Someone alert Bill O'Reilly, Matt Drudge, Michelle Malkin and the rest of the right-wing media team that spent last year alternately belittling and hysterically hyping Chicago crime: their argument just fell apart.
Conservatives, led by O'Reilly, Drudge, and Malkin, callously used Chicago crime to attack President Obama and push back against his support for stronger gun laws. Pointing out that Obama's hometown is Chicago and his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is the city's mayor, they frequently highlighted the fact that the city struggled with well-publicized gang shootings despite some of the tightest laws in the country. The right tagged Chicago as a gun control test case and deemed it a miserable failure. (Fox contributor Katie Pavlich: "Slaughter in Gun Control Chicago")
O'Reilly has alternately compared Chicago's murder rate to "many Holocausts," and "Afghanistan." The Drudge Report linked to 134 "CHICAGOLAND" crime headlines last year, all meant to convey the image of a lawless city on the verge of bloody collapse. And Malkin let loose with her usual invective, denouncing Chicago as one of many Democratic-run "hellholes"; urban centers teeming with "juvenile delinquency, organized crime, ruinous government dependency, corruption and out-of-control spending."
Conservative conspiracists such as Rush Limbaugh even claimed Democratic politicians want the city's murder rate to remain high so they can use the killings to advocate for stronger gun laws. It's all part of a larger conservative media movement to portray Obama's former hometown as being driven under by murder and violence. They seem to want the city to become a symbol of doom and "urban decay," just as conservative pundits have enjoyed mocking Detroit's tough times.
It was also part of a larger, racially-tinged and hollow attempt in the wake of the Trayvon Martin trial to accuse Obama of ignoring crime, which according to the conservative media telling is raging out of control. (It's not; it remains on a steady decline.)
But suddenly the Chicago taunts have gone quiet. Suddenly the claims that strict gun laws are useless and that Democratic mayors oversee killings zones have disappeared. No more "CHICAGO LAND" links or cries of "Holocaust," and Malkin has for now stopped referring to Chicago as "America's Bloody City."
Why? Because even world-class misinformers like those would have a tough time making a case against "Obama's Chicago," given the fact that the murder rate there last year fell to its lowest level since Lyndon Johnson was president, while the booming metropolis welcomed a record number of 46 million tourists last year.
That's right, despite the endless right-wing attacks on Chicago and the permanent conservative depiction of the Second City as a hell hole, Chicago last year experienced the fewest murders since 1965; 413 in 2013. (Context: Chicago at its worst tallied 943 murders in 1992.) The city's overall crime rate in last year fell to a level not seen since 1972, and every one of the Chicago's 22 police districts registered a decrease in crime last year.
"The drop is legitimately stunning," noted The Atlantic's Philip Bump.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly denied the "mass arrest" of casual marijuana users in the U.S. and claimed that only "stealers" have been arrested in the war on drugs.
On January 6 O'Reilly featured a segment in which he asked, "is America becoming a weaker nation because of pot and internet abuse?" When Fox contributor Juan Williams confronted O'Reilly with the facts about arrests of casual marijuana users, O'Reilly asserted that users of marijuana are not being arrested in large numbers and that he's "just going to discount" Williams' argument.
O'REILLY: Let's begin with the left. What is it about the drug culture, the internet culture, that's so compelling for some of them?
WILLIAMS: Well, I don't think it's compelling, but I think that if you start to arrest their children and give them records and put barriers in front of their futures and their careers, I think people say wait a second. As you said in the previous segment, this is soft drug use, why are you arresting and giving this kid a record, especially minority kids disproportionately. They're the ones who get arrested.
O'REILLY: Only stealers, Juan, there's no mass arrests of users.
WILLIAMS: No, no, no, Bill.
MARY KATHARINE HAM [Fox contributor]: No, users [are] arrested.
O'REILLY: No, they get a ticket, Juan.
WILLIAMS: I don't think that's right, Bill.
O'REILLY: No, it is right.
WILLIAMS: And I think lots of people fear for their children. By the way, you should know, it's not just liberals --
O'REILLY: So by your thinking then, people fear for their children so they want to make drugs more available. Let's legalize them so they don't get a rap sheet.
