What causes American murders? Kevin Williams makes a very solid case that the answer is not American politics.
Mr. Williamson first recounts in some detail the shameful behavior of prominent Lefties when an obviously mentally ill man described as “quite liberal” by his friends shot Rep. Giffords of Arizona: they blamed Sarah Palin. Then he shifts to the recent tragic cop murders and urges the Right to not follow suit:
As it happens, I agree with my colleague Charles C. W. Cooke that the instinct within some on the right to blame the crimes of Ismaaiyl Brinsley on the riff-raff shouting half-literate slogans around New York and other cities, and on profiteering race-hustlers such as Al Sharpton, is misplaced. But it was much more grievously misplaced when Palin was being put through the ringer, too: for metaphorical crosshairs. The mobs in New York, Ferguson, and elsewhere are not calling for metaphorical murders of policemen, but literal ones. (Literally, Mr. Vice President!) Palin was calling for energetic participation in the democratic process; the New York mobs are calling for energetic participation in mass murders.
Next, he deploys a great saying about statistics: “failing to consider the moose.”
Al Sharpton is a grotesque, anti-Semitic reprobate who would be shunned in a sane society rather than given a television show and a podium at presidential debates. The mobs howling for blood in New York are detestable lowlifes, the same as they were yesterday and the same as they’ll be tomorrow. But Al Sharpton does not cause murders. American murders are not caused by political speeches, and the share of our violent crimes that have a political aspect (Occupy bombers, anti-abortion killings) is statistically insignificant, another example of failing to consider the moose, i.e. failing to make rational risk calculations. (You are 57 times more likely to be killed by a bee or a wasp than by an alligator or a crocodile; moose are much more dangerous than grizzly bears.) We latch onto the exotic — in the case of Giffords, the possibility of an old-fashioned political assassination – because we are naturally drawn to drama or, in the case of Professor Krugman et al., because they are cynical manipulators with no moral compass. We know that Jonathan Chait lies in print with the blessings of his editors, that Harvard academics such as Amitabh Chandra lie in print with the blessings of their department chairmen, etc. Of course they will lie about violence when it suits them.
Lastly he concludes: mental illness and priors are the things to watch, not political rhetoric.
But conservatives’ first duty is to reality, and the reality is that what causes American murders is our national failure to adequately monitor, restrict, or rehabilitate violent offenders with sub-homicidal criminal careers and our national failure to address seriously the role of mental illness in violent crime, private demons leading to public mayhem. It isn’t sexy, it isn’t ideologically neat, and it doesn’t provide much of an opportunity to engage in moral preening, one of the greatest and most destructive of all temptations. It may pay to campaign at Jane Fonda depths of stupidity — the inexplicable success of Barack Obama suggests very strongly that it does. But we cannot govern that way, and we surely cannot live that way — nor would any sensible person wish to.
If we could eliminate all the American murders rooted in political ideology, there would be (almost) no effect. If we could eliminate all the American murders committed by people with prior criminal records, there would be (almost) no murder. The relevant question in the matter of Ismaaiyl Brinsley isn’t what he was doing on Instagram but what he was doing on the street.