RealClear Politics: When Misinformation Drives Bad Policy

In When Misinformation Drives Bad Policy, John R. Lott, Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, writes about the American public’s badly misinformed perception of violent crime. On average, the American voters believes that 46% of violent crimes involve firearms, when the figure is actually less than 8%. John Lott has made a name for himself with such books as More Guns, Less Crime, The Bias Against Guns, Dumbing Down the Courts, and The War on Guns among others.

To President Biden, public health researchers, and the media, violent crime is all about guns. But a new survey finds that people are badly misinformed about how much violent crime involves guns. The average likely American voter is way off, thinking that over 46% of violent crimes involve guns. In fact, the true figure is less than 8%.

Not surprisingly, those who believe that most violent crime involves guns are more likely to view gun control as the solution.

Biden has given four major speeches on violent crime (hereherehere, and here). Each one of them was focused on enforcement of gun control laws. In the four speeches, he mentioned “gun” or “firearm” 179 times. The term “weapon,” sometimes in connection with “assault weapon,” was used another 31 times.

The words “crime,” “violence,” or “violent” were mentioned about half as often – 94 times. He only mentions the words “murder” and “homicide” seven times in these four presentations, and entirely omits them from his two most recent talks.

But this “guns first” approach ignores a basic fact – over 92% of violent crimes in America do not involve firearms. Although Biden blames guns for the increase in violent crime, the latest data show that gun crimes fell dramatically.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, in the latest year available (2020), shows that there were 4,558,150 rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults, and the FBI reports 21,570 murders. Of those, 350,460 rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults (see Table 8) and 13,620 murders involved firearms. So, while it’s true that firearms are the weapon of choice in more than half the murders in this country, it’s also true that only 7.9% of violent crimes were committed with guns.

The new McLaughlin & Associates survey of 1,000 likely voters from April 20 to 26 for the Crime Prevention Research Center shows how misinformed people are. People across the country, of all races and incomes, have wildly inaccurate beliefs about how frequently violent crime involves guns.

Even so, there are large differences across groups. The average Democrat estimates that 56.9% of violent crimes involve guns, whereas the typical Republican gave an answer of 37%. Those with the highest incomes (over $250,000 per year) and those who work for the government give the highest numbers – 56.1% and 51% respectively. Women (50%) believe that more violent crimes involve guns than men do (43%). Urban Americans say 48%, whereas rural Americans say 40%. But the biggest difference is between blacks (59%) and Asians (31%).

The McLaughlin survey also gave people three options on the best way to fight crime: Pass more gun control laws, more strictly enforce current laws, or have police concentrate on arresting repeat violent criminals.

Some respondents at least got it right that less than 20% of violent crime involves guns. Just 8% prioritized more gun laws, and 15% focused on stricter enforcement of existing laws. An overwhelming 71% thought the best way of fighting crime was to arrest violent criminals.

Some likely voters thought that more than 80% of the violent crime involved guns. Most supported either more gun control laws (33%) or more strict enforcement of current gun laws (28%). Only 36% of them wanted the focus on arresting violent criminals.

Those who think that most violent crime is committed with guns consistently support more gun control. Those who don’t believe that instead want to focus on arresting violent criminals and keeping them in jail.

Perhaps the gun control debate would be very different if the media had done a better job of informing people about crime. The most newsworthy cases, unfortunately, don’t tend to be typical of violent crime. Focusing on how to solve 8% of violent crime does nothing to solve the other 92%.

RealClear Politics: The Gaslighting of the American Mind

From J. Peder Zane at RealClear Politics, The Gaslighting of the American Mind

Democrats are the party of make believe.

Through their domination of the media, academia, Hollywood, and growing swaths of corporate America, they successfully peddle propaganda as reality. They insisted President Trump was a dictator and a treasonous ally of Vladimir Putin who refused to denounce white supremacy. They dismissed questions about the business dealings of President Biden’s family as “Russian disinformation” that had been “totally discredited.”

When investigations and fact checks revealed those claims to be false, they just kept on repeating them. Tell a lie long and loud enough and many accept it as truth.

Having secured the White House and control of the Senate in the last election, Democrats and their allies are adding a strong dose of intimidation to their campaign of deceit. They are using social media to silence dissent from their views while creating blacklists to make it difficult for their opponents to find gainful employment. In a sign of how far gone they are, many journalists at influential outfits are now questioning the wisdom of the First Amendment and calling for government regulation of speech.

As cancel culture spreads, they gaslight the public by denying that it is happening. At the same time they argue that Republicans must be silenced and even “deprogrammed” because they are delusional liars. To conservative ears, the national discourse often boils down to this: Are you going to believe us or your lying eyes?

