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Bigotry and hate are more linked to mass shootings than mental illness, experts say
How do we combat the roots of these hateful forces?
- American Psychological Association sees a dubious and weak link between mental illness and mass shootings.
- Center for the study of Hate and Extremism has found preliminary evidence that political discourse is tied to hate crimes.
- Access to guns and violent history is still the number one statistically significant figure that predicts gun violence.
Following these increasingly more frequent tragic mass shootings, the conversation has begun to evolve into a new direction. No longer will the public or the punditry accept the blanket blame on video games or mental illness as being the source for a mass shooter's impetus to kill.
Recently, Arthur Evans, the CEO of the American Psychological Association, put forth a statement that said there is a very weak link between mental illness and mass shootings.
Instead, he put forward the hypothesis that hate and bigotry combined with unfettered access to guns leads to these deadly affairs. While the act of mass murder by no means warrants a psychological equivalance to the meaning of "sane." It appears that the APA is suggesting that bigotry and hate are not forms of mental illness, but rather mental states of being.
This may sound like an equivocation, but it allows us to approach this in a more nuanced way. It may lead to better ways on how to combat the roots of this hate and bigotry, which is now suggested by some to be the cause of these shootings.
Statistically, mental illness doesn’t account for much
Evans pointed toward a number of statistics to show that serious mental illness only accounts for less than 1 percent of yearly gun-related homicides. He states:
"The biggest predictor of who is going to commit these crimes is violence, a history of past violence. That is the single-best predictor of who is going to act in a violent way and commit these kinds of violent acts. In addition, we know that there are other factors — stressors, alienation, disaffection, a history of domestic violence — all of those contribute to people's likelihood to act out in violent ways. Mental illness is in there, but not as strong as some of these other factors.
Correlating mental illness to mass shootings doesn't work out statistically, but some social researchers believe that they can chart fiery political discourse to a rise in percentage of hate crimes.
Are hate crimes and political discourse connected?
President Donald Trump is by no means a model statesman for traditional political discourse.
It's not news and will never be news to know that an overwhelming amount of people have lambasted Trump either for perfectly legitimate reasons, radical ideological differences or political reasons.
Some experts believe that they're starting to find some evidence that his kind of remarks have an influence on stirring hate.
An analysis of FBI data by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino found some preliminary evidence that there has been a rise in hate crimes tied to intense political debates.
For example, during August 2017, the clash between the hodgepodge of "Unite the Right" white nationalist protesters and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia — when Trump was critiqued for saying there were "very fine people on both sides," the researchers found that hate crimes had risen to 663 incidents.
Additionally, the team found incidents rose during Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton and during the 2015 terrorist shooting by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino California, where they saw a spike of reported hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs nationwide.
The center's director, Brian Levin has stated, "We see a correlation around the time of statements of political leaders and fluctuations in hate crimes. Could there be other intervening causes? Yes. But it's certainly a significant correlation that can't be ignored."
However, as far as we know now political speech cannot be the only reason acts of violence are committed. The authors of the study note that federal hate crime data has long been criticized as incomplete. While this correlation is too obvious to pass up, there remains a number of questions still regarding the major factors that spur hate-filled mass shootings.
Trump eventually released a statement after the last mass shootings saying, "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America."
Regardless of whether these statements are political placation or Trump's true feelings, it seems to be a step in the right direction. Trump's policy and rhetoric on the other hand still primarily blames mental illness.
"Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger," Trump said before adding, "not the gun."
If we can all at least agree that hate is to blame. The next question is — what do we do about it?
Fear and hate correlate
Harvard psychologist Susan David warns that the dangers of fear-mongering through the media and questionable journalism can weather down our resistance to fallacies and hate speech.
And it's a big problem because fear is the favorite dish served in politics. It sells and it gets people to vote.
"We have politicians who are effectively demagogues, who aim to inspire fear and cement our bond to them by hyperbolizing a threat to our mortality. So how can we repel deceptive messaging and see clearly?"
Referencing psychologist Daniel Kahneman's system of two kinds of thinking — one of those being intuitive and emotional visceral response, and the second being deliberate thoughtful examination — Susan encourages the latter.
". . . if we can step back from our fear and see it for what it is — manipulated panic rather than — we can protect ourselves from the demagoguery message and re-align with our true values."
