Random Murders and the Corrosive Damage of Stranger Violence

The revelation that a young male who entered Germany illegally (he claims to be 17 and an Afghan citizen, but Germany doesn't check, believe it or not) in 2015 is the suspect in the random rape-murder of a 19-year-old medicine student in Freiburg, Germany is still echoing throughout the German press and German society. The broadsheets can't avoid reporting on this crime, but are obviously straining mightily to avoid drawing any implications from it. Meanwhile, the comment sections are on fire. There, you can read everything from reasoned critiques of Merkel's policies to sputtering xenophobic tirades.

The national broadsheets will soon stop covering the case, anxious as always to downplay crime by illegal immigrants. But this case, and others like it, will certainly increase Germans' fears about crime and security to levels even higher than they are now. The main reason is that so many of the new crimes committed by the hundreds of thousands of young males who entered in 2015 are stranger on stranger violence. How could they not be? Most of the new arrivals are still strangers to German society, and will be for years yet.

This introduction (pdf) to a criminology symposium gives a good introduction to the sinister force of stranger violence:

Stranger violence represents one of the most frightening forms of criminal victimization. Conklin and McIntyre have argued that the fear of crime is basically a fear of strangers. It is suggested that people fear the unknown person who commits an unpredictable and violent attack on a vulnerable and innocent citizen going about routine daily activities. The perceptions that the attacker is indiscriminate in his selection of the victim and that the victim can do little to avoid attack or protect himself also elicit fear in society. The urban dweller, in particular, confronts what Silberman refers to as a "startling paradox":

Life in metropolitan areas . . . involves a startling paradox: we fear strangers more than anything else, and yet we live our lives among strangers. Every time we take a walk, ride a subway or bus, shop in a supermarket or department store, enter an office building lobby or elevator, work in a factory or large office, or attend a ball game or the movies, we are surrounded by strangers. The potential for fear is as immense as it is unavoidable.

The fear of crime from strangers has important consequences for life in a civil society. People stay behind locked doors and travel by taxi or car rather than public transportation or on foot to avoid contact with strangers. When people go out, they travel in groups and avoid returning to their homes at a late hour. They stay away from cultural and educational events if traveling to a certain section of the city at night is required. Such avoidance behavior represents what economists refer to as "opportunity costs." When people stay home, they are not enjoying the educational and cultural advantages of their community. By restricting with whom they will interact, the general level of sociability decreases. Such responses not only undermine the trust essential for a civil society, but diminish the quality of life as well.

For years, Germany had relatively few stranger homicides or severe beatings. I'm sure those numbers are going to tick up thanks to the 2015 influx. And it doesn't really matter by how much. Even one spectacular random crime such as the Freiburg rape-murder has a massively disproportionate impact. To put it crudely, it does as much damage to general perceptions of public safety as a hundred murders between intimate partners, criminal accomplices, or acquaintances.

Will this increased perception of danger lead to new laws? Probably not. As Michael Tonry pointed out long ago, German criminal justice policy remains highly stable even in the face of rising crime rates. The reasons include:

  • A press landscape dominated by state media which sensationalizes crime less than private media.
  • A higher level of trust in 'experts' such as criminologists, sociologists, and lawyers, most of whom still endorse a therapeutic, rehabilitative approach to corrections.
  • Criminal laws are made at the national level, not the local level.
  • Lawyers and civil servants are powerful gatekeepers who prevent fluid, responsive changes in criminal-justice policy.

None of these deep structural/institutional factors will change anytime soon. So we will have a situation in which the public feels increasingly exposed and insecure because of rising stranger violence, but has no way of actually changing policy in response to it.

The anxiety and anger won't disappear, it will instead run into other channels:

  • increasing support for extreme parties
  • mainstream parties experimenting with pungent anti-crime rhetoric to try to slow their decline
  • citizen watch groups and patrols
  • even more explicit "stranger danger" lessons in schools
  • revenge attacks on members of ethnic groups perceived as contributing to the problem
  • more traffic to tabloids and Internet press outlets which offer uncensored coverage of immigrant crime
  • taboo-breaking pop-culture themes that legitimize a desire for revenge against predators and a return to safety and order (think "Dirty Harry" or "Death Wish").

As I've said before, I lived through this before, in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of these trends can be seen right now in Germany, and they're only going to increase. They won't be driven by overall crime rates (which may well remain stable as Germany's aging population counterbalances the new crimes committed by young male migrants), they'll be driven by an increase in stranger-on-stranger violent crime.


Another 17-Year-Old Afghan Goes on a Murder Spree

Not that it took anything but common sense to make it, but my prediction of this morning stands confirmed.

According to the just-completed police press conference, the accused in the case of the October 2016 rape and murder of Maria L. is an "unaccompanied minor" from Afghanistan who claimed to be 17 years old. His "unusual haircut" (which he never bothered to change) gave him away, and his DNA matches DNA found at the crime scene.

Cops were working overtime, and are justifiably proud of the arrest. They were working under the constraints of German law, which forbids them from creating an ethnic profile from the DNA found at the crime scene, which would have immediately ruled out Northern Europeans as a DNA contributor. The accused was living with a German host family. No word yet whether he is also involved in the rape and murder of a jogger which happened in the same general area in November. Given how rare these sorts of crimes are (were?) in Germany, I'd bet the odds are fairly high he is.

