Friday, October 24, 2008

Street Lights and Psychoses

Ha, I totally called it!

The dumbasses at the Sentinel have puked out an editorial about turning off streetlights and it's as full of stupid as you'd expect.

But is it the particular flavor of stupid we were expecting? Let's find out!

First a little clarification though. On that earlier post a commenter mentioned that she has been informed that all these crappy (but byline-lacking) editorials are written by Jeff McMenemy, the S&E's editor. I have no trouble believing this, as Mr. McMenemy has written many similarly terrible editorials with an actual byline included.

However, I don't want to attribute such idiocy to an innocent party if it isn't actually Mr. McMenemy. He could have a really dumb acolyte doing the writing or something. So I will just refer to the person behind this editorial as "the editor".

Anyway, the editor pulled a switcharoo on me! I was fully prepared to debunk a claim that turning off some streetlights would cause an increase in crime. Maybe the editor read my earlier post mentioning that, because he didn't go so far as to make that claim. He does dance around it quite a bit though. So let's dance!

First, consider the opening paragraph...
Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong's decision to consider implementing a plan as a "last resort" that calls for turning off every fifth street light, except major intersections, in the city is equally farfetched as it is ill-conceived.
Umm.. what?

Her decision is "farfetched" and "ill-conceived"? That doesn't even make sense. You can call a plan "ill-conceived" or "farfetched," but you can't call the "decision to consider implementing a plan" those words.

Or you can, but everyone reading it will laugh at you and call you dumb.

Let's pause a moment to take special note that the editor recognizes that this plan is a "last resort," is by no means guaranteed to happen, and would affect only every fifth streetlight. Remember these things, because the editor will shortly forget them.

Here's paragraph two!
We can't think of a time or place where it would ever make sense for a mayor to call for turning off street lights -- it sends all the wrong signals about your city -- but this is especially true in Fitchburg.
Oh my god I love this paragraph.

It starts off with that great "we lack the ability to think" bit. I can think of a lot of times and places where it would make sense for a mayor to call for the turning off of street lights. Here's a free one: daytime. You'll have to come up with others yourselves.

But the best part is that once again the editor has fallen back to the braindead non-argument of "sending the wrong signals." Only today we're not sending the wrong signals to kids, we're sending them to... ummm... well the editor hasn't bothered to tell us yet. Devious! He simply tells us that they're sent especially hard in Fitchburg.

Why especially in Fitchburg? I don't know, but the editor has some lies to tell!
Fitchburg is a city where police are fighting an escalating crime problem, particularly violent crime, which is fueled by a growing number of gang members and the illicit drug trade.
Jesus fuck people, how often do I have to point out that crime has been decreasing for the last few years? Just saying things are getting worse all the time doesn't make it true!

I am impressed that the editor has pinpointed the cause of crime though. I'd be curious to see the epidemiological studies he ran to discover that violent crime in Fitchburg is due to gangs and drugs. Good thing he knows just what causes it.

Anyway, what the fuck does that have to do with streetlights? Oh, nothing? Well okay. Let's continue...
Likewise, the city's residents also have to deal with a [sic] higher-than-normal property crimes, caused by the drug addicts who steal anything they can get their hands on to fuel their illegal and destructive habit.
Wow, down on the drug addicts! Those studies must have been really conclusive. Because there's no way that destitute people in a terrible economy would ever steal anything unless it was for drug money. Only those degenerate drug addicts would ever do such a thing!

Also, what's "higher-than-normal" when it comes to property crimes? Is there a normal level of property crime that the dickhead editor would consider fine? Seeing as Fitchburg ranks 6th out of 14 similar-sized cities in property crime, I'd call it pretty normal. Right smack in the middle.

The Sentinel lying about crime rates isn't really newsworthy though. Let's get back to the rest of this idiocy.
Turning off street lights sends the message to them, and everyone else inside and outside the city that your city is in dire straits, and it encourages lawlessness.
Sending messages again! And now we finally know who's getting this message: everybody. Wow!

I wonder what it's like to be Jeff McMenemy the editor. Constantly bombarded by "messages" from streetlights and pieces of legislation and space aliens (probably). It must be hard to live like that.

Maybe he has magic sunglasses like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in They Live, but instead of seeing the secret authoritarian messages hidden in the environment and becoming a freedom fighter he has embraced them and wants to be one of the creepy skull people too.

The editor sees this and thinks "Well okay, whatever you say!"

We've also finally figured out just what the streetlights are saying when they talk to everyone: They're encouraging lawlessness! Man, streetlights sure are jerks. I mean the ones that are off. The ones that are on are okay I guess. Or at least they don't talk to Mr. Psychotic Editor Guy.

Wait, maybe he's just scared of the dark?
The city of Fitchburg needs more lights and more police on the streets to keep residents, business owners and their customers more safe, not less.
Yep, I think he's just scared of the dark.

Mr. Editor, I am sorry for making fun of you. Clearly your parents did something wrong when you were a child, and never addressed a very primal fear that most of us got past years ago.

You see, darkness can't actually hurt you. More lights don't equal more safety. Also, there are no monsters under your bed.

The last quote represents pretty much the end of even the pretense of an argument about streetlights. From here on the editor just goes into a rant about how Mayor Wong is so incredibly terrible for proposing this plan mentioning this idea as a remote possibility.

Frankly, that part isn't even interesting enough to respond to. After all, it's based on the faulty premise that there's something wrong with the plan. Since that hasn't been established, the ranting that depends on it can be safely ignored.

Finally, just a word of advice to the editor: If a streetlight talks to you or tries to send you a "message" or a "signal", for god's sake just ignore it!