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The “Stochastic Terror” Lie


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City Journal

The Left’s latest gambit for suppressing speech is built on preposterous grounds.
Christopher F. Rufo
November 14, 2022

I browsed the news recently only to discover that, according to a popular science magazine, I was responsible for the attempted murder of Paul Pelosi, husband to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In an opinion piece for Scientific American, writer Bryn Nelson insinuated that my factual reporting on Drag Queen Story Hour was an example of “stochastic terrorism,” which he defines as “ideologically driven hate speech” that increases the likelihood of unpredictable acts of violence. On the night of the attack, Nelson argued, I had appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss my reporting, and, hours later, the alleged attacker, David DePape, radicalized by “QAnon” conspiracy theories about “Democratic, Satan-worshipping pedophiles,” broke into the Pelosi residence and attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer.

his is a bizarre claim that, for a magazine supposedly dedicated to “science,” hardly meets a scientific standard of cause and effect. There is no evidence that DePape watched or was motivated by Tucker Carlson’s program; moreover, nothing in my reporting on Drag Queen Story Hour encourages violence or mentions Nancy Pelosi, QAnon, or Satan-worshipping pedophiles. My appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight and DePape’s attack against Paul Pelosi are, in reality, two unrelated incidents in a large and complex universe. And Nelson, a microbiologist specializing in human excrement, is full of it.

But Nelson isn’t trying to prove anything in a scientific sense. Under the concept of “stochastic terrorism,” logic, evidence, and causality are irrelevant. Any incident of violence can be politicized and attributed to any ideological opponent, regardless of facts.

The scheme works like this: left-wing media, activists, and officials designate a subject of discourse, such as Drag Queen Story Hour, off-limits; they treat any reporting on that subject as an expression of “hate speech”; and finally, if an incident of violence emerges that is related, even tangentially, to that subject, they assign guilt to their political opponents and call for the suppression of speech. The statistical concept of “stochasticity,” which means “randomly determined,” functions as a catch-all: the activists don’t have to prove causality—they simply assert it with a sophisticated turn of phrase and a vague appeal to probability.

(Snip)

That concept is built on a lie. It deserves to be exposed and discredited.

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