Category Archives: Culture

What Were the Most Popular Wikipedia Articles of 2019?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureThe measure of a culture is what its people read or watch, which provides some insight into what they actually think about. As the year 2019 comes to a close it invites the question: what did people think about in 2019? What were they curious about? We can, of course, ask that another way that is perhaps more practical: what topics did people look up the most in Wikipedia in 2019? In mid-December, a researcher analyzed the Wikipedia metrics to ascertain the most popular articles of 2019. If you expect to see a number of profound, philosophical topics, you will be greatly disappointed — the list reveals an intellectual shallowness, characterized by an obsession with fictional heroes, movies, and celebrities. Given all the critical issues that nations — and the entire planet — are struggling with, is this really what people are pondering? There is no way to sugarcoat this — we are in deep trouble. Perhaps a superhero can materialize and help us! Here are the 25 most searched topics in Wikipedia for 2019 (number of pageviews in parenthesis):

Avengers: Endgame – 43,847,319
Deaths in 2019 – 36,916,847
Ted Bundy – 29,062,988
Freddie Mercury – 26,858,123
Chernobyl disaster – 25,195,814
List of highest-grossing films – 24,547,640
Joker (2019 film) – 22,062,357
List of Marvel Cinematic Universe films – 21,467,603
Billie Eilish – 19,638,478
Keanu Reeves – 16,622,576
Jeffrey Epstein – 15,905,486
Game of Thrones (season 8) – 15,643,215
Captain Marvel (film) – 15,631,936
Game of Thrones – 15,252,675
Elizabeth II – 14,808,717
List of Bollywood films of 2019 – 14,213,919
United States – 13,981,783
Donald Trump – 13,961,113
Spider-Man: Far From Home – 13,468,700
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – 12,958,871
YouTube – 12,537,494
2019 in film – 11,338,657
Nipsey Hussle – 11,308,502
Jason Momoa – 11,304,629
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – 11,000,322

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Read related posts: Word of the Year 2019
How Many Pages Would it Take to Print Wikipedia?
Wikipedia by the Numbers
How Many Articles on Wikipedia?

For further reading: https://medium.com/freely-sharing-the-sum-of-all-knowledge/wiki-most-popular-articles-of-2019-15b9257a0009?


What Does Elizabeth Holmes’ Real Voice Sound Like?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureYou’ve probably seen Elizabeth Holmes’ face dozens of times by now — the inventor and CEO of Theranos who was going to revolutionize the blood-testing industry with the Edison machine that could analyze dozens of medical tests from a single drop of blood. Her career mirrored a Shakespearean tragedy: a meteoric rise (at its peak, Theranos was valued at $9 billion dollars), followed by the revelation of a tragic flaw (Holmes had to spin a web of lies to fool investors and regulators about Edison’s deep flaws), followed by a tumultuous fall from grace. There are so many layers to this modern tragedy that make it such a compelling story, but for now let’s focus on one of the most fascinating aspects of our tragic hero.

There are many videos that show Holmes appearing in interviews or technology conferences. Out walks this tall, attractive woman, dressed entirely in black (black shoes, black slacks, and black turtleneck — her feeble attempt to say: “Hey look at me! — I am the female Steve Jobs!”), creating a sharp contrast from her very fair skin and baby face, framed by a mane of shimmering blond, wispy hair. One is immediately mesmerized by those huge, piercing blue eyes. She stands there for a moment, a female Svengali, sizing up her audience that sits quietly with bated breath. What will she say? And then she speaks. That voice! WTF? Is there something wrong with the microphone? Out of those bright blood-red lips comes this deep, baritone voice that is so amazingly discordant from her appearance. It’s like looking at some clueless old chap who is wearing a terrible toupee that you can spot a mile away (you know the type: light fine hair on the sides, dark thick hair on top). After a few sentences one reaches an inescapable conclusion:  “This voice is totally fake!” Naturally, Holmes’ low, deep voice has been fodder for endless ridicule and criticism: “Her voice sounds like when children try to pretend they are adults.” “Her voice sounds like a woman pretending to be a man.” “Her voice sounds like a woman who has a potato stuck in her throat.” “Her voice sounds like Kevin McCallister in the Home Alone movie when he calls the police near the end of the movie.” “She sounds like a zombie.” “She sounds like Kermit the Frog getting an enema.” “Wasn’t she that whacked-out chick in the movie The Exorcist?” I could go on… 

