24 May 2011

Why we all want to justify rape (sometimes)

In the wake of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arrest on attempted rape charges last week a furor arose over apologia written by Ben Stein and Bernard-Henri Levy. (In case you're wondering why I didn't write about this sooner… I had finals and an ACLS class, oh and I have a board exam in a month.)

Occasionally mentioned—usually in passing—as this saga has unfolded is the (United States') general media portrayal of rape. In particular there have been a few mentions of this (recently notorious) NYT story on the vicious gang rape of an eleven year old girl by eighteen men. As Roxane Gay at The Rumpus did a masterful job dissecting the story I will just quote one of Gay's paragraphs that synopsizes the NYT's troubled reporting.
The overall tone of the article was what a shame it all was, how so many lives were affected by this one terrible event. Little addressed the girl, the child. It was an eleven-year-old girl whose body was ripped apart, not a town. It was an eleven-year-old girl whose life was ripped apart, not the lives of the men who raped her. It is difficult for me to make sense of how anyone could lose sight of that and yet it isn’t.
As usual I find the the way these events were reported on interesting. However, I find why they were reported this way to be a lot more interesting.

06 May 2011

Why properly understanding how stuff works is important

Constitutionally I can only handle studying for so long at a stretch without going crazy. However, with board exams looming nearer every day I shifted my normally wide ranging leisure reading to focus on things that are medically relevant and help to reenforce many of the bits of information and/or concepts that I'll be tested on.

Which is why I'm currently reading The Excellent Powder: DDT's Political and Scientific History. The third chapter entirely pertains to widespread misunderstanding among policy makers of how DDT works. To quote the chapter summary:

04 May 2011

The myth of Muslim conspiracy theories

In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death the media can't say enough about conspiracy theories: how our actions are creating them, what they are, who believes what, and so on. Strangely absent from their fascination is their own role in their creation and persistence. Dutifully playing along is Matthew Gray, a writer at Foreign Affairs, who brings us a backgrounder on what is already a growing trend—Muslim conspiracy theory spotting. His piece will likely set some of the terms for the future conversation because he goes one step further and, as his subtitle indicates, purports to explain, "Why falsehoods flourish in the Muslim world."

The piece is not devoid of value; however, it's impossible to talk about who is susceptible to a "conspiracy theory" without clarifying what you mean by the term, as well as the more straightforward "conspiracy." Take, for instance, this assertion of Mr. Gray's:
One reason the region is so susceptible to conspiracy theories is that it has been subject to an unusually high number of actual conspiracies in the past.
What Mr. Gray is referring to here is not the disproportionate number of conspiracies that have taken place in the Middle East, instead he is referring to the number of coups that have occurred. Even more specifically though, he is referring only to coups engineered by foreign governments. This is all well and good in that foreign operatives (particularly those of clandestine services) engineering coups provide solid examples of one type of conspiracy.