Skip to content

Taking a page or two from Orwell

I’m pretty sure that when Orwell wrote 1984 he meant it as a warning, but it really looks like Republicans consider it a how-to book. Recently we heard that the folks at the Center for Disease Control were barred from saying certain words. Now we learn that when the facts don’t fit the narrative, you just throw them down the memory hole:

Ten days before Christmas, Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a rare press conference to discuss one of his top priorities in his first year at the Justice Department. “We’ve seen a deadly increase in violent crime,” he said, announcing that the department was dispatching 40 additional federal prosecutors across the country to combat what Sessions believes is a dawning new era of violent crime. “The overall violent crime rate is up by nearly 7 percent, a reversal of a downward trend. Robberies are up. Assaults are up. Rape is up by nearly 11 percent. And murder is up by more than 20 percent.” (It’s true that the violent crime rate has ticked up over the past two years, but it’s still barely more than half of what it was 15 years ago.)

The administration’s focus on crime made it all the more surprising that the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report, the gold standard of crime statistics, lacked a significant amount of data that experts have relied upon for years to assess crime trends. Until this year, the report contained 81 main tables that allowed researchers to track everything from the rate of violent crime to the racial breakdown of arrests. But when the 2016 report came out in September, there were only 29 tables. The information needed to understand and verify the crime stats cited by the attorney general, as well as the work of local law enforcement around the country, was suddenly harder to obtain.

The decision to remove the data hampers the ability of criminologists and journalists to analyze crime trends at the same time that the administration is transforming the justice system to respond to rising violent crime rates. There’s little clarity on why and when the decision to withhold the data was made, although the FBI has claimed the move was part of a years-long process to revamp how it collects and disseminates crime data to the public. FBI Director Christopher Wray told a congressional panel earlier this month that the missing tables will be added back into the latest report. But beyond 2016, it remains uncertain whether researchers will have access to all these critical crime data.

via Mother Jones through Daily Kos.

The story goes on to document the fact that outside experts very much doubt the spin the Trump gang is putting on the unreleased crime statistics, but, of course, there’s no way to conclusively rebut something like this if you lack a shared set of data. Somewhere in the FBI there’s a Winston Smith throwing this stuff down the memory hole, probably questioning what he’s doing, but doing it nonetheless. This is the sort of stuff that goes on under the radar while Trump distracts with his erratic behavior. He may not know what he’s doing, but the people around him do. Stuff like this may get some attention for a day, but that attention fades quickly, and they can then go about their business. Unless and until the Democrats take over at least one house of Congress, they can count on a lack of oversight. It is worth mentioning, by the way, that while the Republicans have attacked the FBI for non-existent wrongdoing with regard to the Russia investigation, they will, I predict, be entirely uninterested in the fact that it is cooking the books to support the Trump gang’s lies.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.