This is the second time this year that a German host family has woken up to find that the shy, polite 17-year-old "unaccompanied minor" from Afghanistan with whom they shared their home turned out to be a ticking time-bomb (g). One hacked four people nearly to death with an ax, this latest one may be a serial sex-murderer.

Have I mentioned my suspicion that a disproportionately large number of the young males who arrived in 2015 seem to have mental problems, and were probably sent away by their families because they were an embarrassment/liability back home?

If he's convicted -- and especially he's found responsible for other random murders of young women -- this case will have a huge impact on the immigration debate here.

And why shouldn't it?

If only there were some way to investigate the background and mental condition of illegal immigrants before letting them enter and move freely about your country....

 

 


Video Surveillance Leads to Arrest in Rape-Murder Case

Police have finally arrested a suspect in the case of a student at the University of Freiburg who was raped, murdered, and thrown into the Dreisam river (g) on the 16th of October. News reports say that the clue came from a video surveillance camera which caught a man with an "unusual haircut and hair color" near the crime scene. Unconfirmed reports say that plainclothes cops rode the #1 streetcar looking for the haircut, and found it. More details to follow at an afternoon press conference. 

Strange haircut and color, riding a purple women's bicycle? Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Sascha_Lobo

Relax, it's a joke. But seriously, folks, it's obviously far too early to speculate. However, that's never stopped me before. I think the unusual haircut could be the shaved-sides long-on-top popular among certain spirited young lads, such as the ones on the left side of this picture:

Silvester-koeln-107-_v-videowebl

Also, it seems a bit odd for a man to be riding a purple women's bicycle such as the one found at the crime scene. Unless, of course, he had no choice because the bicycle was donated (g).

From a policy perspective, this is another argument for video cameras. The typical Green argument against them is that even if they may help solve some crimes, they don't prevent crimes (g). This is the sort of argument they repeat like a shibboleth in front of like-minded audiences who nod in eager assent, but which withers when subjected to any scrutiny.

First and most obviously, why exactly is their role in helping solve crimes only mentioned in passing? People prefer living in societies where cops are able to solve crimes, and video surveillance is a reliable tool. The number of mistaken identity cases involving video surveillance is tiny, and vastly outweighed by the number of cases in which camera footage caught the right person. Cameras are certainly much more reliable than eyewitnesses.

Also, video cameras do prevent crime, as many studies have shown. Otherwise, insurance companies, generally not composed of idiots, would not encourage their use and advise on proper placement. The fact that we don't know exactly how much crime they prevent is the case of the impossible negative counterfactual: it's impossible to precisely measure things which do not occur. We know about how many cases of lung cancer were avoided by reductions in the smoking rate but will never know precisely how many for the same reason.

Second, video cameras prevent crime not only by deterring would-be offenders but by incapacitating the people who get caught. If the Freiburg Rapist turns out to be a serial killer, it is almost certain he will strike again. If he is caught and imprisoned for the rest of his life, he will never be able to do so. That means there will undoubtedly be several women who, unbeknownst to them, will owe their lives to this video recording and the police who found the killer with its help.

This is not an argument for cameras on every street corner, as you find in London. But it is an argument for evaluating the usefulness of cameras based not on abstract principle, but based on pragmatic, case-by-case evaluation.


The New German Illegal Immigration Policy: Discourage, Detain, Deport

A prominent CDU politician has just advocated (g):
  • Actually deporting the 500,000 migrants currently in Germany whose asylum claims have been denied and who have no legal right to be here.
  • Turning back illegal migrants at the border.
  • Turning back migrant boats launching from Africa and establishing a detention center in Egypt.
  • Sanctioning and then deporting people who "lost" their identity papers and refuse to cooperate in getting new ones.
  • Disallowing illness as a reason to prevent deportation (an extremely common tactic, enabled by sympathetic doctors) if the person migrated to Germany with the illness.

In other words, adopting the sort of immigration policies the rest of the developed world has always had. Any one of these proposals would have been -- and was -- denounced as tantamount to fascism in 2015. It's unlikely all of these proposals will be enacted, but the reaction will be a lot more muted, and many of them will have a chance at passage.

We're a long way from the heady days of 2015, when seemingly every German was entranced by the moistly sentimental dream of proving Germany's enduring moral superiority by throwing open its borders to anyone. A year of dealing with the resulting increased crime; soaring expense; dismal integration results; visible decay and danger in lower-class neighborhoods; abuse of the asylum system; child marriages; honor killings; street stabbings, terror scares and terror attacks; and conflicts over resources, cultural differences, and funding priorities has taken its toll.

Turns out there was no magic pixie dust.

Of course nobody could have predicted the problems or the backlash. Except, of course, me, and millions of other observers. Who were mocked, insulted, and even threatened for the crime of clinging to our common sense in a period of national self-delusion.

We're a long way from Willkommenskultur.

  


Working Sort of Hard to Find a Serial Rapist/Murderer

Freiburg, Germany, is an idyllic university town located at the edge of the Black Forest. It is the sunniest spot in Germany. And the site of 4 brutal crimes in the past 6 weeks. One man was beaten to death near the main train station. One 13-year-old girl gang-raped by four young men.

And most disturbingly, two young women, one 19 and on 27 years old, were raped and murdered in apparent random attacks -- one just behind the main football stadium, one in a small community 30 kilometers from Freiburg. Police think it's possible the same man might be behind both attacks. So, there may well be a serial rapist/murderer currently active in Freiburg now. Or perhaps two. I would say this kind of thing is almost unknown in Germany, but we all know that's no longer the case. Still, it's got all of Freiburg on edge. 

