I’m right-brained by nature, so math was never my forte. But one professor at the University of Utah changed my whole perspective.
“Mathematics,” he said, “is not a matter of opinion. Rather, the study of mathematics is nothing less than the study of truth itself.”
I found this revelatory not only because it is accurate, but also because it recognizes the reality that truth is not relative or negotiable. It exists independent of interpretation, and it is not subject to change via majority vote. All the protests in the world cannot make two plus two equal five.
I’ve been thinking about that old math professor all day as I’ve watched the madness unfold in Ferguson in the wake of the grand jury’s decision. Many view the violence as a righteous reaction to what they perceive as a system where racist cops delight in slaughtering unarmed black teens, and where a grand jury of Klansmen turned a blind eye to this horror so they could protect one of their own.
But none of that is objectively true.
Ferguson attracted so much attention largely because it is so unusual. White cops do not routinely gun down unarmed black teenagers. As Rudy Giuliani noted on Meet the Press, 93 percent of black people who are murdered are killed by other blacks. And for that true observation, Giuliani was branded a racist and a hater by those who think their feelings of outrage trump that which is objectively true.
As for the specifics of the case, very little of the information that emerged from the initial media reports turned out to be reliable. The cowardly cop shot Michael Brown in the back! (Oops. No, he didn’t.) Michael Brown didn’t attack the cop! (Oops! Yes, he did. And all eyewitnesses who said he did were African-Americans.) These initial accusations were the subject of hours of breathless reporting and stoked the fires of rage and fury. In the weeks that followed, the true details trickled in quietly with little fanfare, as they got in the way of the “AmeriKKKa” narrative.
As for the grand jury’s decision, consider this true account from the Wall Street Journal:
A jury of a dozen average citizens, chosen long before this case came before them and including three black Americans, looked at 70 hours of testimony, heard 60 witnesses and deliberated for two days. The public statements of some witnesses proved to be false upon examination of the physical evidence, Mr. McCulloch said, including the claims broadcast on TV that Brown was shot in the back. Brown resembled a suspect identified in a local theft and there was evidence that he reached into Mr. Wilson’s car to punch him.
The jurors were presented with five potential criminal counts, including involuntary manslaughter, and rejected each one. The evidence was released to the public after Mr. McCulloch’s press conference, so others will be able to sift through the file and make their own judgment.
But the rioters aren’t going to sift through anything with facts in it to make their judgment. They’ve already made their judgment, and their verdict of chaos, violence, and destruction promises to devastate their local economy, hurt or even kill their own neighbors, and further widen the gulf between black and white.
The media, for their part, are doing everything they can to make the situation worse. Saying “This is revolting,” Salon.com posted a link on Facebook titled “Right-wing’s sick Twitter celebration: Ann Coulter, Ted Nugent, Brit Hume battle for grossest Darren Wilson tweet.” Looking for something sick and gross, I clicked through reviewed their entries and saw these instead:
“Hardcore leftists’ don’t really give a rip abt facts. Goal is and has always been to undermine civil society, stoke unrest, chaos.” – Laura Ingraham
“Dear Liberal Media, You are the problem. Again.” – Melissa Clouthier (who I’ve never heard of, along with many other examples Salon used.)
“Might say they’re anti science MT “@RichLowry: Liberals pride selves on their supposed adherence to facts, but can’t accept them in Ferguson” – Brit Hume
“All of the witnesses who testified that Brown charged Wilson were African American.” – Jonah Goldberg
Ted Nugent’s tweet – “DarrenWilson did good MichaelBrown did bad justice is served” – was the only one that was remotely celebratory. The rest were appeals to fact and reason, which are apparently now “sick” and “gross” in an era where truth is less important than feelings. By that template, the haters are the Rudy Giulianis and other “sick” conservatives who point out facts that people don’t like, not the rioters burning down their neighbor’s homes and businesses.
In this new Orwellian nightmare, mathematics, which is “nothing less than the study of truth itself,” must also be seen as “sick” and “gross,” too. I can live with that. But the rest of this is more depressing than I can express.