Social construction of crime and what we can do about it

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This includes a rush transcript and may not be in its final form. Some non-grammatical forms have been edited to conform more with the apparent intent than the exact verbiage, and links and notes have been added. Anyone finding errors or confusing statements is invited to correct them here or raise them in the accompanying "Discuss" page or add updates in notes and / or subsequent sections.
"Social construction of crime and what we can do about it" presentation by Spencer Graves for All Souls Forum, 2022-05-22.

On 2022-05-22 Spencer Graves[1] discussed the "Social construction of crime and what we can do about it" for All Souls Forum,[2] organized by All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City, Missouri.[3] This article begins with a transcript of the presentation followed by further discussion of related issues.

Transcript[edit | edit source]

Craig Volland  00:00

Good morning and welcome to the forum. My name is Craig Volland. I'm a member of the forum committee. The forum's mission is to forge a platform for the discussion of significant issues, especially those which involve ethical values in the contemporary world and to promote critical thinking.

Craig Volland  00:25

This morning, we have a very timely program. It's called "The Social Construction of Crime and what we can do about it." Now our speaker is Spencer Graves. He's a Vietnam era veteran and holds a PhD in statistics, books, patents, published technical papers, and software used all over the world. He is also a licensed professional engineer. He is program associate for KKFI community radio and produces content for Radio Active Magazine,[4] which broadcasts on Tuesdays from 6:00 to 6:30pm. He is also President of Friends of Community Media,[5] and Secretary of PeaceWorks Kansas City,[6] and a member of the All Souls Forum committee, obviously, a busy guy. The Vietnam War made a compulsive fact checker out of him. And he's been all over the political map constantly looking for evidence to disprove current beliefs. Around 1999, he did a literature search for "constructed reality." Key references from that search discuss "social construction of crime,"[7] which is the main topic of today's presentation. So take it away, Spencer.

Presentation[edit | edit source]

Spencer Graves  01:49

Thank you very much. I'm going to try to share my screen here. And I've got slides that I'm going to share, obviously, the radio audience won't be able to see this. But in any case, I want to mention that this is actually my second time to speak to the forum. I spoke 2019 March 3 on "Media and Democracy in Kansas City and Elsewhere." And I want to connect the themes that Craig mentioned with the media, and with the evolution of income inequality and the evolution of the actual economic growth in the United States from 1790 to the present. And then put that all together in what we can do in Kansas City to improve the media and through that to improve the prospects for broadly shared economic growth.

U.S. incarceration rate as a percent of the population 1925-2019 [male (dashed red), combined (solid black), female (dotted green)].

Spencer Graves  03:07

There's a Wikipedia article entitled "United States incarceration rate" that has a plot of the percent of the population in state and federal prisons. Between 1925 and 1975 that was relatively stable at a tenth of a percent of the US population. In the last quarter of the 20th century, it shot up by a factor of almost five, cresting in 2006 or so at over a half a percent of the US population. Now it's down closer to four tenths of a percent.

Spencer Graves  03:55

What drove that increase?

Spencer Graves  03:59

And how did I come to even look at this?

Social constructionism[edit | edit source]

Spencer Graves  04:03

My wife was a psychotherapeutic social worker. She was talking to me in the 1990s about "constructed reality." So I did a literature search on "constructed reality," and I came up with research papers talking about the "social construction of crime."[8]

Spencer Graves  04:23

So let me talk about what is "constructed reality": When we're born, our brains are a mass of neurons without knowing how to interpret the signals they receive. Gradually, these neurons make connections that allow us to do stuff. These connections are more unique than fingerprints, and they change over time.

Spencer Graves  04:49

In particular, in this context, everyone thinks they know more than they do. That statement that "everyone thinks they know more than they do" is a key element of work that Daniel Kahneman did, for which he won a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2002. But Kahneman is not an economist. He's a research psychologist. Starting in the 1970s he and a collaborator named Amos Tversky invented all kinds of different ways of asking questions that exposed fundamental defects in how people think and make decisions. In the process of doing that, they invented a subfield of both psychology and economics called behavioral economics: It's showing that the model that economists have been using for years of the "rational person" is not how people actually think.

Incarceration rate[edit | edit source]

Spencer Graves  06:10

That relates to the police, the incarceration rate, because incarceration is are not driven by crime and people's actual experiences with crime:[9] They're driven by what they get from the media.

Spencer Graves  06:34

And the mainstream media everywhere exploit this fundamental defect that "people think they know more than they do" to benefit those who control the money for the media.

Spencer Graves  06:45

And so around 1975, the major commercial broadcasters in the United States began to fire nearly all the investigative journalists and replace them with the police blotter. So the public thought that crime was out of control, when there had been no substantive change in crime to justify that change. They voted in a generation of politicians who got tough on crime, lengthened sentencing, and so forth.[7]

Spencer Graves  07:22

Part of this was discriminatory. Crack cocaine was punished more severely than powder, because powder is a drug of choice of whites, and crack is more used in among people of color[10] . And this is the result.

average and quantiles of family income (Gross Domestic Product per family) in constant 2010 dollars.

Spencer Graves  07:45

There's something else that started increasing about 1975, and that's income inequality. My data on that starts in 1947 -- Census Bureau data that shows that the income distribution in the United States stayed basically stable while the average was increasing. But the distribution itself, the variability in current income inequality, was stable from 1947 to 1970. And then it started increasing in 1970, or 75, or 1980, somewhere along in there.