And as the video below from the conservative weekly Junge Freiheit shows, the police are being hampered by German law from pursuing the killer. They found a DNA sample which they believe is from the killer at one of the rape/murder crime scenes. Using modern DNA technology, it's possible to determine the eye color, hair color, and ethnicity of someone from a good DNA sample. In fact, it's possible to generate a fairly good likeness of their face, as this photo accompanying a New York Times article shows:

24faces_otherpeople-master1050

As you can see, the images aren't perfect, but they are certainly a far cry better than the recollection of a traumatized witness or someone who saw a man run past them in a dark alley. In particular, DNA is extremely good at predicting ethnicity and skin tone, which can allow investigators to immediately cross huge pools of suspects off their list and focus only on a narrow subset. Another article looks at the use of this technology in an American criminal case.

But not in Germany.

According to Section 81(e) of the Criminal Procedure Code, DNA can be used only comparison to potential suspects, determining family relationships, and determining gender. Every analysis going beyond these is expressly forbidden. Here is the provision in English:

(1) Material obtained by measures pursuant to Section 81a subsection (1) may also be subjected to molecular and genetic examinations, insofar as such measures are necessary to establish descent or to ascertain whether traces found originate from the accused or the aggrieved person; in so doing the gender of the person may also be determined by examination. Examinations pursuant to the first sentence shall also be admissible to obtain similar findings on material obtained by measures pursuant to Section 81c. Findings on facts other than those referred to in the first sentence shall not be made; examinations designed to establish such facts shall be inadmissible.

The prohibition, like so many others in German law, is based on the idea of data protection -- in a society in which mass surveillance caused so much harm last century, there must be strict limits on the amount of data the state can gather on its citizens. As I've pointed out before, this idea trumps many other legitimate public concerns, such as preserving historical monuments. And here, it trumps public safety. Here's a video from the conservative website Junge Freiheit featuring an interview in which the Freiburg policy confirm that they are obeying this restriction. The head of the German police union complains about it, and citizens interviewed in Freiburg are dumbfounded that the law prevents police from using a reliable, proven strategy which could lead to the apprehension of a possible serial killer in their midst. 

This is yet another cultural mismatch between the USA and Germany. I have explained restrictions such as this to many colleagues in the USA. These colleagues are mostly criminal defense lawyers and civil libertarians. That is, they spend each day defending the rights of criminals, and forcing the state to uphold its case. To say they don't have an authoritarian bone in their body is an understatement -- they don't have an authoritarian cell in their body.

Yet when I describe things like this, many of them register, to their own shock and amazement, disapproval and consternation. Sure, DNA isn't miraculous, it has to be handled carefully, it's not a panacea. But it is an extremely powerful tool which, used properly, can help ensure the guilty are imprisoned, and which has been used now hundreds of times to free the innocent from unjust confinement. Building a profile from DNA, as long as it's done responsibly according to the best scientific protocols, is definitely a legitimate means of law enforcement. Especially since it is likely to be much more reliable than eyewitness testimony.

Yet in Germany, only the right-wing website Junge Freiheit considers this an important policy issue. I have never seen it addressed by the more left-liberal press.

So there you have it: DNA profiling is so mainstream in the USA that even most civil libertarians approve of it. In Germany, apparently, only the right-wing does.


The Constitution and American Political Culture Will Survive (and Restrain) Trump

Another thoughtful piece putting the Trump win in context by Robert Howse, professor of international law at NYU:

4. Trump correctly gauged based on geographical and demographic factors to whom he would need to appeal  in order to put together a winning coalition.  He grew up in New York in the 60s and 70s, became a niche celebrity figure; he does not have a worked out racialist or authoritarian ideology.  True, he has been a tough and perhaps dodgy businessman (but not dodgy enough ever to face serious criminal consequences); but he has never been a colonel, an agent in the secret police, an operative in an extremist political party or movement, nor even a right wing activist or agitator.  He approached his political rhetoric as would a businessman who has identified the market he needs to succeed with and the slogans that work for the range of consumers within that market.    Trump did not create xenophobic, reactionary voters; nor are there more of them; it is just that Trump and others have figured out how to make political gains by mobilizing them as part of their coalition....

5. Trump was elected fairly.  The Clinton campaign itself made no objection to the result nor any claim of widespread intimidation, vote-rigging or suppression that was material to the outcome. The Clinton campaign was not inequitably deprived of resources or opportunities to make its case....

8.  Don’t forget that there is a diversity of views within liberal democratic constitutionalism about collective identity, diversity, and democracy.  Be very cautious before simply labeling someone who doesn’t share one’s strongly held own view as intolerant, racist, or anti-liberal.

9. Trump’s project of mass deportation of undocumented migrants would, I believe, be a social, economic, and humanitarian disaster. As for the horrific notion of closing the borders to Muslims, it’s already apparently removed from his website. This said, open borders is not and never has been a sine qua non for liberal democratic constitutionalism (the EU experiment not withstanding). Strictly enforcing immigration rules is not inherently illiberal or undemocratic. I’m all for a decent approach that would involve amnesty for undocumented migrants, but people like me still have to bear in mind that there is a rule of law argument behind Trump’s position that forgiveness is unfair to those who have followed the rules and lined up in the queue. I also favor an open approach to legalimmigration and generosity in the reception of refugees.  I think it’s the right thing to do, but it is not dictated by a bedrock commitment to liberal democratic constitutionalism....

