Like a decent but shrinking share of National Public Radio (NPR) programming, “The Hidden Brain” has some redeeming value – in this case, some fascinating looks into the frontiers of cognitive psychology, at least among the episodes I’ve heard. A repurposed podcast, like an awful lot of NPR programming, it is one of the shows that’s filling the spot “Prairie Home Companion” and “Live from Here” used to fill – and is actually pretty interesting, even with the occasional challenge it provides.
But it’s NPR – National “Progressive” Radio. The network exists largely to affirm the left’s prejudices about itself and society. An NPR bumper sticker or tote bag was an Urban Progressive Privilege virtue-signal long before those became a cultural obsession.
And so when fact peters out, narrative sets in. And there is just no way that narrative gets challenged by anyone on the program. It might be off-topic – you’d be surprised how easy it is to fill an hour of radio – but it seems more and more obvious that NPR isn’t in the “challeninging Big Left’s tropes” business.
And so with last weekend’s episode, on “Honor Societies” – which, the hypothesis goes, include much of the American South and West.
You can argue the premise. You can argue the findings. And by all means, do.
But around forty minutes in, the host and guest swerved into a deeply counterfactual “discussion of ‘Stand your Ground’ laws”. I put it in scare quotes because it was no such thing; it was an unchallenged recitation of Big Left’s narrative about self-defense reform.
I wrote then an email, attached below.
I’m Mitch Berg, from Saint Paul, MN. My day job involves a lot of applied cognitive psychology, so I’ve become a bit of a fan of HIdden Brain . I listen most Saturdays on KNOW in Saint Paul.
And I very much enjoyed your 3/29 episode, about “Honor Societies” – until about 40 minutes into it, where it swerved, hard, into misinformation.
Your host and guest spent a few moments discussing so-called “Stand your Ground” laws. Whether through ignorance or intent, that part of the show was highly legally erroneous at best, and misinformation at worst.
I’ll explain briefly :
- Self-defense laws vary by state – but in every case I’m aware of require that one meet the following criteria:
One must reasonably fear being killed, violently, then and there (where “reasonable” means “would convince a jury”).
- You can only use the force needed to end the threat in #1 above. When an attacker turns to run away, or falls over too injured to hurt you, the threat is over – you can’t hunt them down and finish them off.
- One must not be the aggressor; one can’t start a bar-room brawl (or an “honor” incident, for that matter) and pull a gun when someone breaks a beer bottle.
- One must make a reasonable effort to retreat (same definition of “reasonable” as above). In a “Castle Doctrine” state, this doesn’t apply in the home and, in some states, one’s business. In a so-called “Stand your Ground” state, it doesn’t apply outside the home, anyplace one has a legal right to be, while doing anything one has the legal right to do, provided you meet the three criteria above.
Your guest repeated the “misconception” – in many cases, it’s a propagandistic chanting point, but I’ll presume good motive, here – that “Stand your Ground” means, closely paraphrasing your guest, that “thinking you’re in danger gives you the right to kill someone, and call it self-defense”. In fact, even in situations where “Castle” or “Stand your Ground” laws apply, one must meet the other three criteria, subject to the details of state statute, to the satisfaction of the investigators, the prosecutors, and if worse comes to worst a jury.”Stand your ground” is not a legal grounds to claim the dog ate one’s moral homework to get away with murder.Beyond that? Your guest noted that “Stand your Ground” laws are most common in “Honor States” – implying “Honor”-based attitudes drive “Stand your Ground” laws.
But facts show that the correlation is far from accurate. 29 states, as diverse as Florida, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, have “stand your ground” statutes, and eight more – including Washington State, Oregon and Illinois – have it in case law. (And New York, Maine, Massachusetts and Minnesota are all “Castle” states, via statute or case law). So, rather than “Honor Society”, the valid correlation appears to be states with meaningfully strong and effective libertarian/conservative legislative majorities or minorities have such laws.
Fascinating as much of the episode was (I wound up driving around the city for an extra 40 minutes to hear the whole thing), this part of the episode veered sharply from fact into legal misinformation. And given this is a public radio production, even one I generally enjoy a lot, I’m given to suspect at least a tinge of classist narrative. The show was much the worse off for it.
While I realize the odds of this email being acknowledged, much less broadcast, are about as likely as my getting a hot third date with Anna Kendrick, I grant permission to use this response on the air, and will edit and put it in audio form if you prefer.
I’ll also point out that as part of my “side hustle” (see , below), I’ll be discussing this episode, and my attempt to contact your program about it, on my show, podcast and blog, in the coming week or two, including reaching out (likely pro forms and in the interest of fairness and clarity) to your show’s guest.
651 xxx xxxx
 I mentioned my “day job” – now I should tell you about my side hustle. I’m a talk show host and podcaster at a Twin Cities radio station, as well as a modestly prominent regional blogger. That follows a career in radio and journalism, including at least some time doing news at a publicly-supported station.
 My bona fides: For over two decades, I’ve been an activist and volunteer for the groups that wrote much of MInnesota’s current body of firearms law, which have passed with strong bipartisan majorities and been signed by governors of both parties. I produce the podcast for this group. As a MInnesota carry permit holder, I have had to repeatedly demonstrate knowledge of the law as part of statutory permit training. I’m not a lawyer, but I get most of my information from lawyers who specialize in this area, both in criminal defense and legislative terms. You want cites, I got cites. If there is a person anywhere in American alternative media who’s paid more dues on this issue, I say with all due humility I have yet to be introduced to them.
Public radio – NPR, as always, and increasingly MPR – rarely deigns to acknowledge the proles. Suffice to say, this post (and my next NARN show) will likely be this topic’s only sojourn outside the memory hole.