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24 July 2012

'Mr. Sociology' Throws Hat in Ring for 'Mr. Psychology'

David Brooks is at it again, this time weighing in on the tragedy in Aurora. Here is the kicker:
The crucial point is that the dynamics are internal, not external. These killers are primarily the product of psychological derangements, not sociological ones. 
A few paragraphs later, there's this:
The best way to prevent killing sprees is with relationships — when one person notices that a relative or neighbor is going off the rails and gets that person treatment before the barbarism takes control. But there also has to be a more aggressive system of treatment options, especially for men in their 20s. The truly disturbed have always been with us, but their outbursts are now taking more malevolent forms.
So, let's get this straight. It's not sociological; it's psychological--expect that it's about "relationships," that is, interpersonal accountability, neighborly intervention, and reform of the mental healthcare system, a big social institution. Seems that even if the cause is psychological, the preconditions (or, conversely, the mitigation) is indeed sociological. If you had submitted this column as an essay in my introductory sociology course, I'd give it a D, David. I'll give you one week to revise it for the chance at a better grade.

Explain to me again how this guy won the American Sociological Association's Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues last year?

1 comment:

  1. Let's draw the noose even more sharply. Brooks' argument is the equivalent of saying "guns don't kill, bullets kill." This is worse than a distinction without a difference; it's a fundamentally flawed distinction.

    What Brooks fails to account for the fact that deaths by assault happen in the United States about 500% more frequently than in all other OECD countries. Check out the data:

    It is outrageous for Mr Brooks not to mention the trivial matter of a 500% variance in death. And if he were to take note, his theory of psychology-based violence would have to account for why the US has such a massively higher number of psychologically disturbed people.

    Does he have such an explanation? I doubt it, because a government cure would be ideological anathema to him, and I'm hard pressed to conceive of what a "free market" cure for endemic mayhem would look like.

    The much more obvious explanation is that the US has about the same percentage of wack jobs as anywhere else – but that they have radically easier access to guns. We have massive global experiments with real data staring us in the face – differentials of 500% in death by assault rates between countries with gun control and the one without it – and yet Brooks seeks solace in trivial studies around the margin about whether state-imposed registration guidelines have any impact.

    This is either prima facie evidence that too much education makes you stupid, or very bad faith argumentation.