12. The United States has always lacked a stable caste of high officials whose calling is absolute loyalty or service to the ruler. Just watch an episode or two of House of Cards or West Wing and you will see that how the President is surrounded by rivals past, present and future; advisers in his own office may well have their own agendas, and everybody is looking out for themselves and looking to the next election.  The Republican Party is fractious, so is the conservative movement in America: they will line up behind Trump only to the extent that serves their interests and values  The checks and balances in the United States political system are not a mere matter of constitutional formalism that could quickly crumble in the presence of a strong man contemptuous of the rule of law, they are deeply embedded sociologically in America’s culture of freedom and self-interested individualism.

13. Demonizing Mr. Trump and attempting to isolate him as beyond the liberal democratic pale is itself contrary to the spirit of liberal democratic constitutionalism. He deserves the respect of office, however much self-control is required to give it to him.  But respect of office is just that, a recognition of his legitimately acquired constitutional role. If Trump starts to act in ways that are threatening to the constitution and its underlying values that respect is forfeited. And impeachment is the ultimate remedy if he acts extra-legally.  Finally, as is often the case, Bernie Sanders puts it best:

To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.


Many Anti-Trump Arguments Are Hysteria

Trump is many things, and has said many things, but he's not a fascist, he's not deeply racist (although he has made racist statements), he's clearly no anti-Semite, and his views on immigration aren't far out of the mainstream.

Those of you getting your news from the German media may well be doing spit-take after spit-take, but this thorough and well-documented post from Slate Star Codex checks out all the most extreme claims about Trump and finds most of them overblown. You should read the entire thing, but here are some generous excerpts:

3. Is Trump getting a lot of his support from people who wouldn’t join white nationalist groups, aren’t in the online alt-right, but still privately hold some kind of white supremacist position?

There are surprisingly few polls that just straight out ask a representative sample of the population “Are you white supremacist?”.

I can find a couple of polls that sort of get at this question in useful ways.

This poll from Gallup asks white Americans their support for school segregation and whether they would move out if a black family moved in next door. It declines from about 50% in 1960 to an amount too small to measure in the 1990s, maybe 1-2%, where it presumably remains today.

(this graph also seems relevant to the stories of how Trump’s father would try to keep blacks out of his majority-white real estate developments in the late 60s/early 70s – note that at that time 33% of white families would move out if a black person moved in next door)

Here’s a CBS News poll from 2014 asking Americans their opinion on the Civil Rights Act that legally prohibited discrimination. Once again, the number of whites who think it was a bad thing is too small to measure meaningfully, but looks like maybe 1-2%. Of note, whites were more convinced the Civil Rights Act was good than blacks were, though I guess it depends on the margin of error.

Another Gallup graph here, with the percent of people who would vs. wouldn’t vote for an otherwise-qualified black candidate for President. It goes from 54% in 1968 to 5% in 1999; later polls that aren’t included on the graph give numbers from 4% to 7%, which sounds probably within the margin of error.

This is a Vox poll asking how many people had favorable vs. unfavorable views of different groups. 11% admit to “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” views of blacks, which sounds bad, except that 7% of people admit to unfavorable views of heterosexuals by the same definition. This makes me think “have an unfavorable view about this group” is not a very high bar. If we restrict true “white supremacists” to those who have only “very unfavorable” views of blacks, this is 3%, well in line with our other sources.

(of note, 1% of respondents had “never heard of” blacks. Um…)

Maybe a better way of looking for racists: David Duke ran for Senate in Louisiana this year. He came in seventh with 58,000 votes (3%). Multiplied over 50 states, that would suggest 2.5 million people who would vote for a leading white supremacist. On the other hand, Louisiana is one of the most racist states (for example, Slate’s investigation found that it led the US in percent of racist tweets) and one expects Duke would have had more trouble in eg Vermont. Adjusting for racism level as measured in tweets, it looks like there would be about 1 million Duke voters in a nationwide contest. That’s a little less than 1% of voters.

So our different ways of defining “open white supremacist”, even for definitions of “open” so vague they include admitting it on anonymous surveys, suggest maybe 1-2%, 1-2%, 4-7%, 3-11%, and 1-3%.

But doesn’t this still mean there are some white supremacists? Isn’t this still really important?

I mean, kind of. But remember that 4% of Americans believe that lizardmen control all major governments. And 5% of Obama voters believe that Obama is the Antichrist. The white supremacist vote is about the same as the lizardmen-control-everything vote, or the Obama-is-the-Antichrist-but-I-support-him-anyway vote.

(and most of these people are in Solid South red states and don’t matter in the electoral calculus anyway.)

...

This gets back to my doubts about “dog whistles”. Dog whistling seems to be the theory that if you want to know what someone really believes, you have to throw away decades of consistent statements supporting the side of an issue that everyone else in the world supports, and instead pay attention only to one weird out-of-character non-statement which implies he supports a totally taboo position which is perhaps literally the most unpopular thing it is possible to think.

And then you have to imagine some of the most brilliant rhetoricians and persuaders in the world are calculating that it’s worth risking exposure this taboo belief in order to win support from a tiny group with five-digit membership whose support nobody wants, by sending a secret message, which inevitably every single media outlet in the world instantly picks up on and makes the focus of all their coverage for the rest of the election.