US economic growth 1790-2020[edit | edit source]

Real US GDP per capita in 5 epocs: 1790 - 1929 - 1933 - 1945 - 1947 - 2020

Spencer Graves  08:27

Before I talk more about that, I want to talk about the evolution of economic growth in the United States -- of the average annual income, real gross domestic product per capita adjusted for inflation. There's a website called MeasuringWorth.com[11] that has the data I like best on this. Between 1790, when George Washington was President, to 1929 the US economy grew at an average of 1.5 percent per year. Then it fell like a rock at 8 percent per year during the four years of the Herbert Hoover administration. Then it took off like a rocket during the 12 years of the Franklin Roosevelt administration, increasing at 8 percent per year. And then there was a two year post World War Two recession that's not even mentioned in the history books, where it fell by 8 percent per year for two years. But everybody was flush with savings bonds and war bonds that they bought during World War Two. The nation had a big party, and nobody notice the recession.

Spencer Graves  09:46

Since then the economy has grown at about 2 percent per year.[12] If you look at a plot of this on what is called log scale, a constant percentage increase looks like a straight line. We have this straight line that starts in 1790 and runs to 1929. Then we have a zigzag period for Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt. Then we've got the postwar period that we're living in today.

Income inequality[edit | edit source]

Spencer Graves  10:02

To bring it back to the discussion of income, the average annual income since 1947 has, as I said, increased at 2% per year. Those gains were broadly shared until about 1970. At that rate of increase, in the 40 years between 1970 and 2010, the average doubled.

Spencer Graves  11:00

I was involved with Occupy San José at that time [2011-2012]. I got interested in looking at this. There was starting to be talk of income inequality. I did some analysis. The median line -- 50% of the population is below the median and 50% is above -- increased only 23%. This was family income. In 1970, the median American family income in constant 2012 dollars was a little over $50,000. If that had doubled, the median American family by 2010 would be making over $100,000. But they weren't. They were only making a little over $60,000. That gap was $40,000. Round that down to $36,500: You've got $100 a day, $3,000 a month, in income that people did not get because of increases in income inequality. If the gains in productivity growth since 1970 had been broadly shared, by 2010 the median American family would have been taking home more than $100 a day more money. I claim that's money, in essence, that the typical American family pays to watch television.

Spencer Graves  12:44

That may sound pretty silly. But that's related to what the criminology professors talked about in the "social construction of crime."[7]

News is a 'public good': We benefit when others are better informed[edit | edit source]

Spencer Graves  13:01

Carry this a step further: News is, in fact, a "public good" -- what economists call a "public good". That's because corruption, political corruption, is limited by what the public demands. Let me drive this point: If I know the perfect solution to crime, it's not going to benefit me a whit, because I'm only going to get frustrated -- because nothing's likely to happen if I'm the only one who knows about it. If, on the other hand, a critical mass of the electorate knows and understands what to do to fix the crime problem in Kansas City, in the United States of America, it will happen, whether I know it personally or not.

Spencer Graves  13:54

My point is, you and I benefit from what others demand and have demanded in the past. Let me even say this: The leadership position the United States enjoys in the international political economy is a result of the slow, steady economic growth that has occurred in the United States since 1790. We benefit today from news published over 200 years ago that encouraged literacy and limited political corruption, both of which as I said, helped the United States grow while contemporary New Spain / Mexico fractured, shrank, and stagnated economically. My point on this is we need a diverse partisan press. I stress the word "partisan": Journalism scholar Robert McChesney -- I think he has spoken at All Souls,[13] if I remember correctly, not necessarily the Forum but he's been here. McChesney says that the standards of professional journalism came in, in the early 20th century, in a reaction to public complaints about "yellow journalism" that was a feature of the major newspaper chains of that day.[14]

Spencer Graves  15:42

Now let me go back and talk about crime data. Then I'll come and talk more about news.

Homicides and other crimes[edit | edit source]

Homicides per 100,000 population in the US, Canada, UK, Finland and Austria 1925 to present (2016-CAN, 2018-GBR, 2019-AUT, 2020-FIN & USA) per Fink-Jensen 1925-2010[15] and UN Office on Drugs and Crime more recently.[16] (Both series are plotted for 1990, showing the relatively small differences between them.) Pinker (2011) mentioned homicide rates in the US, Canada and Europe. The UK was selected as perhaps most like the US and Canada, and Austria and Finland were selected as having the lowest and highest homicide rates, respectively, in 2010 among countries in the Fink-Jensen data with more than 100 observations. Pinker noted they all show similar patterns of systemic changes though at different levels.

Spencer Graves  15:56

What's a crime? The definition of crime changes over time and between subcultures.

Spencer Graves  16:02

Data on homicide is easiest to collect and compare, and other crimes often track with that.[17] People who study homicide in the modern era typically talk about the homicide rate per 100,000 people. In the United States in 1925, it was a little over eight per 100,000 and went up to almost 10 and then down to 4.2 or so in the late 1950s. Then during especially the hippie movement and the youth culture, the baby boomers, it rose to over 10 per 100,000 and plateaued for a while, and then in the early 90s started to fall like a rock. Since 2010 it started coming back up again.

