African crime: Attack the writer, and miss the point
Bernard Lane, writing below, has run into a Leftist misapplication of natural justice. It is natural justice that I am responsible for my own deeds only, not the deeds of others. Leftists use that to say that we cannot act against or discuss a criminally-inclined group if some members only of the group are actual criminals. But that seems to most people to be instinctively wrong. Why?
What they overlook is that it is not only justice that needs to be discussed in reference to such a group but prevention. We have a strong need to protect ourselves from members of that group. But we have no certain knowledge of which group members are likely to harm us. So we act probabilistically. Most of our knowledge is probabilistic. We expect that dogs will bark but some don't. Our knowledge that dogs bark is strong knowledge but it is in the end only probabilistic.
So we often HAVE TO act on probabilistic knowledge.. If (say) we wish to protect ourselves from the frequent vicious attacks emanating from South Sudanese youths, our only recourse is to reply on our probabilistic knowledge of them and do something to restrict all of them from access to us. Britain dealt with Irish terrorism by instituting detention without trial so there are available precedents.
Justice is tangential to the problem. The issue is prevention. Only perfect knowledge could give us perfect justice but we do not have such knowledge. Prevention, however, is not in principle difficult. Returning them all to their ancestral homeland, for instance, should be quite effective and only minimally oppressive
I am Twitter’s racist of the day. I wrote two words — African crime — that are not supposed to go together, unlike white supremacy. My Tuesday coverage of Melbourne’s crime problem ran to 5000 words, plus maps and charts. It sketched an atlas of crime hot spots across the city by people born in the conflict-ravaged Horn of Africa, mostly Sudanese. I knew it would be contentious, that any data analysis is imperfect, and so took care in framing it.
Twitter doesn’t care about that. Activist group Sleeping Giants Oz tweeted: “We are about to have a LONG rant about a News Corp @australian article compiled by @Bernard_Lane where they exclude ALL other criminals and focus ONLY on migrant East Africans committing crime in Victoria”.
No mention that I’d conceded African-born offending was “arguably trivial” compared with the rap sheet of the Australian-born. But the Sudanese are over-represented in the crime data, and police reports suggest an alarming degree of violence and contempt for the law, leaving a legacy of trauma and fear.
The long rant never came, unless that was all the rant on offer. What happened was that hundreds of people retweeted Sleeping Giants, sometimes adding their own abuse, conspiracy theories and bad spelling. The Twitter feed kept scrolling along, hour after hour.
Sudanese-Australian lawyer Nyadol Nyuon took me to task for “Making a whole community responsible for the conduct of others because of their skin colour. Have you ever had to answer for any crime because the person who did it shared the same race as you?”
Nowhere had I suggested collective responsibility.
If a white-on-black crime is in the news, I feel a kind of shame, but shouldn’t my first response be empathy for the victim, regardless of our group identities? Nobody in the Twitter feed expressed compassion for Elena Morgan, the white woman bashed by three teenage girls of African appearance. If crime is a racist media concoction, it has no true victims.
I’d acknowledged in the coverage that a fixation with African crime was hurtful for the law-abiding majority of people from the Horn of Africa. This only infuriated Nyuon, who likened it to “when they piss on you, then tell you it is raining”.
I also had included a reference to the 2007 murder of Sudanese refugee Liep Gony by two whites in Noble Park. It was a shocking crime and I couldn’t understand why the judge had ruled out a racial motive. This earned me a rebuke from Gony’s cousin, Nyawech Fouch, for “using” this tragedy “to support your ‘reverse racism’ argument”.
I had expected that race, nationality, culture and history would be conflated.
So I’d written: “Nobody suggests a racial link to crime in Melbourne but there is a question whether the horrors that qualify people for refugee status also create problems for their resettlement in a peaceful society ruled by law, especially if those new arrivals encounter prejudice and unemployment.”
Nyuon challenged me: “What is African crime? Does this include white Africans?”
The coverage focused not just on Sudan but three other Horn of Africa countries with a presence in Melbourne and a history of regional conflict often spilling over borders.
I kept in the analysis the very low “alleged offender incident” counts of people from Eritrea, a small country not spared the agonies of the region, because it suggested that arriving in Melbourne as a traumatised refugee did not mean you were predestined to a life of criminal dysfunction; what happened here counted too.
Sydney lawyer James Wheeldon, whose job would require him to be a careful reader, joined the Twitter feed: “this is garbage reporting and an egregious misuse of statistics”. He accused me of not comparing like with like, suggesting he had not paid much attention to the coverage before moralising. At least he read it, I think.
Criminologist Jarryd Bartle entered the fray, intimating I was a fraud because the data I had claimed to make use of was not publicly available. I asked if he’d read the full coverage. “Paywalled,” he tweeted in complaint, willing to criticise what he wasn’t willing to read.
Next came Benjamin Millar, a journalist with a local paper in Maribyrnong, the council area with the highest number of “offender incidents” involving people from the Horn of Africa across the past decade.
He upbraided me for the “privileged white fragility” I had displayed when rejecting the suggestion of reverse racism.
If a white woman is bashed by blacks on his watch as a reporter, is her “white privilege” a mitigating factor? Is her hurt different from the bruises of black-on-black violence?
Millar did have one useful criticism of my data analysis, which I added to the coverage.
Twitter exemplifies the tactic today to “call out” racists. This involves a lot of digital high fives but what does it actually achieve? Relentless smearing of people as racists only reinforces the dubious category of race as the lens through which we view the world. Individuals give up empathy for the tribal loyalty of identity politics.
This week’s anti-racists were blind to the point of my coverage: that in Melbourne’s violence, there may be lessons on how to make future resettlement of refugees more successful.
If activists dwell only on the supposed bigotry of white Australia, they risk undermining popular support for a generous humanitarian program.