Republicans love crime. As they hunt for the next “migrant caravan” to amp up the paranoid white vote, a new spike in murder rates is drawing their attention. This time, Republicans might find that crime doesn’t pay.
Crime has been a core rightwing talking point for ages. There are generally more crimes in places where people actually live, so cities traditionally have higher rates of crime. Since Democrats now dominate almost every city in the country, a focus on crime stories, especially if stripped of context, could make crime look like a Democratic problem. Republicans have been testing messages meant to pin the blame on Black Lives Matter protests, “defunding police,” or poor governing in “Democrat cities.” None of those claims stand up to the briefest examination, but normally that wouldn’t matter.
All Republicans have needed in the past to rev up a crime scare are images of black men with guns. So far, this crimewave isn’t delivering the goods. Incidents grabbing the public spotlight now are mass shootings by mostly white psycho killers, gonzo stories of ‘Florida-man’ crime, and loads and loads of “white ladies gone mad,” especially at the airport. Our crack-fueled crimewave of the late ’80’s was defined by gang members carrying Uzis. The symbol of our era is this naked white lady wrecking an Outback Steakhouse. We are a deeply traumatized country.
Let’s set the record straight on a few details. We are not experiencing a “crimewave,” so to speak. Overall crime actually declined last year, as one would expect during a lockdown. We are, however, seeing disturbing increases in two types of crimes, murders and general “mayhem” – crimes of unruliness in public settings.
In the midst of this surge, it should be noted that our overall murder rate remains very low, about where it was in 1965, but that rate increased by roughly a quarter last year. This did not happen elsewhere in the world. With no clear pattern to the killings, the story of rising homicides is getting lost beneath another narrative. Crimes of general mayhem are capturing the public imagination.
Over the decade prior to the pandemic the FAA acted on 1300 unruly-passenger complaints from airlines. The agency has received 1300 complaints since February. We’re not just talking about rude or boorish outbursts. Attendants are facing a sustained pattern of assaults, often serious, with little or no apparent context. An incident in Southwest Airlines in May led to a flight attendant losing two teeth. Her attacker was a woman. These are not the kinds of crimes Republicans need to fuel their hoped-for racial or class panic. There are no bad neighborhoods at 35,000 feet unless you’re flying Spirit.
It’s not just airline workers feeling this wave of crazy. Service workers all over the country are experiencing it too. A crazy white guy stabbed a restaurant manager in a Houston suburb back in March for asking him to wear a mask. An elderly white woman in The Villages, FL was arrested for assault at a Burger King in May. Upset over the thickness of the tomatoes in her burger, she began hurling racial slurs, then the sandwich, at restaurant workers. Workers in Asian restaurants are facing assaults, tied to a rise in anti-Asian attacks.
The “Karens” have been out in force. Bagel Karen was filmed calling a fast food worker the n-word over a problem with her order. Downtown Karen has been luring the dogs of passersby into traffic. Antivax Karen had to be carted off a Royal Caribbean vessel after she tested positive for the ‘rona but refused to leave. Perhaps the most disturbing and revealing of all this year’s Karens is Victoria’s Secret Karen. She threatened to assault a black woman in a Victoria’s Secret store. Then, when she realized she was being filmed, she collapsed in a fit of hysterics.
A naked, screaming white guy made news last month for trying to enter people’s cars while doing flips on a busy road. This isn’t one of those ‘scary big-city stories.’ It happened in Knoxville.
We are well on our way to more than doubling last year’s pace of documented road rage assaults and murders, which was already nearly double the previous year’s toll. The US is averaging ten mass shootings a week so far in 2021. A troubling percentage of these shootings, like the murders at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis in April, defy any attempt at explanation. It’s not merely that the shooters’ motives are flimsy or insane, but there seems to be no motive at all. Many of these killers aren’t bent on revenge for some slight, shouting terrorist slogans or even following orders from their dog. They’re just showing up one day with a gun blasting at whoever is unlucky enough to be there. They die with no explanation or discernible motive.
Though journalists love to talk about crime in Chicago, this gonzo crimewave is neither an urban problem, nor a regional one. Chicago saw a stunning 55% increase in homicides in 2020, but that was only a modest rise compared to many other US cities. Lubbock chalked up a 180% increase in homicides. Murders were up by a stunning 60% on the mean streets of Omaha in 2020. Murders doubled in Mitch McConnell’s Louisville. Murders nearly doubled in white, Republican Colorado Springs.
