17 Aug Media Outlets Continue Feeding Violent-Crime Fears Without Context
In recent weeks, media outlets across the United States have warned of a dangerous rise in violent crime. You’ve probably seen the headlines. “Concerns rising inside White House over surge in violent crime,” warns CNN. “Rising Violent Crime Is Likely To Present A Political Challenge For Democrats In 2022,” claims NPR. It’s easy to find more examples—just search “violent crime” on Google. But it’s hard to find any context for headlines like this. This morning’s article by the National Police Association on “Out of Control Rising Violent Crime” in the Princeton Daily Clarion is a perfect example.
If you Google-search “criminal justice reform,” you’ll find today’s Princeton Daily Clarion piece, but you won’t find any context.
“Most Voters See Criminal Justice Reform Contributing to Out of Control Rising Violent Crime.” The headline speaks volumes in and of itself. It convinces readers that there is an out-of-control rise in violent crime that’s getting worse. It convinces readers that criminal justice reform is a—or maybe the—cause. And it convinces readers that most voters see if that way. If you go to the first sentence, you’re even more convinced: “70% of Likely U.S. Voters think violent crime is out of control….”
Then the piece lists the reasons why “a majority of likely voters believe” this. According to the piece, this “majority” believes that “[p]rohibiting police from engaging in pursuits contributes to violent crime.” They also believe that “[p]rohibiting police from a ‘stop and frisk’ of a suspect believed to be armed contributes to violent crime,” too.
But this “majority” also has concerns about what happens after police pursue and arrest someone, the piece continues. They also believe that “[l]etting accused violent criminals out of jail without bail while they wait for trial increases violent crime.” And they believe that “District Attorneys refusing to prosecute accused criminals contributes to violent crime.”
Anyone who reads the Princeton Daily Clarion piece will undoubtedly have concerns about violent crime and their own safety, but those concerns aren’t based on anything.
So, at this point in the article, you know a “majority” is worried about the fact that “violent crime is out of control,” the fact that police have been “[p]rohibit[ed] … from engaging in pursuits,” the fact that police have been “[p]rohibit[ed] … from a ‘stop and frisk’ of a suspect believed to be armed,” that “violent criminals” have been let “out of jail without bail while they wait for trial” and that “District Attorneys [are] refusing to prosecute accused criminals.”
So, where is all of this awful stuff happening? Certainly the article tells us that, right? It doesn’t. It just ends after making all these suggestive assertions. No links to support the assertions. No details about whether the assertions have any basis in fact. Nothing. Instead, the article is, in the most literal sense, a piece by the National Police Association that tells you that violent crime is out of control and criminal justice reform is to blame.
If you’re asking why the Princeton Daily Clarion would publish something like this, you’re not alone. Yet media outlets publish articles like this almost everyday. Frankly, that’s part of the reason for the poll results the National Police Association emphasizes. But the majority of Americans routinely believe violent crime is rising regardless of actual crime rates. Consider this (better-researched and better-supported) article from a year ago by FiveThirtyEight. It’s important for people to start asking themselves why media outlets join this violent-crime narrative anyway.