So this begs the question: what does Elizabeth Holmes’ real voice sound like? The best person to answer that questions is John Carreyrou, the investigative reporter from the Wall Street Journal and author of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, whose carefully-researched stories brought down the Theranos house of cards. At a talk during his book tour in 2018, Carreyrou explained the truth behind Holmes’ deep, low voice: “It’s an affect. There’s an anecdote in the book where an employee joins in early 2011 and at the end of a long day she concludes a meeting with him in her office. [She] gets up, grabs her jacket to leave and on her way out expresses excitement that he’s joined the company, that he’s on board, and says that they’re gonna do great things. [She] forgets to turn on the baritone and lapses into a more natural sounding young woman’s voice… And I just don’t base it on that anecdote. Her best friend at Stanford was a source for the book… and she says that Elizabeth’s voice sounded nothing like that when she was at Stanford. … A family member was [also] a source for the book and that person says that the voice was affected as well… The best proof of it is that I have a recording of an interview she gave in May 2005 to NPR’s Biotech Nation program and at that point she’s 20 or 21 years old… and she sounds nothing like the Elizabeth Holmes of 2014 or 2015. [In the interview] the pitch of her voice is higher, she speaks fast — almost so fast that she sort of stumbles over her own words. She is like this bubbly young hyper-enthusiastic woman. And when you contrast that to the very poised, contrived persona that she fashioned over the ensuing decade, it’s quite a contrast.” The NPR interview, where you can hear Elizabeth Holmes’ real voice, can be found here.

Several reporters have suspected that Holmes’ must have expended quite a bit of effort to maintain this particular charade. Too bad she didn’t redirect this effort to develop positive and moral leadership skills, to seek better guidance from individuals with integrity and experience, to help guide her company toward triumph rather than an abysmal failure. Through her deceit, on so many levels, Holmes became the poster child for one of the biggest con jobs that Silicon Valley has ever witnessed.

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Read related posts: What is the Least Trusted Profession in America?
What is the Barnum Effect?
What is the Cost of Lies?
What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
What is the Pinocchio Effect?

 

For further reading: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
Presentation at Politics and Prose


Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Ever Again?

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“I don’t have to tell you that there is this dark undertow which is connecting us all globally and it is flowing via the [social media] technology platforms. And that is why I am here — to address you directly, the gods of Silicon Valley: Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg and Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey. Because you set out to connect people and you are refusing to acknowledge that this same technology is now driving us apart. And what you don’t seem to understand is that this is bigger than you, and it’s bigger than any of us. And it is not about left or right, or leave or remain, or Trump or not. It’s about whether it’s actually possible to have a free and fair election ever again. And so my question to you is: is this what you want? Is this how you want history to remember you? — as the handmaidens to authoritarianism? And my question to everyone else is: is this what we want? To sit back and play with our phones as this darkness falls?”

From the TED talk on April 2019 by Carole Cadwaller, the investigative journalist who exposed the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cadwaller accused Facebook and other social media companies of damaging democracy by spreading hateful, divisive lies in darkness paid for by illegal cash for millions of dollars worth of ads. Working with a whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica, Cadwaller learned that the data mining company gathered information on millions of people and manipulated their behavior (i.e., their voting) in the U.S. to impact the 2016 presidential election and in the UK to influence the Brexit vote. The quotation that appears above is featured in the Netflix documentary The Great Hack that focuses on how users of social media apps do not have the right to their own data that is being collected every second that they are online. In this context, consumers themselves (or, more precisely, their data) are the commodity; social media companies sell that data to any company that wants to use it — and, as in the case of two important national elections — the data was used to manipulate the voter’s behavior. How Orwellian.

The entire lecture can be seen by searching for “Facebook’s Role In Brexit — and the Threat to Democracy” on YouTube.

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Read related posts: Notable Words of the 2016 Election
What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will Be Governed by Idiots
Is the United States a Democracy or a Republic?


