"Every Other American" Thinks Like the German Right

Der Spiegel interviews (g) the Israeli-American-German journalist Tuvia Tenenbom, who's been called the Jewish Hunter S. Thompson. He's a rubicund old Jewish kibitzer who travels the world and reports what he sees in blunt, unvarnished, politically-incorrect language that you'll either find crudely oversimplified or refreshingly direct.

He's written books about Germany, America (this one was called "brutal, irreverent, and cutting"), and just published in German a book called "Alone Among Refugees" (g), which recounts his travels through Germany visiting refugees and activists on all sides of the issue. A few of his thoughts on comparative freedom of the press and opinion: 

Spiegel: Mr. Tenenbom, what is your opinion on the media landscape and freedom of opinion here in Germany?

Tenenbom: There's no more journalism, especially in Germany. Instead there's activism. Journalism no longer just report what happens, but what we're supposed to think....

Spiegel: So to you, the best journalists are those who...

Tenenbom:  ... report facts. And don't tell us what's right and wrong.
The reporter asks him about positive comments he has made about the personalities of German right-wingers such as neo-nationalist intellectual Götz Kubitschek and anti-immigration activist Lutz Bachmann: 
Tenenbom: I'm not naive. I know very well what they say and think. But to treat someone respectfully or like them doesn't require that I share their opinions. And by the way: Every other American thinks the things which Götz Kubitschek says, and what Lutz Bachmann says.

Spiegel: Well, that hardly makes it better.

Tenenbom: I just want to say: Should we treat all Americans this way [i.e. ostracize them because of their views]? No. And you know what? Many Germans think the same way, they're just afraid to say it aloud. And so what? All these people are entitled to call themselves Europeans. There is simply a difference of opinion between one point of view which existed earlier, which is based on the preservation of one's own culture -- you could call that narrow-mindedness -- and another movement which doesn't want borders or nation-states and wants to see cultures mixed. Those are two valid arguments, two acceptable wishes. Let the voters decide! But don't call these people Nazis merely because they want to preserve German culture.


Growing Opposition to the Helpless State

And once again, speaking of random violence, this charming scene from Berlin. Police are actively searching for the group of men: 

Actually, police have been searching for them since October 27th, when this incident took place. Despite its clarity and relevance, the police chose not to release the video, saying that their policy is to first interview witnesses and exhaust other investigative avenues, and only release the video "when that isn't successful" (g). The policy is intended to "make it as certain as possible, that nobody is possibly prematurely and unfairly sought as a suspect because of photos or videos that have been made public". A police spokeswoman commented (g) that "actually, releasing photos to the public is the last step in the investigation, not the first".

In this case, the police's hand was forced by the Bild tabloid, which secured a copy of the video and published it. The decision of the police was promptly criticized on the police Facebook page, where posters pointed out that (1) the likelihood of a misidentification seems slim considering how clear the video is and the fact that it shows the crime; and (2) the police's decision to sit on the evidence while their investigation went nowhere meant that these men were free to roam the city and endanger other random pedestrians. I would add that the majority of other police forces on earth, including ones with good human-rights records, would have released the video immediately.

Bild appears to be taking the lead in challenging aspects of the German legal system which it feels afford too much protection to suspects and not enough to victims. Since they've been doing this for a while and since Bild is officially on the Prohibited Index of news sources among right-thinking Germans, its actions haven't attracted much notice among educated urbanites.

I have a prediction to make: public outrage at the inability of police to solve serious crimes will continue to grow in Germany. Of course, the problem is explained more by understaffing and legal roadblocks than by police incompetence. In Germany, for instance, police need to apply for a court order to publish images of criminal suspects, a process that can take days or even weeks.

Yet the police are part of the problem. Take the excuses put forward by the Berlin police for not releasing the video. Do those statements convey to you the impression of a police force that is doing its utmost to protect citizens?

Currently, 50% of Germans think (g) the criminal justice system is too lenient. This percentage goes up and down over decades, but never below a solid plurality. 68% of Germans feel security has deteriorated (g) in the past few years. As liberals like to point out, crime has been steadily decreasing in German over the past few decades, a consequence of the aging of society and, quite possibly, lead removal in the 1970s. Yet if that decrease stops, or the nature of crimes changes and becomes more threatening to ordinary people (which I suspect is the case), we might see these abstract poll numbers turn into an active political force. That force will have nowhere to go, of course, since police procedures and criminal laws cannot be meaningfully influenced by ordinary citizens.

What happens to strong political forces which are denied any chance of effecting meaningful policy reforms? We're about to see.


Many Anti-Trump Arguments Are Hysteria

Trump is many things, and has said many things, but he's not a fascist, he's not deeply racist (although he has made racist statements), he's clearly no anti-Semite, and his views on immigration aren't far out of the mainstream.

Those of you getting your news from the German media may well be doing spit-take after spit-take, but this thorough and well-documented post from Slate Star Codex checks out all the most extreme claims about Trump and finds most of them overblown. You should read the entire thing, but here are some generous excerpts:

3. Is Trump getting a lot of his support from people who wouldn’t join white nationalist groups, aren’t in the online alt-right, but still privately hold some kind of white supremacist position?

