I prefer to be around self-identified Aspiring Rationalists. I feel like a fraud when I’m around them, because I am not nearly as smart or as rigorous as the Rationalists I read. But I just can’t stand how most people talk about reality, because most people DON’T EVEN TRY to talk about reality. And the thing I really love about Rationalists is that they at least really freakin’ try to talk about reality itself when they discuss the world.
I was linked to an article that asserted in the first sentence that a woman “fired wildly at a crowd in the parking lot of an Auburn Hills Home Depot” in an attempt stop fleeing shoplifters. A bit later it says “[the shoplifters] were not in any way threatening anyone.” The article then stated that the woman received 18 months of probation on one count of “reckless discharge”, and lost her concealed-carry permit.
This immediately set off my “I am confused” alarm at the volume of an air raid siren. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I couldn’t believe that an action as depraved as firing wildly into a crowd would result in probation on a minor charge and the loss of a license. Our justice system is not THAT fucked up. Right?
More careful Googling shows that the parking lot was as empty as you’d expect a Home Dept parking lot to be. There was no one near her target. And that the woman wasn’t trying to execute anyone, she was shooting at the tires. And she only fired two rounds. And that, as her attorney claims, she’s actually a pretty good shot, because she managed to blow out the rear tire on an SUV with only two shots.
As far as I can tell, the right-leaning segment of this country wants to return to a more civic-duty minded system. One where the populace actively intervenes in crimes-in-progress. A historical model would be law enforcement in medieval Europe, where typically if someone cries for help (to stop a theft or assault, perhaps) it is the duty of all bystanders to mob the assailant. In this article debunking the myth of a “town watch” (in standard medieval European fantasy settings) the author cites several sources, and admiringly tells us that our ancestors were unbelievably tough.
The gold standard of this civic-duty nowadays is Flight 93. Terrorists hijacked a plane, the passengers rushed them, and though they lost their lives, they saved hundreds or thousands more. It’s hard to say they’re anything but heroes.
If I may speak for the left-leaning, we think this is in general a bad idea. There are exceptional circumstances, yes… but in almost all situations that ever actually occur, people should de-escalate and/or flee, and let the professionals handle it. To be honest, we generally don’t trust you guys. Not just because sometimes you’re ill-trained and end up shooting the people you were trying to help. Or because we see some of you stalking innocent people you don’t like and then murdering them, claiming it’s self-defense.
No, in large part it’s because we don’t trust the justice of the mob to actually be just. In medieval towns “there’s a tradition of lynch justice and nobody gets into trouble for string-up a thief caught red-handed.” We’re really not OK with that. We think it makes it far too easy for someone to claim that a person they don’t like (for whatever reason) is committing a crime. We like our due process with a bit more process.
But the Duva-Rodriguez case (the woman attempting to stop the shoplifters in part II) makes for a very interesting edge case. She saw a man running from security, and she had just heard screaming from inside. For all she knows, this could be a murderer fleeing the scene. She didn’t try to kill or wound anyone – she attempted to disable the getaway vehicle, in order to make it easier for the proper authorities to apprehend the suspects. Once they are in custody, due process could proceed duly. Her success in blowing out a tire suggests she’s decently trained. Honestly, this is a situation worth discussing. (Based on the judge’s ruling though, the consensus seems to have settled on “We want less of this sort of thing”)
In a group of rationalists, this could be an actual discussion. Perhaps people would attempt to quantify how many murders are prevented by Uber drivers intervening when someone actually shoots into a crowd, versus how many taxi drivers are nearly murdered by people thinking they’re fighting ISIS. Can we put numbers on lives saved by sane civic-duty-minded citizens versus lives lost by unhinged civic-duty-minded citizens? Should we push society to encourage more direct involvement by bystanders, or encourage less?
But unless I’m talking with rationalists, I can’t even bring this up. Because everyone else will make up the most unbelievable bullshit to support their side. Instead of discussing reality, they will claim this woman shot wildly into a crowd! Or they will claim that gun control will result in Syria.
I want a world in which the facts matter. More than anything else, I wish I knew of a way to make people actually care about the truth. I’ve long said that there’s no need to convince people religion is false. All you need to do is make someone love the truth enough, and eventually they’ll reach that position on their own. I just don’t know how to make anyone actually love the truth.