Source: Virginia State Police “Crime in Virginia” reports.

“Hate is turning deadly with frightening frequency in America,” wrote Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring in an anguished Washington Post op-ed last month. In building his case, he cited the 11 Jews slain recently in Pittsburgh; the killing of two African-Americans in Louisville, and Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. No litany of hate crimes would be complete without mentioning the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last year that resulted in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

“It is well past time for us to acknowledge the real, growing and deadly threat posed by hate and white supremacist violence,” Herring wrote. “In Virginia and around the country, we have seen far too many alarming reminders that we cannot dismiss this growing wave of hate as a harmless fringe element. … The threat is real, and the consequences can be deadly.”

To back up his claim of a white-supremacist threat, he cited Virginia State Police data indicating that “hate crimes are up 64 percent in Virginia since 2013.”

Then, to promote a legislative package seeking authority “to prosecute hate crimes and … better protect our citizens from violence and intimidation by white-supremacist militias, gangs, and organizations,” he took his act on the road. In Loudoun County he kicked off what the local newspaper described as a “roundtable tour to combat hate crimes and white supremacist violence.”

There’s only one thing wrong with Herring’s case: almost everything.

There is no wave of white-supremacist hate crimes in Virginia. Herring is peddling pure fantasy. By stoking fears, he only makes racial and ethnic tensions more fraught. His rhetoric is reckless, and it needs to stop.

First, the 11 Jews slain in their synagogue lived in Pennsylvania, not Virginia. The two African-Americans were killed in Louisville, Ky., not Virginia. Dylann Roof committed his atrocity in South Carolina, not Virginia. And James Allen Field, being tried for the murder of Heather Heyer, may have committed his crime in Virginia but he, like nearly all of the white supremacists attending the Unite the Right rally, came from out of state. He grew up in Kentucky and resided in Toledo, Ohio. And by the way, he was just convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years.

While Herring hypes the white supremacist threat, others have concluded that it is receding. Since Charlottesville, white supremacist rallies have been a bust. The movement has fractured, found a recent Wall Street Journal investigation. Infighting, lawsuits and a social-media crackdown are hampering white nationalist and other right-wing groups,” 

“The Alt-Right appears to be falling apart,” writes Jason Wilson in the Leftist Guardian newspaper, who credits militant anti-fascist groups like Antifa for its decline. “It seems that the white supremacist alt-right will not survive the Trump era as a coherent movement.”

Just as Herring has hyperbolized white supremacist activity, he has exaggerated the prevalence of hate crimes Of the 4,555 hate crimes reported to the Virginia State Police since 2000, only five were homicides. Two of those occurred in 2017, but there had been zero during the six previous years. That compares to 412 murder/homicides across Virginia just last year. Of the 1,894 forcible rapes last year, only one was deemed a hate crime. Of 10,092 aggravated assaults, only 14 were classified as hate crimes.

The overwhelming majority of crimes that Herring has ginned up into a threat of “violence and intimidation by white-supremacist militias, gangs, and organizations” hate crimes in 2017 fell into one of three categories: vandalism, simple assaults and intimidation. Ninety-three were acts of vandalism – many of which likely consisted of spray painting. Eighty-four involved “simple assaults” and “intimidation,” categories of charges that rarely result in actual physical harm.

Second, while Herring is technically correct to say that the number of hate crimes in Virginia has risen in the past five years, he is cherry-picking data. According to Virginia State Police annual crime reports, the number of hate crimes did increase from 123 in 2013 to 202 last year. But Herring selected the year with the fewest hate crimes in the past 18 years as his baseline for comparison. A longer-term look at the VSP data, displayed in the chart above, shows hate crimes bouncing around between 300 and 400 yearly until 2008 – coinciding with the election of President Obama  – at which point the number dropped precipitously and bounced around between 100 and 200 yearly. The year 2017 did see a mini-spike. Any uptick is cause for concern but it is too early to conclude that was the beginning of a trend, not an aberration.

Third, you would never imagine it from Herring’s rhetoric, not all hate crimes are caused by white supremacists. Of the hate crimes in which the perpetrator’s race was known, 37 percent were committed since 2000 by people identified as black and 2 percent by  those identified as belonging to other races. In 2016, more blacks committed hate crimes than whites.

Even if we accepted Herring’s cherry-picked years as a basis for comparison, the data still doesn’t show what he says it does. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of hate crimes committed by whites increased by 20. The number of hate crimes committed by blacks increased by 23! Not even Herring can blame black hate crimes on white supremacists.

I share Herring’s view that white supremacists are a blight and abomination on American society. They deserve no sympathy or compassion. But the last thing Virginia needs is for the attorney general to create hysteria about “white-supremacist militias, gangs, and organizations” the existence of which in Virginia he has not offered a shred of evidence. The truth is, hate crimes have declined dramatically since 2000. This, by any reckoning, should be treated as good news and a positive trend in a free and diverse society.

To view graphs displaying 17 years of data on hate crime victims broken down by race, click on “Continue Reading.”

Note: “Anti-Muslim” hate crimes do not include “Anti-Arab” crimes, which were common after the 9/11 terror attack. The Virginia State Police stopped tracking anti-Arab crimes as a separate category several years later.

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9 responses to “Hate Crime Hysteria”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well the FBI must be hysterical also:

    Hate Crimes Increase for the Third Consecutive Year, F.B.I. Reports

    Hate crime reports increased 17 percent last year from 2016, the F.B.I. said on Tuesday, rising for the third consecutive year as heated racial rhetoric and actions have come to dominate the news.

