The University Near Here has announced
its activities for Martin Luther King Day 2011. Every year I wonder:
will the celebration be horribly offensive (as in 2009),
a dreadful joke
or just undisguised and undistinguished leftist propaganda, reflective
of the University's depressing ideological monoculture (2006
I'm going with the latter this time, but see what you think.
This year's theme is "Combating Hate"
Now, being against "hate" is to snuggle in one of the most cozy
blankets of moral superiority. Who in their right mind will say
no to that? Not me, friend. I'm against hate! (Ahhhhh...feels good.)
And I bet you are too! (Say it with me: "I'm against hate!"
But let's look at UNH's official
It has been more than four and a half decades since Dr. Martin Luther
King's 1963 March on Washington. King presented a vision of an America
that lives up to its ideals of liberty and justice for all. However, the
rise of hate crimes and the extremism in recent years makes it
clear that victory over prejudices and racial hostility remains elusive.
According to FBI statistics gathered for its Uniform Crime Reporting
Program, hate crimes [missing preposition sic]
LGBTQ, Latinos, Latinas, African American, Asian
American, Arab Americans, Muslim and Jewish people have risen steadily
for the last four years.
Pointing to grammar and spelling errors, even on a University
website, is a cheap shot, sorry. [Update: the errors, present
when this entry was originally posted, have
But there's other
Note the "startilng" rise in hate crimes in the first
paragraph. Compare with the
assertion that hate crimes "have
risen steadily" in the second paragraph.
So what kind of a rise is it, startling or steady?
Or maybe neither. The FBI just issued its latest report
on hate crimes:
The number of hate crime incidents and victims declined in 2009 compared
with the previous year, the FBI reported Monday.
[…] There were 6,604 hate crime incidents reported last year,
down from 7,783 in 2008. There were 8,336 reported victims, down from
9,691 in 2008.
"But," you object, "maybe that's just a one year dip in an otherwise
'startling' or 'steady' rise." Well, there's nothing like checking
for oneself. Let's look back, a few more years than four:
I could draw you a pretty graph, but the numbers are pretty
easy to eyeball:
If anything, the trend over the past 10 or so years is down.
UNH is not alone in pointing to a
non-existent increase in hate crimes. Candidate B. Obama asserted
in 2008: "We have seen hate crimes skyrocket in the wake of the
immigration debate, as it's been conducted in Washington, and that is
unacceptable." Not only was this untrue (as we've seen), this untruth was
used to imply that the other side—by daring to debate
immigration—was inciting violence.
FactCheck deemed Obama's claim to be bogus
at the time, Politifact
rated it "Mostly True", maintaining their usual spot in Obama's
back pocket. Unfortunately, neither
was troubled by Obama's implication that his
political opponents were fomenting criminal activity.)
Reasonable people will also differ on whether "hate" is an accurate
characterization of the
underlying motivation for "hate crimes". Liberals and
progressives love to decry their opponents as being "simplistic."
But surely throwing a diverse array of unpleasant and
antisocial behavior into
a big pot labeled "HATE" is simplisticism on its face.
My guess, not that it matters,
is that the underlying cause of "hate crimes" tends to be
various forms of mental dysfunction—primarily plain old
stupidity—coupled with one or more personality defects:
fondness for aggression, a short temper, oversensitivity, …
what have you. Also, mix in a high probability of substance abuse.
(See Jacob Sullum for more on "hate crimes".)
Quibbling about statistics, hazy definitions, and sloppy language
is fine, but that's not all that's going on.
Blaming "hate" for
crimes may not be accurate or meaningful, but it can be
As with Obama's statement
in 2008, there's
a political angle here too.
You noticed UNH's finger-pointing at "extremism" in
the blurb quoted above. That theme is continued and expanded
in their description of the Commemorative Address, to be
given by Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
and Civil Rights speaker Morris
discusses how our commitment to justice for all will chart our
nation's future as America becomes more diverse, and economic disparity
widens. Mr Dees will address the historical and current social,
cultural, political and economic circumstances that have given rise to
increases in the participation in hate groups, increases in hate crimes
and the current political climate that fosters and empowers intolerance
and hate in plain view in today's political discourse.
