The eternal He's No Angel
© 2017 Gage Skidmore, used under a Creative Commons license
From the most recent Compstat crime statistics report, for the week of May 10-16, from the New York Police Department: Murders in New York City are up in 2021 from this time last year by 22%; rapes are up 2%; and felonious assaults are up 5.9%.
Chaos! Death Wish! Etc. But the actual number of murders year-to-date 2021 vs. 2020 are 155 and 127 — meaning there have been 28 more than this time last year. Rapes went from 491 to 501 — 20 more. And there are 7,182 assaults in 2021 vs. 6,782 in 2020, or 400 more.
The population of New York is about 8.4 million. Meaning, even if we leave out the tourists and other outlanders, the percentage of the city’s population that has been murdered so far this year is 0.00184%. The raped population is 0.006% and the feloniously assaulted population is 0.08%.
We won’t even speak of the decline in robberies (-9.9%), burglaries (16.1%), and grand larcenies (-9.3%) in the same period.
Now, one murder or rape or assault is, in a sense, too many, as I’m sure rightwingers would scream in response, just as when you tell them there was actually surprisingly little property damage during last summer’s George Floyd protests they’ll scream oh yeah so you don’t CARE about this black lady who had a store that was BURNED OUT!
But that’s what propagandists do, when they have an opportunity, or even when they don’t: You may recall that in 2017, when crime in New York had once again gone down despite the removal of Stop ‘n’ Frisk four years earlier, rightwingers were producing headlines like “Does Trump deserve credit for drop in violent crime?” or, in the case of the appallingly racist Heather Mac Donald, claiming it only went down because the black people moved away from the white people.
I bring this up because there’s been a lot of conservative yelling about crime lately, and a lot of it involves shaking numbers like 22% rise at the rubes without mentioning it means 28 murders in the whole five boroughs. And why wouldn’t they? Most of their listeners are perpetually scared to death of cities and think they’d get cut by a Big Bad Black if they dared venture there without their shootin’ ahr, which liberal gun laws won’t let them bring with them.
Here’s a ripe example from Byron York that’s sort of the apotheosis of the shtick, though it goes a little far even by the standards of the genre.
York announces “What One Year Has Brought” as a piece on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death; you will not be surprised to hear York doesn’t betray any hint of mourning for the murdered Floyd. What he mourns is that “Floyd’s death gave Americans a distorted picture of the extent of police violence.” He brings in Heather Mac Donald (because of course) to tell us that not so many unarmed black people are killed by police — why, even more of the cops’ unarmed victims were white, so there!
That the total number of people killed by cops in the past year is close to a thousand and the fallen are predominantly black, that the difference between “armed” and “unarmed” on the testimony of police shooters may not be significant (if you think cops don’t plant weapons, you haven’t been paying attention), and that cops who kill black people tend to walk, goes scrupulously unmentioned. Nor does York acknowledge that killing isn’t a cop’s only way of dishing out disparate treatment.
Anyway, people complained in large numbers about this last summer, and York says see what you get:
Support for BLM skyrocketed after Floyd's death, and several city governments, including Minneapolis, took steps to defund their police departments. They did so even in the face of warnings that fewer officers and less active policing would inevitably lead to more crime.
And now those cities are suffering through a wave of increased violence. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta — all have experienced huge increases in crime.
First: Police budgets have been cut glancingly at best. LA’s budget was cut by about 8% — that is, by about $150 million from a budget of THREE BILLION DOLLARS. I got that stat from the New York Times story, “A Year After George Floyd: Pressure to Add Police Amid Rising Crime” (gotta love that liberal media!). Minneapolis cut their cops' budget by $8 million out of $179 million — a 4.5% drop — and didn’t even reduce the force level. “Defund the police” largely remains an aspirational slogan, yet York and other like him talk as if the mayors gave the cops rubber guns and told them Don’t Get Involved.
And as for the “huge increases in crime,” well, see my lede. Figures lie and liars figure. But perceptions of crime, however jacked up by rightwing propagandists, scare politicians as much as real crime; “A Year After George Floyd’s Death, Minneapolis Mayor Wants to Re-Fund Police,” reports Newsweek.
There’s more than one way to pay off the cops.
York clearly feels confident that conservatives have won the point, and then tries to pad his lead. He says “public support for the Black Lives Matter movement has plummeted” (It’s down, but it’s still higher than Donald Trump ever had) after a “series of riots” (remember, every one of the hundreds of BLM protest last summer was a riot in wingnut world).
And he uses his conclusion to spit on the corpse of George Floyd. After noticing that Democrats had spoken favorably of Floyd (who, after all, a jury found was murdered, and whose death spurred a national movement), York pulls this shit:
Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-and third-degree murder and manslaughter in the Floyd case. But no one would want to emulate George Floyd. He had a record of nine arrests, for drugs and theft, and served stints in jail before being sentenced to five years in prison for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. On the day of his death, he was high on fentanyl, hanging out with a known drug dealer, and allegedly engaged in petty crime at a convenience store. Then he resisted arrest.
What’s notable is, York didn’t need to do this to put over his bullshit crime-wave routine. (The kind of people who listen to him would go for it even if he just went “ooga booga.”) He’s usual a pretty efficient propagandist, but propagandists have feelings, too, even if they’re the kind of feelings you and I would be ashamed to admit. I believe York threw this in just because it made him feel damn good, like he had his knee on someone’s neck.