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Let's look at the fake news 'surge' in hate crimes

Let's look at the fake news 'surge' in hate crimes

April 15th, 2019 by Larry Elder / Creators Syndicate in Opinion Columns

According to the FBI, "hate crimes" are on the rise. The agency reported a 17% increase in such crimes in 2017 compared to 2016. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., recently said: "There has been an increase in hate crimes. There has been an increase in very negative rhetoric at groups." Notwithstanding the crime hoax perpetrated by actor Jussie Smollett, CNN recently reported, "Hate crime allegations show no signs of stopping, with plenty of examples reported in recent months."

But wait. The FBI, in its news release announcing the 2017 Hate Crime Statistics report detailing the "rise" in hate crimes, said, "Although the numbers increased last year, so did the number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate crime data—with approximately 1,000 additional agencies contributing information." Coincidentally, the number of agencies that reported at least one hate crime within their jurisdiction also increased in 2017—by 15%. The FBI described its efforts "to encourage reporting of hate crime statistics." The FBI release said: "Next year, FBI personnel will provide training for law enforcement officers on how to identify bias-motivated incidents and report that data to the FBI's UCR (Uniform Crime Reports) Program. Additionally, the Department of Justice launched a new hate crimes webpage, which has information for law enforcement on reporting incidents."

Even PolitiFact, in its examination on whether there is a rise in hate crimes, said "the full picture is more nuanced," citing a hate crime researcher who "said that some of the increase, especially in cities with very low numbers before, was the result of the more rigorous reporting."

Kentucky State University professor Wilfred Reilly, author of a new book called "Hate Crime Hoax," goes further than mere skepticism about an alleged rise in hate crimes. He says that most of the headline-grabbing "hate crime" stories were fake and calls the 17% uptick an "aberration" due to this increase in agencies' reporting. "Almost all of that surge is due to the simple fact that in 2017 the number of police departments reporting hate crimes to the FBI increased by 1,000," says Reilly, according to a Detroit News opinion piece. "The surge narrative," he insists, "is pretty dishonest." The Jussie Smollett case represents just one recent hate crime hoax. For his book, Reilly examined 409 fake hate crimes that garnered media attention in the last five years. "In major cases, almost all of them have been hoaxes,' he says. 'The number of hate crime hoaxes actually exceeds the number of convictions. The majority of these high-profile incidents never happened.'"

If Reilly is right, the rampant news reports of the "rise" in hate crimes is a stunning example of what President Donald Trump calls "fake news."

Many media outlets, in 2013, reported on something known as the "knockout game," where unsuspecting whites walking on the street were approached, often from behind, and punched in the head—reportedly by young black men. The goal, as the name suggests, was to secure a "knockout" of the whites with a single fist blow.

Colin Flaherty, "White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore It," called the game a national trend. He described "knockouts" in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, St. Louis, Birmingham, Chicago, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Denver, Minneapolis, Georgetown, New York City, Greensboro, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Miami, Cleveland, Nashville, Peoria, Seattle, Saratoga Springs, Atlanta and other places.

But much of mainstream media dismissed the idea as "fake news," attributing the notion of a rise in "knockout games" to the ravings of conservative media driven by anecdote.

The New York Times, in an article entitled "Police Unsure if Random Attacks Are Rising Threat or Urban Myth," expressed its cynicism about any trend or rise in such black-against-white "knockouts." The Atlantic sniffed, "It's a two-decade-old rarity that suddenly became a media sensation." NPR was equally dismissive. "Framing it as a game gives it a hook for the news media," it said in November 2013, "but we already have a name for this type of thing: It's a random street assault, a terrible phenomenon, but not a new one. Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian called knockout game stories "part of the ongoing demonization of black teenagers." Abcarian ID'd the real villains behind what she considered a phony narrative: "conservative voices who stoke racial animus for fun and ratings."

As to the "knockout game," much of the media was skeptical. As to the so-called surge in hate crimes in the era of Donald Trump, where is the mainstream media cynicism when you need it?

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