WILLIAMS: No, no, no, I didn't say that. I didn't say more available. I said, listen, the kid gets out there --
O'REILLY: So what happens when drugs are legalized?
WILLIAMS: -- the kid's involved in soft drugs, by your own definition, gets arrested, suddenly he's got a record, all sorts of things that would inhibit his or her progress in life.
O'REILLY: It's almost impossible, the records are expunged if they are juveniles.
O'REILLY: You know what the game is here. This is not a crime that is actively pursued by district attorneys. All right. I'm just going to discount that argument, Juan.
But data from the FBI on marijuana-related arrests in the U.S. contradicts O'Reilly's assertion. According to the FBI, marijuana possession accounted for 42.4 percent of all drug arrests in 2012. The following graph shows that since 1995, more than one-third, and sometimes nearly half, of all drug arrests were for just possessing marijuana:
Over a period of several days, Fox News hosts and contributors demanded that Rev. Al Sharpton condemn a series of "knockout" attacks that have occurred in several cities. Sharpton condemned the attacks in a speech on Saturday, but Fox has so far failed to report on the condemnation.
The so-called "knockout game" involves young men attacking random people on the street. The violent, unprovoked attacks have sometimes resulted in death. Fox News has intensely covered these attacks, reporting on them largely as racially motivated crime committed by black youths against white victims.
Laura Ingraham used her radio show to push the falsehood that President Obama could waive deportations of all undocumented immigrants except for serious criminals, even though he has explicitly stated that such a move would be a violation of federal law. Legal experts also agree that it would be "problematic" for Obama to waive deportations of all undocumented immigrants.
Discussing immigration reform with Chris Crane -- the president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and a frequent critic of the Obama administration, which has made him popular among right-wing media -- Ingraham let Crane accuse the Obama administration of not enforcing immigration law, saying that this "administration is ordering us not to enforce the law." Crane continued with a series of whoppers about immigration enforcement:
CRANE: It is no longer illegal in the United States of America to be in this country illegally. You know, even if you have been convicted of multiple criminal convictions, we often cannot even put you into removal proceedings, into deportation proceedings, because you are protected by this president. And it's basically an open-borders policy that once you make it past the border and you're in the interior of the United States, you're free.
In reality, any undocumented immigrant who is arrested and convicted of a crime goes through deportation proceedings after they have been tried in criminal court. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement routinely holds hearings to determine whether an immigrant who has been convicted of a crime should be subject to removal following jail time.
As of May 2013, ICE had deported about 31,500 immigrants through the Secure Communities program since the beginning of the year, which flags immigrants in law enforcement custody for ICE removal.
In fiscal year 2012, the Obama administration deported a record number 409,849 immigrants, 55 percent of whom fell into ICE's high-priority categories. It is estimated that the administration deports at least 1,000 immigrants a day at this current pace.
Fox News and right-wing blogs falsely claimed that the federal government turned off Amber Alert, the child abduction broadcast service, because of the government shutdown. In fact, there have been several Amber Alerts since the shutdown began October 1 -- only a Justice Department website listing them has been shut down, along with the websites of many other federal agencies due to a lack of funding.
Before Republicans caused a government shutdown beginning October 1 by refusing to fund the government unless Democrats accepted unrealistic demands, media reports explained that numerous federal government websites would go offline or would not be constantly updated as a result.
A week later, right-wing media are highlighting the unavailability of the Justice Department's AmberAlert.gov website to falsely claim that the government "shut off" the Amber Alert program. On October 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said "if somebody goes missing, and an Amber Alert should be issued, it won't be" due to the website not being available. Fox Nation's headline read: "Amber Alerts Cancelled: WH First Targets Veterans, Now Targeting Children, in Shutdown." A Breitbart.com blog post claimed in a headline, "Amber Alerts Shut Off." And the Washington Examiner claimed that "somebody, somewhere in the Obama White House or the Obama Justice Department decided to shut down the Amber Alerts."
Contrary to the right-wing media's claims, Amber Alerts have continued to be issued since the shutdown began. On October 5, an Amber Alert in Miami, Florida for a missing two-year-old was made and then canceled. An Amber Alert was issued in Galveston County in Texas on October 5 for four children, but was later canceled when the children were found safe in Tennessee.