Finally, no, none of this suggests that Donald Trump is courting the white supremacist vote. Anybody can endorse anybody with or without their consent. Did you know that the head of the US Communist Party endorsed Hillary, and Hillary never (as far as I know) “renounced” their endorsement? Does that mean Hillary is a Communist? Did you know that a leader of a murderous black supremacist cult supported Donald Trump and Trump said that he “loved” him? Does that mean Trump is a black supremacist? The only time this weird “X endorsed Y, that means Y must support X” thing is brought out, is in favor of the media narrative painting Trump to be a racist.

This, to me, is another form of crying wolf. One day you might have a candidate who openly courts the KKK, in the sense of having a campaign platform saying “I like the KKK and value their support”, speaking at Klan meetings, et cetera. And instead, you’ve wasted the phrase “openly courts the KKK” on somebody with a twenty year history of loudly condemning the KKK, plus one weird interview where he said he didn’t know anything about it, then changed his mind the next day and said he hates them.

...

6. What about Trump’s “drugs and crime” speech about Mexicans?

Trump said that:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Note how totally non-racist this statement is. I’m serious. It’s anti-illegal-immigrant. But in terms of race, it’s saying Latinos (like every race) include both good and bad people, and the bad people are the ones coming over here. It suggests a picture of Mexicans as including some of the best people – but those generally aren’t the ones who are coming illegally.

Compare to eg Bill Clinton’s 1996 platform (all emphasis mine):

We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it. For years before Bill Clinton became President, Washington talked tough but failed to act. In 1992, our borders might as well not have existed. The border was under-patrolled, and what patrols there were, were under-equipped. Drugs flowed freely. Illegal immigration was rampant. Criminal immigrants, deported after committing crimes in America, returned the very next day to commit crimes again. President Clinton is making our border a place where the law is respected and drugs and illegal immigrants are turned away.

Or John McCain in 2008:

Border security is essential to national security. In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, and criminalgangs, allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks to the sovereignty of the United States and the security of its people.

Trump’s platform contains similar language – and, like all past platforms, also contains language praising legal immigrants:

Just as immigrant labor helped build our country in the past, today’s legal immigrants are making vital contributions in every aspect of national life. Their industry and commitment to American values strengthens our economy, enriches our culture, and enables us to better understand and more effectively compete with the rest of the world.

We are particularly grateful to the thousands of new legal immigrants, many of them not yet citizens, who are serving in the Armed Forces and among first responders. Their patriotism should encourage all to embrace the newcomers legally among us, assist their journey to full citizenship, and help their communities avoid isolation from the mainstream of society. We are also thankful for the many legal immigrants who continue to contribute to American society.

When Democrats and Republicans alike over the last twenty years say that we are a nation of immigrants but that illegal immigrants threaten our security, or may be criminals or drug pushers, they’re met with yawns. When Trump says exactly the same thing, he’s Literally the KKK.

7. What about the border wall? Doesn’t that mean Trump must hate Mexicans?

As multiple sources point out, both Hillary and Obama voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which put up a 700 mile fence along the US-Mexican border. Politifact says that Hillary and Obama wanted a 700 mile fence but Trump wants a 1000 mile wall, so these are totally different. But really? Support a 700 mile fence, and you’re the champion of diversity and all that is right in the world; support a 1000 mile wall and there’s no possible explanation besides white nationalism?

...

10. Isn’t Trump anti-Semitic?

I feel like an attempt to avoid crying wolf might reserve that term for people who didn’t win an Israeli poll on what candidate would best represent Israel’s interests, or doesn’t have a child who converted to Judaism, or hasn’t won various awards from the American Jewish community for his contributions to Israel and American Judaism, or wasn’t the grand marshal of a Salute To Israel Parade, or…

...

14. Haven’t there been hundreds of incidents of Trump-related hate crimes?

This isn’t a criticism of Trump per se (he’s demanded that his supporters avoid hate crimes), but it seems relevant to the general tenor of the campaign.

SPLC said they have 300 such hate incidents, although their definition of “hate incident” includes things like “someone overheard a racist comment in someone else’s private conversation, then challenged them about it and got laughed at”. Let’s take that number at face value (though see here)

If 47% of America supports Trump (= the percent of vote he got extrapolated to assume non-voters feel the same way), there are 150,000,000 Trump supporters. That means there has been one hate incident per 500,000 Trump supporters.

But aren’t there probably lots of incidents that haven’t been reported to SLPC? Maybe. Maybe there’s two unreported attacks for every reported one, which means that the total is one per 150,000 Trump supporters. Or maybe there are ten unreported attacks for every reported one, which means that the total is one per 45,000 Trump supporters. Since nobody has any idea about this, it seems weird to draw conclusions from it.

Oh, also, I looked on right-wing sites to see if there are complaints of harassment and attacks by Hillary supporters, and there are. Among the stories I was able to confirm on moderately trustworthy news sites that had investigated them somewhat (a higher standard than the SLPC holds their reports to) are ones about how Hillary supporters have beaten up people for wearing Trump hats, screamed encouragement as a mob beat up a man who they thought voted Trump, knocked over elderly people, beaten up a high school girl for supporting Trump on Instagram, defaced monuments with graffiti saying “DIE WHITES DIE”, advocated raping Melania Trump, kicked a black homeless woman who was holding a Trump sign, attacked a pregnant woman stuck in her car, with a baseball bat, screamed at children who vote Trump in a mock school election, etc, etc, etc.

But please, keep talking about how somebody finding a swastika scrawled in a school bathroom means that every single Trump supporter is scum and Trump’s whole campaign was based on hatred.