Spencer Graves  17:19

I've been reading a book by a man named Steven Pinker on The Better Angels of our Nature;[18] that was the closing line in Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address. The southern states had already succeeded, but the war had not yet begun, and he was hoping to avert a war.

Spencer Graves  17:55

Pinker says that we don't know why all these changes have occurred in the homicide rate. There are clearly some systemic things going on. If we look at the homicide rates in Canada and in Europe, they show the same general pattern but at a lower level. Their homicide rates are 10 or 20 percent of ours. But they still show this same up and down and up and down pattern. Pinker says the crime rate is more or less independent of the incarceration rate.

Spencer Graves  18:50

On this point, I'd like to make a plug for next week's All Souls Forum: Melinda Henneberger, who's a columnist with the Kansas City Star,[19] won a Pulitzer Prize recently for "uncovering crime and corruption in Kansas City, Kansas."[20]

Spencer Graves  19:13

Some of the reporting on that noted that the FBI was concerned in 1992 that there were major problems in the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department. But they were frustrated, because there did not seem to be the political will to do anything about it.[21]

Spencer Graves  19:38

So why was there no political will? My answer is the same phenomenon we've been talking about: If you're a journalist, and you've got to get a new story for tonight's nightly news from the desk sergeant, you're going to think twice about reporting on questionable activities by some law enforcement officer, because the desk sergeant might not want to give you the story that you need the fill the time in the nightly news. And that could be a problem for not just you, but for your boss.[citation needed]

Newspapers 1790 - present[edit | edit source]

Spencer Graves  20:22

Let's go back to the media, and let's talk about the early 1800s. There's a man named Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the relatively new United States in 1831, Frenchman. He went back to France and wrote a book on Democracy in America that has become a famous work since. In the United States he noted that there were many, many newspapers. He said, there is scarcely a hamlet that doesn't does not have its own newspaper -- many readers and many associations. He says that every newspaper had an association and vice versa. Individually, he said, these newspapers were very weak, but collectively, they were very powerful.[22]

Spencer Graves  21:17

Contrast that with France: France had very few newspapers and very few associations. But the ones they did have were quite powerful.

Spencer Graves  21:30

Robert McChesney in his 2004 book The Problem of the Media talked about this, and that's where I got the reference to Tocqueville.[23] McChesney also talks about the US Postal Service Act of 1792. Under that act, newspapers were delivered up to 100 mile for a penny and beyond for a cent and a half when first class postage was between six and 25 cents.[24] It was huge. It created, McChesney insists, the vibrant newspaper industry that the brand new United States of America had that Tocqueville saw. McChensey also said that Western Union came in in 1951 and started stringing telegraph wires. And they denied access to the telegraph to competitors to the Associated Press. Why? Because they had a deal with the AP: The AP would not criticize major corporations, would not criticize the monopoly that Western Union became.[25]

Spencer Graves  22:45

This general bias in the news supported the increasing dominance of major corporations of the US political economy that produced the Robber baron era of the 1890s and the early 20th century and produced the situation today where major corporations export their profits: Small businesses compete on price and quality. Small businesses pay taxes. Big businesses compete on control of the media and the political process and pay relatively little in taxes.

Spencer Graves  23:29

In 2010 Robert McChesney joined with John Nichols in a book on Death and Life of American Journalism. In part of that book, they noticed that this newspaper subsidy represented a little over two tenths of a percent of GDP between 1840 and 1844. It was hard to get figures. They don't think the numbers for that particular year were particularly different from other periods.[26]

Newspapers as a percent of the US economy (Gross Domestic Product, GDP)

Spencer Graves  24:06

Then just last December, McChesney and Nichols published a research report.[27] They included a discussion of newspapers as a percentage of GDP compiled by Pew Research. In 1956 newspaper revenue was a little over 1% of the national economy. And in 2021 it's less than a tenth of a percent.[28]

Spencer Graves  24:28

That's not the only thing that's driving the political polarization that we've seen in the United States today. That's not the only thing that's been cited in my research as driving the January 6 storming of the capitol last year that tried to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as having won the 2020 election.[29] But it is one important thing and is what I have time to talk about today.

Spencer Graves  25:15

My point in this is that investigative journalism is expensive. But ignorance is more expensive.

Spencer Graves  25:26

So we have all kinds of stuff available on the internet right now. But we have relatively little investigative journalism. And that's a major problem.

Reinvigorating local journalism[edit | edit source]

Spencer Graves  25:37

Last December McChesney and Nichols published an article in the Columbia Journalism Review[30] and a separate tech report,[31] where they recommend distributing 0.15 percent of the national income, not 0.2 percent, just a little bit less than that, to local news nonprofits in proportion to votes in regular elections, with a maximum of 25 percent of funds going to any one local news nonprofit. And they said all the news reports produced with these funds should be online for free, similar to TheBeacon.media. Kelsey Ryan,[32] a refugee from the "shrinking star," founded TheBeacon.media. Their policy is "steal our stuff, just give us credit."

Spencer Graves  26:37

That's my vision of what of what McChesney and Nichols are recommending here. We need to support vigorous, diverse local news. To qualify, you have to have a website. You have to publish something that you call news five days a week. And 75 percent of your salaries need to go to local journalists.

