May 11, 2015
Getting Behind the Obvious #1
In last week’s “Neurons” calling for “Responsible Protests,” I wrote about the hidden frames behind what’s been happening in the rioting and looting in Baltimore. On the surface the talk is all about a particular person who died in police custody. The immediate conclusion that many make was that this is a case of “racial injustice.” They say it is another example that “black lives don’t count.” If that is the content, what is behind these positions? What ideas and beliefs drive those conclusions? What are people assuming when they make such statements without explicitly saying?
Asking these questions distinguishes surface and meta information. Surface information makes up the content of what is said. Meta information gets behind things to the assumptions that make the surface information possible. These go to the beliefs, understandings, myths, prejudices, etc. Now if you are convinced ahead of time about something, then it should be no real surprise that you will find it. This is the way perceptual filters work, we call them self-organizing attractors. This is the way judgment and beliefs and other meta-level frames work. Once you set them up in your mind, you have eyes to see them and you self-organize to these frames so that you do not even question yourself or your reasoning.
There’s another important facet of these self-organizing attractors as frames of mind. They are invisible to the perceiver. When viewing anything through a belief, value, perceptual lens, etc., we primarily see the content of what we are looking at and we are mostly unconscious of the frames which are coloring things. The frames, as our perceptual lens, set us up to see things as we do, yet they are mostly hidden from us. They are our blind spots.
Consider the phenomenon of “racism.” That there was overt and open racial prejudice and inequality in the 1950s when the Civil Rights Movement started is without question. That it violated the basic principle of democracy is also without question. The call to “level the playing field” so that everybody can compete equally was what the original Civil Rights Leaders wanted. Later it was realized that a hand-up was needed and so Affirmative Action was instituted to provide that hand-up to those disadvantaged during those days. Now fast forward two or three generations and today Equal Rights is the established law of the land. Today color of skin plays a minor role in terms of getting an equal job, opportunity at a University, running for office, etc. Today, the playing field is much more equal and where it is not, that is an exception to the rule.
But you would never know that if you are only listening to the mainstream media. For them, any single instance of racism, perceived or real, is evidence that in terms of racial equality, “It is still the 1950s.” Today there is even a “racial injustice” industry led by Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, and others who are quick to turn one instance into a nation-wide pattern.
Take the situation in Baltimore. One black man dies at the hands of six policemen (three white, three black; five men, one woman) and the media presents the situation as if all of the police in every city is out “looking to kill young black men” (content information). In the meantime 9 black men were shot and killed in Baltimore during the seven days after that event. That’s right, nine more in one week. But there was no protest march for those nine. Why not? Because all were shot by other black men, so none of those killings counted as “racial inequality” and so there was no outrage. Interesting, isn’t it? Further, in New York City, a black man shot a white policemen during the same week, but again, there were no protests.
What are frames which are hidden behind these things? There are several:
1) White-on-black violence is “racism,” but black-on-white violence is “justice.”
2) Whenever police kill a black person that is “racial inequality” even if it involved black policemen (they must be pawns of the white establishment) and more important than hundreds of black-on-black killing since that doesn’t show inequality between the races.
3) Everything labeled as white-on-black racism is an “injustice” that requires protests even if the black person was involved a crime. “Racial injustice” is worse than crime. Crime is understandable and forgivable if it is because of the result of decades or centuries of oppression.
4) If there is any police action that involves the misuse or abuse of authority, then this is an expression of “racial injustice” and shows that all police are racist.
5) If there is racial injustice, then we have the right to immediately protest, assume the parties are guilty, and not wait for the facts of the case to emerge. Patience is no virtue.
Cartoons of Mohamed
This past week we also had another shooting. This time two radical jihadist Moslems in Texas took guns to a presentation to kill people. But before they could carry out a massacre, they were shot and killed. [These were the radicalized jihadists who use the Moslem faith to justify their violence and terrorism. It does not represent what most Moslems believe or practice.] Accordingly ISIS took credit for the event. On the surface, the content of what the media generally presented as the fact that Moslems are not to make drawings of Mohamed and people who do are provoking them and bringing violence upon themselves. So, what’s behind that kind of thinking?
Freedom of speech in a democracy means that people can say all manner of things against my religion. They have that right to say what they want to say. I may not like it. But if I want that freedom, then I am under obligation to grant it to others. So when a radical jihadist sets out to murder those who make images or cartoons of Mohamed, they are assuming that others are under obligation to follow all of the dictates of their religion as they understand it. Consequently this is giving Isalm a very negative public image. It assumes that taking one’s religion seriously means that no one is allowed to laugh at, or mock the religion. Humor about what one person’s considers serious or sacred is worthy of death.
Freedom of religion means that people have the right to follow their beliefs. Each person can follow his or her religion as they wish s long as they don’t impose it on others. However, when a religious person in any faith-system assumes the right to violently maim, hurt, or kill those who do not share their faith, now we have a radical and legalistic religion of intolerance and hate.
The hidden frames are these:
1) I have the right to impose my beliefs on you.
2) I have the right to enforce you to follow my beliefs even if you don’t believe them, otherwise I will feel offended.
3) I have the right to use violence against you so you do not offend my religious sensitivities.
There’s much more to say about hidden frames and that will be the topic in the coming weeks.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.