Back in November I published a long column discussing the results of the 2018 midterm elections and then a couple of weeks ago I also released a private letter I’d distributed to prominent figures in the Alt-Right movement back in 2017, suggesting some of the ways that their public positions had severely damaged their credibility and injured their nascent political movement.
Immigration and the closely-related issue of Hispanic crime were important elements of both my pieces, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that I provoked such an enormous outpouring of (mostly hostile) responses, now totaling well over 3,000 comments and nearly 500,000(!) words. The bitter immigration dispute between President Donald Trump and the new Democratic Congress has already produced the longest federal government shut-down in American history, so this controversial subject has certainly reached the absolute center of the American political stage.
Unfortunately, I believe that there are few other topics in which such severe misinformation, often of an emotionally charged nature, has so totally contaminated the political debate, sometimes on both sides of the controversy. Given this situation, I’ve decided to provide a general summary of what I see as some of the crucial facts together with my analysis.
The dismal state of factual misinformation widespread within the anti-immigration community is best illustrated by a single striking example. Among such individuals, no piece of American legislation is as fiercely condemned as the 1965 Hart-Celler Immigration Act, routinely denounced as the law that destroyed our country by opening the floodgates to the influx of countless millions of non-white Third Worlders, thereby dooming America to eventual white-minority status. These critics often single out Ted Kennedy as the particular villain behind this policy, even though he had only just reached the Senate a couple of years earlier, and as a very junior member played only a relatively minor role in enacting this statute.
This supposed impact of the 1965 Act certainly possesses superficial plausibility. The measure was widely advertised as a loosening of our strict immigration quotas of the 1920s and non-white immigration did enormously increase in the decades that followed. Largely as a consequence of the latter, America’s white population declined from 84% to just 62% between 1965 and 2015, with our rapidly-growing Latino population now reaching 18% of the total. Today more than half of young American children are non-white, and within a couple of decades whites will have become a minority of our entire population, a situation that would have been absolutely unimaginable back in 1965. Indeed, the careful demographers of the Pew Research Center have determined that the overwhelming majority of these racial changes have been due to post-1965 immigration, without which America would still be 75% white today. Since 1965 our non-white population has grown by 86 million, but 60 million of that increase has been due to immigration, overwhelmingly from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Given these undeniable statistics, I would guess that 99% of anti-immigration activists currently believe that the 1965 Immigration Act was responsible for opening our borders and thereby destroying white-majority America. Ann Coulter’s best-selling screed Adios America! is filled with ferocious attacks against the 1965 Act and Sen. Ted Kennedy on exactly these grounds.
Unfortunately, all these individuals have the facts exactly backwards and upside-down. The 1965 Act didn’t OPEN America’s borders, instead it largely CLOSED America’s borders.
The history is very simple. Prior to the 1920s, America allowed unlimited immigration from Europe and Latin America. Then the 1924 Immigration Act sharply restricted European immigration, but retained an “open borders” policy toward Latin America and the rest of the Western Hemisphere, largely because Southwestern business interests desired an unrestricted supply of Mexican labor. This only changed with the 1965 Act, which for the first time imposed strict quotas upon immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean even as it loosened restrictions upon European and Asian immigration. Prior to 1965, any Latin American who paid a small fee at the border, generally in the range of $18, could legally immigrate to America with almost no waiting period. Immigration had remained low merely because Mexico and most of Latin America had traditionally been under-populated.
The huge rise in Latin American immigration after 1965 was due to the enormous population growth in that region and came in spite of the 1965 Act rather because of it.
If Congress had never passed the 1965 Act, illegal immigration would never have become an issue because legal immigration from Latin America would have remained entirely unlimited. I suspect that the influx of legal Hispanics might have reached 5 million per year by the 1990s, and perhaps the entire impoverished population of Haiti would have relocated to our shores. Immigration over the last fifty years has increased our non-white population by some 60 million, but without the sharp restrictions of the 1965 Act, the figure would surely have been 120 million or perhaps even 180 million. Such a scenario can hardly be viewed with favor by racially-focused immigration-restrictionists.
This gigantic factual error at the core of the anti-immigration movement was almost certainly unintentional. Presumably, some early activist 25 or 30 years ago was careless and made an honest mistake regarding the legal details of the 1965 Act, a mistake that soon got into widespread circulation. Since that time, many thousands of other immigration-activists have quoted and requoted that initial blunder across the Internet, until almost everyone in this insular ideological community has come to believe it.
Anyone can make a mistake, but the fact that this misinformation has remained so widespread for so many years suggests the rather unreliable quality of most anti-immigration sources across the Internet.
Indeed, for the last dozen years or so, I’ve periodically brought this serious error to the attention of various anti-immigration websites. They’ve checked the facts, said Oops!, and immediately discontinued their incessant attacks against the 1965 Act and Teddy Kennedy. But they obviously couldn’t take down the hundreds of pieces they had already published on the subject, nor could they publicly admit their longstanding error without looking ridiculous, so almost none of their readers or peers become aware of the correction, and the denunciations of the 1965 Act in their community continue almost unabated. Sometimes after a few years, these websites even return to attacking the 1965 Act themselves, as less well-informed contributors join or the peer-pressure simply becomes too strong.
When we recognize that almost all of today’s anti-immigration activists have spent decades looking at our central immigration legislation of the last half-century upside-down, we should not be surprised to discover that other erroneous beliefs are also widespread in that community, and some of these have far greater practical political significance. The enormous support for “building a wall” to stop illegal immigration is perhaps the best example.
First, if we exclude a relatively small portion of the most highly-skilled legal immigrants, the remainder are probably not all that different in their characteristics from their undocumented counterparts, and indeed individuals may often shift back and forth between these two categories over time, as illegals gain green cards or legals remain here after their temporary visas expire. The ubiquitous rhetorical focus on illegal immigrants seems mostly due to a mixture of “political correctness” and political demagoguery, supplemented by sheer ignorance.
According to most estimates, the size of America’s undocumented population has been almost entirely stagnant since the 2008 Housing Meltdown wrecked employment in the construction industry, while net legal immigration has still regularly been running at a million or more a year. Therefore, it seems likely that nearly all net immigration over the last decade or so has been of the legal variety.
Now there are numerous plausible reasons to argue that immigration levels are far too high and should be substantially reduced, but if nearly all the flow is legal, the near-exclusive focus on the sliver of illegals makes absolutely no sense.
The signature issue of Trump’s populist campaign was building a wall across our border to block illegal immigration, and America has now endured our longest federal government shut-down over funding this proposal. But as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, even if we built such a wall 700 feet tall and fronted with self-firing machine-guns, I fail to see how it would have any impact whatsoever on legal immigration, which is probably over 95% of the total. Government policies based upon sheer ignorance and stupidity are hardly likely to be successful.
When I’ve periodically raised some of these points in the past, agitated rightwingers have sometimes angrily denounced me, though without offering any logical counter-argument. But under the circumstances, perhaps I should provide an additional source that may possess greater credibility in such ideological circles.
Despite having been totally “deplatformed” from all normal Internet services, the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer still apparently gets more traffic than all the other Alt-Right websites in the world combined, and its editor, Andrew Anglin, is an ardent Trump supporter. Nevertheless, he recently ran a lead editorial in which he ridiculed the whole “Build the Wall” nonsense, and correctly suggested that all the talk about it was largely due to the totally brainwashed stupidity of most anti-immigration rightwingers:
We currently have a million people coming in every year through the various “legal” methods who do not leave and are often given citizenship…People are stupid in general, and most simply do not understand that the real threat to America is legal immigration…
The wall is largely a symbolic gesture in the larger scheme of things, and speaks to the absolutely brainwashed nature of the mass of conservatives who believe that legal immigration is “okay.”
I remember before Trump having these conversations in Columbus, Ohio, and hearing people say “it’s the illegals that’s the problem” and replying “well what about all these Somalians?” People would look confused for a minute and then say “aren’t they illegal?”
Hearing them talk about “I just want it to be legal” is infuriating, as they do not have any clear explanation as to why they believe this, and the fact that there is virtually no difference between the two allows liberals to exploit their inability to explain a difference and make them look stupid.
Major political struggles are often decided by a battle of “competing incompetence” and if our anti-immigration movement is handicapped by being woefully ignorant and innumerate, it possesses the distinct advantage that many of its leading opponents—whose ideas permeate our ruling elites—are downright insane.
This unfortunate fact was brought home to me a few years ago when I was invited to participate in a televised Intelligence Squared immigration debate held in New York City. For two decades my writings and political activity had established me as one of the foremost pro-immigrant voices in public policy circles, but the contours of the elite ideological landscape had so radically shifted that I was actually enlisted to take the anti-immigration side of the question, joined by the co-founder of the eminently pro-immigrant Migration Policy Institute.
The proposition under debate was that “Anyone Should be Able to Take a Job Anywhere,” namely that America and the rest of the world should adopt the extreme libertarian doctrine of eliminating all restrictions on the free movement of workers.
When I was first approached about participating, I thought the whole proposal so ridiculous that the organizers would have a very difficult time locating anyone to take the other side, but I was entirely mistaken. Not only had they easily located prominent advocates, but the introductory remarks of the chairman of the forum suggested that he was surprised that anyone could seriously oppose such an “Open Borders” proposal. Indeed, the initial polling of the New York City audience showed a wide margin in favor.
However, ninety minutes later the situation had entirely changed. Once I and my equally pro-immigrant debate partner had pointed out the obvious lunacy in opening our borders to the unlimited influx of foreign workers, the proposition was soundly defeated, with the swing in votes being the largest of any ever seen in the history of that longstanding public debate series.
The inescapable conclusion is that the elite New Yorkers in that audience had lived their entire lives scrupulously insulated from any plausible arguments critical of high immigration levels. Indeed, in a previous article I had noted that our presidential candidates sometimes seemed likewise hermetically sealed in a bubble of immigration insanity:
As an extreme example of the bizarre ideological views of our current political elites, consider a less-publicized element of the immigration reform plan that President George W. Bush trumpeted during his 2004 reelection campaign. This provision would have allowed any foreigner anywhere in the world to legally immigrate to America if he accepted a minimum-wage job that no American were willing to fill, an utterly insane proposal which would have effectively transformed America’s minimum wage into its maximum wage. Naturally his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, saw absolutely nothing wrong with this idea, though he did criticize various other aspects of Bush’s immigration plan as being somewhat mean-spirited.
Under such circumstances one would naturally think that critics of current immigration policy would have a very easy time winning the policy debate. But this is obviously not the case as we have seen from the November election results and most public opinion polls and the reasons may be suggested in the following brief political allegory I’ve sometimes presented.
I assume that there are government regulations limiting the number of passengers on a commercial bus. But suppose the bus companies all got together and after doing some market research, decided they could make more money if they packed their passengers in like sardines.
So they hired some thinktankers and consultants to start an “Open Doors” movement, denouncing the horrifying unfairness of closing bus doors to passengers who wanted to get on. Indeed, they viciously attacked their opponents as being “anti-people” since they were trying to prevent more people from getting on buses.
Naturally, their opponents fought back. But suppose the loudest activists claimed that if you put too many people on a bus, they’d all turn into werewolves and a massive wave of brutal killings would result.
The entire bus policy debate would be diverted into the question of whether werewolves actually existed and whether crowded buses might induce widespread lycanthropy. Under such a scenario, I think the “Open Doors” side would probably win, especially if they had so much more money for buying media ads and bribing politicians.