The caricature of conservatives certainly describes some people on the right. Sen. Mitch McConnell has spoken out against his party’s lunatic fringe. But there is little evidence they enjoy meaningful support. The Jan. 6 criminal assault on the Capitol was a disgrace, but it was also widely condemned by Republicans – a stark contrast to Democrats who have largely ignored or even celebrated the repeated violence perpetrated by antifa. Casting that action as an attempted coup – pretending the mob could have gained control of the government – is deceitful propaganda aimed at smearing 74 million Trump voters.

U.S. history is full of examples of movements that many Americans considered dangerous. Usually these were progressives who fought for unions, and marched for civil rights, and demanded an end to foreign wars. Most people see those causes as worthy, even though communists were interspersed among the activists’ ranks. We also now see that the suppression they provoked was shameful. As future Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis noted in 1913, sunlight is “the best of disinfectants”; the way to defeat dangerous ideas and behaviors is to expose them to reason.

This is a foundation of our pluralistic democracy.

History reveals two main reasons why factions seek to limit speech: first, because it is an effective means to quash dissent and second because they won’t or can’t defend their own ideas. Today’s Democrats and their allies are driven by both rationales. Their control of most communication channels has empowered them to spread narratives that delegitimize their opponents by caricaturing them as racist conspiracy theorists.

It may be impossible to change the minds of those who embrace the accuracy of that portrayal, but it is worth asking: If your view is true, why advance so many mistruths to support it? For Democrats this propaganda coup is a twofer: As it marginalizes Republicans, it keeps the focus off the ramifications of their own ideas and politics. Their argument boils down to this: Let us do what we want because otherwise those Neanderthals will be in charge. This strategy is increasingly essential for Democrats as they advance leftist ideas that are hard to support through fact-based metrics – i.e. reality instead of ideology.

Democrats are the party of activist government. Their core progressive idea – the plinth course of their Great Society programs – is that the combination of vast federal resources and elite expertise can solve most of society’s problems. There have been some successes – credit progressives and libertarians for helping advance the rights of marginalized groups. But the last half-century has also seen the breakdown of the nuclear family, continuing hopelessness and blight in many cities, and the failure of public schools to raise educational achievement despite massive increases in per pupil spending.

While many African Americans have entered the middle class since the 1960s, blacks still lag behind other Americans in a wide variety of measures of health and wealth despite massive government interventions. The reasons for these failures are myriad and complex. The rise of a competitive global economy, for example, has gutted manufacturing jobs and depressed low-skill wages.

But the bottom line is that many progressive programs have not delivered on their promise of prosperity and opportunity for many of the groups they specifically aimed to help.

This is a particular problem for Democrats because African Americans remain their core voting base. The demonstrable shortcomings of their efforts help explain why they have embraced the concept of systemic racism and sound their incessant alarms about white supremacy despite America’s significant progress toward social justice. The message: Our programs would have worked but for rampant racism.

Unable to change the facts, they work to alter the definition of reality. President Biden codified this make-believe style of government on his first day in office when he signed the Modernizing Regulatory Review memorandum. As the government seeks justifications for new controls on society, it directed agencies to “fully account … for regulatory benefits that are difficult or impossible to quantify.”

Difficult or impossible to quantify? Translation: make ’em up. This is just the latest, frightening evidence that the party that claims to embrace science, facts and truth is driven by ideology. When you’re running a make-believe society, it’s no wonder you have to silence dissent.

Real Clear Politics: Big Tech, Big Brother and the End of Free Speech

Real Clear Politics has an article on Big Tech, Big Brother and the End of Free Speech.

In George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” members of the Outer Party of Oceania engage in the Two Minutes Hate ritual against Emmanuel Goldstein, who is supposed to be the enemy of the people but may actually just be a fabricated symbol to distract the people from their real enemy — Big Brother.

In Nancy Pelosi’s “Twenty Twenty-One,” members of the Democratic Party engage in the Two Hours Hate against Donald Trump, who is supposed to be the enemy of the people, but may actually just be a fabricated symbol to distract the people from their real enemy — Big Tech.

 Two hours of hate — er, debate — was held in the House of Representatives last Wednesday for the avowed purpose of removing a president of the United States. That’s all it took. Two hours. That should tell you everything you need to know about the state of democracy in our country.

More time is routinely spent on picking wallpaper. But let’s face it, most families wouldn’t trust Congress to pick out wallpaper for their living room, so why should we trust these self-appointed moral arbiters to pick our president?

Well, we don’t. Not all of us.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a Republican representative from California, put it plainly in his 90-second speech when he said the “second annual impeachment” of Donald Trump “isn’t really about actual words spoken at a rally. No, this is all about the unbridled hatred of this president [by Democrats]. You use any extreme language and any process to oppose the core of what he has really fought for. You hate him because he is pro-life, the strongest ever. You hate him for fighting for the freedom of religion. … You hate him for Israel. You hate him for defending our borders. … You hate him for putting America first.”

