A Funny Thing Happens When You Mention Record-Breaking Homicide Rates
Did you know that perceptions of rising homicide rates in the United States are actually just “inorganic” conconctions of contrarian media figures, who for some reason have decided to get together and deliberately sow panic — brainwashing ordinary citizens into a depraved false consciousness? Yes, that’s right: the same media establishment which was virtually united last year in unwavering support of a protest movement that rejected the very foundational premises of American policing has now supposedly done a 180, and is all of the sudden obsessed with amplifying cop-friendly “surging crime” narratives. So, you’ve fallen for “hysteria” if you are worried by current homicide patterns in major cities. That, anyway, appears to be the new line of left-wing politicians and social media influencers.
Can we at least take a quick look at the real-life evidence? The FBI collects and publishes annual crime data, but the results don’t usually come out till September of the following year, so there’s still no final yet verdict on 2020. But other sources have done preliminary surveys. And as one put it:
Homicide rates were higher during every month of 2020 relative to rates from the previous year. That said, rates increased significantly in June, well after the pandemic began, coinciding with the death of George Floyd and the mass protests that followed. Overall, homicide rates increased 30% in 2020, a large and troubling increase that has no modern precedent.
Read that again if necessary — “no modern precedent.” There is no precedent in the modern era, defined as the years from which reliable statistics are available (usually around 1960-onwards), for what’s going on now vis-a-vis the nationwide surge in lethal violence. And that was in reference to 2020. Most available evidence indicates that 2021 is going to be far worse, with the problem of course heavily concentrated in certain urban areas. So if you’re a comfortable online pundit, it makes sense that the issue would not directly impact you, and you can therefore opine with ease that people living elsewhere are merely succumbing to irrational media-fed hysterics — rather than reacting to their observable life circumstances.
It’s funny. Because on the one hand, a highly savvy online pundit cohort tells us that concern over this trend is the product of mindless media propaganda, or some other confluence of “non-organic” trickery. It can’t possibly be a reasonable response to the empirical reality that homicide rates in many places across the country are surpassing their all-time highs set in the late 80s and early 90s. (And these people don’t see it as extraordinarily condescending to lecture inner-city residents that the growing violent crime problem they perceive in their own neighborhoods is actually an illusion. Also funny.)
And yet on the other hand, when I reflect on my two-month trip across the United States last summer, surveying the destruction of the most widespread riots in at least 50 years — I don’t remember a whole lot of national media attention being paid to the emergence of these violent crime trends. Instead, it looked more like a concerted media coverup. Not a conspiracy, exactly: but a gaping epistemic blindspot driven by a confluence of political and institutional pressures.
Take just one example: During the most extreme George Floyd-related rioting in Chicago, there were 18 people killed in a single day (May 31, 2020) — the most deadly 24-hour period in 60 years. We’re just supposed to ignore the possibility that this has congealed into a long-term effect? Please.
Next month I will be spending some time in Philadelphia, which is undergoing extreme levels of homicide. In 2020, the city was one homicide short of the all-time record (1990) and is currently on pace for a 35% year-over-year increase in 2021. Mayor Jim Kenney is welcoming federal assistance to combat the problem — you have to wonder how that would’ve been portrayed politically a year ago.
Any online leftists who want to tell local residents that their perceptions of danger are “inorganic” would be welcome to join me. Seriously — you have my email address.