Spencer Graves  27:20

McChesney and Nichols want the federal government to fund this. I'm saying, actually, we can fund this locally. US GDP per capita is not quite $80,000 per year, $76,000, I think, when I looked recently. But let's call it $80,000; 0.15 percent of that is $120. The city budget for Kansas City, Missouri, is over $3,000 per person per year.[33] Four percent of that gives us $120, which is what McChesney and Nichols are recommending.

Accountants and Auditors as a percent of US households

Spencer Graves  27:58

Advertising as a percent of gross domestic product in the United States, 1919 to 2007, per Douglas Galbi

This roughly matches what the nation spends on accounting, auditing, advertising, media and public relations. I don't know how much the city of Kansas City spends in these categories. I've tried to find out, and I've so far not been successful. But my point is advertising for most of the 20th century was roughly 2 percent of GDP.[34] Advertising is often disinformation and propaganda rather than information. Similarly, accountants and auditors average roughly 1 percent of the workforce.[35] Accountants and auditors make more than the average. And an accounting function includes people other than accountants, support staff of various kinds. Let's call that 2 percent. So we got 2 percent for accounting and 2 percent for advertising. That's 4 percent.[36]

Spencer Graves  29:13

And I will say, by the way, in government services and in nonprofits, we routinely account for expenses to the last penny. But the accounting for results rarely gets more than lip service. We do all kinds of experiments, but we don't collect the data to find out how good they are. That's a major problem. We need to match what we spend on accounting with research trying to understand the impact what we actually got for that.

Spencer Graves  29:51

There's been some improvement in these areas. It's not all negative, but we need more.

Spencer Graves  29:59

Let me reiterate a point that I kind of made earlier:  Better media can pay for themselves. In fact, you will remember, we benefit today from news stories published in the 19th century that limited political corruption and promoted economic growth.

Spencer Graves  30:28

If we can do that today, it can potentially increase the rate of broadly shared economic growth locally, making our new nonprofit news media essentially free, paid from income that we would not have without it.

Spencer Graves  30:53

February 6, Craig Aaron spoke to All Souls Forum.[37] Craig Aaron is the co-CEO of Freepress.net.[38] He said in 2016, they started organizing town halls in every county in New Jersey asking for people's concerns with local news, what they thought should be done about it, and what they're willing to do. In 2018, the New Jersey legislature with bipartisan legislation created something called the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, that tries to respond to these concerns. And in 2020, they actually funded it.[39]

Spencer Graves  31:39

The lesson for Kansas City: I'm recently elected president of Friends of Community Media,[40] and I'm working with the News and Public Affairs Committee of KKFI. We're interested in organizing a similar series of town halls with different community organizations, not different counties, different community organizations, in the greater metro area, asking what are people's concerns with local news, what do they think should be done, and what they're willing to do about it?

Spencer Graves  32:14

That's my program. To summarize, something that I didn't quite say earlier but hinted at, to reduce crime rates and to improve other problems we need

  1. innovation is that work,
  2. research documenting their effectiveness,
  3. media disseminating that information.

If we invest in nonprofit journalism, we're more likely to get more investigative journalism. They're going to go out and do a little bit of research. And they're going to find the research that's there and disseminate it, where the mainstream media too often does not want to disseminate the research, because it could offend a major advertiser.

Spencer Graves  33:12

Finally, I want to give a shameless plug for a couple of other things that I'm going to be doing in the near future that are somewhat related to this. May 31, Tuesday, Radio Active Magazine, 6 to 6:30 PM on 90.1 FM KKFI, I'll be talking about RightsCon, an international online human rights conference that will take place June 6 to 10.[41] It turns out that I'll be facilitating a workshop on June 9 in that conference from 1:45 to 2:45 PM Central on "Using Wikipedia to advance human rights and democracy: using constructive conflict to create quality article."

Spencer Graves  34:05

The primary leader in this workshop is a woman named Luisina Ferrante, who is the Education and Human Rights Manager for Wikimedia Argentina.[42] She organized dozens of workshops throughout Latin America, that trained hundreds of people, who uploaded thousands of images to Wikimedia Commons that were used in thousands of Wikipedia articles that got tens of thousands of views. And Patricia Díaz Rubio, who's the executive director of Wikimedia Chile,[43] said that this work in Chile helped to break a conspiracy of silence, exposing abuses of power, excessive use of force, by Chilean security forces that made a major contribution, she said, to the 78 percent approval in a plebiscite for a process to rewrite the Constitution of Chile to replace the one written under the Pinochet dictatorship. That's huge. And, last December, a 35 year old former student activist got 56 percent of the vote to become President of Chile, defeating a right winger who promised to prevent the new constitution from taking place.

Spencer Graves  35:53

So I think I should thank you all very much for your attention. And I will turn it over to Craig.

Discussion[edit | edit source]

Craig Volland  36:08

Thank you, Spencer. It was very interesting. Before we go to questions and answers, I just want to mention that the Forum[44] requires some support in order to keep going. And there's two ways you can provide support to the forum and go to the chat. You can either send in your contribution to the church by mail, or you can also do that by online.

Craig Volland  36:44

Next week, which fits in perfectly to this presentation, we're going to have Melinda Henneberger,[45] that Spencer mentioned earlier, talking about uncovering crime and corruption in KCK, or Kansas City, Kansas. And Melinda actually recently won the Pulitzer Prize for her investigation.[46] So I can't claim we knew that was going to happen. But it is very timely. And following up on Spencer's talk.