A national policy debate over whether immigration levels are much too high is long overdue. Instead, Donald Trump together with his political advisers and activist allies have sparked a heated battle over whether hordes of Mexican “rapists and killers” are illegally swarming across our border and we must build a wall to stop them. As a direct consequence, the supposedly horrific threat of immigrant and especially Hispanic crime has become a staple theme of rightwing pundits over the last couple of years. The awesome stupidity of this political strategy is a remarkable thing to behold.
Just as in the case of their topsy-turvy misunderstanding of the 1965 Immigration Act, I tend to believe that most of these factual errors by rightwing activists are rooted in simple incompetence rather than deliberate dishonesty. The climate of “political correctness” enforced upon our journalists and academic scholars on racially-charged issues such as crime tend to suppress any candid discussion of the facts, and in such a climate of silence, wild rumors and misunderstood statistics can easily propagate among ideological groups that have grown highly suspicious of the mainstream media narrative.
Partly in hopes of rectifying this sort of confusion, back in 2010 I had published a careful analysis of Hispanic crime rates, and although none of my methodology seemed especially remarkable, my findings provoked quite a lot of attention both from anti-immigration advocates and a number of mainstream journalists. Indeed, an indication of the near-total vacuum of serious discussion on this important topic is that even after nearly a decade, my article still generally ranks at or near the top of the many tens of millions of search results whenever anyone googles “Hispanic crime” or “Latino crime.”
A few weeks ago I recapitulated some of these findings along with various others while speaking at a Ron Paul-related conference in the Houston area.
Two of the most important points I made in my crime analysis were very simple ones.
First, regardless of all other factors, criminal activity has always been concentrated among relatively youthful males, and the age-distributions of Hispanics and (non-Hispanic) whites are quite different. Hispanics have a median age in their late 20s, putting them near the peak of their highest-crime years, while the median age of whites is in the mid-40s, meaning that a large majority are past the likely age for committing serious crimes. Therefore, all measures of criminal activity, such as incarceration rates, should be adjusted to the size of the high-crime-age male cohort. This allows us to properly estimate the relative crime rates of Hispanics and whites of the same age.
It is also very important to recognize that federal incarceration statistics severely distort ethnic estimates of American criminality. Nearly all ordinary crimes such as robbery, rape, murder, assault, arson, and theft are prosecuted in state courts and those convicted are sent to state prisons or local jails, and these contain 90% of criminal offenders. Meanwhile, half of all federal arrests are for immigration violations, and non-resident foreigners caught smuggling drugs at the border also receive federal sentences. Rep. Steve King of Iowa has long been a zealous critic of illegal immigrants and their supposedly high crime rates, and apparently under his prodding, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a 2011 report providing the incarceration rates of non-citizens, whether legal or illegal. While roughly 4-6% of state inmates were illegal immigrants, the non-citizens held in federal prisons were a remarkable 27% of the total, with 90% of these being charged with immigration or drug violations and also roughly 90% being Hispanic.
In estimating the rates of ordinary “street crime” among different groups, we would obviously want to exclude illegal nannies arrested for illegal nannying and non-resident Mexicans caught smuggling drugs at the border, so my 2010 analysis excluded federal prisons while adjusting these ethnic incarceration rates by the size of the high-crime-age male population. Based on this methodology, I derived the following results:
Although ordinary police reports sometimes conflate ethnicity with race, and report Hispanics as white, this is certainly not the case with large state prison systems, given the severe problems they face with racially-based gang violence, so these figures should be regarded as highly reliable. Obviously, the white and Hispanic incarceration rates are actually quite close, while the black figures are an extreme outlier.