The Most Poignant Quotes from Mothers Who Lost Their Children to Gun Violence

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIt’s a shocking statistic that cannot be sugar-coated in any way: each day in the United States, an average of seven children (under the age of 19), are killed by gun violence. Seven. (The Washington Post recently reported that since 1966, 1,196 Americans have been killed in public mass shootings.) Award-winning portrait photographer Ali Smith, based in New York City, responded to this tragic reality by launching a photography project titled “7 Kids a Day” to capture the grief and agony of mothers who have lost their children to gun violence. “[They] are members of a club no one wants to be a part of,” explains Smith. The goal of the project is for these grieving mothers’ photos and voices — particularly their united call for policy change — to reach a wider audience. Smith adds, ““There’s actually a sanctioned machine that allows criminals to get guns right now and that’s a very fixable problem. What I would like to do with this project is put faces to the statistics and take the conversation out of the theoretical realm.” Here are some of the most poignant quotes from mothers who have lost their children to gun violence and if you are a parent, you have some understanding of the depth of this unfathomable, heartbreaking loss:

Shianne Norman – lost her son, Lloyd (4 years old): “I turned back towards the bullets and ran against the crowd screaming his name, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. I lost a part of my soul. There is also a feeling of guilt planted inside me that will never go away. This was not supposed to happen. You don’t bury your children. Your children bury you.”

Sandra Frank – lost her son Teshawn (18 years old): “I went into hibernation. For eight months, I didn’t have a period from the stress. I didn’t talk about how I felt for 17 years. I don’t ask the question why, because what could my son have possibly done to deserve that death? Nothing… None of those bullets have a name on them. Violence can fall anywhere.”

Nicole Hockley – lost her son Dylan (6 years old, student at Sandy Hook): “I thought I knew what pain looked like. The first image that comes to my mind when I think about pain now is [his brother] Jake’s face when my husband told him that Dylan had been killed. He just howled. I’d never heard a child make that kind of noise before… I never thought gun violence could touch me or my community, but my eyes are wide open now.”

Natasha Christopher – lost her son Akeal (15 years old): “I miss my son’s smile. I miss his scent. I miss everything about him. Inside, I am broken. A part of me will always be broken.”

Maxine Lewis – lost her son Locksley (16 years old): “When you kill someone, it’s not just him you rob the world of. You rob what he was going to do. The changes he was going to make. You wipe out a part of history.”

Diana Rodriguez – lost her daughter Samantha (18 years old): “Ten years after Samantha’s death, I keep meeting mothers in this loneliest club that nobody wants to be a member of. We mothers are out here crying… Are your guns more important than my child’s life? With rights comes responsibility and accountability. I don’t see a lot of being accountable for what’s happening in our communities to our children.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats its Weakest Members
The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
What is the Reid Technique?

For further reading: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/07/mothers-children-gun-violence-victims-ali-smith-photography
http://www.alismith.com/gun-stories
http://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a19053193/sandy-hook-shooting-parkland-gun-safety-president-trump/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/mass-shootings-in-america/


Nixon’s Eloquent Apollo 11 Speech that America Never Heard

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIt is one of the most memorable days in American history — when Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 on the Sea of Tranquility. The Apollo 11 mission, of course, was a complete success. Nixon became the first President to speak to two Americans on the moon. He spoke briefly to the astronauts, more than 240,000 miles away, via telephone patched to Mission Control in Houston, Texas. Nixon expressed tremendous national pride: “Hello, Neil and Buzz. I’m talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House. And this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made. I just can’t tell you how proud we all are of what you’ve done. For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. And for people all over the world, I am sure they too join with Americans in recognizing what an immense feat this is. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth. For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one: one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.”

But what if a disaster occurred and two or all three astronauts were left to perish in the cold, dark expanse of space? Although it was possible for Collins to have returned to the earth, NASA had a concern that Armstrong and Aldrin would not be able to lift off from the moon and rejoin Collins in the command module. That would mean that the two astronauts would be left stranded on the moon, eventually exhausting their oxygen. Therefore, William Safire, President Richard Nixon’s speechwriter, had been asked to prepare a speech in the event of such a tragedy. Fortunately, it was a speech that Nixon never had to deliver. The speech, entitled “In Event of Moon Disaster” was written by Safire on July 18, 1969. It was discovered in the late 1990s by journalist and author James Mann among the archives of the Nixon administration (then located in College Park, Maryland) while he was researching a book on America’s relationship with China. What the speech lacks in length (it is only 233 words on two typewritten pages), it makes up in stirring images and heartwarming eloquence. Mann writes: “The short text still brings tears to the eyes… What Safire wrote would have qualified as the most eloquent speech Nixon every gave — and one of the most poignant by any American president. Thankfully, it never had to be delivered.” The letter is now displayed at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