The government shutdown and the suspension of Justice Department websites did not stop Amber Alerts. As California Highway Patrol officials explained to a NBC affiliate reporting on the shutdown of the Amber Alert webpage, local law enforcement agencies will still alert local media outlets about an Amber Alert.
UPDATE: The Justice Department's Amber Alert website AmberAlert.gov has been restored. A link on the website to view active Amber Alerts shows that this website does not post any active Amber Alerts. A Justice Department spokesman explained on Twitter that "[a]t no point has AmberAlert system been interrupted during shutdown":
As news spread of shots fired near the U.S. Capitol building, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones immediately began speculating that the shooting at the U.S. Capitol could be a staged event. Jones has repeatedly promoted outlandish and false conspiracy theories, which has not dissuaded conservative media outlets like The Drudge Report and Fox News from promoting his ideas.
Responding to reports of shots fired on his October 3 broadcast, Jones suggested that "they're pulling a big distraction on us," and to "look for them to stage a bunch of stuff" because "everything the globalists do is falling apart right now."
JONES: Shots fired, U.S. Capitol. Oh, they're - they're pulling a big distraction on us. We're going to go to break, I just cancelled our guest coming up so I can get to everybody's calls. Frank, I appreciate ya. We're going to get to everybody else and cover these shots when we come back.
But, look for 'em to stage a bunch of stuff. Pieczenik, who's really got his ear to the ground, he says the Navy Yard was a staged event, and he has sources. So, look for more of that to happen very very soon to change the subject because everything the globalists do is falling apart right now.
Jones recently claimed that the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard might be a staged event. In the past, Jones also has promoted the conspiracy theory that the bombing of the Boston Marathon was a government operation, and is the foremost proponent of the claim that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were "an inside job."
While Jones' theories are outlandish, they often receive promotion among the right wing media including by Fox News. Earlier this year, Matt Drudge declared that 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones."
Jones' widely debunked conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been stockpiling weapons and ammunition in order to either commit a coup against the United States or to drive up ammunition prices and keep it out of the hands of American citizens recently spurred the Republican-led House of Representatives to investigate and introduce legislation in order to prevent DHS from stockpiling ammunition.
UPDATE: Later in the show, Jones returned to the topic: "This is the season for a distraction, to change the subject away from Obama because everything he is doing is imploding right now. Very, very suspicious. And then we know they've staged other things in the past. They could be staging anything."
JONES: You go to DrudgeReport.com you can see the photo of the SWAT team cop with the M16 or M4 laying prone, guarding the Capitol. And it says, "Report: Officer Down," and, "Continuing Orders: Stay Away From Windows," "Lockdown," "Police: Shooter In Custody," "Developing." So that's the news and the info that we've got right there. We'll also get that up on InfoWars.com and PrisonPlanet.com, but that is the latest on that.
They make a huge deal out of any type of shooting. I hope it doesn't turn out to something be big, but I tell you, this is the season for a distraction, to change the subject away from Obama because everything he is doing is imploding right now. Very, very suspicious. And then we know they've staged other things in the past. They could be staging anything.
From the September 28 edition of Fox News' Cavuto On Business:
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Fox News misrepresented the TRUST Act, a California immigration bill that would limit law enforcement's ability to detain undocumented immigrants for deportation, claiming the legislation will allow criminals to go free. In fact, the bill is aimed at shielding undocumented victims and witnesses to crimes, as well as those who have committed only minor offenses, from deportation. It also seeks to stop criminalizing undocumented immigrants for the sole civil offense of being in the country illegally.
The bill, formally known as Assembly Bill 4, was passed by the California state legislature on September 10. Gov. Jerry Brown has until October 17 to sign it into law. The bill states:
This bill would prohibit a law enforcement official, as defined, from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless, at the time that the individual becomes eligible for release from custody, certain conditions are met, including, among other things, that the individual has been convicted of specified crimes.
The bill lists some of the crimes that would prompt law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants for the 48-hour immigration hold, including violent and serious felonies such as rape, assault, robbery, and selling drugs.
