The [Monday] Papers
By Steve Rhodes
Ofman: "The Bears' offensive line was exposed as a threat to its own quarterback who, by the way, is starting to make we wonder whether he shares a tiny bit of DNA with Rex Grossman."
Coffman: "We'll still be hoping for more as we go forward, but considering the fact that the Bears had no running game whatsoever, it was a decent day for the signal-caller."
Wow! I thought. Did a new study come out or something? How did CeaseFire suddenly become so proven?
The Trib relies on the same 2008 study by Northwestern University's Wesley Skogan that so many commentators jumped on without reading.
In short, CeaseFire is largely a bunch of hooey.
Shortly after the Northwestern study came out, Tracy Jake Siska of the Chicago Justice Project wrote a four-part series examining CeaseFire. He looked at Skogan's report as well as a state audit of the program and came to a very different conclusion than the one shopped around by CeaseFire advocates and its media enablers.
One installment of his series was called "CeaseFire as an Irresistibly Delicious Story!"
You might say that CeaseFire is this decade's DARE. The media loved the narrative of DARE. Politicians loved touting DARE. The public lapped up DARE. Law enforcement wedged every budget request they could think of into a DARE grant, no matter how far from drug education it was. The only problem was that nearly every independent study ever done showed that DARE didn't work. At all. Nada.
How long, O Lord, how long until we learn?
If DARE/CeaseFire/the Olympics says they love you, check it out.
The hype about DARE simply defied common sense. Stickers and t-shirts do not prevent drug abuse. And police officers visiting classrooms may - briefly - reinforce an anti-drug message among those least likely to use drugs in the first place, but it was never going to do anything for the most vulnerable kids likely to shrug off - if not laugh at - corny slogans. Beyond that, DARE failed to take into account the fundamentals about what leads young people to abuse drugs. It's not just a matter of bucking up, resisting peer pressure and showing some will power.
The studies showed time and again that DARE didn't work, but you could never tell an editor that. It was like questioning mother and apple pie. I was at the Tribune in the early 1990s when another reporter asked me to help her on a story about a study of studies showing that DARE did not work; she didn't really need my help doing the reporting, but she wanted my help getting the story into the paper.
That says a lot right there.
And you know what? We got that story into the paper, but it wasn't easy. (The editor who handled the piece is - ta-da! - on the Trib editorial board today.)
There are certain things editors believe regardless of what the facts show. That hosting the Olympics is good for economic development, for example. DARE has now finally been discredited; in 2001 the U.S. Surgeon General finally declared that the program didn't work. In some case, several studies found, the program even backfired.
DARE was a total waste of our time, money and energy.
But does anyone learn any lessons? No. It's now a cliche to cite the nostrum that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The legacy media is beyond insane, though; it doesn't expect different results because it never acknowledges that it keeps bungling nearly everything it touches.
So when the Tribune writes that "the statistical evidence that CeaseFire can make a substantial difference in violence is beyond dispute," know that that simply isn't true.
"The scientific validity of the results of the Northwestern study leaves much to be desired," Siska wrote in the summer of 2008.
He's certainly not alone. CeaseFire still has its critics, clinging hopelessly to facts while marginalized as whiners and miscreants by the media just like those against the Olympics had nothing but the facts on their side. Or those who dared to question DARE. What trees do we plant? Trees made of facts, that's all.
The media prefers feelings. CeaseFire feels right.
Now, this is not to say that CeaseFire never prevented a murder. I bet it probably did. And it's not to say that something like CeaseFire can't be a piece of the puzzle.
But CeaseFire is far from proven.
And even if CeaseFire is worthy, it's management might not be.
"It is clear from the [state] audit that Ceasefire played fast and loose with the State's money," Siska writes, "and failed to live up to its responsibilities under the contractual agreements it entered into with the various state agencies."
The Tribune reported that the audit showed CeaseFire mismanaged millions of dollars. Millions.
Oh, by the way, did you know that Arne Duncan turned Chicago's schools around? Until he didn't.
Tip for the kids out there: When conducting an interview, always be asking in the back of your mind, "Why is this bastard lying to me?"
"The major problem with such mediocre social science research is that it is usually done in conjunction with an agenda and released to the media as if it is gospel," Siska also wrote last summer. "Suffice it to say, Eric Zorn from the Tribune and Alex Kotlowitz from Northwestern who authored an article in the New York Times Magazine swallowed deeply when it came to the findings of this Evaluation without ever questioning the methodology or the results."
The Tribune editorial notes that programs have come and gone. Each ballyhooed as the answer. Why does it think this one will be any different?
Even worse is the Trib's acknowledgement that CeaseFire doesn't address the root causes of (urban, poor) violence.
Like I said, interventions that can stop a shooting tonight are essential. Let's go for it. But let's make sure they actually work - and let's not forget that they aren't a solution.
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Posted on October 19, 2009
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