Many of my findings were also confirmed from other sources. For example, I later discovered that PPIC, California’s leading think-tank, had published a detailed 2006 analysis of ethnic incarceration rates in California, and contained age-adjusted incarceration statistics very similar to my own California estimates, an important result since California by itself contains a substantial fraction of America’s entire Hispanic population; a 2018 PPIC follow-up study provided roughly similar results. The national rise of the Black Lives Matter movement prompted California’s very liberal State Legislature to require the state Attorney General to publish exact statistics on racial/ethnic arrest rates for all crime categories throughout the state, and the most recent 2015 report showed that the racial distribution of violent crime arrests also followed a very similar pattern. I believe that all available evidence over the last decade has fully supported the conclusions in my 2010 Hispanic Crime article.
Then in 2013, I also published a longer and more comprehensive analysis of urban crime rates in America, one that provided a very candid analysis of the racial patterns these followed, and suggested the powerful, subterranean roles these realities had probably played in quietly shaping numerous seemingly unrelated political decisions, notably including immigration policy.
One of my most striking results was that over the last twenty-five years, there had been an exceptionally strong and growing relationship across all our major cities between the fraction of its black population and the rates of both violent crime and homicide.
In discussing these findings, I went on to note:
It is important to recognize that within the world of academic sociology discovering an important correlation in the range of 0.80 or above is quite remarkable, almost extraordinary. And even these correlations between black population prevalence and urban crime rates may actually tend to significantly understate the reality. All these correlations were performed on a city-wide aggregate basis. The New York City numbers include both the Upper East Side and Brownsville, Los Angeles both Bel Air and Watts, Chicago the Gold Coast and Englewood, with each city’s totals averaging those of both the wealthiest and the most dangerous districts. This crude methodology tends to obscure the local pattern of crime, which usually varies tremendously between different areas, often roughly corresponding to the lines of racial segregation. It is hardly a secret that impoverished black areas do have far higher crime rates than affluent white ones.
If instead we relied upon smaller geographical units such as neighborhoods, our results would be much more precise, but ethnicity data is provided by zip code while crime data is reported by precinct, so a major research undertaking would be required to match these dissimilar aggregational units for calculation purposes. However, the apparent geographical pattern of crime in these cities and most others might lead us to suspect that our national racial correlations would become substantially greater under such a more accurate approach, perhaps often reaching or even exceeding the 0.90 level. The inescapable conclusion is that local urban crime rates in America seem to be almost entirely explained by the local racial distribution.
Several of America’s most eminent social scientists were greatly impressed by these statistical results.
These national urban crime correlations clearly indicate that the size of the local Hispanic or immigrant population has little if any impact upon crime rates, and when I cited them, various racially-agitated rightwingers denounced me in the strongest possible terms, suggesting that I was using statistical tricks to hide the obvious reality of high Hispanic crime. In particular, they claimed that my emphasis on weighted-correlations of urban crime rates over the last quarter-century was motivated by my dishonesty, and I had deliberately failed to provide the results of multivariate regressions, which surely would have told a very different story.
Eventually, these harsh insults and accusations became so irritating that I dug up my old data and ran a dozen multivariate regressions. These naturally revealed that the P-Values for the differences between the impact of whites and Hispanics on local crime rates were statistically insignificant, just as I knew they would be.
Several other commenters attempted to rebut my analysis by citing selected portions of the 2016 research report The Color of Crime, published by Jared Taylor, one of America’s leading White Nationalists. This led me to carefully examine that study, which is conveniently available both in HTML and PDF formats. The author was Edward Rubinstein, an experienced economist, and although I might take some issue with the emphasis or presentation of some of the material, the basic data seemed quite solid and the analysis carefully prepared. Indeed, it brought to my attention several sources of useful official statistics of which I had previously been unaware. But in general, I found the contents of the report fully consistent with the findings in my own 2010 and 2013 articles.