The bill also argues that Secure Communities (S-Comm) -- the controversial and widely criticized program under which law enforcement can detain undocumented immigrants for deportation -- "and immigration detainers harm community policing efforts because immigrant residents who are victims of or witnesses to crime, including domestic violence, are less likely to report crime or cooperate with law enforcement when any contact with law enforcement could result in deportation." The text continues:
The program can result in a person being held and transferred into immigration detention without regard to whether the arrest is the result of a mistake, or merely a routine practice of questioning individuals involved in a dispute without pressing charges. Victims or witnesses to crimes may otherwise have recourse to lawful status (such as U-visas or T-visas) that detention resulting from the Secure Communities program obstructs.
In an article on the S-Comm program, California's KPBS reported that in the city of Escondido, "collaboration between the city's police and federal immigration activists has caused tension in the city's Latino communities for years." The article continued:
Agents have been present at the police department's driver's license and sobriety checkpoints, and in the city's jails.
Activists say this kind collaboration diminishes public safety because immigrants are less likely to trust police or report crime if they fear that interacting with police could get them deported.
But in a segment on the TRUST Act for Fox News' Special Report, correspondent William La Jeunesse suggested the bill would allow violent criminals to go free and avoid deportation if they are in the country illegally. His report included Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle saying, "If you or I were victimized by someone stealing our identity, or selling drugs in our community, or burglarizing our homes or embezzling our money, that that's OK. That's a minor crime."
The New York Post continued right-wing media fearmongering about the consequences of discontinuing unconstitutional policing methods and electing a Democratic mayor.
Leading up to the federal court decision that held the New York City Police Department (NYPD) unconstitutionally and systematically misapplied the common police tactic of stop-and-frisk, right-wing media repeatedly warned that following the law would send crime rates spiraling up.
Specifically, right-wing media argue that if the NYPD is forced to perform stop-and-frisk constitutionally like other jurisdictions, New York City will revert to its crime rates of the early 1990s, prior to the administrations of the last two Republican mayors. The editorial board of the Post continued this trend, adapting it as an argument against the election of the current Democratic candidate for mayor and prominent critic of the illegal application of stop-and-frisk, Bill De Blasio. From the editorial, which attacked The New York Times for pointing out its previous doomsaying was "nonsense":
The New York Times is doing the city a favor. An editorial Monday declared that New Yorkers need not worry about a return of the violence that ravaged Gotham in the pre-Bloomberg/Giuliani days. In so doing, the paper crystallized the competing messages of this vital election year.
On one side are those who believe there's nothing inevitable about the historically low crime levels New York enjoys today. This side believes that safe streets are the fruit of tough decisions taken by Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, and innovative tactics under Police Commissioners Bill Bratton and now Ray Kelly. This is the side of The Post, the police and mayoral candidate Joe Lhota.
On the other side are those who pretend we've solved this problem forever and the ugliness can never return. This side includes the Times and the man it seems likely to endorse for mayor, Bill "Tale of Two Cities" de Blasio.
That's what's at stake in this election. Back in the days when more than six people a day were killed in New York, versus about one a day today, even the Times worried that New Yorkers "think twice about where they can safely walk." The city felt like "a New Beirut."
Accompanying the Post editorial was a photograph of a man in police custody, with the following bizarre caption: "Here's a scene from your two cities, Bill: In July 1985, Mark Campbell, 26, was charged with second-degree murder for delivering a fatal karate chop to his girlfriend's 17-month-old son -- because the baby's crying kept him awake."
Of course, this tragic murder as described is utterly irrelevant to a discussion of stop-and-frisk tactics, which the Post itself described as a way "to go after bad guys, especially the ones carrying guns." Indeed, a simple Google search quickly reveals that shocking child murders - with or without guns - continued during the administrations of Republican mayors.
From the September 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones speculated that the attack on the Washington Navy Yard may have been a false flag operation committed by disguised government agents in pursuit of some obscure goal to restrict liberty. Despite Jones' far-fetched and often offensive statements, conservative outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report have continued to promote his theories -- coverage that has even inspired legislative action in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
After a gunman attacked the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, Alex Jones immediately wondered if the attack was part of some conspiracy, tweeting, "Who will the Navy yard shooting be blamed on? Terrorist? Tea Partier? Leftist? Lone nut?" Later, on his radio show, Jones said, "when you have multiple shooters like this, it has patsy written all over it," and compared it to the bombing at the Boston Marathon, which Jones described as "undoubtedly a false flag." At the time of publication, Reuters reported, "Up to three gunmen, at least two dressed in military-style clothing, killed several people and wounded at least four others in a shooting spree at the U.S. Navy Yard on Monday."