...

Whatever bizarre, divisive, ill-advised, and revolting thing you’re about to mention, the answer is probably yes.

This is equally true on race-related and non-race-related issues. People ask “How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Kenya, if he wasn’t racist?” I don’t know. How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism? How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that the Clintons killed Vince Foster? How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that Ted Cruz’s father shot JFK?

Trump will apparently believe anything for any reason, especially about his political opponents. If Clinton had been black but Obama white, we’d be hearing that the Vince Foster conspiracy theory proves Trump’s bigotry, and the birtherism was just harmless wackiness.

Likewise, how could Trump insult a Mexican judge just for being Mexican? I don’t know. How could Trump insult a disabled reporter just for being disabled? How could Trump insult John McCain just for being a beloved war hero? Every single person who’s opposed him, Trump has insulted in various offensive ways, including 140 separate incidents of him calling someone “dopey” or “dummy” on Twitter, and you expect him to hold his mouth just because the guy is a Mexican?

I don’t think people appreciate how weird this guy is. His weird way of speaking. His catchphrases like “haters and losers!” or “Sad!”. His tendency to avoid perfectly reasonable questions in favor of meandering tangents about Mar-a-Lago. The ability to bait him into saying basically anything just by telling him people who don’t like him think he shouldn’t.

If you insist that Trump would have to be racist to say or do whatever awful thing he just said or did, you are giving him too much credit. Trump is just randomly and bizarrely terrible. Sometimes his random and bizarre terribleness is about white people, and then we laugh it off. Sometimes it’s about minorities, and then we interpret it as racism.

...

Why am I harping on this?

I work in mental health. So far I have had two patients express Trump-related suicidal ideation. One of them ended up in the emergency room, although luckily both of them are now safe and well. I have heard secondhand of several more.

Like Snopes, I am not sure if the reports of eight transgender people committing suicide due to the election results are true or false. But if they’re true, it seems really relevant that Trump denounced North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom law, and proudly proclaimed he would let Caitlyn Jenner use whatever bathroom she wanted in Trump Tower, making him by far the most pro-transgender Republican president in history.

I notice news articles like Vox: Donald Trump’s Win Tells People Of Color They Aren’t Welcome In America. Or Salon’s If Trump Wins, Say Goodbye To Your Black Friends. MSN: Women Fear For Their Lives After Trump Victory.

Vox writes about the five-year-old child who asks “Is Donald Trump a bad person? Because I heard that if he becomes president, all the black and brown people have to leave and we’re going to become slaves.” The Star writes about a therapist called in for emergency counseling to help Muslim kids who think Trump is going to kill them. I have patients who are afraid to leave their homes.

Listen. Trump is going to be approximately as racist as every other American president. Maybe I’m wrong and he’ll be a bit more. Maybe he’ll surprise us and be a bit less. But most likely he’ll be about as racist as Ronald Reagan, who employed Holocaust denier Pat Buchanan as a senior advisor. Or about as racist as George Bush with his famous Willie Horton ad. Or about as racist as Bill “superpredator” Clinton, who took a photo op in front of a group of chained black men in the birthplace of the KKK. Or about as racist as Bush “doesn’t care about black people!” 43. He’ll have some scandals, people who want to see them as racist will see them as racist, people who don’t will dismiss them as meaningless, and nobody will end up in death camps.


The World Will "Come to Terms" with Migration Flows...by Stopping Them

Holocaust survivor and Labour Lord Alf Dubs, sponsor of legislation to bring some very self-described "unaccompanied minors" from the "Jungle" camp in Calais to Britain, said: “The world has to come to terms with the fact that migration flows are going to become a norm.”

This the typical refrain of the Great and Good: They're coming, there's nothing we can do about it, so just lie back and think of England. The funny thing about migration flows, the thing Dubs doesn't mention, is that they are all one-way. From the Third World to Europe (at least in this hemisphere). Not a whole lot of people are clamoring to move from, say, Andorra to Angola.

So actually, he wants us to lie back and think of the millions of random strangers in Pakistan, India, Burma, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Georgia, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, and Egypt who are sitting on packed suitcases, desperate to relocate to the (comparatively) safe, prosperous, well-governed, orderly, clean nations of Europe.

Lord Dubs is sympathetic to this undifferentiated mass of random strangers because he was rescued as a child from the Holocaust. But the Holocaust isn't happening today, nor is anything like it happening today (Yes, I checked). What's happening today is the same old stew of ethnic conflict, civil wars, corrupt elites, and economic stagnation which has always plagued the Third World, and -- in relative terms compared to the West -- always will. And in fact there's a lot less suffering in the Third World than there ever has been in human history, thanks to mankind's ever-increasing ability to solve conflicts peacefully and provide for a growing population.

The overwhelming majority of the population of Europe, however you define it, does not believe the solution to the world's problems is to allow millions of random strangers to stream across Europe's external borders:

“We don’t want them!” shouted the demonstrators in this village of 1,900 people, 80 miles from Calais, where the migrants were bused from a camp known as the Jungle on Monday.

“This is our home!” others yelled at the darkened, disused retirement home where the migrants were being housed. Inside the building, a young Sudanese man pressed his face to the window and looked out at the angry crowd, bemused.

All over France, tiny communities like this one, in the old battlefields of the country’s north, are being forced to deal firsthand with Europe’s migrant crisis.

It has not been easy. The effort to relocate many of the 6,000 or more people who had made the Jungle their home has thrust France’s divided view of the migrants into plain view....

But outside on the sidewalk, the mood was grim. “No migrants in Croisilles!” read a banner that more than 100 people — men, women and children — milled around. A half-dozen police officers, incongruous in the quiet country town, stood warily by....

Some places have gritted their collective teeth and accepted the migrants without fuss. Others have haggled over the number and demanded that it be reduced, as in Saint-Bauzille-de-Putois, in the Cévennes mountain range.

In other places, residents, anticipating the migrants’ arrival, have hurled stones at the housing sites or set them on fire, as in Loubeyrat, in the Puy-de-Dôme department.

In Pierrefeu-du-Var, in the south, pro- and anti-migrant groups have held dueling demonstrations....

The divisions have been starkly evident this week in this plain-vanilla brick village, once an agricultural center. It was leveled by the Germans in World War I, then rebuilt, and is now largely a bedroom community for the nearby regional capital, Arras....

But it has been hard. “It’s been hell here,” said Raphaëlle Maggiotto, a City Council member and an ally of the mayor. She had not slept in days. “Demonstrations every day. They came to my home. They yelled my name.”

On Tuesday morning, the central square, with its monument to the World War I dead and its 1920s Art Deco city hall, was calm after the previous evening’s noisy demonstration.

“The village is divided,” said Sebastien Okoniewski, who runs the cafe in the square.

All around him, his customers grumbled about the new arrivals, but his own name testified to the immigration — a Polish influx in the early 20th century, along with Italians and Portuguese — that has shaped their region....

“There is hatred in Croisilles,” said a volunteer at the retirement home, Guislane Poutrain. “I’ve never seen this before. I don’t recognize Croisilles anymore. I’m really disappointed.”

Dubs still clings to the notion that "the people" can be convinced to accept mass migration. As this story from France shows (one of a million data points), he is deluded. French people like France the way it is. Or to put it more precisely, they like France the way it is infinitely better than they imagine it would be like after the influx of 5 million Africans. And the same goes for Italians, Poles, Czechs, and Finns. As someone who's come to appreciate the many achievements of European cultures, I agree with them.

The reception of the migrants in France shows the explosive power of this issue to divide people and erode trust in leaders and institutions. Following Dubs' recommendation to "come to terms" with non-selective mass migration flows is not just foolish, but dangerous. It reflects ignorance about how European societies actually see themselves right now (as opposed to how they might or should see themselves in the fond dreams of academics). It's an idiotic gamble, like taking a bunch of random volatile chemicals, throwing them into a big heated pot, and hoping the outcome will be gold. Or at least, you know, non-lethal.

There will still be a few years of haggling and last-ditch resistance, but the world will come to terms with "migration flows"...by stopping them. And that will be a good thing, both for Europe and for the countries from which the economic migrants come.


America: Politically Correct, and Politically Free

FT_16.10.15_Freedom-of-Expression

Pew research looks at the level of support for free speech across the globe and finds that it's highest (according to their measure) in the U.S.:

Enshrined in the Bill of Rights, free expression is a bedrock American principle, and Americans tend to express stronger support for free expression than many others around the world. A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2015 found that Americans were among the most supportive of free speech, freedom of the press and the right to use the internet without government censorship.

Moreover, Americans are much more tolerant of offensive speech than people in other nations. For instance, 77% in the U.S. support the right of others to make statements that are offensive to their own religious beliefs, the highest percentage among the nations in the study. Fully 67% think people should be allowed to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, again the highest percentage in the poll. And the U.S. was one of only three nations where at least half endorse the right to sexually explicit speech. Americans don’t necessarily like offensive speech more than others, but they are much less inclined to outlaw it.

To get a summary measure of support for free expression around the world, we built an index based on five survey questions about free speech and three about free media. Using this measure, Americans emerge as the biggest supporters of free expression among the 38 nations studied. And unlike so many other issues in the U.S., wide open, free-ranging public debate has an appeal across party lines. There are relatively few differences between Democrats, Republicans and independents when it comes to free expression.

However, there are some important generational differences on this issue. For instance, 40% of U.S. Millennials think the government should be able to prevent people from making statements that are offensive to minority groups, compared with 27% of those in Generation X, 24% of Baby Boomers, and just 12% of Silent Generation Americans. Nonwhite respondents (38%) are also more likely to hold this view than whites (23%).

Apart from debates over whether offensive language should be legal, most Americans believe people are just too easily offended nowadays. In a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 59% agreed with the statement “Too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use,” while only 39% said “people need to be more careful about the language they use to avoid offending people with different backgrounds.”

Yet another stereotype of American society down the drain. Germans consider America to be the homeland of political correctness, the dastardly censorship of controversial views which is spreading like a virus into German society. This impression, like so many others, is created by selective German news coverage. Most Germans still unthinkingly rely on the mainstream media to decide what it's important to know about the United States.

Which they do, according to their own narrow, nearly-identical criteria, determined by the tastes and preferences of educated urban haute-bourgeois Germans. And they have decided, for reasons which would be interesting to know, that Americans are afflicted by the worst case of political correctness on the globe. Journos pounce on every story showing the excesses of politically-correct scolding in the United States. 

Yet what Pew shows us is that Americans likely have the highest tolerance for offensive speech of anyone in the world.

