Issues ››› Crime
  • National Review's Rich Lowry Advocates For Increased Incarceration In "Dangerous" Black Neighborhoods

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    National Review editor Rich Lowry advocated for mass incarceration and "disproportionate police attention" toward "dangerous, overwhelmingly black neighborhoods" in response to a spike in murders in Baltimore.

    In an opinion piece for Politico Magazine headlined "#SomeBlackLivesDontMatter," Lowry called the "Black Lives Matter" slogan used by protesters "a lie," citing the lack of attention paid to a spike in murders in Baltimore in the last month. Lowry claimed: "Let's be honest: Some black lives really don't matter. If you are a young black man shot in the head by another young black man, almost certainly no one will know your name."

    As a solution to the increase in shootings in Baltimore, Lowry recommended more policing and more incarceration (emphasis added):

    The Baltimore Sun ran a headline (since changed) that had the air of a conundrum, although it isn't very puzzling, "With arrests down in Baltimore, mayor 'examining' increase in killings." According to the paper, arrests have dropped by about half in May. The predictable result is that violent crime is spiking.

    The implication is clear: More people need to be arrested in Baltimore, not fewer. And more need to be jailed. If black lives truly matter, Baltimore needs more and better policing and incarceration to impose order on communities where a lawless few spread mayhem and death.

    Lowry also called for "disproportionate police attention, even if that attention is easily mischaracterized as racism," in "dangerous, overwhelmingly black neighborhoods." 

    Lowry used the comments of "anonymous police officers" as evidence that the city of Baltimore does not support its law enforcement personnel:

    Meanwhile, anonymous police officers say they feel that city authorities don't have their back, understandably enough when city leaders are loath to call rioters "thugs" and Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby rushed to announce charges against the Freddy Gray officers to placate the mob.

    A recent CNN article about the crime increase reported that while officers have "lost faith in the chain of command," they have also "coordinated a work slowdown by not talking to community members and showing less initiative" --  context Lowry failed to include.

    Lowry finally claimed that Rudy Giuliani "saved more black lives than any of his critics ever will... by getting the police to establish and maintain basic order in New York's neighborhoods and defending the cops when the likes of Al Sharpton maligned them." A 2014 report by the New York Civil Liberties Union found the stop-and-frisk policy put in place by Giuliani was ineffective at reducing violent crime. 

    Calls for the black community and its leaders to focus more on "black on black crime" is a move frequently made by right-wing media figures as a response to the calls for criminal justice reform that have grown louder since the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO police made national headlines. Last year, Slate's Jamelle Bouie explained why this argument is so flawed:

    First, a little context: In the last 20 years, we've seen a sharp drop in homicide among blacks, from a victimization rate of 39.4 homicides per 100,000 in 1991 to a rate of roughly 20 homicides per 100,000 in 2008. Likewise, the offending rate for blacks has dropped from 51.1 offenders per 100,000 in 1991 to 24.7 offenders per 100,000 in 2008. This decrease has continued through the 2010s and is part of a larger--and largely unexplained--national drop in crime.

    But while black neighborhoods are far less dangerous than they were a generation ago, black people are still concerned with victimization. Take this 2014 report from the Sentencing Project on perceptions of crime and support for punitive policies. Using data from the University of Albany's Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, the Sentencing Project found that--as a group--racial minorities are more likely than whites to report an "area within a mile of their home where they would be afraid to walk alone at night" (41 percent to 30 percent) and more likely to say there are certain neighborhoods they avoid, which they otherwise might want to go to (54 percent to 46 percent). And among black Americans in particular--circa 2003--"43 percent said they were 'very satisfied' about their physical safety in contrast to 59 percent of Hispanics, and 63 percent of whites."


    Beyond the data, there's the anecdotal evidence. And in short, it's easy to find examples of marches and demonstrations against crime. In the last four years, blacks have held community protests against violence in Chicago; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Pittsburgh; Saginaw, Michigan; and Gary, Indiana. Indeed, there's a whole catalog of movies, albums, and sermons from a generation of directors, musicians, and religious leaders, each urging peace and order. You may not have noticed black protests against crime and violence, but that doesn't mean they haven't happened. Black Americans--like everyone else--are concerned with what happens in their communities, and at a certain point, pundits who insist otherwise are either lying or willfully ignorant.

