Charleston, cognitive psychology, and media influence

It’s worth thinking about some basic psychology in relation to the Charleston events. Cognitive psychologists study heuristics that people use to make judgments about  the likelihood of events that are complexly determined — things like airplane crashes or shark attacks. A heuristic relevant to Charleston is the availability heuristic, where people make judgments and form attitudes based on their memories of past events. Such memories are greatly influenced by media coverage. From Wikipedia

After seeing news stories about child abductions, people may judge that the likelihood of this event is greater. Media coverage can help fuel a person’s example bias with widespread and extensive coverage of unusual events, such as homicide or airline accidents, and less coverage of more routine, less sensational events, such as common diseases or car accidents. For example, when asked to rate the probability of a variety of causes of death, people tend to rate “newsworthy” events as more likely because they can more readily recall an example from memory. Moreover, unusual and vivid events like homicides, shark attacks, or lightning are more often reported in mass media than common and un-sensational causes of death like common diseases.[9]

For example, many people think that the likelihood of dying from shark attacks is greater than that of dying from being hit by falling airplane parts, when more people actually die from falling airplane parts. When a shark attack occurs, the deaths are widely reported in the media whereas deaths as a result of being hit by falling airplane parts are rarely reported in the media.[10]

The application to Charleston is obvious. There is wall-to-wall media coverage, so people will easily recall what happened there. Such memories will be easily available to influence attitudes and judgments. Whereas Black-on-White crime motivated by racial hatred is vastly more common than the reverse, such events are rarely reported in the national media, and even local media typically ignore racial designations and downplay racial motivation in such attacks.

On the other hand, racially motivated crime by Whites gets much more coverage. So most Whites have no idea about the racial disparities unless they read sources like Pat Buchanan, Vdare (this article by Ilana Mercer includes data from both) or AmRen.  As a result, the prediction would be that Whites as well as Blacks would assume that murderous, racially motivated attacks are far more common among Whites than among Blacks. Such memories are much more available than memories about racially motivated Black-on-White crimes.

Whereas the “White racist” narrative of the Ferguson and Baltimore events completely fell apart upon further scrutiny and the riots only confirmed stereotypes of the Black underclass, Charleston will live on as a paradigm of pervasive White racism, and will be used to attack anything remotely connected to White identity. There have been numerous calls for banning the Confederate flag and for stricter controls on guns. Last night on O’Reilly a Black man blamed Fox News for the events in Charleston. But that pales compared to Hillary Clinton’s allusion to Donald Trump’s comments on illegal aliens being responsible for Charleston. On local talk radio I just heard a caller demand in a very morally self-righteous manner that any website or media frequented by Dylann Roof be shut down. I’m sure the SPLC would love to do just that.

The deluge of media coverage and White guilt induction will cause even many who are now on board with the need to assert White identity and White interests to feel less confident about their beliefs. I recall during the Andres Breivik affair getting an email from an ethnically conscious Swede noting the deluge of hatred raining down on those who opposed non-White immigration from the media and political class. The wavering self-confidence was apparent. Under such circumstances, it was psychologically impossible to be negative about immigrants and immigration, at least publicly. It’s hard to oppose such a unified front emanating from the highest, most prestigious places in one’s society — another very basic feature of the human psyche that figures in the acceptance of all the movements discussed in The Culture of Critique. The result is that, at least in the short term, Charleston is likely to be a very negative event for White advocates.

Finally, it’s yet another reminder of the importance of the media. Events like these create irrational psychological reflexes in many. Having struck out with Ferguson and Baltimore, they have a gold mine with Charleston.

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