Craig Volland  37:22

Now we're going into questions and answers. If you want to be easily recognized, go to "reactions" down on the bottom of your screen. And you can hit "raise your hand." That's when I know. I'll be able to determine who we have.

Spencer Graves  37:54

Lon Swearingen.

Craig Volland  37:56

Go ahead Lon.

Craig Volland  38:10

Still muted.

Lon Swearingen  38:11

There it goes. Whatever the question, we do have the investigative work. We have people that give us information, such as Julian Assange. If they extradite him here, he could get 175 years in prison. How do you block that kind of stuff? Even with a nonprofit concept for your newspaper in your inquiry in these things?

Spencer Graves  38:49

My answer: We have that because of the massive consolidation of ownership of the media. If we have a more cacophonous press, the major commercial media -- it will not be as easy for them to suppress discussion of things like that.

Lon Swearingen  39:19

Okay.

Spencer Graves  39:22

I could be mistaken, but I think that's accurate.

Lon Swearingen  39:26

All right.

Spencer Graves  39:28

Next question.

Craig Volland  39:29

This is Craig. I'll go ahead and ask a question. I guess I want to repeat back to you what I think you were getting at. One is obviously that the decline of investigative journalism has created more of an opportunity for the economic interests, who gained by the fact that we really don't know what's going on, can continue. And that has led to economic inequality.

Craig Volland  40:09

I think the example of Melinda Henneberger's research on KCK is an example that nothing really is being done to improve the crime rate. But I wish you would go into a little more detail into, Okay, let's say we did have better reporting. How would that, in your opinion, then result in lower crime? It's not quite clear to me why that would happen.

Spencer Graves  40:46

There's a group called Youth Ambassadors, Kansas City.[47] I talked with the couple of the founders in 2016, I think, maybe 2017. They said that they pay minimum wage to the kids with the worst home lives to stay after school for a couple of hours, and come in for half a day on Saturday. They work to keep these kids in school and doing useful and interesting stuff and keeping them out of trouble. At that time, when I spoke to them, they had had like, 500 kids through their program. They claimed that one of them had had a negative encounter with law enforcement, zero criminal convictions. That's huge, if that's true. I said, "Have you had research done to certify this?" No. "You need to get in conjunction with a college prof, who will do the research to certify what you've done." We've had any number of other programs that are similar, that claim that they have kept the kids out of gangs and off the streets and out of prison. I want to believe: Please help thou mine unbelief.[48] We need the research, and then we need the media that's willing to publish that stuff.

Lon Swearingen  42:38

Okay, I think you'd said this at one point: We need this investment in research to determine what would really work.

Spencer Graves  42:53

Exactly.

Craig Volland  42:54

And it's being impeded by the lack of research and the fact that certain economic interests are actually making more money the way we have it.

Spencer Graves  43:07

Exactly right. I'm talking to people about reentry programs. I know of more than one reentry program. Prisoners released from prison, if they get into the right kind of reentry program, the recidivism rate is much lower. Otherwise, 80 percent of them go back to prison.[49]

Craig Volland  43:41

Okay, George, you're on.

George Baggett  43:50

There's a lot of information in this talk this morning. And I've got multiple questions, but I'll stick with one. As I'm listening to this, I'm curious about what kind of incentives can be put on corporations to demonstrate to them that some of this transition is in their better interest? As an example, right now, major employers are having a tough time finding drivers and people to fill the jobs: People don't want to work as much as they used to. So they're having to suddenly face the fact that they may have to increase wages to attract people that would work in these facilities. Then they say, they're realizing it's in their better interest. What kind of incentives could we put forward to increase income, reduce the incentives for corporations to do the right thing?

Spencer Graves  45:06

I've got multiple answers to that. Number one, the mainstream media have a conflict of interest today in reporting on anything that happens in Washington or Jeff City or even the City of Kansas City that might negatively impact on a major advertiser. That's especially true for tax laws, EPA, so forth.

Spencer Graves  45:38

We need a more informed electorate. If we have a better informed public, they're going to demand that the politicians do more to redress the balance of the balance of power, where currently, as I said, small businesses pay taxes, and big businesses compete on controlling the media and the political process and pay relatively little taxes. We need to reverse that.

Spencer Graves  46:14

Also, I would say, there's research that I've seen that basically says that worker cooperatives tend on average to grow faster, but be more stable. So this is like the tortoise and the hare story: If you've got 100 turtles and 100 rabbits running 100 races: A rabbit is going to win every race. But half of the rabbits are never going to even get to the finish line. The Turtles are slow, steady. They're going to make it. You want to support the turtles. In this case, you want to support democracies over autocratic governments. China had a terrible time from the founding of the People's Republic of China in the late 40s, up until the early 70s, when they finally started opening their economy and participating more in the international economy.

Spencer Graves  47:20

But we don't know if they're going to continue or not. Their growth tends to have been more erratic. The growth of autocracies has been more erratic than the growth of democracies.

Spencer Graves  47:36

The same is true with major corporations versus cooperatives. The cooperatives tend to grow more stable. We don't have these bizarre situations like we had in 2008, where senior executives of major international banks gave themselves huge bonuses at taxpayer expense for crashing the international economy.[50]

Craig Volland  48:14

We've got a question at the church. Go ahead.