Antidotes to hate and bigotry
In a video with Big Think, activist Maajid Nawaz sets forth a very ironclad logical statement.
No idea is above scrutiny and no people are beneath dignity.
At the root of this is the ability to have intellectually stimulating conversations about controversial and complex problems in our world without resorting to bigotry or heavy-handed demagoguery.
This logic framed for the debate on gun violence allows us to approach the manner in an even keeled objective state.
Until we can settle our minds free of fear and learn to communicate with one another, we can't expect anything to change.
The key to ending online hate? Treat it like a virus.
- APA: Blaming mental illness for gun violence is 'simplistic ... ›
- How viral social media memes trigger real-world violence ›
- Why do men become mass shooters? - Big Think ›
A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.
- Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
- When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
- Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Four diets were tested<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY0NjIxMn0._w0k-qFOC86AqmtPHJBK_i-9F5oVyVYsYtUrdvfUxWQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b1e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87937436a81c700a8ab3b1d763354843" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tested refrigerated and fresh human-grade foods against kibble, the food most dogs live on. The <a href="https://frontierpets.com.au/blogs/news/how-kibble-or-dry-dog-food-is-made" target="_blank">ingredients</a> of kibble are mashed into a dough and then extruded, forced through a die of some kind into the desired shape — think a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_extrusion" target="_blank">pasta maker</a>. The resulting pellets are sprayed with additional flavor and color.</p><p>For four weeks, researchers fed 12 beagles one of four diets:</p><ol><li>a extruded diet — Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe</li><li>a fresh refrigerated diet — Freshpet Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe</li><li>a fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Beef & Russet Potato Recipe</li><li>another fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Chicken & White Rice Recipe.</li></ol><p>The two fresh diets contained minimally processed beef, chicken, broccoli, rice, carrots, and various food chunks in a canine casserole of sorts. </p><p>(One can't help but think how hard it would be to get finicky cats to test new diets. As if.)</p><p>Senior author <a href="https://ansc.illinois.edu/directory/ksswanso" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kelly S. Swanson</a> of U of I's Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, was a bit surprised at how much better dogs did on people food than even refrigerated dog chow. "Based on past research we've conducted I'm not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet," he <a href="https://aces.illinois.edu/news/feed-fido-fresh-human-grade-dog-food-scoop-less-poop" target="_blank">says</a>, adding, "However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand."</p>
Tracking the effect of each diet<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjY1NTgyOX0.AdyMb8OEcjCD6iWYnXjToDmcnjfTSn-0-dfG96SIpUA/img.jpg?width=980" id="da892" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="880d952420679aeccd1eaf32b5339810" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tracked the dogs' weights and analyzed the microbiota in their fecal matter.</p><p>It turned out that the dogs on kibble had to eat more to maintain their body weight. This resulted in their producing 1.5 to 2.9 times the amount of poop produced by dogs on the fresh diets.</p><p>Says Swanson, "This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet."</p><p>Maybe even more interesting was the effect of fresh food on the gut biome. Though there remains much we don't yet know about microbiota, it was nonetheless the case that the microbial communities found in fresh-food poo was different.</p><p>"Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt," says Swanson, "fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment. As we have shown in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/92/9/3781/4702209#110855647" target="_blank">previous studies</a>, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation."</p>
How did kibble take over canine diets?<p>Historically, dogs ate scraps left over by humans. It has only been <a href="https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/the-history-of-commercial-pet-food-a-great-american-marketing-story/" target="_blank">since 1870</a>, with the arrival of the luxe Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes—made from "the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef", mmm—that commercial dog food began to take hold. Dog bone-shaped biscuits first appeared in 1907. Ken-L Ration dates from 1922. Kibble was first extruded in 1956. Pet food had become a great way to turn <a href="https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/" target="_blank">human-food waste</a> into profit.</p><p>Commercial dog food became the norm for most household canines only after a massive marketing campaign led by a group of dog-food industry lobbyists called the Pet Food Institute in 1964. Over time, for most households, dog food was what dogs ate — what else? Human food? These days more than half of U.S. dogs are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/magazine/who-made-that-dog-biscuit.html" target="_blank">overweight or obese</a>, and certainly their diet is a factor.<span></span></p><p>We're not so special among animals after all. If something's healthy for us to eat—we're <em>not</em> looking at you, chocolate—maybe we should remember to share with our canine compatriots. Not from the table, though.</p>
What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?
Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.
Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.