The Left’s Selective Use of Statistics

Jeremy Cooper, American Renaissance, February 1, 2017

The media continue to lose credibility.

StopKilling

Liberals claim to be part of the “reality-based community,” but their prejudices are never more obvious than when they are giving us “just the facts.” Depending on whether it helps their preferred narrative, they effortlessly switch back and forth between using statistical analysis and relying on individual anecdotes, no matter how unpersuasive. More and more Americans are catching on to how the game works.

Take the Associated Press’s “fact-check” last summer of then-candidate Trump’s statement that “crime is out of control.” It acknowledged that crime has been rising the last few years, but claimed that “crime stats don’t back Trump’s dire view” because the numbers are down from 20 or 30 years ago. Vox, the liberal “explainer” website, similarly ran this snarky headline “Trump: crime and gangs are ruining the country. Actual statistics: that’s not remotely true.”

But why should the reference point be the all-time high crime rates of the 1980s and 90s? Why can’t “crime is out of control” mean that we have a relatively high crime rate compared to the 1950s or the 1920s? Or, why can’t it mean that we have a great deal of violence compared to other developed countries? In fact, that’s exactly the kind of argument liberals make when they clamor for gun control. Take this 2015 tweet from President Obama:

So if you want to take away our guns, compare the US murder rate to other developed countries, which makes America look violent. But if you say we should get tough on criminals you are an alarmist, because there is now less crime than in the 1980s and ’90s—when records were set. The agenda sets the frame of reference.

The Left cites no statistics at all when the topic is police shootings. Vox thinks that listing a bunch of names of black men killed by the police is an argument. Its list, like everyone else’s, includes Michael Brown.

CNN is fond of bringing black women on TV to discuss how they have to have “the talk” with their sons about why they need to worry about being shot by racist police officers. Hillary Clinton endorsed this stupidity during the 2016 presidential election. “The talk” used to mean explaining the facts of life to children. Now, it is about ubiquitous police violence, and proves how heroic blacks are in the face of “racism.”

Not even the most biased fact-checker could make these fears look reasonable, so the fact-checkers don’t fact-check. According to a Washington Post database, 258 blacks were killed by police in 2015. Of those, 183 were classified as an “an attack in progress,” including criminals shooting at the police. Of the 63 killings that were classified as “no attack in progress,” in a number of cases the person had a weapon, such as a knife.

You would never know that a policeman is 19 times more likely to be killed by a black man that he is to shoot an unarmed black. Police shoot at most a few dozen unarmed blacks in a year, and almost all such killings are found to be justified. Meanwhile, blacks kill about 6,000 people of all races every year, but when John Derbyshire famously suggested that non-blacks should have “the talk” with their children about black violence, he was fired from National Review and widely denounced as a racist.

The media constantly worry about “hate.” After Donald Trump’s victory, the SPLC reported a rise in “hate incidents,” but its methodology consisted of gathering any claim from anyone, with no verification of any kind. These spurious findings were breathlessly reported by the Washington Post, The New Yorker, CBS, Newsweek, The Guardian, and many other mainstream publications and TV networks. The SPLC claimed that Mr. Trump’s election lead to this increase in “hate crimes,” but many of the most lurid and widely reported Trump-associated “hate crimes” have been found to be hoaxes.

I used the database on police shooting from the Washington Post along with FBI crime statistics to make a chart showing the total number of murders, police shootings, and murders counted as hate crimes in 2015. To bias results towards the liberal viewpoint, I included all police shootings, even the vast majority in which police shot someone who was threatening an officer or someone else. The total number of hate crime murders was 18, and I included all of them, regardless of the race of the perpetrator or victim.

Victims

It is clear that police shootings and hate crime murders make up a tiny portion of the violence in our society. Liberals are free to argue that we worry too much about crime, but it is ludicrous to claim that non-whites live in constant fear of police shootings and hate crimes.

Of course, while it uses statistics selectively, the Left is consistent in one way. Violence is a serious problem only if it supports the narrative of a racist society oppressing minorities. That is why the only stories that matter are those rare cases of a white person spraying racist graffiti or an officer shooting an unarmed black—even if blacks kill 5,000 blacks and 1,000 non-blacks every year. Even in the individual cases the Left promotes, facts are no more relevant than statistics. George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury and Officer Darren Wilson was cleared by Eric Holder’s Justice Department, but Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are still martyrs.

In the aftermath of the Trump election, the media have sometimes conceded that they got a few things wrong, but on the issue of race and violence they continue to fluctuate between cold-eyed empiricism and credulous sentimentalism depending on who the victims and perpetrators are.

The rise of the internet and alternative media have broken the Left’s control of information, and in response, major newspapers have shut down their comment sections and European countries crack down on what they call “hate speech.” Thanks to the First Amendment and Mr. Trump’s promise to appoint conservative justices, any similar campaign in the United States is at least decades away. In the meantime, alternative media continue to expose media deceptions.

Donald Trump has been a big help by casting doubt on what the press says, especially about race. If the media want to know why they have so little credibility they should start by examining what they tell us about race and violence.

Whatever they do, their distorted picture of reality is crumbling before our very eyes.

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Jeremy Cooper
Jeremy Cooper writes on media and international affairs. Follow him @NeoNeoLiberal.
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