Putting the protests, unrest, and riots in perspective

I’m sure by now most have seen the footage of Portland BLM protesters dragging a white male out his truck, and then one of the protesters kicking him unconscious after he was already sitting helplessly on the ground. It’s awful to watch…such callous disregard for human life and civility is something you would expect to see in a North Korea prison camp, not in a country that is ostensibly “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

Yet at the same time, this mayhem in Portland is juxtaposed with seeming indifference and complacency on Wall St., as stocks keep making new highs. Tesla is above 1,800/share, on it’s way to joining the trillion-dollar club soon, joining the ranks of Amazon and Apple (I have been telling readers to buy Tesla for years, way back when it was at $40 in 2013, which is why I’m one of the greatest investors and economic and finance forecasters alive). If the stock market is a proxy or barometer for future economic and earnings growth, it is evident market participates are unfazed by this unrest. So what is going on. How is it possible to have all this wealth and prosperity when at the same time America is burning and being being torn apart along these racial faultlines.

What is needed is perspective. Part of rationalism, in the context of the rationality community, is about using the tools of ‘logic and reason’ to understand the world better and what is going on. It’s not about using such tools on BLM to get them to change their ways, which they are impervious to, but rather for your own benefit. It is easy to lose perspective of the situation. The media is like a drug, in that it distorts your perception of reality. You hear pundits, on either side of the aisle, say that “America is burning” or that “things are falling apart,” and as a result, one may be inclined to believe that the situation is worse than it really is.

The paradox of the media is, something is generally only newsworthy because it is uncommon or rare, but by reporting on it, it is perceived as more common than it actually is. It is not news when a commercial airplane lands safely, but it is news when a plane crashes, because crashes are rare and tragic. Obviously. But due to the availability and recency biases, one’s perception of future probabilities is skewed by recent bad news reported the media, so one is inclined to overestimate the likelihood or pervasiveness of such events. Plane crashes are independent, uncorrelated events. A recent place crash does not increase the probability of subsequent crashes. So in regard to the Portland situation a few days ago, because this is so rare and visually retching to look at, it is newsworthy, but it is also very rare.

Second, there is the duration factor. As shown above, maps of BLM protests or hot-spots create the visual illusion or perception that the entire country is protesting all the time, but protests are not continuous, uninterrupted events (in which case, dots should be removed after said protests have run their course, which would be more accurate than having the dots remain after the protest is over), but each protest per city tends to run its course after a few days or so, and is not like the entire city is affected but rather just the parts where people are protesting, which is small relative to the size of a large urban area (plus the suburban areas surrounding it). There may be protests in Chicago for a few days, and then protests later in Washington D.C., and then Seattle, etc. After two months, dozens or even hundreds of cities will have been protested on, but it’s not like every major city in the US has protests 100% percent of the time, uninterrupted.

When you see a protest breaking-out or status being toppled and dragged around, and the coverage is blasted all over social media, it is easy to lose perspective that this epicenter of protest represents just a tiny, tiny fraction or snapshot of the entire country at the present time that the protest is unfolding (so imagine all the neighborhoods and cities from coast to coast where nothing eventual is happening), and even tinier when one considers the duration of how long BLM protests have been going on. This is similar to all the hype over campus protests. People still talk about Evergreen and Middlebury, but it is easy to overlook that for 360 or so days of the year, college life is rather uneventful, if not boring. A Starbucks being vandalized by antifa is huge news on social media, but what about the thousands of Starbucks locations not vandalized, or that this represents one of a handful of incidences of vandalism over a 3-or-so-year duration (since people started paying more attention to antifa).

The question also arises, how much worse will things have to get until the national economy is affected? Probably considerably worse. I do not think it will ever get to that point. Even 911, which caused considerably more property damage and bloodshed than anything any rioters and protesters have done, only inflicted minimal economic damage on a national-level (damage to the surrounding Manhattan economy was bad, although short-lived). Rather, I foresee continued small-scale racial skirmishes–so-called ‘central-urban warfare’ waged by BLM (which Trump should treat as a terrorist organization) and other activists against whites, with the conflict being waged in urban areas, like what is is happening now. By central-urban, what I mean is, the skirmishes and looting will mostly be concentrated in urban areas in the central parts of the US, as opposed to coastal areas. This is because although New York and California are deep blue and have a lot of blacks, their police departments tend to be well-funded and well-staffed, as opposed to departments in these poorer central states, which have fewer resources. However, it is remarkable how so many cities and counties have been affected by this over the past two or so months. Policy makers at some will have to confront this matter on national level if it gets worse, than just hoping it goes away or deferring to the states to fix it.