December 10, 2019

Why Downplay Hate Crimes Against Jews?

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the media fell hard for the story of Jussie Smollett. Smollett, a gay, black actor on the TV show “Empire,” falsely claimed that he was attacked by two Donald Trump-loving rednecks on the mean streets of Chicago. Smollett said that he was out in the middle of the night in Chicago, purchasing a Subway sandwich, when two men who recognized him from “Empire” began to call him a “f—–” and a “n—–.” They then looped a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him while shouting, “This is MAGA country!”

There were a few problems with this story. First, Trump fans are not exactly the chief demographic for “Empire” (Nielsen estimates the show’s audience is 61 percent black). Second, Chicago is not exactly MAGA (Make America Great Again) country — only 12.5 percent of votes cast for president in 2016 went to Trump. Third, Smollett never lost control of his sandwich. Fourth, Smollett then waited 40 minutes to report the attack. Fifth, when the police asked for his phone to verify his claim that his manager had heard the attack, he refused. 

Nonetheless, the Smollett attack dominated media coverage for weeks, with Smollett appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to castigate his doubters as racists. Actress Ellen Page told Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk-show audience that the attack was Mike Pence’s fault. CNN’s Brooke Baldwin lamented, “This is America in 2019.”

Except it wasn’t. Smollett, it turned out, allegedly paid two of his friends to stage the attack. Smollett’s story, then, was false. The media allowed it to flower — and propped up Smollett’s claims that doubters were bigots — because it fit their narrative of America as deeply racist and homophobic in the era of Donald Trump. Even after the story fell apart, commentator Liz Plank of Vox appeared on CNN to explain, “There has been an increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, against Muslims, against black people.”

Plank did not mention the group most bedeviled by an increase in reported hate crimes: Jews. Reported hate crime incidents and offenses against blacks rose between 2016 and 2017 approximately 13 percent; against LGBTQ people, 4 percent; against Muslims, 17 percent; against Jews, 26 percent. On a per capita basis, Jews are by far the most targeted group in the United States, about four times as likely to be targeted as black Americans, and twice as likely as LGBTQ Americans and Muslim Americans.

“The media care more about hate crimes that fit their narrative.”

Last weekend, the front window of the Chabad of Bushwick (N.Y.) was smashed, even as the rabbi and his wife and children slept there for Shabbat. This is hardly the only recent attack in Gotham. According to The New York Times, “there have been four times as many crimes motivated by bias against Jews — 142 in all — as there have against blacks. Hate crimes against Jews have outnumbered hate crimes targeted at transgender people by a factor of 20.” 

Why, then, has this spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes received so little coverage? The New York Times admitted: “it is to some extent because it refuses to conform to an easy narrative with a single ideological enemy. During the past 22 months, not one person caught or identified as the aggressor in an anti-Semitic hate crime [in New York City] has been associated with a far right-wing group.”

In other words, the media care more about hate crimes when the perpetrators are white and when the victims aren’t. They care more about hate crimes that fit their narrative. And hate crimes against Jews don’t count as much, particularly when those hate crimes aren’t driven by white supremacy. 

Why not? Why wouldn’t the left-wing media be interested in a narrative about an increasingly anti-Semitic America in the same way they’re fascinated by narratives about an increasingly racist, Islamophobic and homophobic America? Because Jews in America are successful financially and educationally; because, generally speaking, the notion that America is anti-Semitic is absurd. Everyone understands that America is ridiculously philo-Semitic. So if the Jews aren’t generally hate crime victims, what are we to make of the fact that every other group is targeted less often than Jews? Better to ignore anti-Semitism than to admit that perhaps America is incredibly tolerant and diverse.

Better for the narrative to prevail than the truth: that despite the presence of evil bigots in our midst, America is a pretty fantastic place.


Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire.