Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Straining at bullets, swallowing glaciers

A friend of mine linked to this video:
Fighting Back Against A School Shooter

Fighting back against a school shooter:

Posted by TheBlaze on Monday, March 7, 2016
It's apparently a clip from a much longer training film that argues for a more active, aggressive defense against school shooters.

And y'know what? In a perfect world I'd be all about this.

For one thing, the whole "duck and cover" response to danger kind of pisses me off. Run away? Fine. Fight? If you want to. But cowering in hopes of being overlooked? Seems like a pretty miserable way to die, if that's how you're gonna go.


We don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where we have to make choices about how we spend our resources.

And I have two problems with this little video.

First of all, it's a school shooter video. It assumes from the jump that school shooters are a thing, a horrible, omnipresent, immediate, clear-and-present danger thing that must be aggressively confronted. I talked this to fucking death damn near ten years ago, but as horrible as the cable news people try and make it, the simple fact is that mass murder just isn't that big a threat in the US in 2016. IT's not like dying of dysentery was on the Oregon Trail back in the day.

You're more likely to get run over by a bus than you are to be killed by a madman with a gun in your school, kids. Seriously; Uncle Chief has done the math. Turns out that about 14 kids a year get squarshed by those ol' yella-dog buses. But about 297 people total - that's adults AND kids - got shot in school between 1980 and 2012 when Sandy Hook brought the whole "school shooter" thing back into fashion. That's about 9.3 people a year; the third of a person was either a really little kid or possibly a Donald Trump voter, but, whatever.

So throwing a lot of money at school shootings is like throwing money at ballistic missile defense or alien invasions; not a good return-on-investment thing.

Second of all, while it looks and feels nice, I think it completely mistakes the point of the "lockdown huddle".

The trainer of the video assumes that the point of the huddle is "protection" or something. He's right...assuming that the "main problem" is trying to cut down the casualty count and not actually control the kids' panic.

If I had a bunch of troops I had confidence in, and felt were both cool-headed and trusted each other I'd use his methods. My problem would be that...that's what I'd do with trained, confident troops. I'd trust them to stay still and silent until they had to take aggressive action. That's what good troops do in an ambush drill, which is basically what this is; a plan to ambush the shooter.

My problem would be that if I didn't trust my troops, or trust them to trust each other, spreading them out makes it much more difficult for 1) them to combat their own panic and 2) me to control them and prevent them from doing something panicky and dangerous.

So spreading them out makes it MUCH more likely that the most panicked one will bolt for the door and try to escape, or start screaming and crying, thus both alerting the nutter that we're there in the room and, possibly, unlocking the door for him.

It's a great idea, but it requires a HELL of a lot of training and a really high level of confidence and aggression in the kids.

Meaning that to do this successfully you'd have to...you knew it, right; spend a hell of a lot of time and money training kids and teachers to do this.

It seems to me that for some reason We the People are more and more inclined to do this stuff; worry and fret ridiculously about madman bullets, tiny, horrible problems that have a miniscule probability of harming us...while ignoring things like the melting glaciers that warn us of global climate change that have a real serious likelihood of fucking up our entire world.

I don't know why we do this. It kind of pisses me off, and I wish we'd stop. But it seems to be a people thing and no amount of pissing and moaning on my part will do anything about it.


Ael said...

You know, when I was a kid in elementary school, I was a member of the School Patrol!

We would wear flashy orange belts and wave ornamental stop signs at drivers who were going past the school near the busy intersections while trying to wrangle the younger kids into waiting while we made eye contact with the drivers to ensure that they had stopped before letting the little kids cross the walk.

Today, no parent lets their kid walk to school alone. Certainly not across a busy street. Instead we get traffic jams at the schools, where crazy parents zoom in and around collections of school buses parked in front, and the little kids completely disappear between all those (temporarily) stopped metal monsters they call SUVs. Our principal often ends up doing traffic cop duty. Luckily in Canada, we don't have crazy shooter lockdown drills, at least not yet.

Progress is wonderful and I am so very old.

FDChief said...

Funny thing, Ael, is that given the quiet little streets and the small neighborhood we live in it's very common to see kids walking many blocks to school. Still doesn't mean that one or two don't get run over now and again. But that's more-or-less the law of averages at work.

But one of the real problems in our neighborhood is that there are a non-trivial number of "uncontrolled" intersections; places where two of these small residential streets intersect and there is no traffic signs. No "STOP", no yield signs, nothing.

The "idea" is that you the motorist is supposed to treat all these intersections as if they WERE four-way stops. The reality is, of course, that nobody does; everybody rolls these intersections, it's only the smarter, or more cautious, or less-drunk and -stupid who even slow down as they approach. Every year there are a non-trivial number of injuries or accidents at one of more of these uncontrolled intersections that could be ridiculously easily prevented by the couple-of-hundred-bucks cost of installing a couple of stop signs. And yet the City of Portland is only now slowly starting to do this.

And for me this kind of ties in with the school shooters and IS frogmen and the whole pantload of nonsense these Trump voters and the low-information teabagger sorts of Americans in general seem to bring to the party. They seem to spend incredible amounts of time and energy worrying and agitating and fulminating about ridiculous bullshit at the same time they seem to have a massive hatred of simple, low-cost local things like stop signs and bike lanes and making kids' school lunch less full of fatty garbage, and keeping petrochemical companies from fucking up our air and water.

It really takes a special kind of fucking stupid to be that sort of person.

Stormcrow said...

This is a risk-assessment thing, FDChief. Or, using your term, it's a people thing.

Humans are really poor at assessing risk in contexts where the risk isn't one they are personally familiar with.

I've been working in information security for the last 15 years, and this is what we break our teeth on, all the time.

But there are lots of other examples. Last year's Ebola panic is a really good one. Anybody who'd done some basic informed-layman level homework could see pretty easily that the US constituted a very hard target for Ebola.

It wasn't that our public health infrastructure understood Ebola all that well, because it didn't.

But American social customs, in particular, the way we lay out our housing and the way we bury our dead, make it very very hard for a virus disease that spreads via contaminated body fluids to generate more new cases in the population than death and/or recovery and/or sequestration removes. So a proto-epidemic of the stuff peters out, without even getting within hailing distance of "takeoff".

Try telling that to intelligent people who haven't done any homework and don't see the need to.

Remember the SARS panic a dozen years ago? Just as silly. The problem was, a victim didn't start shedding virus until he was already so sick he was probably in an ICU.

And every moral panic I can recall, which is one hell of a lot, works this processing flaw the same way. Nevertheless, our politicians love moral panics, and try to drum one up whenever they see the opportunity to gain popularity this way.

It doesn't help one little bit that human brains are really poor at abstract reasoning. If you doubt that, try teaching mathematics at the undergrad level for a few years. Humans have never been selected for that skill.

Now humans are living in a world where cause and effect are often separated from each other by enough time and/or space, that no individual human can make the cause/effect connection directly and in person.

Lead in gasoline? 20 years later, an epidemic of undiagnosed neurological damage. Carbon emissions from enough coal-fueled power plants to serve several 1st world nation-states? Anthropogenic global warming.

Cause and effect, but nobody who's intimately familiar with the cause is also likely to be intimately familiar with the effect. And even if they were, they'd be in the minority, and nobody else who didn't understand the math would be inclined to trust the conclusion.

Add late 20th/early 21st century infotainment media to the mix, and the problem goes from "very difficult" to "insoluble".

FDChief said...

Stormcrow: Yeah, I guess I can see at the same time WHY this is a thing and yet still be irked by it. It doesn't take a ton of time and intellectual throw-weight to do some fairly simple looking around and realize that real hazard - that is, risk times probability - of these various made-up panics, from Ebola to ISIS, is minimal and that anyone jittering around trying to make you take action based on that hazard is conning you.

But given the human history of various idiotic panics over everything from demons to killer bees I shouldn't be surprised that most of us don't take that time.