They certainly shouldn’t hate him — or impeach him — just for telling a rally crowd that “everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” But that’s what they did. In two hours.

And before they ever got around to impeaching Trump, they de-platformed him. With stunning suddenness, Trump went from the most powerful man in the world to a cornered, desperate fugitive. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google — they all came for him. Most importantly, they came for us. Everyone who sided with the president, everyone who agreed with the president about the questions of election fraud, we are all now guilty by association, and Big Tech has turned its sights on all of us.

“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

Those were the words that terrified millions of Americans in the 1950s when Joe McCarthy and other senators tried to purge the United States of what they considered a subversive movement designed to overthrow the government.

In that case, of course, it was conservative senators — both Democrat and Republican — who were trying to expose what they called a communist conspiracy. In their zeal to protect the nation, they trampled on the civil liberties of individual Americans and tried to strip them of their jobs, their reputations and in some cases their very freedom.

What was the crime most of those Americans had committed? They had either attended a meeting of the Communist Party, donated money to the Communist Party or signed a petition on behalf of the Communist Party. In other words, they had exercised their First Amendment rights of speech and assembly. They had used their own minds and reached unpopular opinions. That was all it took for McCarthy to try to ruin their lives.

Apparently the American left never forgot what was done to them, and now that they have achieved absolute power, it looks like they want revenge.

In the lead-up to the impeachment vote, Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts put Trump defender Jim Jordan “on trial” for the new crime of having a dissenting view on the 2020 presidential election. The question McGovern barked at Jordan in a congressional hearing last week could be repeated in job interviews for years to come:

“Will you admit that Joe Biden won fair and square and that the election was not rigged or stolen?”

Jordan avoided a direct answer, but of course he and millions of other people don’t believe that Biden won fair and square. In a free country, they could say so, but in Pelosi’s “Twenty Twenty-One,” you say so at your own risk. To begin with, you can lose your Twitter account or your Facebook account, but who’s to say that you won’t lose your bank account next? China has a “social credit” system that deprives citizens of certain rights if their score falls below a certain level of acceptability — meaning if they don’t follow the party line in their thinking and their public persona. You might lose your job. You might be denied a ticket on a train or a plane. The only recourse is to do what the party tells you to do — even if it means accepting that 2+2=5.

Now, in modern America, we are precipitously close to duplicating the monolithic control of information that Orwell predicted in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and that the Chinese Communist Party has perfected.

In the last two weeks, we have seen the power of Big Tech unleashed mercilessly. With the complicit assistance of Big Media, the Silicon Valley oligarchs not only neutered President Trump as a political leader by taking away his bully pulpit but also effectively crushed dissent by demanding that only social media companies that censor unpopular opinions can have a platform on the Internet. Bye-bye, Parler. You can also make a reasonable case that Democrats in Congress would never have impeached President Trump from public office so hastily were they not goaded into action by Twitter and Facebook taking the first step of banning him from public life.

In a sense, Big Tech has taken cyberbullying to its logical conclusion. When 13-year-olds are entrusted with cellphones and Snapchat accounts, they can use them to bring shame on innocent children and even destroy their lives. Often, this involves spreading false rumors about the person or discrediting them for something they espouse, like their religion, their political beliefs or their sexual identity.

Tell me how this is different from what Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have done to Donald Trump and, by extension, the more than 74 million people who voted for him. This group of post-pubescent cyberbullies in Silicon Valley doesn’t like Donald Trump. They feel justified in calling him names like white supremacist and Nazi and racist. They don’t care whether it hurts him or not. They don’t care whether it is true or not. They are strangely enlivened by what they perceive as their ability to hurt him, to weaken him. Like the mob that they have attempted to link the president to, these bullies act in mindless concert, emboldened by each other to see who can strike the deeper blow, who can make the victim hurt more.

And over what? Differences of opinion, for the most part. Strong border or no border? Mask or no mask? Globalism or Americanism? Carbon credits or fracking? Abortion or no abortion? And then the last straw — fair election or fraudulent election?

These should be legitimate subjects for debate in a free society. But not anymore. Big Tech has banned debate about government policy on the coronavirus, and any discussion of election fraud is treated as if it were a crime. But wait? It’s only a crime to question the government in a totalitarian system, like that in communist China or Orwell’s fictional Oceania, right? In America, we have the right and obligation to question our government, don’t we? Because, if we don’t have that right any longer, then what are they afraid of? What are they hiding?

Bottom line: At some point in some election, the allegations of election fraud have to be real. It can’t always just be the figment of some right-wing president’s imagination. And if we aren’t allowed to have free speech, then how do we fight back? If Big Tech and Big Government have their way, we don’t. Just keep your head down and your nose clean — and never ever question what you are told.

Remember, 2+2=5.