The “Butterfield effect” (sometimes called the ‘Butterfield fallacy” or the “Butterfield paradoz”) is named after former New York (NY) Times journalist Fox Butterfield. Butterfield wrote the Times article on November 8. 2004 that was titled “Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates.” The article argued that, because of low crime rates, the high inmate population should have been reduced. However, the paradox or fallacy not recognized by Butterfield is that those crime rates might have been low precisely because violent criminals were locked up.
The term “Butterfield effect” was coined and has been frequently used by Wall Street Journal “Best of the Web Today” writer James Taranto.
Wikipedia: Fox Butterfield
Fox Butterfield (born 1939 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania) is an American journalist who spent much of his 30-year career reporting for The New York Times.
Butterfield served as Times bureau chief in Saigon, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Boston and as a correspondent in Washington and New York. During that time, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize as a member of The New York Times team that published the Pentagon Papers, the Pentagon’s secret history of the Vietnam War, in 1971.
Butterfield is the eponym for “The Butterfield Effect”, used to refer to a person who “makes a statement that is ludicrous on its face, yet it reveals what the speaker truly believes”, especially if expressing a supposed paradox when a causal relationship should be obvious. The particular article that sparked this was titled “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime” by Butterfield in the New York Times on November 8, 2004.
Wikipedia: James Taranto
James Taranto (born January 6, 1966) is an American journalist and columnist for The Wall Street Journal, editor of its former online editorial page OpinionJournal.com and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. He is best known for his daily online column Best of the Web Today. The column typically includes political, social, and media commentary in the form of conventional opinion writing as well as wordplay and other recurring themes on news stories crowdsourced from readers.
Best of the Web Today
. “Fox Butterfield, Is That You?” – Named after Fox Butterfield, journalistic bias that sees contradiction where others might see correlation, or interprets causal relationships as “paradoxes.” Example, “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime.”
Jewish World Review
Dec. 2, 2004 / 19 Kislev, 5765
The Butterfield Effect
It’s called “The Butterfield Effect.”
It’s what happens when someone on the Left makes a statement that is laughably ludicrous on its face, yet it reveals what the speaker truly believes — no matter how dumb.
“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”
March 21, 2006
The Butterfield Paradox
Jeremy @ 10:38:37 AM
Fox Butterfield is the now-retired Crime Reporter for the New York Times; and unfortunately the subject of a major joke at his expense.
What is the joke you say?
Well, it is something that James Taranto of Best of the Web Today calls “The Butterfield Effect”
To put simply, Fox Butterfield has a concern that there is an increasing population of criminal inmates in prison, despite a reduced crime rate.
So now, whenever there is a prominent headline questioning the growing prison population in a lower crime environment, Taranto (amoung others) calls it “The Butterfield Effect”.
ScienceBlogs—The Cheerful Oncologist
An Example of the Butterfield Paradox?
Posted by Craig Hildreth on November 28, 2007
OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto coined the eponymous term “The Butterfield Effect” after New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, who could not understand why the number of inmates in federal and state prisons was increasing when crime rates were falling. Taranto concluded that perhaps Butterfield inadvertantly reversed the cause with the effect, viz., the correct way to interpret the phenomenom in question is that incarcerating more criminals (thus increasing the Sing-Sing population) reduces the crime rate by taking rapscallions out of circulation.
The Wall Street Journal
Dr. Butterfield, I Presume
His journalistic fallacy finds a worthy heir.
By JAMES TARANTO
January 7, 2013
In that last story, Butterfield made reference to “the paradox of a falling crime rate but a rising prison population.” The Butterfield Fallacy consists in misidentifying as a paradox what is in fact a simple cause-and-effect relationship: “Of course, the huge increase in the number of inmates has helped lower the crime rate by incapacitating more criminals behind bars.” That quote is from Butterfield’s own 1997 story, but it is a to-be-sure throwaway line, which he seems to have completely forgotten by 2004.
Butterfield Effect Still in Full Effect at NYT: ‘Crime Is at Its Lowest Level…Even While Overstuffed Prisons Cripple’ Budgets
By Clay Waters | October 31, 2014 | 12:23 AM EDT
Butterfield himself undauntedly repeated his “paradox” several times in Times stories, including a February 2004 story that carried a similarly naïve headline, “Despite Drop In Crime, An Increase In Inmates.” In it Butterfield referred to “the paradox of a falling crime rate but a rising prison population.”
Several examples of the “Butterfield Effect” by various Times reporters and opinion writers have appeared since, including another defensive March 2008 editorial which at least nodded to the tough-on-crime argument, unlike the paper’s most recent editorial mocked by Taranto: ...
New York City • Media/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Tuesday, June 30, 2015 • Permalink