In this sector of RR we dedicate our efforts to the eternal pursuit and understanding of the liberal mind. Awakened this morning by NPR’s segment on the November election, and Obama’s strategy for victory, jogged a stream of thought that may shed light on another important aspect of how our ideological opposites cope with the realworld. That radio segment with correspondents Mara Liasson and Cokie Roberts emphasized that Obama’s electoral fate will depend on the vote of the Hispanics and blacks, and that today only 10% of the electorate remains uncommitted.
I’ll come back to this report in a moment, but first let me offer the latest proposition to 'The Liberal Mind' – liberals don’t do well with conditional contingencies. Specifically, most left-leaning (and those already toppled) thinkers seem to have a cognitive block differentiating between the likelihood (probability) of X being true, given that Y is true; and the likelihood (probability) Y being true, given that X is true. In shorthand these probabilities are written P(X|Y) and P(Y|X) respectively. And the conundrum that liberals, in the aggregate, suffer from is that they believe P(X|Y) = P(Y|X). The comment streams on these pages are full of propositions, counters, arguments, and observations by our liberal readers that attest to this assertion. Moreover, the media ‘airwaves’ covering our public forum debates contribute a daily torrent of supporting evidence based on that erroneous equality.
The cognitive mistake here is believing that P(terrorist|Muslim) = P(Muslim|terrorist). Equating the two is an error that is easily dispelled with the help of the above graphic. The greater mystery, perhaps apprehended by clinical studies (here), is why the liberal is continually comfortable with such arguments. And I’m talking about liberals from the halls of COTUS, SCOTUS, and POTUS down to the local worthies who successfully carry such water to their brethren who can’t or don’t think.
The currently claimed Muslim population is 2.1B (compared to 2.0B Christians), and the active terrorists in the world number in the tens of thousands, say 50,000 - the exact number is not important in this development. What is important is that the record of terror during the last 20 or so years has overwhelmingly included people of the Muslim faith. In other words, were we to write down on slips of paper all the known attempts and acts of terror, along with the declared faiths of their perpetrators, and then draw one at random, the probability is close to one (i.e. certainty) that the faith(s) of the terrorist(s) is Islam. In other words the probability that a person is a Muslim given that he is also a terrorist, P(Muslim|terrorist), equals almost one. This can be seen from the figure by looking at the magnification of the red rectangle representing all known terrorist acts and attempts, and then seeing what fraction of that rectangle falls over (intersects) the green rectangle that represents all the world’s Muslims.
As we look at the obverse, by putting a slip of paper in for all 2.1B Muslims that also records their terrorist status, then we immediately see, from the relative sizes of the green and red rectangles, that it is very unlikely that a randomly drawn slip will be that of a Muslim who is also a terrorist. This says that the probability the person is terrorist given that he is also a Muslim, P(terrorist|Muslim), is vanishingly small – on the back of the envelope that probability is approximately 50,000/2,100,000,000 = 0.00002 or two thousandth of one percent.
This example should indicate the magnitude of the brain fart liberals emit every time they (unknowingly) base their argument on maintaining that P(X|Y) = P(Y|X). And here I want to make clear that this same line of ‘reasoning’ is used when we debate the advisability of policies in healthcare, education, welfare, collective bargaining, … . That pernicious equality finds its way into more areas of polarized discourse than can be recounted here.
The bottom line and corollary is that the liberal almost always uses anecdotal examples of a low probability event or occurrence to base his justification for policies that affect large aggregates of people whose characteristics are markedly different from those in the presented anecdote. However, arguing on the basis of aggregate statistics is a sure loser compared to a progressive photo-op showing a poor unmarried black mother with her unkempt children in a disheveled apartment, especially if the audience is largely unread and pre-educated.
And this brings us back to NPR’s report of Obama’s campaign strategy. The man cannot run on his dismal record, so the only tactics left to him are pandering to the ignorant and creating diversion by painting his opponent with such egregious lies that even fellow Democrats and liberal outlets like the flagship Washington Post are refusing to stand with him. Here I will just comment on the pandering to the ignorant part.
Obama needs a heavy turnout of Hispanic and black voters. To attract them he is using arguments and making claims that only land well with the more ignorant contingent of America's electorate. The President is pursuing that line because he knows that the cohorts of Hispanics and black are made up of a high proportion of those who can’t or won’t apply reason to vet his claims. The President (reasonably) adopts this tack because he also knows that those minorities have always been on the low end of the educational totem pole, and that during the last fifty years the National Center of Educational Statistics has recorded the enormously high dropout rates suffered by Hispanics and blacks. From this he correctly deduces that his policies and prescriptions for the country (whether implemented or not) will fall most receptively on such minority minds.
So within our discussion of contingent likelihoods, the President, along with other liberal politicians, naturally tailor a large part their campaign messages to the ‘black/Hispanic’ cohort because they know that there the probability of ignorance given the listener is also black/Hispanic, P(ignorant|’black/Hispanic’), is higher. And the status of these minorities is likely to remain so given that their political leaders purposely have kept them on the 'government plantation'.