    Of the more than 7,100 hate crimes reported last year, nearly three out of five were motivated by race and ethnicity, according to the annual report. Religion and sexual orientation were the other two primary motivators.

    In addition to the tense political climate, the increase also points to a growing awareness among various law enforcement agencies of the importance of identifying and reporting hate crimes to the F.B.I.

    Reporting hate crimes to the F.B.I. is currently voluntary. Last year, roughly a thousand more agencies submitted data than those that did the previous year.

    But hate crimes remain vastly underreported. Only 12.6 percent of the agencies in the F.B.I. report indicated that hate crimes had occurred in their jurisdictions in 2017. Agencies as large as the Miami and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments reported zero. (A spokeswoman for the Las Vegas police later said that the report was made in error and that there were actually 61 in the jurisdiction last year.)

    “I wouldn’t feel too confident in those numbers,” said Sim J. Singh, the senior advocacy manager for the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization. Data shows that hate crime victims often do not trust that reporting will help them.”

    then this article:

    “The Tumultuous Relationship Between Social Media and Hate Speech

    Hate speech, which is defined as online harassment with a race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender-focused twist on it, has a similarly strong presence online, due mostly to the fact that the number of hate groups in the US has tripled since 2009. And with social media being an integral tool for these groups to spread their message, it’s no wonder sites like Facebook and Twitter have become hotbeds for hate speech.”

    Social Media as we know is how the mess in Charlottesville got started and when we look at this overall, it’s myopic to look at one source of data like the Va State Police report (which looks like it is underreporting)… and conclude from that one source while ignoring other sources and information.

    There is all sorts of data out there these days and no shortage of ways of slicing and dicing it – and no shortage of folks who have their own views who will selectively portray data to reflect their own thinking and beliefs and it’s incumbent on all of us to work to verify the truth and facts.

    To see the reality of what is going on with hate speech on social media and then the incidences of bullying in the school systems these days – to pretend otherwise is just not dealing with the realities on the ground.

    And the idea that by saying it – we make it worse… because we’re “fragile”.. I don’t know where that is coming from but sounds similar to the idea that by saying that race divides us still today – by just saying that – we make it worse?

    The simple reality is we have a lot of folks with anger and hate and they are now finding each other much more easily on the internet – and that is emboldening them to believe that because there are others like them – that’s it’s normal and legitimate and that spurs some with this convoluted reasoning to then justify actions following the threats.

    We’re seeing this and where they do collect complete stats – it’s fully apparent so I’m suspecting that the VSP stats are not collecting all data.

    Beyond that – given what we KNOW is going on in social media – it would be myopic to think the trend is going down……….

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Among the most amusing things I’ve seen recently was that meeting Herring had with “faith leaders” on what to do about hate crimes. I’m sure they told him they already have the operational action memo from The Boss. You know, the turn the other cheek thing, love your enemy thing….I guess the Attorney General has come up with a better approach? Granted, it’s hard advice to follow, but it does come from a recognized authority on the topic, and He lived and died to demonstrate He meant it.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Just another cheap demagogue race baiting politician.

      Read the Hunton & William Report, see why and who among Va.’s politicians sent up the race riots in C’ville during spring and summer of 2107 to feed their own political ambitions.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Steve – “religion” has been, over the time of mankind, responsible for more deaths and murders than any other thing and “religion” is often at the root of hate between races and cultures.

    White Supremacy is a good example. Most supporters claim also to be “God Fearing” church-goers – White Churches supported and enabled racism in the South.

    That’s a reality.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Sorry, Larry, I wasn’t talking about religion. I don’t disagree on the shortcomings of religion. I was speaking about the ethical teachings of one particular well-known rabbi. Got a problem with Him?

    2. “Steve – “religion” has been, over the time of mankind, responsible for more deaths and murders than any other thing and “religion” is often at the root of hate between races and cultures.”

      Larry, I don’t think your argument is correct and it misses the bigger point. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others were responsible for 100 million or so deaths and they did not do it in the name of religion. They were nominally atheists. Colonialists may have attempted to use religion to justify their actions, but the true motivation was empire, wealth, and power.

      The bigger point is the major culprits are often extremists of one form or another who will use any convenient justification (racism, ideology, religion) to justify or support their actions. Their true motivations are the desire for power, wealth, etc.

  4. So, Larry…. Do you contend there is a wave of white supremacist hate crime sweeping the country and Virginia? None of the data you cited above supports such a conclusion, nor does it rebut a single point that I made in my article.

  5. djrippert Avatar

    Virginia has so many God awful politicians it’s a real competition to get into the bottom quartile. Herring is clearly there. Wasn’t he the candidate who said he’s keep politics out of the Attorney General position? I guess that was just a convenient lie. He also promised to resign as Attorney General if he decided to run for governor. Is that pledge still active?

    “In line with his pledge to take politics out of the office, Herring has said he would resign as attorney general if he decided to run for governor. Cuccinelli has weathered criticism for staying in office as he campaigns for governor, bucking a pattern set by several of his predecessors.”

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      You are not allowed to hold anyone on the left or who is a member of the Democratic Party responsible for their promises. After all, the WaPo doesn’t. And they set up themselves as Guidance to the Unenlightened.

      Cuccinelli was wrong not to resign, and so will be Herring if he doesn’t. I have less problem with Herring’s political beliefs than I do his lack of legal skills. He’s made a number of arguments over the years that are quite contrary to settled law without also arguing why the law should be changed. For example, he’s signed off on briefs written by the California AG’s office that assumed states could regulate interstate communications. That’s stuff from the first year of law school. Only the federal government can regulate interstate commerce.

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