In Event of Moon Disaster

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts:
Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Mrs. Bixby
The Memory of a Departed Friend
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Best Poems for Funerals: When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou
Best Books on Eulogies
High Flight: Touching the Face of God
In Mourning the Heart Does Not Forget

Einstein’s Touching Letter to a Grieving Father

For further reading: http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/events/centennials/nixon/exhibit/nixon-online-exhibit-disaster.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/07/12/speech-richard-nixon-would-have-given-event-moon-disaster/?utm_term=.f724be639914


Imagine if Your Parents Named You Marijuana Pepsi

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIn late June 2019, a 46-year-old African-American woman graduated from Cardinal Stritch University Wisconsin, earning a doctorate in higher education leadership. Her doctoral dissertation, titled “Black Names in White Classrooms: Teacher Behaviors and Student Perceptions,” analyzed the impact of nontraditional names on academic achievement. However, neither of these things was what caught the attention of the media — rather it was her incredibly unusual and memorable name: Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck (née Jackson).

I know what you are thinking — why in the world would parents name their daughter after a mind-altering plant and a carbonated sugary soda? In her hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin several rumors arose to explain the incredible moniker. One rumor was that her parents were smoking pot and drinking Pepsi when she was conceived. Given the time period, the post-Woodstock/Summer of Love era, that scenario was very plausible. Nevertheless, it was her mother, Maggie Jackson, who came up with the name, even though her father, Aaron Jackson, objected. Vandyck explains: “She said that she knew when I was born that you could take this name and go around the world with it. At the time as a child, I’m thinking ‘yeah, right — you named my older sister Kimberly. You named my younger sister Robin.'” Vandyck’s aunt, Mayetta Jackson, remembers when Maggie picked the unusual name back in 1972 during the hippie era, when smoking a joint was as common as… well, drinking a Pepsi. Mayetta added, “[After smoking weed, Aaron and Maggie] would cool off with a Pepsi. I thought it was crazy, but they were fun-loving people that it suited them.” Interestingly, it was in late 1971, that Coke introduced one of the most memorable commercials featuring one of the most famous jingles of all time: young people gathering on the top of a hill singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.” Perhaps it was a good thing that the Jacksons were not influenced by this, otherwise their daughter would have been named Marijuana Coke, which sounds more like two psychotropic drugs rather than a drug and a soft drink.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy for a little girl growing up with an unusual name like that. She recall relentless teasing during her school-age years. During her junior high school days, Vandyck dreaded roll call: “Every single class, the teacher is taking attendance out loud, and as they slowly get down through the J’s, I’m just like here it comes. ‘Marianna? Marijuana?’ And all the students turn to see who it is.” By the time she reached high school, her peers’ attitude about her name shifted — they thought it was cool. Vandyck explains: “They were like, ‘Oh yeah. Man, I wish I had your name. I love that. I’m going to name my kid after you.’ I hear that so much and I go, Lord, please don’t do that to that child.”

But despite the obstacles that her name presented, insisted on being called by her birth name: Marijuana, eschewing more common variations like Mary or Mary Jane. One of her high school teachers told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: “They could make a movie about her. I could almost write a book on Marijuana myself in terms of a young student who’s been so resilient and taken even her name and made it into a positive… She’s exactly what any kid in America needs to know about someone who can truly make it if they put their mind to it.” And that’s exactly what she did with her career: she wanted to share her own life struggles and eventual success in order to inspire students. Her doctoral dissertation, in fact, analyzes how black students with unique names are treated by educators in predominantly white settings and how this treatment impacts their academic performance. Specifically, Vandyck found that students “with distinctly black names” were subject to stereotypes, disrespect, and low academic expectations. This in turn led lower self-esteem, career choices, and ultimately fewer educational and career opportunities for students of color.

In an interview with NPR, Vandyck shares her optimistic perspective on life: “”It’s what you do after you recognize that you have this feeling about [having a nontraditional name]. And it’s what you act on from that point on. That’s the most important part…. We can’t always go through life-changing things to make other people happy … and I had to learn that early on.”

Ironically, Marijuana Pepsi has never smoked marijuana and her choice of beverage is orange soda.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/40874017.html
http://www.npr.org/2019/06/21/734839666/dr-marijuana-pepsi-wont-change-her-name-to-make-other-people-happy


What is the Reid Technique?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureIf you watched Netflix’s gripping true-crime series When They See Us (2019), you have seen the Reid Technique in action — and to borrow a line from Holden Caulfied, it makes you want to puke. In the film, we witness detectives, who are feeling pressure from the public to find the rapist(s) of the Central Park jogger as well as pressure from an overzealous prosecutor, implement the Reid technique of interrogation to coerce false confessions from five very scared and innocent teenagers. Recall, that during our school-age years, we learned about Blackstone’s ratio, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” that first appeared in Commentaries on the Laws of England (1760) written by the brilliant British jurist William Blackstone. Almost a century later, that idea was echoed by Benjamin Franklin who expressed it more dramatically: “It is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer.” And as young students we were naive enough to believe that this fundamental belief in criminal law was sacrosanct. Sadly — it is not; for justice in the hands of imperfect human beings is just that — imperfect. In the case of the Central Park Five, the prosecutor and the detectives wiped their derrières with the Miranda Rights and Blackstone’s ratio and flushed it down the toilet, and then washed their hands of the whole stinking mess. 

“So what exactly is the Reid Technique?” you ask. The Reid Technique was developed by consultant and polygraph expert John E. Reid and is used by many law-enforcement agencies in the United States. According to their website “The Reid Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation,® [is] widely recognized as the most effective means available to exonerate the innocent and identify the guilty. Our specialized interrogation training seminars are designed for law enforcement and government investigators, corporate security and loss prevention professionals.” Journalist Douglass Starr, in an article about the Reid technique for The New Yorker described its ubiquity and tremendous impact on law enforcement: “Today, John E. Reid & Associates, Inc., trains more interrogators than any other company in the world. Reid’s clients include police forces, private security companies, the military, the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and the Secret Service—almost anyone whose job involves extracting the truth from those who are often unwilling to provide it. The company’s interview method, called the Reid Technique, has influenced nearly every aspect of modern police interrogations, from the setup of the interview room to the behavior of detectives. The company says that the people it trains get suspects to confess eighty per cent of the time.”

Specifically, the Reid Technique consists of a three phases: (1) Fact analysis (learning the facts of the case), (2) Behavior analysis interview (determining if the suspect is lying), and (3) the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation (the specific steps are delineated here.) Frequently interrogators begin by isolating the subject (eg, placing him or her in a small, windowless room) and immediately coercing the subject to waive his or her Miranda rights (the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney) through false promises, lies, or threats. The interrogator begins with the presumption of guilt (stating that the subject committed the crime) and proceeds with an interrogation, which is more of an accusatory process than a Q&A, and adopting the familiar personas of the “good cop/bad cop routine”, designed to elicit a confession. The interrogator presents various narratives (whether true or not) about means, motive, and opportunity. Depending on how the subject responds, the narratives are altered to drill down on the relevant facts of the crime. Over many hours or days, the interrogator eventually wears down the isolated subject who will ultimately fabricate a story to appease his relentless interrogators; in short, the subject confesses to the crime. Game over.

Although the Reid Technique is a valuable tool for law enforcement that leads to many justifiable confessions and convictions, it is not without controversy. The blatant false confessions of the Central Park Five is an obvious case in point. In several criminology publications, critics point out that the Reid technique can result in false confessions, especially when used with children, non-native individuals who speak English as a second-language, and individuals with mental disabilities. In fact, several European countries prohibit lying to suspects (especially young suspects) about evidence since it can lead to false confessions and wrongful convictions.

