Archive for September 18th, 2017

Since the beginning of civilization, “authorities” have lusted for the magical ability to divine which of the peons might be disobeying their diktats.  Primitive cultures often believed in trials by ordeal, in which the guilty would be revealed by failing certain tests (presumably because the favor of the gods was believed to be necessary to pass these tests).  There were literally hundreds of these in various cultures and times, of which the best-known is probably throwing an accused witch into a pond; if the water “rejected” her (i.e. she managed to stay afloat despite being bound) she must be “impure” and therefore a witch, but if the water “accepted” her (i.e. she sank) she was innocent of the charge, despite being drowned.  As time went on, “scientific” methods of detection replaced more openly mystical ones; that is to say, the various mumbo-jumbo rituals “authorities” used to make people into “criminals” were explained to the masses with pseudoscientific claptrap rather than nonsense about spirits, mana, divinely-revealed knowledge or whatever.  The nineteenth century brought us “scientific” advances in criminal detection such as phrenology and criminological physiognomy, led by brilliant scholars like Cesare Lombruso who

…claimed that all prostitutes, without exception, had receding foreheads and large jaws, and that some had “exaggerated” growth of the labia or clitoris.  He…claimed…that “primitive” African and American Indian women shared these same features, thus demonstrating that whores were more like “savages” than like highly-evolved Europeans.  And since prostitutes were primitive they were also stupid, and thus incompetent to make their own decisions…

Of course, as time went on cops and prosecutors embraced far more dependable “evidence” of criminality, such as winking, possession of condoms, walking on certain streets and the type (or lack) of underwear.  And the outrageously-racist rhetoric of Lombruso and his ilk were replaced by more subtle (but still purely racist) excuses for targeting black people.  “Forensic science” gave cops tools like bite-mark analysis, recovered memories and “signs” that an infant was shaken to death; these were used to send hundreds of innocent people to rot in cages, despite being no better at detecting “criminals” than sacrificing a goat and examining its entrails.  The “War on Drugs” introduced new lows in evidentiary standards, such as “field tests” that routinely mistake substances such as spices, cookies, oil, soap and candy for “illegal drugs”, and “drug dogs” who actually “alert” to whatever their handlers want them to “alert” to rather than whatever might actually be there.  But the myth of the magic super-dog who can detect anything has become so entrenched in porcine mythology that cops will believe dogs can detect virtually anything, including electronically-stored ones and zeros, and they expect courts and the public to believe it as well:

…the feds are…[now] training dogs to sniff out…child pornography.  No kidding:  “‘Today we’re announcing a new weapon in the war against child…exploitation’, [Delaware County (Pennsylvania) District Attorney Jack] Whelan said“…Charlie—a female yellow Labrador retriever—is an “‘electronic-detection forensic K-9’…[who] will be deployed with the Internet Crimes Against Children Pennsylvania Task Force, tasked with sniffing out small hidden electronics, from CD-ROMs to flash drives, in suspected predators’ homes“…Charlie is also a good friend to the cop, Nat Evans, who handles [her]…This sort of thing is, in a word, idiotic.  And unscientific.  As Jacob Sullum reported in 2013, dogs trained to sniff out contraband (in most cases, drugs) are wildly inaccurate and often poorly trained…reports you read about dogs being able to magically sniff out this or that substance are pharmaceutical-grade bunkum…”[Supreme Court Justice David] Souter said, ‘the infallible dog…is a creature of legal fiction’.  Souter cited examples of dogs accepted as reliable by courts that had error rates of up to…60 percent“…It turns out that dogs mostly respond to their handlers and routinely infer when they should alert on a car, or a school locker, or a piece of luggage…

But don’t worry, sex-haters and prohibition fans, you needn’t despair; even if porn-sniffing dogs are eventually proven to be as reliable as a politician’s promise, the South Koreans just sold a sooper-dooper porn-detecting machine to Uganda, and there are oodles of magical “algorithms” that purport to be able to detect at least a few of those hundreds of thousands of “child sex slaves” we’re told are hidden “in your own backyard”.  And even if those fall flat, US courts have repeatedly ruled that cop accusations based in their “training and experience” – copese for “bigotry and wild-ass guesses” – are just as good as dogs, field tests and “algorithms”.  And maybe even almost as good as weighing women against ducks to see if they’re really witches.

Read Full Post »