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narrative control
Crime Denialism

Anyone who has been dispassionately following crime trends over the past couple of years will have noticed a curious pattern: Despite clear evidence that homicide rates surged in the last twelve months, in what is quite likely the biggest single-year spike in a generation, many journalists and number crunchers seem determined to communicate to their readers that there is nothing unusual going on—that crime rates remain at historic lows, and that any talk of “rising crime” is demagoguery intended to smear racial justice protestors and torpedo criminal justice reform.

Over at the American Enterprise Institute, Sean Kennedy highlights a particularly egregious example this phenomenon. This time, the offender is Politifact, the supposedly-neutral fact-checker that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for “separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters”:

Politifact rated Trump’s June 7, 2016, claim that “crime is rising” to be “Pants on Fire”  – their lowest rating.

But there is a big problem with their conclusion: Politifact just stopped looking at data in 2014. […]

We decided to take a look at local agency data for 2016 and compare it to 2014 and 2015 data. In short, overall violent crime in most major US cities, especially homicide, is up substantially since 2014.

To be sure, violent crime rates are low by historical standards, despite the latest dramatic increase, and the media should not exaggerate the situation or needlessly drum up hysteria. But neither should it massage data to play down what is a genuinely alarming trend. Much of the mainstream media coverage (and administration pronouncements) surrounding this issue seems unmistakably designed to spin a narrative, rather than report the facts.

As Kennedy notes, the public is not convinced. Americans are more concerned about crime and violence than they have been in 15 years. Just as with radical Islamic terrorism, efforts by authority figures to tamp down fears by denying they are legitimate will almost certainly backfire.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Leftist operatives with bylines.

  • Blackbeard

    There’s a presidential campaign on, in case you didn’t notice, so naturally bad news needs to be hidden or minimized. Should Trump win, against expectations, then will be the time to trot out all the previously hidden bad news and blame it on him.

    • Angel Martin

      Trump wins the election !

      …And in other news, a sudden epidemic of homelessness…

  • Anthony

    Here’s additional context to narrative perhaps:

    A conversation about the rise and fall of violence (crime) in America with criminal justice scholar Barry Latzer: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/the-cultural-roots-of-crime/487583/ (David Frum interview)

  • Pete

    Well. this is why it is correctly said that liberalism is a mental disorder. It’s a moral disorder also.

  • Frank Natoli

    The very people worst effected by violent crime, who disproportionately commit violent crime, are the people who insist on the politicians, laws and police department polices most likely to allow violent crime to not just occur but never be brought to justice.
    They literally have no one but themselves to blame.

    • JR

      Just because democracy works to achieve best results for some people doesn’t mean that sometimes democracy doesn’t produce highly undesirable results. See Rwandan genocide.

    • f1b0nacc1

      The phrase that you are looking for here is ‘tribalism’

  • Angel Martin

    given everything else the media distorts, why quit now ?

  • FriendlyGoat

    Clear-eyed people don’t elect or reject national political candidates based on either real crime rates or hyped crime rates. There are probably fifty other issues more directly related to the powers actually wielded by either a President or a Congress. Any emphasis on crime rates in the national-level campaign is just noise.

    • Jim__L

      That’s a really weird point of view, considering the weight that issue has carried in presidential elections throughout the 20th century. See especially the debates over Earl Warren.

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