The ever-opportunistic leftist media has decided that a statement by Trump administration Energy Secretary Rick Perry early Thursday asserting that the use of "fossil fuels to push power ... into ... villages in Africa" which currently have no access to the power grid would save lives and reduce "sexual assault" is controversial.
As Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner observed later that morning, the overreaction to Perry's awkward but nonetheless true statement perfectly illustrates "why Americans don't trust journalists."
Here is Perry's full statement, made during "an energy policy discussion about energy policy with 'Meet the Press' host Chuck Todd and Axios CEO and founder Jim VandeHei":
Many readers here who remember General Electric's push to "light the night to reduce crime" in the 1960s and 1970s surely wonder how Perry's statement could possibly be problematic.
So does The Examiner's Carney, who demonstrated how sensationalized tweeting by reporters clearly eager to go after Perry ginned up a bogus controversy (bolds are mine throughout this post):
The Hill's stupid coverage of Rick Perry's sexual assault comment is why nobody trusts the media
A Trump administration official makes a claim, poorly articulated, and a reporter wryly and snarkily reduces that argument to a stupid and overly simplistic format. The Hill — maybe the worst offender in this regard — tweets out that reductive and misleading formulation, and it goes viral.
Here is the related tweet:
Several other media members piled on, including panel discussion host Axios: "At an Axios/NBC event today, Rick Perry indicated he thinks using fossil fuels can help prevent sexual assault."
The Hill's coverage carried was headlined, "Perry links fossil fuel development to preventing sexual assault." There is no contextual reference in the headline to getting electricity to areas in Africa which don't have it.
Here is some of Carney's critique (link is in original):
Do you believe street lights can reduce crime? If you don't think so, do you think that's at least a plausible idea? (Here's a study from Chicago suggesting that outages of street lights causes crimes.)
Do you think electrification is an important part of economic development in Africa?
Do you think fossil fuels provide more reliable electricity than other sorts of energy?
If you answered yes to the above questions, then you think fossil fuels can help reduce sexual assault.
(These tweets and headlines) all omit the middle step that Perry, even in his inarticulate answer, included: lighting.
Naturally, the Washington Post's Wonkblog came out with an item questioning whether street lighting really reduces crime. But Christopher Ingraham's critique doesn't directly relate to Perry and Africa. All of the studies Ingraham cited as supposedly inconclusive looked at the impact of increased lighting in areas which have had electricity for over a century. He did not address how areas progressing from having no electricity whatsoever to being on the grid have fared in regard to safety.
In an update, Carney at the Examiner noted that UN Women, which describes itself as "the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women," is on Perry's side, as is Oxfam, which recently published a paper in Africa asserting that "Access to modern fuels is expected to help prevent the cuts, falls, bites, and episodes of sexual harassment and assault that women and girls might otherwise sustain while collecting fuelwood."
Blogger Ace of Spades happens to have read up on why two of Europe's major cities went all-in when electricity become available there (Warning: Full post is NSFW; the excerpt below is safe):
... The entire point of city lighting was to reduce crime. There was literally no other reason for the illumination of cities. Stuff like "It lets people shop until later in the day" was not the reason for city lighting -- it was only a side-effect of it. When later cities would propose night illumination, keeping the markets open later might be mentioned as another benefit, but the first two cities (London and Paris -- I forget the order) to pay the big costs for city lighting did it as a crime-prevention measure.
... People generally were not even allowed out in the streets at night. There were strict curfews. Often, only doctors attending to a patient in need of immediate help were permitted out at night, or those whose jobs had to be performed at night (like the nightsoil gatherers). Any others would be arrested.
... When London and Paris began putting in gas lines to feed gas-burning streetlights, this massive expense was undertaken solely for the purpose of fighting crime.
So yeah -- the media is really, really smart, and knows everything about all things, and you should definitely join in in their gleefully ignorant mockery of someone who's actually just gotten back from a part of the world without electric lighting, relaying the complaints of the locals about the hazards of a world with no reliable, cheap light at night.
"Gleefully ignorant mockery" is indeed why so many of us despise the establishment press — and, as Carney observed, why we don't trust them.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.