Carol Fields  48:22

Along that line, I think you've given so much information here, and I'm still struggling with one of those charts that was really full of information. And I'm a little disappointed in turnout today, here online. And that's been true of a couple others this year. And I've missed some. I'm really thinking that this ought to be aired again, somehow. And I don't know what the mechanics of all this are and time and energy. But this summer, I'm looking at the calendar, could the forumhave maybe six repeats this summer, the second and fourth Sundays? Is there some way to do that that isn't incredibly cumbersome? So programs that maybe got slighted by their convergence was something like the annual meeting today or some other Church activity might get community members, might get connected. So that's sort of a tangent, but it's because this just seems so important today that it's another part of sharing information in the media and getting the word out.

Spencer Graves  49:42

Bill Pierce and Teresa Wilkie are making the decisions on what fills the slots for this summer.

Carol Fields  50:04

You're talking about KKFI when you say that?

Spencer Graves  50:06

Yeah.

Carol Fields  50:07

I'm talking about All Souls, too.

Spencer Graves  50:09

Okay.

Carol Fields  50:10

Sundays at All Souls has a pattern of second and fourth Sunday.

Spencer Graves  50:17

If the Forum Committee wants, we can have another discussion about this in the fall or something.

Craig Volland  50:24

This is Craig. I've got another question. It occurred to me that there's a parallel problem that's causing this, and that is money in politics. The combination of money in politics and television, which could account for this really deficit in information for the general public. And you know that corporations, under a silly Supreme Court decision, are people. And there's a campaign to try to turn get rid of that. So that their money that they spend on politics is given the same credence as people. Would you agree with that, that it's really even beyond what you're saying? It's also the corporate power, which goes through the television system, because everybody watches television?

Spencer Graves  51:32

Well, nearly everyone, I don't. But the answer is, the answer is absolutely: The commercial broadcasters all have an inherent conflict of interest in providing any information that might allow the voters to vote more intelligently. Because why? Because if a politician could get elected without buying a lot of television ads, oh, my goodness, that's a threat to their profitability. And we can go on. I agree with you. The Supreme Court decision talks about corporations are people, money is speech, and I would add that humans are second class citizens in the United States of America today.

Craig Volland  52:26

Okay, Lon, go ahead.

Lon Swearingen  52:29

The question is, the media is what it is. But the other thing is, is our whole program, our whole country, is considered inequitable. In other words, it's not fair. And how do you change that with things like you're talking about? The other part of it is, you've got Chris Hedges, you've got some of these kinds of people that can't even get a lot of their stuff out, to really get it. And basically 74 million people voted for a con artist. How does that happen?

Lon Swearingen  53:13

Other than propaganda?

Spencer Graves  53:15

Absolutely. I'm keying off of McChesney, who basically said that right now, we have relatively little investigative journalism. If we reinvigorate local news, that's going to take care of a lot of it, McChesney thinks.[51]

Spencer Graves  53:42

The other thing I didn't mention is the so called "click economy." Facebook is the best and the worst in this regard. But it's not just Facebook. It's other internet companies. If you, for example, complain about "illegal aliens" on your Facebook account, you will likely get a stream of stories talking about crimes committed by illegal aliens and how terrible they are. If, on the other hand, you talk on Facebook about "undocumented," which is another term for the same thing, you will likely get research reports that say that sanctuary cities, that are more friendly and supportive to these undocumented people, tend to have less crime and higher median incomes.

Spencer Graves  54:49

But neither side sees the news that Facebook and the other internet companies present. So people get polarized, driven into their own echo chambers. And they don't understand what' driving the other ones.

Spencer Graves  55:07

H.R. McMaster, President Trump's second national security adviser, said that Russia is using Facebook and the other Internet companies to increase political polarization in this way. So, I think we need to also address that. But McChesney didn't talk about that. And so, you know, that's another issue that I think we need to address.

Craig Volland  55:40

George, go ahead.

George Baggett  55:43

On your chart of murder statistics from 1925 to current, I noticed that the periods of significant increase, the peak periods, were periods in which the right wing or like the slave owners at one point, the first ones, were starting to lose control. Now we're seeing another set of peaks. Secondly, that's essentially reflective of this "replacement theory" stuff by Tucker Carlson, that they're real fearful of the whites becoming minorities.[52] Do you see this nonsense as being a critical thing to be attacking vigorously?

Spencer Graves  56:45

There's a moderate amount of literature that basically says that political violence is driven by changes in social status. It's not that people are necessarily all the time anti black or anti semitic or whatever. It's more that the political violence comes when people see a change in social status. When the African Americans were suddenly no longer slaves, and their social status increased in the reconstruction era, that led to the development of the Ku Klux Klan. And you can go on and on. But there's a book I have on ethnic violence in eastern Europe. I've forget the exact title and author now, but basically it talks about a number of different cases of ethnic violence in Eastern Europe, some of which had nothing to do with anti semitism.[53] And I've seen more literature that talks about that recently. So there's no question there's an issue there.

Four puppet politics: Government officially controlling everyone else but especially big business, which (through advertising) controls commercial media, which controls the public, which officially controls the government through the democratic process. However, the voters cannot get the information needed to defend their interests at the polls, because the mainstream media have a conflict of interest in providing it unless they'd lose audience by not doing so. However, commercial media organizations are likely to lose more in advertising than they gain from audience share.

