Today’s Union-Tribune has a front page article about hate crimes in San Diego County. There are lots of details about criminal/hate-inspired actions and almost no acknowledgement as to what motivates them.
Hate crimes are up, we’re told. While local prosecutions have increased in the past year, most hate crimes aren’t reported.
A majority (60%) of hate crimes are directed at people based on their race or ethnicity, followed by religion (20%) and LGBTQ (16%) orientation.
From the New York Times:
The Department of Justice has estimated that nearly 260,000 hate crimes were committed every year between 2007 and 2011. But the F.B.I.’s annual total of hate crimes nationwide typically hovers around 5,000. The F.B.I. count relies on voluntary reports from local law enforcement agencies, many of which choose not to report their data. And hate crime laws vary from state to state; five states have no hate crime laws at all. As a result, thousands of hate crimes every year are probably missing from official statistics, making it harder for law enforcement to fight the problem and for the public to understand its true scope.
Hate crimes increased when President Obama took office in 2009 and when Donald Trump took office in 2017. What started out as fear (and loathing. and racism) in the first case, has become permission in the current era. The targets of those hate crimes haven’t changed.
It’s not about one man in office; it’s about a point of view tolerated by way too many people and exploited by supposedly mainstream groups to move the Overton window, i.e., the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, to the right.
While the UT article correctly points out the likelyhood of a relationship between hate crimes and hate speech via social media, it glosses over an important fact, namely that escalation from speech to violent action comes almostly exclusively from right wing ideologues.
This is a fine example of what’s wrong with the mainstream news media these days, in the “both sides-ism” baked into reporting. The best anybody interviewed for today’s article can do toward answering the “why?” question is to blame social media.
County Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh, the office’s hate crimes prosecutor, is quoted, saying, “If you go on social media, we see hate speech left and right now.”
This judgement comes from an individual with a public agency whose employees and elected leader utilized a well-documented anti-Semitic meme shared on social and mass media in San Diego’s 2018 primary.
Come to think of it, a percieved association of many law enforcement personnel with the ideological leanings of those perceived to be involved with hate crimes is likely to be the main reason why most of these sorts of crimes aren’t reported.
I’m not saying cops and prosecutors are necessarily racist. I am saying lots of people think they are, based on the experiences of the community around them.
I know from first hand experience that the County Sheriffs Department had no interest in the right-wing bunch (some of them were obviously Proud Boys) that disrupted a peaceful protest calling for President Trump’s impeachment.
To be clear, no hate crimes were committed at the County Administration building that day in 2017. But the disinterest of law enforcement toward protecting people in a situation fraught with potential for violence, not to mention the disregard for their First Amendment rights, mades a loud and clear statement.
The District Attorney’s office turned a blind eye towards assaults of demonstrators by right wingers at a border protest in December, 2017, despite video documenting the incidents. Oh, and there were more than a dozen San Diego County Sheriffs who stood by just long enough for blood to be drawn before lumbering over.
At the national level, the Trump administration wasted no time eliminating funding for groups aimed at countering right wing violence. To hear them tell it, the threat to Americans comes almost exclusive from Islamic terrorists.
The facts say otherwise. When it comes to murders motivated by politics, there’s little question about who’s behind it.
According to the Anti-Defamation League:
Over the past 10 years (2007-2016), domestic extremists of all kinds have killed at least 372 people in the United States. Of those deaths, approximately 74% were at the hands of right-wing extremists, about 24% of the victims were killed by domestic Islamic extremists, and the remainder were killed by left-wing extremists.
In 2009, a small Homeland Security domestic-terrorism unit released a report on right wing extremists. “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” which was distributed across the government and local law-enforcement agencies, was the result of investigations begun in January 2007.
The author of the report was a senior intelligence analyst named Daryl Johnson, who intitially acted in response to quiries about an uptick in extremist chatter focusing on a first-term Illinois senator named Barack Obama who said to be planning to announce a campaign for president
From the New York Times:
On April 11, 2009, four days after his report was released, Johnson was at home in West Virginia when a PDF of the document was posted on the website of the syndicated conservative radio host Roger Hedgecock. A link to the PDF was also posted on a blog maintained by the Oath Keepers, the antigovernment group composed of numerous law-enforcement officials. “FORWARD THIS TO EVERY AMERICAN!” read the post, which Johnson suspected had been written by a member of the law-enforcement community. “YOU are now a dangerous terrorist according to the Obama administration…”
…From the perspective of many people inside the department, the report was “exactly what the department is supposed to do, which is inform and educate our stakeholders about what we see as a threat,” Kayyem says. “This was not a political document…”
Congressional Republicans, answering to a nascent Tea Party movement and the American Legion, soon took issue with the label “right-wing extremism,” which John Boehner, then minority leader of the House, charged was being used by the Department of Homeland Security “to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.” Boehner was particularly bothered by the report’s mention of veterans. “To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable,” he said in a statement. Several G.O.P. lawmakers called for Napolitano’s resignation, as well as that of Johnson, who, in their view, equated conservatives with terrorists.
The Times story goes on to say the Justice Department no longer uses the term “right wing” in its evaluations.
It’s not possible to divorce the actions aimed at targets called out by extremist ideologues. And when this is disconnect underlies law inforcement investigations, the best we can hope for are stories about “lone wolves.”
While I’m not saying there aren’t hate mongers and mouth breathers on the left, I am saying actions defined as a hate crime come exclusively from one side of the political spectrum these days.
The best I could find for “left-wing hate crimes” via a Google search was a Townhall article about hate crime hoaxes making sound as if filing false police reports was an organizing tactic.
I get it– we have freedom of speech, and I certainly don’t wish to impose restrictions on that freedom.
Hate speech, however, shouldn’t be free of consequences, especially when it is connected to criminal acts. Most of the time it’s right-wing wing hate crimes, folks. And we should be calling it by the correct name.
Countdown to The End. Friday, December 14, will mark the end of this version of the San Diego Free Press, along with this column.
I have been asked about my future plans, and the answer is: I’m still figuring it out. So if you have a niche for my talents, this would be a good time for us to talk.