“Urban crime” just ain’t what it used to be and people are beginning to notice. Wilmington, DE has maintained a murder rate consistently about a third higher than Chicago for many years. Kansas City, Little Rock, and Memphis regularly outpace Chicago in homicide rates. Our emerging new murder capital is Birmingham, AL. Even Shreveport, LA had more murders per capita than Chicago in several recent years. We don’t hear about the much higher rates of violent crime in our small and midsize cities because they aren’t major media markets. Unlike the crimewaves of yore, today you’re almost certainly safer on every facet of wellbeing in a thriving, large city benefiting from first rate infrastructure, quality government, and capable policing than you are in some struggling midsize town. It’s going to be hard to weave this crimewave into a political narrative helpful to Republicans.
Any “why” in crime statistics is always elusive. We still have no clear explanation for our last crimewave and no answers for why it faded. However, as we seek to understand this season of gonzo mayhem, one statistic from 2020 might shed some light.
In recent years it seemed we might have turned a corner in our epidemic of drug deaths. From a peak of 71,000 overdose fatalities in 2017 the numbers had flattened and begun to decline. That all changed in 2020, as drug overdose deaths spiked by an unprecedented 30%, costing 93,000 lives. We can be fairly confident that this carnage wasn’t caused by defunding police or impolite protestors. Related to this wave of overdoses, early estimates suggest that ‘deaths of despair’ skyrocketed last year, perhaps as much as 60%.
Looking for a poster-child for this gonzo crimewave? Look no further than the unnamed woman who completed her flight last week from Charlotte to Dallas duct-taped to her seat. According to another passenger, Gonzo Karen left her seat in-flight because she “did not want the plane to fly up anymore.” When attendants would not put the plane back on the ground, she lunged for the plane door, trying to open it. Attendants struggled to restrain her, eventually taping her to her seat, with tape over her mouth. We are not okay.
We’ve lost roughly as many people to COVID-19 as our battlefield deaths in the Civil War. Across the first year of this tragedy our senior elected leader ranted like a lunatic instead of mustering resources to help. We emerged from this dark era seriously damaged in ways that are difficult to measure.
No other country is experiencing a similar wave of COVID-era homicides or our outburst of gonzo mayhem. As Republicans sift through this wreckage looking for fuel for yet another fire, they’re unlikely to find any helpful narratives. If nothing else, this gonzo crimewave has restored some sense of American exceptionalism.
I just keep wondering when Republicans will pay at the ballot box for all their lying, broken promises, and exploitation of fear.
They don’t have to pay at the ballot box, across the country they’re kicking out all democrat and independent election officials and rewriting the election rules in their favor.
For all the left-wing furor over Georgia’s new election law, if Republicans were genuinely committed (or smart enough, tbh) to disenfranchising Democrats, they’d be a lot more vicious about it than this. As far as I can see, the worst of it are some annoying requirements on absentee ballots (voter identification, cutting back on the time one can request a ballot, etc).
Just like in FL though, what bloc of voters have traditionally taken advantage of absentee ballots? Republicans.
Do Georgia Republicans think the entire chessboard’s been flipped over because of one election and Democrats won’t vote in person if they can’t vote absentee? Seems… less than an ideal bet to make, IMHO.
Granted, some state parties are being more brazen about it (hi, Texas!), but a 2nd era of Jim Crow, this is not. Not yet anyway.
Republicans pinning crimewaves to “liberal urban centers” is working just fine. I don’t know where you get the impression it isn’t.
My perception that it is is that everyone is talking about it, even if trying to argue it doesn’t exist (which keeps the narrative alive and allows the Republicans to lead it). The Democratic governor of New York explicitly is calling a state of emergency over violence to get back what he’s lost from the end of the COVID emergency. A few op-eds and bloggers are feebly showing charts and talking about the 1970s while red media blames the antibrutality laws Democrats passed that haven’t even been applied yet.
Yes, crazy white people are committing crimes too but nobody is calling it that or drawing the comparison to the crimewave story. Only you are because you’re a critical thinker and a bit sarcastic.
To the extent that Dems are potentially vulnerable on the crime issue depends on them. Republicans tried to tether them to crime in the recent NM special election, but the Democratic nominee, Melanie Stansbury, pushed back hard with ads airing her support for both police and sensible reform. She ended up outpacing not just the previous Dem rep, but even President Biden.
Granted it’s just one special election, and we rightly shouldn’t read too much into it. We’ll know more after the Virginia elections later this year. Still, Rep Stansbury’s victory does give Democrats a playbook to follow and build on if they’re willing to listen. It just might save them the Congress next year if they do.
Perception is reality. That is all that matters.
Where’s my Willie Horton?
Where are my dreadlocked negroes in baggy pants carrying Uzis?
You call this a crimewave?
