“can we just all collectively rise above our animal natures and be better people and not signal boost lurid yet statistically rare stories that fuck with everyone’s availability heuristics, particularly when these stories are about the evil of the Hated Enemy”
I very, very much agree with this.
I’m not saying I’ve been perfect in this regard. Far from it. But I think Ozy is right.
This isn’t either adding to or disagreeing with what Ozy said, just an anecdote. When I was a kid, there was a lot of argument about a woman who – Ronald Reagan, then running for the Presidency, claimed – was collecting so much welfare (using 80 different fake names) that she wore furs and owned a brand-new Cadillac. Liberals, including my family, believed that Reagan made this woman up, or at most was vastly exaggerating a more mundane story.
So I was surprised to find out, a few days ago, that Reagan was understating the truth all those decades ago. (The link leads to a very long but also fascinating story.) The woman he was talking about, Linda Taylor,1 really existed, and in fact had around 150 aliases, and was not only a welfare cheat on an enormous scale but also a serial kidnapper of small children (!) and almost certainly a serial murderer (! ! !).
Which goes to support Ozy’s point, I think: This woman, while real, was an extraordinary and perhaps unique villain, and to use her in stump speeches as representative of flaws in the welfare system doesn’t truly advance anyone’s understanding of what’s wrong with welfare or how to improve it.
- One of her many, many names. [↩]