  • Conservative Media Attack Sexual Assault Protester In Wake Of Alarming New Report On Prevalence Of Campus Sexual Assault

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Carry That Weight

    Conservative media are lashing out at a Columbia University student who protested her school's handling of her sexual assault allegation, distracting from yet another report confirming the widespread prevalence of the crime on college campuses.

    In 2014, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz made headlines for her senior art thesis, a performance piece titled "Carry That Weight," in which she pledged to carry a mattress whenever she was on campus in protest of her college's handling of her own sexual assault complaint against a fellow student. On May 19, Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia, crossing the stage while carrying her mattress with the aide of four friends.

    In a May 20 post for National Review Online, Ian Tuttle attacked Sulkowicz, accusing her of having lied about being assaulted. Pointing to a letter in which Sulkowicz expressed disappointment that her personal social media pages had been sorted through in order to find evidence to cast doubts on her claims, Tuttle wrote that all victims of sexual assault should "by definition" have to "submit one's own private life to scrutiny" if they want their accusations taken seriously and reported. Another post that same day by the Daily Caller's Jim Treacher similarly attacked Sulkowciz, promoting a "@FakeRape" Twitter campaign against her to  make the debunked claim that false rape accusation are common. 

    Right-wing media's attacks on Sulkowicz come as growing evidence suggests that sexual assault is occurring at epidemic levels on college campuses.

    A new study released May 20 in the Journal of Adolescent Health "surveyed 480 female freshmen at a university in upstate New York in 2010" and found that about one in five were the victims of sexual assault or attempted rape while in college, and the majority experienced it during their first three months on campus. As the Huffington Post reported, "The results confirm other research that has found about 20 percent of women are victimized by sexual assault in college. A Centers for Disease Control report last year showed 19.3 percent of women are victims of rape or attempted rape during their lifetimes." Quoting researcher Kate Carey, a professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University's School of Public Health, the article noted that this research is further evidence that "rape is a common experience among college-aged women" and there is an urgent need to address it. Carey explained that "if a similar number of young people were breaking their legs in their first year of school, 'we would expect that the community would do something to enhance the safety of the environment.'"

    Conservative media have consistently worked to discredit research showing that one in five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men. Their efforts to dismiss the epidemic of campus sexual assault further stigmatizes a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 68% of the time.

  • Impact Of Quality Local Reporting Highlights How Conservative Media Fail Sexual Assault Victims

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL CALVERT

    Women Deserve Better

    A local reporter's five-year investigation into rape kit backlogs in Ohio helped inspire state-level reforms and identify hundreds of serial rapists, evidencing how good reporting can bring about positive change to states' handling of sexual assault -- a stark contrast to conservative media's dismissal of sexual assault that may actually discourage victims from coming forward.

    Reporter Rachel Dissell discovered a decades-long backlog of untested rape kits while researching sexual assaults for Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. As she told NPR's Fresh Air, the Cleveland police possessed at least 4,000 untested kits, which contain DNA evidence that could be used to identify and prosecute perpetrators. While many factors contribute to why the kits were left untested, Dissell explained that often times the perceived credibility of the victim played a role: "A lot of the victims whose cases didn't go forward and whose kits weren't tested were minorities. They were drug addicts. They had mental health issues -- all kinds of things like that that just really made them the most vulnerable and the least likely to be believed."

    Dissell and The Plain Dealer's reporting helped inspire a groundbreaking Ohio law mandating that old and new rape kits be tested, leading to the reopening of nearly 2,000 rape investigations and the identification of over 200 serial rapists or potential serial rapists.

    The positive impact of such reporting shines a light on conservative media's comparatively dangerous coverage of sexual assault, which actively reinforces the stigma surrounding sexual assault victims.

    Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to discredit research showing that one-in-five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men.

