Don't Worry

The Editors

Michael Rubin of the National Review writes:

One final note on proportionality: Fifteen “peace” activists dead is a tragedy, but they represent only one one-thousandth of the death toll of a French heatwave.


  • 2 June 2010 at 12:19pm
    adambevo says:
    It seems that Mr Rubin overlooked some pretty significant facts when making his provocative proclamation about proportionality.

    Firstly, one person dying in a heat wave is in no way equivalent to one person being shot. There is a well documented effect known as the “harvesting effect” which is essentially a short term increase in the rate of mortality. This is normally compensated for by a subsequent decrease in mortality rates, giving what is essentially a forward mortality displacement." This happens because the people who are affected by a heat wave are the elderly and sick.

    The second major oversight is one of population size.
    Say 15 of the 682 captured “peace” activists were killed. This translates to approximately 1 in 45 people captured were shot and killed.
    The French population is approximately 60 million. Therefore if you (incorrectly) assume that all people are equally susceptible to death due to a heat wave. The chances of a French person dying from the heat wave are 1 in 4000... I much prefer those odds don’t you?



  • 2 June 2010 at 9:00pm
    pinhut says:
    Were the victims of the heatwave shot at night by Israeli commandos?

    Besides, on the subject of proportionality (and I don't believe that there is a valid argument to be made, but let's take the writer at his word), then it might also be contended, might it not, that each of the activists represents the interests of all those who have donated time and energy and money to their cause, along with the fact that this support is drawn from many nations, so the actual number of interested parties may be far higher than 15 and touching more communities in more parts of the world, hence the greater newsworthiness of the story.

    Okay, here is why I reject the notion of proportionality, because the exercise of state power to kill opponents is of extreme concern. It is not comparable to a disaster caused by the forces of nature, it is first and foremost a human rights issue and affects us all, whether we choose to deny the fact or not. That is why the killing of Ian Tomlinson last year by the Met, one man, is more important than the death of somebody who falls down the stairs (unless the stairs are the famous ones at Stoke Newington nick), it is because it has fundamental implications for the way that many thousands of other people can expect to be treated by the state's forces. Most people, including news editors, fundamentally grasp this fact, that to count the number of dead is not equivalent to assessing the impact of a story, but, for whatever reasons, on this occasion, this writer chooses to depart from common sense.

    I take it that the writer in question also came up with his proportionality argument when Israeli settlers have died in rocket attacks. Somehow, I doubt it.

  • 2 June 2010 at 9:19pm
    pinhut says:
    Astonishing, but hardly surprising.

    A one-minute trawl for Rubin's writings produces this, on his own website:

    It begins:

    "June 4 will mark the month anniversary of the kidnapping and subsequent murder of 23-year-old Sardasht Osman, a student at Salahuddin University and a contributor to several independent Kurdish newspapers and websites. The Kurdistan Regional Government has promised to investigate Sardasht's death but, as with the murder of Mushir Mizuri in 2005 and Soran Mama Hama in 2008, the case remains unresolved."

    Got it, one person.

    It ends:

    "Given the implications of Sardasht's murder, the lack of Kurdish and international confidence in the subsequent investigation, and the fact that, whether the Parastin carried out the hit or simply failed to prevent it, one thing is clear. For the sake of Kurdistan's democracy and stability, and U.S. interests in the region, it is time to clean house at the Parastin. Change must start at the top."

    So, he didn't require his proportionality argument here, he didn't even refer to French heatwaves.

    What on earth could be going on? Could it be that Mr Rubin is simply in search of an expedient argument for downplaying these deaths?

  • 3 June 2010 at 11:09am
    Chris Larkin says:
    Perhaps this argument of 'proportionality' should be given to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research to study. Oh, hang on a second.......

    • 3 June 2010 at 3:32pm
      pinhut says: @ Chris Larkin
      Mr Rubin appears to have a disproportional amount of jobs.

  • 13 August 2010 at 11:01am
    Arjan van Houwelingen says:
    Taking Mr. Rubin's somewhat confused proportionality one step further. As the number of people that died on 9/11 constitutes only one fifth of the death toll of the 'French heatwave' shouldn't that mean that we must spend five times as much money on the prevention of future heatwaves as we now spend on terror prevention?

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