GRANT, CONNECTICUT — Calvin Ryan is one of a handful of men who run several right-leaning, libertarian Facebook pages. He considers himself a “champion of truth” and his favorite page that he runs is “Biased America,” where he enjoys making memes that are meant to “debunk” myths about the economy, taxes, and any politically-charged topic he wants to discuss at the time. Being a staunch supporter of an interpretation of the Second Amendment that allows for any and all citizens to own any and all firearms they so choose, he recently put out a meme after President Barack Obama made an impassioned speech for more gun regulations, arguing in front of a group of police and law enforcement officers that tighter gun laws help keep cops alive.
“Well, I didn’t really want to address what Obama said specifically, why I couldn’t tell you, but oh well,” Ryan told our reporter, “so I chose instead to look at how gun violence pertains to the black population. Again, I couldn’t tell you why I decided to shift the narrative from whether or not gun laws can help keep cops safe to whether or not the blacks are more violent than other races, but well, YOLO!” Ryan says that the most important part about running a page like he does is to “set the narrative” in a way that “best shows my point.” Then, he says, “it’s time to vomit statistics, create charts and draw a correlation line that a lot of people who have taken statistics and higher-level math classes is nonsensical.”
Ryan explained that after he examined FBI data he noticed what he thinks is a connection between the number of black people in a state and the corresponding firearm homicide rate, but he adjusted the FBI data for his audience first. “The first thing I did was take my FBI data source and inflate the per capita homicide ratio of the black community by about 15%, just because,” Ryan said, “I mean, libtards are very likely to make stuff up anyway, so why can’t I do it? Oh, and don’t ask me to prove that libtards make stuff up, because of course they do.”
When he shared the meme on his Biased America page, many of his fans and followers agreed with his conclusion, however some were quick to point out that it sounded like a pretty racially charged, if not racist argument, that completely ignores the influence of economic factors like poverty on a crime rate. Ryan disagrees with this assessment of his analysis. “Many African-American communities are plagued with a culture of violence that makes firearm homicides much more frequent,” Ryan said as if it were empirical truth, “and although most people don’t acknowledge this elephant in the room, the statistics support the conclusion.”
But do the statistics really support that conclusion? Sam Phillips, who holds a masters in mathematics and statistical analysis is a one critic of the meme and its conclusion because he says he found several methodological errors in it. “There’s no interaction variable, when there is a high correlation between poverty and race,” Phillips told our reporter. He added that there are “clear outliers which would influence the regression line” and that “the cases are states, which probably are a poor way to assess this as it only gives you 50 cases, and is this an issue that can even be assessed at the state level,” he asked rhetorically.
“Counties would provide a much richer data set across a number of variables, but it would take months actually put together something,” Phillips said, adding that in his estimation Ryan’s meme and its accompanying test were “Undergrad. C level” academic work and that only “a nice or extremely lazy professor that doesn’t feel like ripping your work up and passing you along so they don’t have to deal with you” would give it a higher grade.
Ryan dismissed Phillips critique by saying, “He clearly doesn’t get how mathematics works.” When it was reiterated to him that Phillips is highly trained in various advanced math practices, Ryan just let out an audible sigh and refused to talk about Phillips anymore, saying that he “refused to be criticized by a statist stooge.” Ryan then insisted his conclusion that black people in your neighborhood are a direct sign of gun homicides is not racist.
Mr. Ryan conceded that he “could have” put up a few more charts instead of just one single scattered regression, but that “would have taken too much time to get my narrative out.” He also said that putting up comparisons to white gun homicides wouldn’t be relevant because he “didn’t feel like it.”
“Is it really racist to take a set of data, ignore all kinds of outlying factors and focus solely on the race of one group of people,” Ryan asked, “as the cause of a problem? Is it really racist to imply that just because you’re in a black neighborhood you’re way more likely to be killed by a gun, even though my data cannot possibly prove that? And is it really racist to completely ignore the fact that there are many places in the South where white people are shooting each other every damn day? Data is not racist! Maybe I interpreted the data in a racist way, but does that make me a racist?”
“Look, I’m not saying black people are naturally more violent,” Ryan said as the interview was concluding, “I’m just saying that if you look at my cherry picked, misrepresented and biased data set, you can see that they are. It’s the data man, not me.”