See also[edit | edit source]

Media and corruption

References[edit | edit source]

  • Robert W. McChesney (2004). The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century. Monthly Review Press. Wikidata Q7758439. ISBN 1-58367-105-6. .
  • Robert W. McChesney; John Nichols (2010). The Death and Life of American Journalism (in en). Bold Type Books. Wikidata Q104888067. ISBN 978-1-56858-605-2. 
  • Robert W. McChesney; John Nichols (30 November 2021). "The Local Journalism Initiative: a proposal to protect and extend democracy". Columbia Journalism Review. Wikidata Q109978060. ISSN 0010-194X. https://www.cjr.org/business_of_news/the-local-journalism-initiative.php. 
  • Robert W. McChesney; John Nichols (25 January 2022), To Protect and Extend Democracy, Recreate Local News Media (PDF), Free Press, Wikidata Q109978337
  • Steven Pinker (2011), The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Viking Press, OL 16239379W, Wikidata Q1520283.
  • Constructing Crime: Perspectives on Making News and Social Problems (in en). Waveland Press. 1998. Wikidata Q96343487. ISBN 0-88133-984-9. .
  • Vincent F. Sacco (1998). 2. "Media Constructions of Crime". Constructing Crime: Perspectives on Making News and Social Problems. Wikidata Q106878177. .
  • Vincent F. Sacco (2005), When Crime Waves, SAGE Publishing, Wikidata Q96344789.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Spencer Graves, Wikidata Q56452480
  2. All Souls Forum, Wikidata Q112135221
  3. All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Kansas City, Missouri, Wikidata Q112135240
  4. Radio Active Magazine, KKFI, Wikidata Q57451712
  5. Friends of Community Media, Wikidata Q100167560
  6. PeaceWorks Kansas City, Wikidata Q64287449
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Potter and Kappeller (1998). McChesney (2004, p. 81) wrote, "A five-year study of investigative journalism on TV news completed in 2002 determined that investigative journalism has all but disappeared from the nation's commercial airwaves." Sacco (1995, 2005). Sara Sun Beale (November 2006). "The News Media's Influence on Criminal Justice Policy: How Market-Driven News Promotes Punitiveness". William and Mary Law Review 48 (2): 397-481. Wikidata Q106450992. ISSN 0043-5589. https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1103&context=wmlr. .
  8. Potter and Kappeller (1998), which included especially Sacco (1995).
  9. Modern crime rates are typically measured in incidents per 100,000 per person per year. These are typically well below the range of experience of most people in established countries. Total property crime in the United States since 1960 has ranged between just under 2,000 to a little over 5,000 per year per 100,000, which is between 2 and 5 percent. Thus, in the worse year recently, almost 80 percent of people in the US had no personal experience with property crime. Violent crime is roughly a fifth of that, and homicide is roughly 2 percent of violent crime. This means that most people get their "information" about crime from areas other than personal experience. In addition to Kappeller and Potter (1998) and Sacco (1995, 2005), see Steven Pinker (2011), The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Viking Press, OL 16239379W, Wikidata Q1520283.
  10. The result was described in Michelle Alexander (2010). The New Jim Crow (in en). The New Press. Wikidata Q7753648. ISBN 978-1-59558-103-7. http://www.newjimcrow.com/. . Alexander briefly discusses the role of the media but does not give it the central role described by Potter and Kappeller (1998) and Sacco (1995, 2005).
  11. MeasuringWorth, Wikidata Q88193829
  12. With the series ending in 2019, the current epoc averaged 2 percent per year (to one significant digit). The year 2020 was a recession because of COVID, and the average for the current epoc rounds to 1.9 percent per year. The numbers for 2021 are not yet available as this is being written (2022-05-27), but it could easily increase enough to bring the average growth rate back to 2.0 percent per year to one significant digit.
  13. All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Kansas City, Missouri, Wikidata Q112135240
  14. McChesney (2004).
  15. Jonathan Fink-Jensen (6 February 2015), World Countries Homicide Rate, 1800-2010, Wikidata Q112159493
  16. Victims of intentional homicide, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 23 May 2022, Wikidata Q112159505
  17. The Wikipedia article on List of countries by intentional homicide rate said that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime "uses the homicide rate as a proxy for overall violence, as this type of crime is one of the most accurately reported and internationally comparable indicators", accessed 2022-05-28. For this they cited Note of clarification about the Global Study on Homicide 2013, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2013, Wikidata Q112157381
  18. Pinker (2011).
  19. To be broadcasted as the June 9 episode of All Souls Forum, Wikidata Q112135221 and available as a podcast after that broadcast.
  20. Melinda Henneberger of The Kansas City Star, Wikidata Q112164517
  21. Steve Vockrodt; Peggy Lowe (9 November 2021). "FBI has investigated Kansas City, Kansas, Police for decades, but prosecution of bad cops is rare". KCUR-FM. Wikidata Q112164799. https://www.kcur.org/news/2021-11-09/fbi-has-investigated-kansas-city-kansas-police-for-decades-but-prosecution-of-bad-cops-is-rare. 
  22. Alexis de Tocqueville (2001), Democracy in America, translated by Richard Heffner, New American Library, Wikidata Q112166602, ch. 9, and ch. VI, vol. 2 of Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique (in French), OL 487272W, Wikidata Q784882
  23. McChesney (2004, p. 34).