Yes, everyone is talking about crime, because they should. We are experiencing a remarkable surge in murder that deserves attention. But what is the image, the gestalt, that encapsulates this event in people’s minds?
So far, what I’m seeing on a rolling reel in media is gonzo crime, like the airport stuff, and relatively senseless murders. Lots of Republicans are defaulting to their ‘black crime’ talking points, but that image doesn’t seem to be landing in any mindspace outside the rightwing bubble.
“Where’s my Willie Horton?
Where are my dreadlocked negroes in baggy pants carrying Uzis?
You call this a crimewave?”
They have charts of Crime Number Go Up next to black people calling the police the bad guys and and white liberals talking about gun control. They don’t need Crime Number Go Up charts to show that they refer to Karens.
Um, didn’t you see the imagery Republicans used around the BLM protests? You don’t need Willie Horton when you have BLM, an entire movement of uppity Negroes threatening to come rape your pure white daughter, plus Antifa, the white race traitors who support them.
I don’t disagree that factually speaking, crime is not strictly an urban, black problem, or that we’re safer now then we ever used to be. But crime studied in a dry academic setting is very different than crime used as a political tool.
Rural people always worried about getting shot when going to the “big city” (literally 4H clubs would give conference attendees hilariously bad advice about what parts of a city to visit and not visit), while urbanites worried about getting sodomized by inbred hicks if they ever visited the “wrong” camping ground. City slickers don’t even need a physical person to feel threatened. Play the song Dueling Banjos around any urbanite who watched Deliverance and see them jump 10 feet.
My point is crime as an emotional issue is never tethered to facts, and it’s not going to start now. If Willie Horton no longer exists, a new bogeyman will be created. And given that you’re talking about people who refuse to accept that COVID is real even while they’re literally on their deathbed in a hospital from it, I no longer believe there’s any limit to what lies and propaganda MAGA-addled idiots will accept. FWIW, I don’t see Republican politicians worried about it either.
At this point, I have to say, I couldn’t care less whether Republicans love or hate crime. I don’t really care what they believe about anything. They could say the sky is red, toads tempt us to homosexuality, and drinking urine will get them closer to the Jesus and I would just shrug my shoulders and move on. I would have stopped listening the moment I saw their MAGA hat.
The coming struggle is no longer a war of ideas, where rational people make their case to try to change their opponents’ minds. These people just need to be outvoted, and run out of every office and soapbox that they stand on. And when they crawl back under their rocks, those rocks need to be crushed so they can’t come out again.
30% of America has always been crazy, ever since our founding. The colonists were literally the exiles who couldn’t function in a “civilized” world of the 1700s (i.e. Europe). Lots of Americans haven’t changed much from those roots, and they won’t be fixed in our lifetimes. Their delusions are their delusions. They’re fortunate to live in a country where their delusions and deviations from reality don’t kill them (although that’s changing too *cough* Covid *cough*), but I don’t hold out hope that their delusions can be changed, and therefore, I no longer care what they are. The only question of interest to me is whether the other 70% can regain control of the country so the rest of us may live in peace. After that, the wingnuts can go back to wearing MAGA hats or white sheets as it suits them. As long as they stay on their side of the Mason-Dixon Line, I’ll happily stay on mine.
Shrug…when the leader of the death cult displays and encourages insane behaviour for 4 plus years, what do you expect his acolytes to do? Of the these cases of the insane you documented, how many voted, and how many voted for the tyrant?
Various studies peg the percentage of the population as psychopathic around 1%. That is a lot of people that now feel it is OK to let their freak flag fly. And that is before we even get into the stressors caused by the alterations to peoples’ lives due to the virus. The collateral damage due to the hysteria over this virus is now started to be calculated.
Robert Heinlein wrote about the crazy years in his science fiction books. I wonder if his work has again predicted something.
I just reread Starship Troopers recently. Part of the backstory was a failure of previous societies due to too much childish and entitled behavior by too many people. Heinlein’s cause for that was failure to spank children. I have doubts about that specifically being the root cause of undermining civilization, but the point about people thinking only about what they want and screw any obligations to anyone else ruining everything is resonating with me. America has got a really bad case of it. I’m sure plenty of these Karens and Chads were spanked as children.
The road rage is especially bad and tragic in Houston. A father just buried his 17 year old son because he let a few people merge in front of him in post Astros game traffic, but a guy who wasn’t one of them got offended and shot into his car. Senseless and infuriating. Just like the vaccine hostility. Getting sick and even dying to own the libs. Madness is an understatement.
Gov. Abbott wouldn’t do anything in response if Covid spikes again (and it’s going up). The main point of being in a society is to not be in an everyone for themselves situation in a crisis. The GOP would rather burn it all down to rule the ashes.