Ferguson and Dark Matter

For the last month the big story here in St. Louis has been Ferguson. At least that’s what media hucksters have sold as the big story. You will have to excuse me; my interests rarely align with “the news.” I don’t watch broadcast TV, listen to the radio, or pay for newspapers. Despite my media starvation diet I am better informed than many broadcast addicts. What’s my secret?

Everyday I read scores of news stories from many Internet sources. When I gave up broadcasting a few years ago I worried that I might miss something.  Actually the exact opposite has occurred. I usually learn of things long before they are “discussed” in main stream outlets. Contemporary broadcasters remind me of short wave Radio Moscow transmissions in the 1970s. Radio Moscow was an insipid utterly predictable propaganda outlet. Listening to what they said was unnecessary. I could predict with nearly 100% accuracy what their slant on any topic would be. They only surprised me by what they didn’t cover. With propaganda only silence is news. I bet you feel the same about that broadcaster you despise. Is it really necessary to listen to MSNBC, FOX, BBC  or the CBC? Their ideological positions are almost as predictable as cold war era Radio Moscow. If your news is not surprising it’s not news; it’s noise.

Ferguson is a classic case of surprise free news. Everyone agrees that a white police officer shot and killed a black teenager. Such a lovely bare-bones tableau invites creative interpretation and that’s exactly what we got. There are hundreds of predictable Ferguson authorities. You can Google any viewpoint you want. What’s lacking in all the hysteria is what skeptics call reliable data.

To me the officer’s guilt is similar to your favorite type of Dark Matter. The case for Dark Matter is very strong. Something out there is undeniably affecting the rotation and formation of galaxies. Similarly, we have a dead teenager, and a literal smoking gun, in Ferguson. Now pay attention; this is where we separate skeptically informed thought from raving ideological demagoguery. The case for Dark Matter is strong but the case for particular types of Dark Matter is close to nonexistent. Detection experiments are ongoing, inconclusive or outright failures. Yeah, the Dark Matter science is not settled. Similarly, the case for the officer’s quilt is far from ironclad. Perhaps that explains the grand jury’s verdict. If you disagree offer incontrovertible evidence.

Of course missing incontrovertible evidence is never a problem for people who have made up their minds. People believe all sorts nonsense, ghosts, demons, past lives, central banking efficacy, but, as I often say, “belief is a bullshit word; you know or you don’t know.”  If you cannot mount a rigorous case that withstands the harshest and meanest of skeptics please calm down and refrain from looting and arson.