In a thorough and fascinating article on how police interrogation works, Julia Layton explores in detail the controversy of the Reid technique. Layton believes the interrogation is not at all fair. First, it is a guilt-presumptive process. A detective, in a headlong pursuit to obtain a confession, can consciously or unconsciously, ignore any evidence of innocence. Second, implementing the Reid technique can be very similar to brainwashing. Layton writes: “[A] lot of the human rights concerns surrounding police interrogation have to do with the fact that psychological interrogation techniques bear an uncanny resemblance to “brainwashing” techniques. The interrogator is attempting to influence the suspect without the suspect’s consent, which is considered an unethical use of psychological tactics. A lot of the techniques used to cause discomfort, confusion and insecurity in the brainwashing process are similar to those used in interrogation: (1) Invading a suspect’s personal space; (2) Not allowing the suspect to speak; (3) Using contrasting alternatives; (4) Positioning confession as a means of escape.”

In the film, we witness how the detectives do everything they can to increase each suspects’ level of stress: isolation from one another and their parents, depriving them of food and water, depriving them of sleep, physical and verbal abuse, threats, etc. All of this causes the subjects to break down emotionally, cognitively, and physically. Layton continues:” The more stress a suspect experiences, the less likely he is to think critically and independently, making him far more susceptible to suggestion. This is even more true when the suspect is a minor or is mentally ill, because he may be poorly equipped to recognize or fight off manipulative tactics. A process designed to cause someone so much stress that he’ll confess just to escape the situation is a process that leaves itself open to false confessions. Researchers estimate between 65 and 300 false confessions per year in the United States.” [emphasis added.]

In his article “Do Police Interrogation Techniques Produce False Confessions?”, Starr explains how psychologist Saul Kassin, a leading expert on false confessions, noted that in most cases, when a confession was introduced in a trial, juries tended to deliver guilty sentences — regardless of any other evidence presented. Starr also describes experiments by Kassin and other psychologists who have devised experiments that test tactics associated with the Reid technique. Time after time, the experiments showed similar results: accusatory questions and direct accusations consistently produced false confessions. Even more problematic is the fact that the Reid technique is extremely dependent of the interrogator’s ability to identify a lie using the suspect’s nonverbal behavior. Starr writes: “Three decades of research have shown that nonverbal signals, so prized by the Reid trainers, bear no relation to deception. In fact, people have little more than coin-flipping odds of guessing if someone is telling the truth, and numerous surveys have shown that police do no better. [Psychologist] Aldert Vrij… found that law-enforcement experience does not necessarily improve the ability to detect lies. Among police officers, those who said they paid close attention to nonverbal cues did the worst. Similarly, an experiment by Kassin showed that both students and police officers were better at telling true confessions from false ones when they listened to an audio recording of an interview rather than watch it on video. In the experiment, the police officers performed less well than the students but expressed greater confidence in their ability to tell who was lying.”

Ultimately, When They See Us is a cautionary tale about what happens when an individual does not know and understand the protections of the Miranda Rights and the Constitution. What is absolutely tragic about this heart-breaking story is that had the teenagers, or more importantly, their parents (or their family friends), known their rights — this travesty of justice could have been easily prevented. First, let’s begin with the fundamental fact that these minors should have never been questioned without a legal guardian in the room. Second, the parents should immediately have invoked their child’s Miranda Rights — the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The interrogations would have come to a screeching halt. Game over. And third, every American has the protection of the Constitution, specifically three amendments: (1) the Fifth Amendment: the right not incriminate oneself; (2) the Sixth Amendment: the right to a speedy trial; and (3) the Fourteenth Amendment: the right to due process. All of these legal safeguards, however, did nothing to prevent the miscarriage of justice delivered to the Central Park Five. Fortunately, decades later, in 2014, they were all exonerated and won a settlement of $40 million.

You have to wonder: if the Central Park Five could, would they trade that $40 million to go back in time, to April 19, 1989, and regain their innocence, their youth, and live the lives that they were meant to live?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The O. J. Simpson Trial and the Chewbacca Defense
Why are People Fascinated by Making a Murderer?
How Much Did O. J. Simpson Pay His Lawyers?

For further reading: Essentials of the Reid Technique (2nd Edition) by Fred Ibai, John Reid, Joseph Buckley, and Brian Jayne
An Expendable Man: the Near Execution of Earl Washington, Jr. by Margaret Edds
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/12/09/the-interview-7

https://people.howstuffworks.com/police-interrogation.htm
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reid_technique


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