In journalism, the lofty aspiration for the truth is always subject to human error, the limits of time, and the constraints of space. Walter Lippmann, the dean of modern journalism, noted that journalists are influenced by the images they have in their heads, and they deal with a mass public that is not necessarily adept at navigating through the nuanced esoterica of modern society.
Seeking confirmation of the stereotypes it embraces, the public is prone to dismissing facts that challenge what it thinks.
Journalists begin with their own biases and that of their audiences. Still, there are supposed to be limits.
Much of the mainstream media routinely ignores those limits. If Anderson Cooper’s “360°” had examined President Obama with the same doggedness with which it has examined President Trump, “Tony Rezko” and “Broadway Bank” would have been household words and not just another corruption story out of Chicago.
As part of CNN’s relentless and boring focus on Trump’s sometimes passing acquaintance with facts, Don Lemon invited documentary producer Ami Horowitz to his show. It was Horowitz’s appearance with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that led to Trump’s perception of a terrorist event in Sweden that did not occur.
Trump might have been wrong about the specific event, but he was not wrong about the social problems and violence created by Sweden’s open immigration policy.
Yet the media built a straw man out of Trump’s statement to show that the utopian socialist society had been unchanged by its welcoming of large numbers of immigrants, mostly Muslims, from Africa and the Middle East.
Horowitz’s documentary, Stockholm Syndrome, disputed that popular narrative. But what really irked Lemon and caused him to read from a prepared statement was the image of brown-skinned men raping blonde women that has long dominated references to rape and sexual assault in Sweden as it has in Germany and Norway.
Sometimes a stereotype is legitimate, even when the cause has nothing to do with skin color and everything to do with cultural and socio-economic conditioning. Besides, does it make a difference to the victim whether the Syrian refugee who rapes her is acting because of a culture that promotes rape of the infidel or something else?
Lemon embarked on an assault on Horowitz’s documentary that began with citing crime statistics about Sweden from the U.S. Department of State. Horowitz dismissed this as an inappropriate source and then cited the well-known Brå survey, the quintessential source for the Swedish government’s crime statistics.
Lemon not only couldn’t let go of the State Department information, he claimed he also was looking at BRA statistics. When Horowitz asked to see them, Lemon merely shuffled his papers and said the BRA statistics supported the State Department’s.
Lemon claimed that there was no correlation between crime, rape statistics, and immigration in the data.
Right. The correlation is not there. It is not there, because the Swedes stopped collecting data on the ethnicity of the criminal. And just why do you think they did that?
Mother Jones went back to the BRA data when data on ethnicity were collected. In an intriguing article, Mother Jones tells its readers that you have to look at statistics even when it hurts. That’s a journalistic ethos CNN will most likely not adopt.
Rape committed by Swedes (those with two Swedish parents) was 1/1000 population. By foreigners, it was 4/1000. For sexual assault, for Swedes it was 2/1000 population and for foreigners 6/1000. If you compare overall crime, 5 percent of Swedes were involved in criminal activity as compared to 18 percent of those born in the Middle East. And remember that even in Sweden, sexual assault and especially rape are underreported.
In the 1990 survey, which documented ethnicity, where gang rape involved three or more perpetrators, 39 percent of the rapists were foreign-born.
Lemon also misleads his viewers by telling them that because crime goes up and down, making comparisons between two data points is meaningless. Horowitz protests that the differences between 2005 and 2015 are staggering. Lemon dismisses him.
Let’s say you had a stock account in 2006 that was worth $10,000, and in 2008 it was worth only $6000, and by 2009 it was worth $5000. But by 2015, it went up to $20,000. So, according to Lemon, because the value of your account went up and down, you really did not double your money between 2006 and 2015.
If you look at the 2015 statistics for rape of Swedish women between the ages of 16 and 24, 9 percent have been raped. Of those, 6 of 10 were raped in a public place, and contrary to rape statistics in America, where a woman is highly likely to know her rapist, 70 percent of the Swedish victims did not know their rapist. You can interpret for yourself whether that is a staggering number or whether rape is not a problem in Sweden.
Lemon’s performance underscores why we do not trust the media and why they are an easy target.
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