Tuesday, May 03, 2005

In Which My Consciousness Is Revealed To Be A Minefield of False Assumptions

Thing I've noticed: if there's a thing you think you know is true, but you have no provenance for it other than general societal say-so, it's a pretty solid bet it will turn out to be substantively false.

This is discomfiting, not least because it impels the excavation and possible explosion of every nugget of received cultural wisdom I've accumulated in 32 years of life spent marinating in the dominant ideology. Big job.

On the plus side, thanks to the Miracle Of The Ultraweb, once found these artifacts are very swiftly and easily processed.

E.g.: I was reading the latest dispatch from the freakish hotpot of antique Jewish sybarites, psychotically reactionary expat Cubans and genetically compromised 'Merkin rednecks that is Jeb-Bush-helmed Florida, to wit the passage of a law imposing mandatory 25-year-to-life sentences on convicted child molesters, as well as requiring that released offenders be electronically tagged and satellite-trackable for the rest of their lives.

My immediate reaction was, 'Hmm, complicated. Of course this seems quite draconian, the life-tagging and all. But of course, there's the fact that paedophiles have notoriously high recidivism rates, so maybe drastic measures are called for to protect children from repeat offenders. Oh, it's all so complicated. What to do?'

Then I thought, 'Hmmmmm. 'Notoriously', eh?' So I poked around for ten minutes online and you know what? Not true. While recidivism rates for child sex offenders are high in an absolute sense (42% according to one source), they are widely agreed to be significantly lower than for either non-child rapists or non-sexual offenders:
Although the long-term recidivism rates for the child molesters were substantial, the recidivism rates for the nonsexual criminals were even higher, 61% versus 83.2%, respectively, for any reconviction. That nonsexual criminals have higher recidivism rates than child molesters runs contrary to the common assumption that child molesters are a particularly high risk group of offenders.

Of course, duh, this is in no way to say we should be sanguine about paedophile recidivism rates (Only 42%, yay!), nor that paedophiles are innocent victims of Political Correctness Gone Mad(TM). Only to observe that this particular chunk of generally-held cultural certainty, that child molesters are much more incorrigible than other kinds of criminals, just isn't true. And that makes me wonder why it's so generally held, who is propagating it, how its acceptance is of use to the dominant ideology, &c. And then, as I say, what other such fabricated truths I'm harboring, and what their ideological function may be.

And then I'm very tired. As I say, tracking down the truth of these truisms is piss-easy. The hard part is noticing you've got them in the first place.

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