I am a conservative!" was the intended message. For me to pick apart the meanings of the words misses the point. Hell, it was probably just a shitty joke in the first place!

Why so serious?

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