    Glenn Beck's TheBlazeTV argued that the sexual assault epidemic is "completely untrue" by acting out sexual positions and labelling each skit "RAPE!", while George Will asserted that victim has become a "coveted status." Pundits from Rush Limbaugh to The Weekly Standard's Harvey Mansfield have blamed women for the epidemic, while other conservative talking heads stoke fears about a supposed increase in false reports of sexual assault. Others have explicitly blamed victims for their sexual assault, describing sexual assault survivors as "bad girls...who like to be naughty" and lecturing women about the burden of personal responsibility, saying, "It is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."

    Such disparaging coverage not only stigmatizes victims, it can actually discourage victims from reporting the crimes and their attackers in the first place. And sexual assault is already a vastly underreported crime -- estimates show that sexual assault goes unreported nearly 70 percent of the time.

    In her interview with Fresh Air, Dissell described how discrediting sexual assault victims helps their rapists go unpunished: "They knew if they chose the most vulnerable women - the least likely to be believed - that they would never get caught. And I just don't know how that happened. How did we let them outsmart us for all that time?"

  • A Terror Threat Fox News Won't Cover

    Silence From Network After Christian Minister Arrested For Threatening To Kill Muslims

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA MARSHALL

    Fox News was completely silent after a Christian minister pleaded guilty to plotting to attack American Muslims in New York, continuing a habit of downplaying threats to Muslims and ignoring extremist acts with no ties to Islam.

    Robert Doggart, an ordained Christian minister and former Tennessee congressional candidate, was arrested and pled guilty to attempting to recruit "expert Gunners" to aid him in a plot to kill residents of Islamberg, NY, a largely Muslim community at the foot of the Catskill Mountains. RawStory reported on the details of Doggart's plan:

    He met with the informant in Nashville and discussed using Molotov cocktails to firebomb buildings in the Muslim community, which was founded by African-Americans who had converted to Islam from Christianity.

    Doggart told the informant during a recorded conversation that he planned to bring 500 rounds of ammunition for the M4 rifle and a pistol with three extra magazines - as well as a machete.

    "If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds," he told the informant.

    He said during a recorded call that the "battalion" he commanded hoped the raid on Hancock, which is also known as Islamberg, would be a "flash point" in a possible revolution.

    "So sick and tired of this crap that the government is pulling that we go take a small military installation or we go burn down a Muslim church or something like that," Doggart said.

    The Daily Beast pointed out that the media has remained largely silent on the story, wondering at the absence of "the Fox News panic" and noting:

    It goes without saying that if Doggart had been Muslim and had planned to kill Christians in America, we would have seen wall-to-wall media coverage. Fox News would have cut into its already-daily coverage of demonizing Muslims to do a special report really demonizing Muslims.

    And in fact, Fox News has made no mention of the story at all. What's more, the network does have a history of downplaying threats against Muslims while hyping any Islamic connection to terror it can find. After the Boston Marathon bombings, the network ridiculed former Attorney General Eric Holder for warning against retaliatory acts of violence, ignoring years of threats against Muslims. In 2010, Fox host Brian Kilmeade claimed that "all terrorists are Muslims." 

    And Fox has reacted to terror attacks committed by right-wing extremists with a yawn. After the Department of Homeland Security released a report on right-wing terror in 2015, Fox News' Eric Bolling claimed "you can't name" instances of right-wing terrorism "in the last seven years," ignoring dozens of examples.

    Right-wing media have also been known to fearmonger about often-unsubstantiated Islamic terror threats. Outlets like Fox News, The Drudge Report, and The New York Post hyped an unfounded "jihadist" plot against Fort Jackson in South Carolina. And Sean Hannity and other conservatives promoted an unsubstantiated story of an Islamic State (ISIS) training camp on the U.S.-Mexico border around the same time Doggart was arrested.

    Islamberg, the town Doggart was planning to attack, has also garnered Fox News' attention in the past -- a 2007 article wondered if it was a "terror compound" and a report by Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed the town was home to a group engaging in "guerilla war training." 

  • "Disarming The Force": Fox's Fact Free Response To Obama's Restriction Of Military Equipment To Law Enforcement


    Fox News falsely asserted that President Obama was disarming police officers by issuing an executive order limiting the transfer of certain military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. But the order merely limits local law enforcement's access to certain types of military equipment by prohibiting their acquisition from the federal government.