The source of confusion for many readers had been the detailed racial crime statistics presented for New York City and Chicago, which seemed to show Hispanic crime rates far higher than what I had presented. But this merely reflected the considerable heterogeneity of the Hispanic population. Nationally, the overwhelming majority of Hispanics are Meso-American, with only a small minority being Caribbean. But this latter group had traditionally constituted the bulk of the Hispanic population in New York City and the rest of the Northeast, as well as to some extent in Chicago, and (non-Cuban) Caribbean Hispanics have generally had far higher crime rates. I had discussed this important issue and its implications at considerable length in my Hispanic Crime article:
Furthermore, contrary to official bureaucratic categories, Hispanics are hardly a monolithic ethnic group and actually exhibit large variations in their cultural traditions based on country of origin. The very low Hispanic imprisonment rate in Florida may reflect the considerable economic and social success of the Cuban community centered there. Another set of obvious outliers are the states of the Northeast, primarily the New York/New England region, in which relative Hispanic imprisonment rates generally run two to three times higher than the national Hispanic average, as shown in Chart 2. These exceptionally high Hispanic incarceration rates probably reflect the considerable social and economic difficulties long experienced by the large Puerto Rican and Dominican communities that have settled in that region.
The high incarceration rate for these Caribbean Hispanics may partially explain general perceptions of Hispanic crime rates. A large proportion of America’s intellectual, media, and political elite lives in the Northeast, in cities like New York and Boston, and if the Hispanics traditionally living in those areas have unusually high rates of criminal activity, there would be a natural if mistaken tendency to assume that this same pattern also applied to Hispanic groups throughout the country.
But outside the Northeast, the vast majority of Hispanics are Meso-American, being either from Mexico or Central America. Chart 3 summarizes the very different relative imprisonment rates for these groups by focusing on the most heavily Hispanic states outside the Northeast.
Moreover, if we consider weighted-average age-adjusted Hispanic imprisonment ratios excluding those outlying cases of the Northeastern states, we discover that the remaining figure moves into close parity with white incarceration rates. (See Chart 4.) Since Hispanics are still considerably poorer than whites, this is a striking result. Also, crime rates are always higher in densely populated urban areas than in suburbs or rural communities, and since Hispanics are three times as likely as whites to live in cities, their relatively low imprisonment rates become even more surprising.
When I provided some of simple quantitative findngs in my recent columns or their comment-threads, I naturally provoked a vast wave of angry denials, with vociferous claims that my statistics were somehow “cooked” and that Hispanics obviously had the high crime rates so widely believed in certain ideological circles. Some of these agitated individuals seemed to respond as if a central pillar of their world-view were crumbling before their very eyes.
Given this extreme reluctance to accept any of the broader statistical evidence I had offered, I added a handful of simple questions for such hostile skeptics to ponder:
- The two most heavily Hispanic cities in America are El Paso and Santa Ana, each about 80% Hispanic. They have fairly low crime and homicide rates. The same is true for most of the other heavily or substantially Hispanic cities around the country. If Hispanics had unusually high crime rates that you believe, how would this be possible?
- A half-century ago, Los Angeles was over 70% white and only 10% Hispanic, and today it’s 50% Hispanic and perhaps 25% white. Yet the crime and homicide rates are roughly similar. How is this possible in your mind?
- A huge wave of immigrant Hispanics moved into East Palo Alto, the neighboring town to where I live, and as a consequence it has become overwhelmingly Hispanic. Meanwhile, the homicide rate has declined by over 95% and today both crime and homicide rates are fairly low. What’s your explanation.
- I’ve calculated 25 years of weighted cross-correlations across all the major cities in America, and they tend to show that the presence of whites and Hispanics has approximately similar impacts upon urban crime rates. What’s your theory about why the numbers came out the way they did?
I believe there is absolutely overwhelming evidence that most Hispanic groups have crime rates approximately the same as those of whites of the same age, and I have obviously been irritated by the stubborn refusal of so many anti-immigration activists to accept this obvious reality. But I do believe that in most cases this position is based upon ignorance and innumeracy rather than deliberately dishonest intent. Furthermore, I feel that a great deal of the blame must be be placed upon the shoulders of our mainstream media and academic elites.