  24. Historian, United States Postal Service (1 June 2010), Postage Rates for Periodicals: A Narrative History, United States Postal Service, Wikidata Q112167199
  25. McChesney (2004, p. 35): "[E]conomic historians regard the growth of Western Union as a major factor in the dominance of big business in American life. ... It used its monopoly power to collaborate in the development of the Associated Press [founded 1846], a monopoly news service run in cooperative fashion with the largest newspaper publishers. ... With exclusive access to the wires -- Western Union refused to let potential competitors use its wires -- AP became the only wire news service in the nation."
  26. McChesney and Nichols (2010, pp. 310-311).
  27. McChesney and Nichols (2022), revised slightly from what they published in 2021.
  28. Advertising and circulation revenue in current dollars in Newspapers Fact Sheet, Pew Research Center, 29 June 2021, Wikidata Q112188989, converted to percent of GDP in Spencer Graves (25 December 2021). "USnewspapers". Ecdat: Data Sets for Econometrics. Wikidata Q110275749. https://github.com/sbgraves237/Ecdat. 
  29. For more on this see Frenkel and Kang (2021), H. R. McMaster (2020), Vaidhyanathan (2018), and more generally Zuboff (Zuboff), cited in the section on ""The current legal environment for Internet and other media companies amplifies political polarization and conflict" in the Wikiversity article on International Conflict Observatory, accessed 2022-06-02.
  30. McChesney and Nichols (2021)
  31. McChesney and Nichols (2022)
  32. Kelsey Ryan, Wikidata Q104214699
  33. On 2022-04-22 I found "View the 2022-23 Proposed Budget | View the Transmittal Letter" at the website of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) of the City of Kansas City, Missouri. From there I was able to download the budgets for 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2022-23. Those documents gave me population and budget figures of 488,943, $1,730,252,151, 491,918, $1,770,570,305, 508,100, and $1,270,000,000, respectively. The ratios of those pairs of numbers were $3,539, $3,599, and $2,500, respectively, averaging $3,213. Let's call it $3,000 to keep things simple for this discussion.
  34. File:Advertising as a percent of Gross Domestic Product in the United States.svg.
  35. File:Advertising as a percent of Gross Domestic Product in the United States.svg
  36. The Discussion section of the Wikiversity article on "Media reform per Freepress.net" includes a table comparing the funding level for the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium (NJCIC) with the 0.2 percent of GDP documented by McChesney and Nichols (2010, pp. 310-311) with accounting and advertising and the average increase in average annual income in the US since 1947 (also 2 percent), and with the South African investigative journalism organization, amaBhungane and other proposals.
  37. Craig Aaron (6 February 2022), The Future of the Media — and What You Can Do About It, All Souls Forum, Wikidata Q112221873
  38. Craig Aaron, Wikidata Q104624986
  39. See also "Media reform per Freepress.net" and "[[w:New Jersey Civic Information Consortium|]]" and references cited therein.
  40. Friends of Community Media, Wikidata Q100167560
  41. RightsCon – June 6-10 world leading summit on human rights in the digital age, Radio Active Magazine, Wikidata Q112224266
  42. Luisina Ferrante, Wikidata Q112224340
  43. Patricia Díaz Rubio, Wikidata Q112224498
  44. All Souls Forum, Wikidata Q112135221
  45. Melinda Henneberger, Wikidata Q63341390
  46. Melinda Henneberger of The Kansas City Star, Wikidata Q112164517
  47. Youth Ambassadors, Wikidata Q56879668
  48. Mark 9:24.
  49. The Wikipedia article on w:Recidivism says, "According to the National Institute of Justice, almost 44 percent of the recently released return before the end of their first year out. About 68 percent ... were arrested for a new crime within three years of their release from prison, and 77 percent were arrested within five years, and by year nine that number reaches 83 percent.
  50. This is well documented for AIG. Any bonuses for senior executives of other international banks are not documented in the Wikipedia article on w:Financial crisis of 2007–2008.
  51. McChesney and Nichols (2021, 2022)
  52. The Wikipedia article on w:Great Replacement says, "The Great Replacement ..., also known as the replacement theory, is a white nationalist far-right conspiracy theory disseminated by French author Renaud Camus. The original theory states that, with the complicity or cooperation of "replacist" elites, white European populations are being demographically and culturally replaced with non-white peoples ... . [S]imilar claims have been advanced in other national contexts, notably in the United States. Mainstream scholars have dismissed these claims as rooted in a misunderstanding of demographic statistics and premised upon an unscientific, racist worldview." It has been advanced by many in the US including former President Donald Trump and conservative television host Tucker Carlson, among others.
  53. Roger D. Petersen (2002). Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, hatred, and resentment in twentieth-century Eastern (in en). Cambridge University Press. Wikidata Q112226565. ISBN 0-521-00774-7. . This book considers fear, hatred, resentment and rage as possible drivers of ethic violence. Each has different predictions for the timing of events in ethnic violence. His conclusions include, "Status reversal creates the highest intensity of Resentment and produces the highest likelihood of violent conflict." (p. 256) However, this view is not prominent in more recent research on this issue, as summarized in the Wikipedia article on "w:Ethnic violence".