Monday, November 24, 2008

Hate crimes and illegal immigration: O'Reilly reverses the reality

-- by Dave

Earlier this week on The O'Reilly Factor, the Papa Bear did what right-wingers constantly do when discussing hate crimes: he conflated them with ordinary crimes in a way that deliberately confuses the public regarding the nature of these crimes.

As you can see in this clip (or from the transcript), O'Reilly starts out by discussing the horrendous hate crime on Long Island wherein a group of six young white thugs went out looking for Latinos to harm for "sport", and they wound up killing an Ecuadoran immigrant named Marcelo Lucero.

But then he seems to connect this crime to a completely unrelated tragedy involving the deaths of two women at the hands of a drunken driver who happened to be an illegal immigrant.

How are they connected? O'Reilly explains:

So, three human beings are dead because of irresponsible conduct and failed government.

The New York Times and Newsday have covered the Lucero murder extensively, as they should. It is a horrible crime, and seven young men may pay a steep price for being violently stupid.

But the Times and Newsday have pretty much ignored the deaths of the two women. This is a pattern in America.

People killed by illegal aliens can expect little coverage from a media that wants amnesty for foreign nationals here illegally.

But in the end, it is the federal government that is truly responsible for the deaths, and for the entire illegal alien problem. ...

It would be nice to think that O'Reilly simply doesn't comprehend the difference between a hate crime and an ordinary crime. I've explained this many times:

Hate crimes are message crimes: They are intended to harm not just the immediate victim, but all people of that same class within the community. Their message is also irrevocable: they are "get out of town, nigger/Jew/queer" crimes.

That's why bias-crime laws are about imposing stiffer sentences on their perpetrators: they cause more real harm to the community. This principle -- greater harm brings stiffer punishment -- is a basic element of criminal law.

Think, if you will, about the different effects of these two tragedies. In the Lucero case, the fully intended terroristic effects are clear: the Latino community on Long Island naturally feels vulnerable and fearful, and relations with the white community have been permanently stained. In the case of the drunken driver, the community is bound to feel somewhat more vulnerable to the effects of drunken drivers, but it doesn't require one to be an illegal immigrant to be one of those.

Indeed, as with most crimes, the rate for such crimes is actually lower within the immigrant community than with the public at large. There is in fact no correlation at all between immigration and crime.

Which is why when people like Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs constantly harangue their audiences with morbid tales of incidents involving Latinos who commit crimes or are responsible for tragedies, it not only distorts the reality regarding immigrants and crime, but it profoundly demonizes immigrants by linking them with criminality.

In turn, it is this very demonization, particularly in the mainstream media, that actually leads to more hate crimes.

So in effect what O'Reilly is doing is encouraging more hate crimes by suggesting that illegal immigration was the cause of those two women's deaths.

And at the same time, in a twist of logic one can only call bizarre, O'Reilly's inherent thesis is that somehow the federal government's failures on illegal immigration are responsible somehow for the death of Marcelo Lucero as well.

How so? Did that pack of white thugs go out looking for Latinos to beat up because of the failures of the federal government? That seems to be O'Reilly's logic here. Isn't that blaming the victims? And doesn't O'Reilly preach "individual responsibility" for minorities who commit crimes?

O'Reilly finishes up his tirade by demanding that Barack Obama adopt a "zero tolerance policy" towards illegal immigrants.

Better the rest of us develop a "zero tolerance policy" for Bill O'Reilly's hatemongering.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]