Monday, May 21, 2018

The Reason for Mass Killings and How to Prevent Mass Shootings

Once more we hear the news of another mass killing. And once more we hear much talk about what we need to do to prevent it from happening again. Though there is much expressed anger on all sides I have yet to see anyone present a solution that would’ve prevented one of the recent mass killings, let alone all of them. Some people have focused on gun control, but the most recent shooting involved guns that the gun control advocates thought were safe. And then there are the killings like the New York truck attack and the Boston Marathon bombing that wouldn’t have been stopped by even the strictest gun ban.

For all the talk of what we need to do about these killings there’s been little talk about why they are taking place. How can we prevent them if we don’t know why they are happening? One person said they knew why they are happening, “It’s Satan.” I don’t disagree, but I also don’t think that answer is helpful. Even if Satan himself is whispering in the ear of each of these killers we still need to understand why they are listening to Satan. Why would they plan their attack with every intention of taking their own lives? If that’s what Satan were telling you to do, don’t you think you would say, “Get thee behind me, Satan?”

Some of these attacks are terrorist attacks and we sort of understand those, though people are still trying to figure out how these guys become radicalized so quickly. It’s quite likely that the terrorists are killing for the same reason the non-terrorists are killing, so the question of radicalization may not matter. But why are the non-terrorists killing?

The shooter in Santa Fe and the left leaning woman who hot up YouTube in San Bruno, California may give us a clearer understanding than the other killers. The kid in Santa Fe made an interesting statement when he said that he shot people he didn’t know because he wanted the people who knew him to be able to tell his story. And the YouTube shoot did what she did because she believed YouTube was preventing people from watching her YouTube channel. Neither had mainline views, and they had views that were dissimilar to each other, but the thing they had in common was that they wanted to be heard.

I’m convinced that all these killers are trying to be heard. This is different from your typical killer who is trying to exercise authority or to get revenge. In a typical killing the killer may act in rage or may plan on getting away. In these mass killings the killer goes in with the expectation that he will not survive. It may seem senseless, but this is the act of someone who believes they are doing something of greater importance than themselves. They are using a gun, a knife, a bomb, or a car to kill but it is their way of yelling their message as loudly as they possibly can. To them, being heard is more important than life itself.

Since that’s the case, one thing we can do to prevent future killings is to do a better job at listening. But that’s not the complete solution. Some of these people are absolute nut jobs and our listening to them isn’t an option. They will confuse even a well-reasoned rebuttal of their position with ignoring them. But that might tell us something about the kind of people we should be leery of. How do they respond when people disagree with them? Do they consider the other side or do they become angry because the person won’t be swayed?

It also might tell us something about what we need to be teaching. People need to learn how to have a reasoned discussion. They also need to learn how to deal with people ignoring them. This is something that is best taught from an early age and yes, I think having a father in the home would help with this. Father’s roughhouse with their children and by doing so they teach them to fight without bringing blood. This carries over into other things. It can be how a person learns to state their case in an argument without escalating to actual harm to the other person. But it may be possible for similar things to be taught in schools. We need to bring back recess, because that’s where students learn part of these. They may also learn it if they are required to defend a point of view in class. There are some who cannot be taught and for those we may need physical prevention methods, but teaching students to deal with the insult of not being heard will only reduce the need for physical prevention measures.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Google Censoring Religious Speech?

It was a post shared by Mike Huckabee that caught my attention. "Google Rejects Christian Publisher's Ads Because They Mention Bible and Jesus" the title read. In the current political climate it's the kind of thing that people are likely to point to as more persecution from the left or to point to as much ado about nothing from the right, depending on what their political leaning might be. So, which is it? While I respect Mike Huckabee a great deal, he isn't always so great about verifying his sources and "The Western Journal" which is were the article is located often gets things wrong. I really began to question it when I noticed that it was talking about "AdWords" and "personalized content."
For those of you who don't know, "AdWords" is the term Google uses to describe advertising that targets a particular audience based on what keywords they search for. For example, if you type "coffee" into the Google search engine you are likely to start seeing ads for Starbucks, or Folgers, or coffee pots. This is because these companies are trying to target their ads at people who drink coffee. A Christian publisher like Concordia Publishing House is likely to try to target their ads at Christians, but this left me wondering why Google would tell them that they would need to remove any mention of Jesus and the Bible from their website. It didn't make sense.
So, I did what anybody should do when faced with information like this. I went to the original press release. While the original press release paints a similar picture and also has things are confusing about it there are things here that indicate that things are not quite what they seem. Here they refer to "remarketing ads." Remarketing ads are ads that pop up when you are trying to leave a website. Most of us find them irritating, but the basic concept is that a user visits a website and doesn't buy anything, so rather than the website getting nothing from the user the website puts an ad in front of the user so that the user will click to go to another website. Google pays a small amount for the privilege of redirecting users to another website.
What many people have assumed is that Google is telling Concordia Publishing House that they can't advertise on their platform because of the content of their website, but when read the advertising policy it appears something else is going on. To paraphrase the policy, Google will not allow advertising that targets people based on a number of hot button issues. One of those is religion, but it includes other things like sexual identity, union membership, political affiliation, etc. If I'm trying to target advertising at Christians then I might want to target the keywords "Jesus" or "Bible" since those are most commonly used by Christians, but Google will reject those ads. If I were writing homosexual erotica then I might want to target "LGBT", but Google policy would reject those ads as well. Why? I suspect it is because it would be possible to use AdWords and the ads people click on for a third party to find out personal information about people. But that's still no reason for Google to suggest that Concordia Publishing House remove Jesus from their website.
But let's go back to this "remarketing ads" concept. Keep in mind that Google is trying to keep third parties from finding out what the religion of the people who click on their ads is. Now, suppose that Concordia Publishing House wants to make money by allowing Google to place ads on their site. Previously, Google would've been willing, but with the concern over Cambridge Analytica they don't want the advertisers knowing that the people who clicked on their ads are coming from a religious website. So they simply say that they won't place ads on religious websites. Likewise, if they are consistent with their policy, they won't place ads on LGBT websites or on a number of other websites.
Is what Google is doing a good idea? No, I don't think it is. I think there are a lot of people who are trying to advertise who won't be able to get their message to their desired audience because of this. But at the same time I'm not convinced that what they are doing with this is religious discrimination. It's more likely that this is an overreaction in an attempt to fill a huge hole in their privacy settings. As for us on the right, I think we need to be careful about jumping to conclusions.