As noted above, exactly the same statistical evidence that suggests that whites and Hispanics have roughly similar crime rates also demonstrates the exceptionally high rate of black criminality, and this latter fact has surely dissuaded most journalists and scholars from publicly discussing racial crime in quantitative detail. The resulting vacuum of solid information has naturally been filled by rumor, anecdotes, and speculation, often severely skewed by ideological leanings.
Furthermore, there seems considerable evidence that over the years even many mainstream journalists have inadvertently fallen into believing the same erroneous facts as the rightwing activists they publicly denounce. This unfortunate situation was brought to my attention a few years ago during the notorious Jason Richwine Affair.
In 2013 Dr. Richwine, a prominent Heritage Foundation policy analyst, had reached the pinnacle of his career when the conservative media began widely trumpeting his research study suggesting that America’s large Hispanic immigrant population was enormously increasing our crime rates and would cost taxpayers many trillions of dollars in future welfare benefits and other government spending.
But then his critics discovered that his 2009 Harvard doctoral dissertation had focused on the supposedly very low IQs of the racial groups constituting most of our current immigrant inflow, and he argued that this doomed our country to inevitable genetic decline. An enormous national media firestorm immediately erupted and Richwine was quickly purged from all respectable conservative institutions. At the time, I discussed the controversy and its implications in a lengthy column:
My disturbing realization was that although mainstream journalists were virtually unanimous in their harsh condemnations of the embattled Heritage researcher and support for his ouster, it was readily apparent that some of them—perhaps even most of them—actually believed that Richwine was factually correct although certainly “politically incorrect.” After all, with any candid discussion of racial topics so totally taboo in our society, where would they acquire contrary information? Indeed, one of them went so far as to claim that Richwine had easily debunked my Hispanic Crime analysis, a statement I found rather amusing. As I explained at length, I was quite unimpressed with the quality of Richwine’s research, but apparently his journalistic foes found it so terrifyingly persuasive that they felt the need to transform him into an “un-person” in order to protect the public from his dangerous ideas. In effect, it appeared that many of them probably believed that Richwine needed to be destroyed not because he was wrong but because he was right.
With the racial analysis of social behavior so widely taboo and strictly policed these days by Twitter lynch-mobs, it is hardly surprising that journalists would often fall into error, and these errors would feed upon themselves. But sometimes the political consequences of such disingenuous behavior may still be quite serious.
A perfect example occurred just last week while I was engaged in a heated debate over Hispanic crime rates with the outraged commenters to my most recent article. The San Francisco Chronicle, California’s most influential newspaper, ran a major story bearing the provocative headline “Latinos account for nearly half of 172 people killed by police in California in 2017.”
Now to the liberal editors of that newspaper and activists of a similar ideological hue, such a factual statement might carry implications of brutal police violence being directed against oppressed non-whites, but I suspect that to the average American—let alone the average rightwinger—the clear implication would be that California Latinos are a particularly dangerous and violent population, constantly confronting the police and regularly being killed as a consequence. Indeed, I was a little surprised that neither Donald Trump nor Ann Coulter tweeted it out to their millions of enthusiastic followers.
However, the story carries different implications once we recognize that Latinos account for nearly half of police killings in a state in which Latinos also account for nearly half the total population. I quickly used the actual statistics buried in the text of the article to produce a simple chart displaying the ratio of police shootings and killings in California compared to the fraction of the total population, which tells a very different tale:
Obviously, the rate of Asian police shootings is extremely low, while the figures for whites and Latinos are really not so very far apart, and probably become very similar once we adjust for the much larger fraction of Latinos who are youthful males, the cohort most likely to engage in police confrontations. Meanwhile, the chart display an enormous outlying group which went unmentioned in the Chronicle headline and was therefore missed by busy individuals who depend upon glances at a major newspaper for their knowledge of the world.
The unfortunate truth is that in many situations “politically correct” mainstream media journalists and racially-focused anti-immigration activists may share a strong commonality of interests, and the dishonest practices of the former tend to reinforce the confused beliefs of the latter, with negative consequences for our society.