Good news, everyone: The New York Times has discovered what caused that huge spike in violence that began in 2020 and is only beginning to ease now.
Bad news: It’s them, along with every other major media outlet.
Not that they realize it. Don’t expect any Walt Kelly-esque “We have met the enemy and he is us” kind of mea culpa. In fact, the cluelessness of the Gray Lady is exemplified in the title of the report bearing this news in Friday’s edition of their email newsletter The Morning: “A drop in murders this year exemplifies the kind of news story that can get relatively little attention.”
And there’s at least some signs of hope. “At the start of this year, America’s crime trends looked grim: Murders had spiked at a record speed in 2020 and increased further in 2021,” the report by the Times’ German Lopez began. “But now that the year is ending, it’s clear that the violence has eased.
“Murders in large U.S. cities are down more than 5 percent so far in 2022 compared to the same time last year, according to the research firm AH Datalytics. Gun deaths, injuries and mass shootings are also down this year.”
Now, murders being down 5 percent in large cities doesn’t at all make it “clear that the violence has eased.” Consider that, as Fox News notes, murders in 2020 were up almost 30 percent over 2019 numbers, and 2021’s numbers were higher than that. However, yes, it’s better when that number is lower than higher, so let’s give thanks to that.
Beyond the what, however, there’s the question of why. As the Times notes, it’s because “[t]he causes of the murder spike have receded.” And by “the causes,” you may read “everything the media exacerbated about the annus horribilis of 2020.”
Cause number one? “Covid disrupted much of life in 2020 and 2021, including social services that help keep people safe. That applies not just to policing, but also to places like schools and addiction treatment facilities that can help people — especially young men, the more common perpetrators and victims of violent crime — stay out of trouble. As life slowly returns to normal, these programs have reopened and helped suppress murders and shootings.”
As we all know, COVID has been a brutal pandemic. But there was a second, unacknowledged pandemic on top of this — one created by fear, fear that was milked by the media for all it was worth. And while this wasn’t just the Times, the liberal establishment media were the ones in particular running fear-based stories about any kind of reopening or return to normal.
For instance — even by early 2021, we knew enough about COVID-19 to know classrooms weren’t a serious vector of infection or death and that the ancillary damage done to students by remote learning and shuttered schools. However, here were the first two paragraphs in an Aug. 10, 2021 Times article by Eliza Shapiro about the New York City school system reopening:
“In just over a month, the nation’s largest school system is poised to return to something like normal schooling, when full-time, in-person classes begin, without a remote option,” she wrote.
“But as the Delta variant and lagging vaccination rates have fueled a rise in coronavirus cases in New York City, some families and educators are wondering if a school reopening plan that seemed like a sure bet just a few weeks ago will be threatened. For now, at least, Mayor Bill de Blasio has insisted that there will be no major changes.”
Note the tone. Panic, everyone! They’re going back! And the Delta variant is about!
Now, the paper is acknowledging COVID disruptions were a driver of crime. But now that “life slowly returns to normal,” a paper that dragged its feet on life ever-slowly returning to normal admits that, yes, lockdowns drove criminal behavior over what amounted to an exceptionally bad flu but was covered as if it were AIDS and pancreatic cancer rolled into one, only airborne.
Cause number two: “We also have additional distance from the murder of George Floyd in 2020, an event that not only spawned widespread protests but also strained police-community trust across the U.S.,” the Times noted.
“How did the fallout from the horror of Floyd’s death tie into murder trends? Because those police-community tensions may have reduced law enforcement’s effectiveness by, for example, making people more skeptical of working with the police and leading officers to be too cautious in fighting crime. And the public’s loss of confidence in the police may have led more people to resolve conflicts through their own means, including violence, instead of through the justice system.”
Cause number three is a doozy. “There is also a more abstract explanation: Covid, Floyd’s death, the 2020 election, the Jan. 6 attack and other events have made the past few years feel chaotic, damaging social cohesion and trust in institutions,” the Times reported.
Again, if you’re not experiencing these events first-hand, you’re experiencing them through the lens of an information source, which usually means a media source. Most of us would have experienced COVID firsthand without outlets like the Times, but few of us were at the site of George Floyd’s death or the Capitol incursion. Few of us watched the video of Floyd’s death on social media before media outlets reported it, and I’d guess the same is true for raw footage of Jan. 6 as it happened.
Thus, all of this “chaotic” mess has been made to feel chaotic by outlets that treated COVID fear as a cash cow, George Floyd as a more transcendent figure of moral reckoning than Martin Luther King Jr. and the Capitol incursion, ugly though it may have been, as an “insurrection” or “coup” that it most certainly wasn’t.
And then, Mr. Lopez has the cheek to insinuate that we care about the massive spike in murders America has endured since 2020 because of “[b]ad news bias.”
“The drop in murders is genuinely good news — the kind that often goes unreported. Think about how many headlines you have seen about the rise in murders compared to stories about the subsequent decline,” he wrote.
“That gap demonstrates another point that regular readers of this newsletter will be familiar with: The news media tends to have a bad news bias. Some of that is driven by journalists’ decisions, hence the old cliché that if it bleeds, it leads. Studies also suggest that negativity gets a bigger audience, so journalists are, to some extent, giving readers what they want.”
You don’t say.
Lopez still misses the point, as this isn’t his resignation letter; nowhere will you find a mea culpa and a promise by the writer to spend the rest of his time upon this vale of tears doing something useful, like running a B&B for kayakers in Juneau or whatever.
Instead, he seems to think he’s doing us a favor by pointing out all of the “bad news bias” in outlets reporting on sky-high murder rates … which were caused, he said, by three different sets of circumstances, each exacerbated by his outlet and others like it, which were stoking bad news bias for all it was worth during the Sturm und Drang of 2020.
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