The problem here is one of definition. Political correctness as a tendency of private persons in civil society to denounce someone's remarks, or Halloween costume, or state flag as offensive. There is a lot of that sort of thing in the United States. And there is certainly some chilling effect on college campuses, which are full of people whose job is essentially to have opinions.

Yet in another way, America is much more free than all other nations on earth. The Constitution and American culture prevent the government from punishing offensive speech to a greater degree than anywhere else. In America, the government cannot pre-emptively stop a newspaper from printing offensive speech, or stolen secret documents. Publications generally cannot be seized after they're printed. Ordinary citizens may advocate violence, deny the Holocaust, use ethnic slurs, and espouse racism without fear of government intervention. (As long as these are words alone -- you can still be punished for actions such as workplace discrimination or bias-motivated hate crimes). You can neither be punished by the government nor sued for money by a private citizen for an insult, not matter how vicious or crude it is. You can protest at the funeral of a soldier with signs which insult "fags" and say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers".

God-hates-fags

In almost all other countries on earth, any one of these actions or statements could expose you to criminal prosecution by the government or an order to compensate victims with money damages in civil court. Not in the U.S. And, as the Pew survey shows, the majority of Americans approve of this state of affairs. Even millennials, the most PC group of them all, are not clamoring for restrictions on free speech.

So in the United States, if you say something quite rude and non-PC, you may be castigated on Twitter and denounced by your audience.

If you say the same thing in many other countries, you could be hit with a government-imposed fine or civil damages verdict. Perhaps even a prison sentence.

The amount of politically-correct scolding in a country has no relation to the level of genuine freedom of expression. After all, politically-correct scolding is freedom of expression. The U.S. is a hotbed both of political correctness and of free speech.


Germany's Extreme Refugee Masochism, Part XXIV

In the New Haven Independent, the outreach director of a refugee resettlement charity in the United States takes issue with Donald Trump:

When asked in the most recent presidential debate about the Syrian refugee crisis, Donald Trump Jr. said his proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. has become a plan of “extreme vetting … because we don’t even know who they are.”

But we do know who they are.

The U.S. vetting process for refugees is already the most rigorous in the world. Refugees who are being considered for resettlement to the U.S. undergo seven background checks by national security agencies and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security personnel. But refugees are not just threats we need to vet, nor are they simply victims we need to save.

I have the privilege of knowing who refugees are. Through my work at IRIS — Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, a not-for-profit that is resettling almost 500 refugees to Connecticut this year, I interact with refugees every day.  The refugees I know are not terrorists or just victims. They’re the gay man from Baghdad who shows me pictures of his cat, the Afghan single mom who does YouTube yoga, the Congolese toddler who’s learning to wink, the fisherman who Skypes with his parrot back in Iraq, the Syrian teens who text while they ride their bikes.

Two things. First, note that the refugees mentioned here are almost all women and children, or people who, like the gay man from Baghdad, obviously appear to have grounds for refugee status. This is what happens when you screen migrants before you let them into your country.

Second, note that the woman who wrote this anti-Trump article, a proud liberal who actually helps run a refugee charity, does not complain about the background checks. She even seems proud of the fact that the U.S. vetting process is "rigorous". That is, even as a liberal who is intimately familiar with the problems of refugees, she accepts that every single asylum applicant will be exhaustively screened by "national security agencies".

Contrast this with the reaction to the latest bomb-maker migrant in Germany, an ISIS terrorist named Jaber Al-Bakr who entered Germany as a "refugee". This case is worth a short digression. Albakr had already prepared 1.5 kilograms of the high-explosive TATP in an ordinary apartment building in Chemnitz, Germany. Watch what just 10 grams of that stuff can do here. If this notoriously unstable compound had exploded, dozens of his neighbors would have been killed and injured. The police, acting on information given to them by the American NSA (g), which had gathered it through phone surveillance, found out about his activities. But Albakr escaped blanket surveillance (g) by elite German security services, was on the loose for days, and was only captured by fellow Syrians who recognized his wanted photo and tied him up while he was sleeping

His capture was celebrated by the German mainstream press as a victory for Germany's intelligence services, despite the fact that German intelligence would never have known of him had it not been for the NSA, and that he was literally allowed to walk right past German cops and escape from surveillance, and that Germany was on edge for days with a known terrorist free in their midst, and that police were unable to catch him on their own.

I'd say celebrating this train-wreck as effective intelligence work shows how low standards are in the German mainstream press, who are desperate to reassure readers that everything's fine with the refugees, move along here, nothing to see.

But then something else happened. Albakr was allowed to hang himself in his prison cell. There is no video surveillance in the cell where this experienced bomb-maker was being held, and authorities, after initially ordering checks every 15 minutes, decided there was no need for such precautions and reduced the suicide checks to once only every 30 minutes. He seemed "calm" in interviews, you see.

After this orgy of SNAFUs, the conservative CSU party demanded background checks for all refugees and that German intelligence services be given full access to the database of information on migrants (which, surprisingly enough, they don't have now). The reaction from left-wing German politicians was a litany of the same old cliches: More surveillance won't help (g), we shouldn't put all refugees under blanket suspicion (g), there's no reason to act (g).

The contrast is clear again: the liberal American friend to refugees accepts that background checks are necessary and uses that fact to reassure Americans that it's appropriate to take more refugees. Humanitarian relief must be balanced by legitimate security interests.

The German center-left political mainstream, despite several attacks and many more close calls, continues to resist universal background checks on refugees prior to entry, the policy of just about every other nation on the planet.

Who are the extremists here?