November 15, 2016

It's a Mean Old World

It's the title of a great blues song, but it is also true: It's a Mean Old World.

I'm a (rational) optimist but no Mr. Buckley, we have not "immanentized the eschaton;" man remains imperfect.

I cannot and will not defend a single hate crime. They are tragic for the victim, the perpetrator, and society at large. But I will point out statistics and beg my fellow men, women, and other genders to practice sound risk analysis.

An AP story in the Denver Post leads with a startling statistic:

Hate crimes against Muslims up by 67 percent in 2015, according to FBI

ATLANTA -- Reported hate crimes against Muslims rose in 2015 to their highest levels since those seen in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to FBI statistics released Monday.

Tragic. But can we look over the rest of the story? Yes, what we want will be near the bottom:
In 2015, there were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias compared to 154 incidents the prior year, an increase of 67 percent. The total is second only to the surge in hate crimes following the 9/11 terror attacks, when 481 incidents against Muslims were reported in 2001.

I want to tread lightly here. I am making a mathematical comparison and not a moral one. If 1000 people a day die with bee stings or drown in the bathtub, a single hate crime is still a tragedy, But the CDC says ten drown in non-boating accidents every day. So, you are far more than ten times likely to drown in the bathtub and die than have some ignorant buffoon call you a name.

And, because the numbers are so thankfully small, a 67% rise is pretty meaningless. Some reports are false, many are not reported. These stats are not accurate enough to draw trends from.

But I would draw one trend:

Overall, the number of reported hate crimes increased from 5,479 in 2014 to 5,850 last year, and religious-based hate crimes increased by 23 percent. Jews and Jewish institutions remain the most frequent target of religious-based hate crimes, representing 53 percent of all those reported. Crimes against Jews increased about 9 percent.

Huh? What was that? Fifty-three percent of religious based are against Jews? The "epidemic" of Islamophobia that warrants a breathless Denver Post headline is 4.3% of the reported hate crimes?

It does not seem like we are focused on the correct problems.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at November 15, 2016 3:20 PM

3srcs ombudsman here - Your "more than ten times likely to drown in the bathtub" comparison assumes that 100 percent of the population is Muslim. Ten drownings per day over the entire population may be more rare than one anti-Muslim hate crime per day in the U.S. directed toward an actual Muslim.

But going back in the other direction, is calling someone a name really a "hate crime?" What is that called, exactly... hating the First Amendment?

Posted by: johngalt at November 15, 2016 5:36 PM | What do you think? [1]