Jones has long promoted false flag conspiracy theories. He once accused the government of using a weather control machine to devastate Moore, OK, with tornadoes. Jones also claimed that the United States government was behind everything from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to the Boston Marathon bombing, and even the Newtown, CT, elementary school shooting. Most recently, he questioned whether the New World Order may be using the Syrian civil war as an opportunity to replace the world's population with human-machine hybrids.
While Jones' theories may seem outlandish, they often receive promotion among the right wing media including Fox News. Earlier this year, Matt Drudge declared 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Jones' widely debunked conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been stockpiling weapons and ammunition in order to either commit a coup against the United States or to drive up ammunition prices and keep it out of the hands of American citizens recently spurred the Republican-led House of Representatives to investigate and introduce legislation in order to prevent DHS from stockpiling ammunition.
Jones wasn't the only right-wing media figure to rush to politicize the tragedy. Others included Fox's Katie Pavlich and Martha MacCallum and CNN's S.E. Cupp.
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto argued that George Zimmerman was simply "guilty of being male" when he allegedly threatened his estranged wife with violence. Taranto's tweet echoes his established pattern of dismissing acts of violence against women.
George Zimmerman was taken into police custody on September 9 after his estranged wife told 911 emergency operators that Zimmerman had punched her father and was threatening the lives of her and her family. Zimmerman was later released, and his estranged wife has said she will not press charges.
Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto took to his Twitter account to weigh in on the domestic incident. Linking to a Slate article titled, "Shellie Zimmerman Won't Press Charges Against Her Husband. Alleged Domestic Violence Victims Often Don't," Taranto wrote:
Taranto's characterization of the alleged attack and threats maintains his history of offensive comments regarding women. Taranto previously claimed that efforts to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military amounted to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality." He also blamed "female sexual freedom" for a "war on men" and called "contemporary feminism" a "sweet deal for hedonistic men."
Taranto has also spoken out against laws that protect women, dismissing the validity of Roe v. Wade and advocating for GOP-backed "life begins at fertilization" legislation. He has called for "a rebalancing of the burden of proof in sexual-harassment cases," because the current legal structure is "highly indulgent of sexual-harassment allegations."
A new study from The New Republic determined that the Drudge Report's use of race-baiting headlines has soared in the last five years, a fact that lends context to the recent flood of conservative media amplifying random, interracial crimes and baselessly assigning them a racial motive.
Matt Drudge's conservative website Drudge Report is infamous for its obsessive coverage of alleged black-on-white crime and race-baiting headlines. But it's only getting worse, according to a new analysis by The New Republic. The magazine analyzed Drudge's use of race-related terms in headlines after 2008 -- the year President Obama established himself as a national figure with his first presidential campaign -- with Drudge headlines before 2008, and the results are striking. According to the analysis, since 2008, Drudge headlines:
Notably, the analysis highlighted that Drudge often altered headlines to inject a racial component when the original source contained none. This method of race-baiting has spilled over into the broader media. Recently, conservative outlets have seized upon local crime stories and baselessly assigned them racial motives when no such evidence existed. This spate of reckless race-baiting has been repeatedly accompanied by inapt comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an attempt to highlight a supposed double standard among civil rights leaders and media figures.
When a video of three teenage students beating up another student on a Florida school bus surfaced in early August, local media reported that the attack was in retaliation for the victim notifying school officials that the three teens tried to sell him drugs. But because the perpetrators happened to be black and the victim white, conservative media broke into a chorus of race-baiting, complaining that civil rights leaders hadn't spoken about the assault. Fox News bragged about its insertion of race into the crime, highlighting that it was the only network to bring race "to the forefront" on the story.
When three teens -- two black, one white -- allegedly shot and killed an Australian college student last month because they were "bored," law enforcement officials emphasized there was no evidence "to indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
Undeterred by facts, right-wing media again repeatedly manufactured a racial motive. Fox argued that the murder was "likely motivated by race" and even criticized other media outlets for "ignoring the race issue" in the crime. Drudge featured photographs of the two black suspects, neglecting to include the photo of their alleged white accomplice.
From the September 4 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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