The New York Times is rather desperately still trying to make the idea of a recent, election-related surge in hate crimes stick, even after so many infamous “hate crimes” have been exposed as hoaxes in the Trump era. The latest, from reporter Audra D.S. Burch, made the front of the National section of Monday’s Times, covering three-fourths of the page: “Lawmakers Seek Harsher Hate Crime Penalties.”
The anonymous email arrived on a Saturday afternoon, its message jumbled, misspelled, in capital letters. It was not addressed to a specific individual at the Birmingham Islamic Society. Rather, its hateful message was directed at African-Americans, Mexicans and Muslims in general.
Three words stood out: “run or die.”
About 10 miles away, the telephones on the campus of the Levite Jewish Community Center rang four times in six weeks with bomb threats, the third call resulting in the evacuation of children just after morning prayer at the day school.
A wave of hateful episodes and attacks have been reported across the country in recent months: threatening calls and notes, physical assaults and confrontations, and even deadly shootings. The response in at least a half-dozen states has been anti-hate legislation aimed at beefing up penalties and expanding definitions of what constitutes hate.
Burch dipped into the Obama era to make her point:
A patchwork of state and federal laws, along with underreporting, means it is unclear how often hate crimes occur -- a portrait advocates say is needed to help shape public policy and heighten awareness.
The F.B.I.’s latest report, released in November, showed a 6.7 percent rise in reported hate crimes in 2015. But the federal tracking system relies on police departments to voluntarily submit such crimes to the F.B.I. And not all opt to report.
In 2015, the vast majority of law enforcement agencies -- about 88 percent -- reported that no hate crimes happened in their jurisdiction.
Even without a comprehensive federal number, chilling headlines -- along with preliminary data available from academic studies and advocacy groups -- indicate that hate crimes are climbing again this year.
So the Times is relying on headlines from the liberal press (all too eager to find evidence of increasing hate trailing the much-loathed new president) along with data from left-wing activists to make its journalistic case? Not exactly foolproof, much less convincing.
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A study of law enforcement and government agencies’ data in 25 metropolitan areas showed the number of hate crimes jumped about 6 percent from 2015 to 2016. Hate crimes increased to 1,998 from 1,886, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
“What you are seeing is this widespread feeling of fear and disenfranchisement,” said Brian Levin, the director of the center and a criminal justice professor. “Social, political and demographic changes are becoming so rapid and unpredictable that people are reverting back to a kind of tribalism and acting out with hate crimes or acts of uncivilized bigotry.”
Burch avoided mentioning Trump in her article, but the implication of this sentence is clear enough:
Many advocates point to the caustic presidential election as a culprit for the rash of hate unfolding since November.
More than 130 hoax bomb threats have been called into Jewish community centers across the country. Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized, headstones toppled and broken. Mosques were set on fire in Texas, Washington and Florida, two burned to the ground.
Hate fueled at least three killings. In Kansas, where a hate crime bill that would increase penalties is unlikely to pass, an Indian man was killed and another wounded in February by a gunman who witnesses said screamed “get out of my country” before squeezing the trigger.
The Times doesn’t bother to question the possible disparity between perceived threats from “panicked constituents,” perhaps acting on over-heightened sensitivity, and actual crimes.
Advocacy groups, swamped with phone calls from panicked constituents, have collected their own data -- and all show a spike.
An Anti-Defamation League annual audit, released last week, showed that anti-Semitic episodes increased by more than one-third last year and jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.
Similarly, a new report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations details a more than 50 percent increase in anti-Muslim episodes in 2016 over 2015. For the first quarter of 2017, it has recorded 35 episodes targeting mosques, compared with 19 for the same period in 2016.
And since November, the Southern Poverty Law Center has collected nearly 1,800 bias incident reports (which includes hate crimes), a compilation that includes self-reported, police and news media reports, but also accounts for hoaxes.
With the imprecision of the tallies, hate crime experts suggest that the reported numbers do not fully capture the problem.
Burch avoids the corollary -- with the imprecision of the tallies, how can you trust the reported numbers at all? Do activist groups not have incentive to dig harder for “hate crime” in an era where they perceive a bigot in the White House –witness the large number of hate crime hoaxes.
“Hate crimes are grotesquely underreported,” said Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “We don’t know the state of hate because the data is so horrific.”
The fundraising-obsessed hysterics at Southern Poverty Law Center has stooped so low as to put brave Muslim apostate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who still relies on security against death threats from Islamic radicals, on its blacklist of hatemongers. Yet the NYT considers them a reliable source of information on hate crimes?