Hm: "the current political climate that fosters and empowers
intolerance and hate in plain view in today's political discourse."
Gosh, they're pretty cute about avoiding specifics, but I think
we all know what and who they're talking about.
Dees' SPLC website.
There's one tiny blink-and-you'll-miss suggestion that "hate" is not entirely
on the right: a section on black
separatists. But SPLC's "Hatewatch" blog is subtitled
"Keeping an Eye on the Radical Right", and their blogroll is
an uniform array of lefties: Kos, Firedoglake, Crooks and Liars, etc.
The SPLC tars with a very broad brush. Their "Intelligence
Report" this year deemed
the Tea Party movement to be "shot through with rich veins of radical
ideas, conspiracy theories and racism." Most people with any familiarity
with Tea Partiers realized this to be bullshit; unfortunately, the assertion
was widely echoed in the lefty true-believer community. And no doubt
the attendees at UNH's MLK shindig will hear some version of it as well.
SPLC is also in the business of designating "hate groups". And one way
to be sure that you can point with alarm to "increases in the
participation in hate groups" is to be ever-increasingly, um,
liberal in your
demonization. Jesse Walker at Reason observed
that the SPLC "would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if
it thought that would help it raise funds." (Walker's blog post is
short, but it's well worth reading for its well-targeted criticism
of the SPLC's methodology and its links to further information.)
One of the "hate groups" named by the SPLC is the Federation for
American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Unfortunately for the SPLC, FAIR didn't take this lying down,
composing a detailed rebuttal and counteroffensive. (Summary here,
full PDF here.)
In the eyes of the law, there is no such thing as a "hate
group." It does not exist in federal statutes. It is a term entirely
concocted by the SPLC. Moreover, the SPLC itself has no concrete
definition. While lacking any useful specificity, the SPLC nonetheless
deliberately uses this highly charged term to achieve political ends and
to create an illusion that there is a surge of dangerous groups
operating in America in order to increase the SPLC fundraising. In the
process, the truth gets lost, reputations are damaged, and meaningful
discourse on immigration policy is muted.
FAIR notes (as Jesse Walker did, above) that the SPLC has
a pretty cynical (and widely recognized)
motive for all its fearmongering and tarbrushing: it
allows them to raise impressive amounts of cash from their easily-spooked
donor base. Well, this is America. They have a perfect right to do that.
I recommend another Jesse Walker article
appearing Reason last year: "The Paranoid
Center." What's going on is an attempt to generate moral panic.
Walker relates the early-60s "wave of alarm"
about the "radical right", egged
on, then as now, by a progressive/liberal coalition.
Philip Jenkins, a scholar at Pennsylvania State University who
specializes in both the history of moral panics and the history of the
American right, has described this period as the second of three "brown
scares" ("brown" as in the brown shirts of fascism). The first came in
the late 1930s and early '40s, when aides and allies of Franklin
Roosevelt conflated genuine domestic fascists with critics who were far
from Nazis. The third came in the mid-1990s, when Timothy McVeigh's mass
murder in Oklahoma City set off a barrage of fear-mongering stories
about the alleged militia menace in the heartland, helping Bill Clinton
push through the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. The
anxieties of the latter period have the most in common with the cocktail
of fears emerging in 2009.
It's unfortunate that UNH has cast its lot with the SPLC; Dees's
undoubtedly well-paid appearance will almost certainly go unchallenged, and I'll
wager not a contrary word will oppose his scarifying nonsense.
While UNH is (probably) less cynical about the issue than is Dees,
that probably makes things worse: it puts the University
firmly on the side of the "brown scare" effort
to marginalize, demonize, and chill legitimate dissent from "progressive"
positions on important issues.