Feb 212019

police with megaphones

It’s remarkable how many people passionately support government initiatives for reasons demonstrably false and/or contrary to their own declared intentions or objectives.

Today, we examine three issues where this phenomenon prevails. (1) the promotion of gun control as a means of ‘preventing’ injuries and death; (2) the promotion of a ‘single payer’ state run system to ‘prevent’ those in need of medical care from being unable to pay for such care; and (3) the support of ‘Amber Alerts’ as a means of ‘preventing’ tragic outcomes in criminal child abduction cases.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” goes the old saying. But this once reasonable perspective has now been turned into a ‘pathology’ of ‘preventative prescriptions’ that have more to do with creating narratives, than with ‘preventing’ undesirable outcomes.

The latest example occurred last week when an “Amber Alert” was issued in Ontario regarding the abduction of 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar. Police received hundreds of complaints about how the alert was issued, and with good reason.

There are two issues involving Amber alerts. (1) the effectiveness of the alerts themselves, and (2) the unwarranted manner in which the alerts are issued.

Shamefully, the emotional public reactions directed against those who complained about being woken and frightened by the alert became irrational and openly abusive. Subjected to self-indulgent ‘virtue signaling’ and outright threats, those who were upset by the alert soon became its real victims. We’d like to believe that all the misdirected emotion was rooted in the natural fear that all parents have about the possibility of their own children being abducted, and in the natural empathy all share regarding the murder of Riya Rajkumar at the hands of her own father.

But many equated a natural reaction to being terrorized and waken by the alert with a lack of concern for the victim, or with opposition to the very idea of an alert itself. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that’s not the way the mainstream media and authorities are spinning it. (Even if a lack of concern for the victim had been a factor, it would not have justified the moral outrage directed at those who complained about the alert.)

For the record, Amber Alerts are surprisingly ineffective, and we have been hard pressed to find even one valid instance where any ‘lives have been saved’ by an Amber Alert system.

Indeed, various studies, like the ones conducted by scholars Timothy Griffin and co-author Monica Miller, have concluded that there is “little evidence that Amber Alerts routinely ‘saved lives,’” and that “Amber Alerts actually had little apparent role in the eventual return of abducted children.”

Worse, the researchers were forced to conclude that because the Amber Alert systems are “inherently constrained” to be ineffective for their intended purpose, “the implied causal mode of alert (rapid recovery can save lives) is in a sense the opposite of reality…” But “because the system is publicly praised for saving lives despite its limitations,” Griffin and Miller argue that an Amber Alert acts as “crime control theatre” in that it “creates the appearance but not the fact of crime control.”

In every sense, the Griffin and Miller observations can be applied to Ontario’s latest alert. Griffin has recommended taking a closer look at the evaluation of the program and its intended purpose, instead of simply promoting the program. We agree – because we actually care about the safety of the children.

Nevertheless, we are critically aware that for some, ‘facts don’t matter.’ They are the people who will always choose to continue being ‘just emotional,’ rather than make any effort to discover what is Just Right.

  2 Responses to “596 – Preventative prescription pathologies”

  1. So how many of the virtue signallers got up out of bed and ran out to find the perpetrator? How many ran around the neighbourhood searching their neighbours residences? How many keep a 911 scanner at full volume on their nightstand or carry it on all day? Not one. Case closed.

  2. I was watching TV when it came in. If you think getting it through a cell phone or radio is shocking, it’s nothing compared to the TV alert – like an air raid siren going off in your living room without warning, complete with graphics that make you want to dive for cover until you realize what it is.

    It’s enough to give a person a heart attack. Literally.

    I live 200 kilometers from Toronto. If these yoyos seriously think it would help if I were to jump in my car and drive for two hours to search a few thousand square kilometers of unfamiliar city populated by millions of people looking for people and vehicles I don’t know, they are pathologically out of touch with reality. If everybody who got the alert actually did that the roads couldn’t handle the volume of traffic anyway.

    It’s not that I don’t care; it’s that I’m sufficiently rational to recognize a completely futile situation when I encounter it. If it’s a child missing in the small town in which I live, I’ll gladly help with the search.

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