Monday, December 20, 2004

Peace Activist Bites Dog

Over at Alicublog (via Atrios), this little story bubbles to the service. A soldier is beaten up outside a concert, he asserts that it is because of his Iraqi Freedom T-shirt, and everyone assumes that his assailant is a peace activist.

Could there be a more beautiful example of the fundamental attribution error?

What's great about this is that there is a tremendous amount of information about the event that should've caused people to question the narrative. What the hell is a peace activist doing in the parking lot of a Toby Keith concert? What the hell is a peace activist doing attacking anyone -- doesn't that kind of go against type? Then, we learn that the attacker was a war veteran. Do people question the narrative yet? Nope. Instead, he is transformed into a soldier who has gone over to the dark side.

Ultimately, we learn that the event arose after "exchanged insults" regarding their respective units.

Narrative: the assailant's actions were driven by who he was -- a peace activist (dispositional attribution).
Reality: the assailant's actions were driven by conflict arising in the moment (situational attribution).

The narrative is wrong, but is wrong in a very specific, highly predictable fashion. Keep an eye out for this stuff. It's everywhere.
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