By Bryan Caplan
Every human being, including me, inclines to self-serving bias. But I was genuinely taken aback by Raphael Franck’s attempt to resolve our French terrorism bet in his own favor. Why?
1. Franck counts the 150 fatalities on Germanwings Flight 9525 as terrorism, even though virtually no one else does. When I challenged this determination, his response was: “The crash of the German flight was cheered upon by radical Islamists. So I guess they viewed it as a success for their cause.” But radical Islamists presumably cheer every tragic event in the West, so why not count death itself as “terrorism”?
2. Franck counts virtually all people killed by French police as “rioters.” Wikipedia lists 50 people killed by French police from 2008-2012. Franck counts 49 of these as killings of rioters. His rationale:
For simplicity I used the lacunary data on people who were killed by the police (it is only this year that the France started tracking the number of individuals killed by the police – otherwise the job is done by leftist activitists). Usually these people are not killed at random by the French police, they are killed in small-scale riots that occur in the suburbs of the major French towns.
I agree that French police kill few people “at random.” But that hardly makes them presumptive rioters. Perhaps they’re just common criminals resisting arrest, like in virtually every other country? This is especially absurd because standard accounts mention no fatalities for any of the major French riots in 2008-2018.
3. Franck and I bet on “the total number of deaths in France from riots and terrorism.” But Franck gives himself a further buffer by claiming that he could legitimately count deaths in former French colonies!
For the record, to win this bet, I did not even have to include in the final count the French soldiers who were killed by jihadists in the former French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa (which are only former colonies by name, given that the French army still seeks to control those areas to protect French financial and industrial interests). But I could. And then I would also count the jihadists that they killed.
Gee, why not count everyone killed in the former French colony of Syria, too?
4. Franck refuses arbitration:
I do not see much point in asking for a neutral arbitrer. At the end of the day, the neutral arbitrer will have to decide whether terrorism motivated by radical Islam has become a common occurrence in France. For some reason, I have yet to meet someone who is neutral when it comes to the relationship between radical Islam and terrorism.
Actually, a neutral arbiter would only have to determine who won according to the literal terms of the bet, using standard English. Most people can do this despite their political views. The real story, I have to think, is that Franck doubts that any credible arbiter on Earth would take his side.
5. I can sympathize with someone who thinks that mainstream media is irredeemably biased against the truth. But I can’t sympathize with someone who makes a bet without mentioning that they will reject evidence that virtually everyone else would consider decisive.
Some of my friends have suggested that I count this bet as “contested” rather than a clear win. If I thought there was a reasonable doubt here, I would comply. But frankly, Franck’s efforts to salvage his side of this bet are absurd. And that’s a word I don’t use lightly.