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LETTER OF THE DAY - Nit-picking over murder stats

Published:Friday | April 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

Perhaps criticising the media today is a dangerous game. But if you do, regardless of what you say or write and regardless of whether or not you are right or wrong, you aren't likely to find a gunman standing at your door telling you you'd better keep your mouth shut.

Perhaps Stead Williams' Thursday's (April 15) Gleaner Letter of the Day represents the thinking of a majority of Jamaicans, but I seriously doubt that "nit-picking" the arithmetic of the nation's shocking, horrible, and shameful murder rate is something that sits too well with the friends and relatives of the dead or wounded, or for that matter of any seriously concerned citizen in such a caring nation as Jamaica.

The truth is that numbers don't really play games with the truth, regardless of just how easily it is to use them to slant the truth of what we want to hear or to avoid the impact of the horror they truly represent. History bears this out in the fact that it is resplendent with examples of our having been blind to, ignored, or just hid away the significance of what were actually shocking, horrible and shameful numbers.

Need another example? (Any teacher of even the simplest form of higher mathematics can give you one that should make the ground tremble beneath you.) Take the number of people murdered in Jamaica this year, regardless of a few per cent more or less, and divide it by the number of Jamaicans on the island. Then set that ratio equal to an 'unknown' number of people murdered in the United States (US) this year, divided by the number of people in that country.


The unknown that you will solve for in this simple equality of ratios is just how many people would have to be murdered in the US to make the two nations' ratios equal. The answer by the way is in the tens of thousands and many, many, many times what were killed in the World Trade Center disaster of 2001!

So ask yourselves, honestly now, if the same percentage of people had been murdered there, do you think the good people of the US and the hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans living there today as well would be criticising the media for hyping the negative and creating fear in the public? In fact, wouldn't they be marching in the streets by the millions, demanding justice for the victims?

I am, etc.,