Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Crime

How to Usefully Distinguish Terrorism From Other Forms of Violence

I’ve noticed there’s been a bit of an uptick in think-pieces about what counts as “terrorism”. These tend to be built around a common observation that white mass murderers tend not to get the “terrorist” label and that the Trump administration reacts very differently to mass violence when the perpetrator is Muslim, an immigrant, a refugee, or a close relative thereof. Perhaps the most strident example is Matthew Walther’s piece in The Week in which he claims that there is “no such thing” as terrorism. It’s the return of a conversation we saw in 2015 and which has tended to repeat whenever some high profile mass violence occurs. This debate results from a lack of clarity in the way we think about violence. Let’s fix this.

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Obama’s Legacy: The Evidence Beyond the Punditry

As President Obama’s term draws to a close, every political writer under the sun is offering a hot take on how he’ll be remembered. These can be fun to read, but they don’t tell you very much about what really happened while Barack Obama was president. So today I’d like to look at some of the evidence and data we have on this president. Let’s see how he stacks up next to past presidents and America’s friends and rivals.

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A Hierarchy of Lies and Falsehood

The 2016 election has been full of lies and falsehood. Candidates routinely say things that are not true or make misleading and fallacious arguments. But not all lies are equal–some are more damaging than others, some may even appear justifiable. So today I’d like to break down the different kinds of lies in politics and think about which ones are the most objectionable. To spice things up, we’ll include examples from the campaign of each kind of lie. Are you ready? Let’s go.

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The Oregon Rebels are Guilty of Sedition, Not Terrorism

In Oregon, members of Cliven Bundy’s paramilitary organization have seized and occupied the headquarters building of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which belongs to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency. Many people are calling Bundy’s rebels “terrorists” and accusing the media of treating them differently because they are white. Their point is well-intentioned–it is true that violent criminals from Middle Eastern backgrounds are more readily presumed to be terrorists by the press. But the argument is ill-applied to this particular case. The law is very clear–the Oregon rebels are guilty of sedition, not terrorism.

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Chicago Protesters Had Good Reasons to Be Upset Long Before Laquan McDonald

In Chicago, people are taking to the streets in response to the shooting of Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by officer Jason Van Dyke, apparently for brandishing a knife and refusing to put it down when asked to do so:

Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder. So far, the demonstrations have been peaceful and riots have not broken out. In the wake of a horrible incident like this, it’s important for us to remember that racism goes well beyond individual killings–there has long been statistical data documenting systemic racial inequalities in Chicago. These statistics don’t get as much attention from the media and from protesters because they’re not as emotionally gripping as a killing, but the suffering they demonstrate is every bit as real and much greater in scope.

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