There are surprisingly few polls that just straight out ask a representative sample of the population “Are you white supremacist?”.

I can find a couple of polls that sort of get at this question in useful ways.

This poll from Gallup asks white Americans their support for school segregation and whether they would move out if a black family moved in next door. It declines from about 50% in 1960 to an amount too small to measure in the 1990s, maybe 1-2%, where it presumably remains today.

(this graph also seems relevant to the stories of how Trump’s father would try to keep blacks out of his majority-white real estate developments in the late 60s/early 70s – note that at that time 33% of white families would move out if a black person moved in next door)

Here’s a CBS News poll from 2014 asking Americans their opinion on the Civil Rights Act that legally prohibited discrimination. Once again, the number of whites who think it was a bad thing is too small to measure meaningfully, but looks like maybe 1-2%. Of note, whites were more convinced the Civil Rights Act was good than blacks were, though I guess it depends on the margin of error.

Another Gallup graph here, with the percent of people who would vs. wouldn’t vote for an otherwise-qualified black candidate for President. It goes from 54% in 1968 to 5% in 1999; later polls that aren’t included on the graph give numbers from 4% to 7%, which sounds probably within the margin of error.

This is a Vox poll asking how many people had favorable vs. unfavorable views of different groups. 11% admit to “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” views of blacks, which sounds bad, except that 7% of people admit to unfavorable views of heterosexuals by the same definition. This makes me think “have an unfavorable view about this group” is not a very high bar. If we restrict true “white supremacists” to those who have only “very unfavorable” views of blacks, this is 3%, well in line with our other sources.

(of note, 1% of respondents had “never heard of” blacks. Um…)

Maybe a better way of looking for racists: David Duke ran for Senate in Louisiana this year. He came in seventh with 58,000 votes (3%). Multiplied over 50 states, that would suggest 2.5 million people who would vote for a leading white supremacist. On the other hand, Louisiana is one of the most racist states (for example, Slate’s investigation found that it led the US in percent of racist tweets) and one expects Duke would have had more trouble in eg Vermont. Adjusting for racism level as measured in tweets, it looks like there would be about 1 million Duke voters in a nationwide contest. That’s a little less than 1% of voters.

So our different ways of defining “open white supremacist”, even for definitions of “open” so vague they include admitting it on anonymous surveys, suggest maybe 1-2%, 1-2%, 4-7%, 3-11%, and 1-3%.

But doesn’t this still mean there are some white supremacists? Isn’t this still really important?

I mean, kind of. But remember that 4% of Americans believe that lizardmen control all major governments. And 5% of Obama voters believe that Obama is the Antichrist. The white supremacist vote is about the same as the lizardmen-control-everything vote, or the Obama-is-the-Antichrist-but-I-support-him-anyway vote.

(and most of these people are in Solid South red states and don’t matter in the electoral calculus anyway.)

...

This gets back to my doubts about “dog whistles”. Dog whistling seems to be the theory that if you want to know what someone really believes, you have to throw away decades of consistent statements supporting the side of an issue that everyone else in the world supports, and instead pay attention only to one weird out-of-character non-statement which implies he supports a totally taboo position which is perhaps literally the most unpopular thing it is possible to think.

And then you have to imagine some of the most brilliant rhetoricians and persuaders in the world are calculating that it’s worth risking exposure this taboo belief in order to win support from a tiny group with five-digit membership whose support nobody wants, by sending a secret message, which inevitably every single media outlet in the world instantly picks up on and makes the focus of all their coverage for the rest of the election.

Finally, no, none of this suggests that Donald Trump is courting the white supremacist vote. Anybody can endorse anybody with or without their consent. Did you know that the head of the US Communist Party endorsed Hillary, and Hillary never (as far as I know) “renounced” their endorsement? Does that mean Hillary is a Communist? Did you know that a leader of a murderous black supremacist cult supported Donald Trump and Trump said that he “loved” him? Does that mean Trump is a black supremacist? The only time this weird “X endorsed Y, that means Y must support X” thing is brought out, is in favor of the media narrative painting Trump to be a racist.

This, to me, is another form of crying wolf. One day you might have a candidate who openly courts the KKK, in the sense of having a campaign platform saying “I like the KKK and value their support”, speaking at Klan meetings, et cetera. And instead, you’ve wasted the phrase “openly courts the KKK” on somebody with a twenty year history of loudly condemning the KKK, plus one weird interview where he said he didn’t know anything about it, then changed his mind the next day and said he hates them.

...

6. What about Trump’s “drugs and crime” speech about Mexicans?

Trump said that:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Note how totally non-racist this statement is. I’m serious. It’s anti-illegal-immigrant. But in terms of race, it’s saying Latinos (like every race) include both good and bad people, and the bad people are the ones coming over here. It suggests a picture of Mexicans as including some of the best people – but those generally aren’t the ones who are coming illegally.

Compare to eg Bill Clinton’s 1996 platform (all emphasis mine):

We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it. For years before Bill Clinton became President, Washington talked tough but failed to act. In 1992, our borders might as well not have existed. The border was under-patrolled, and what patrols there were, were under-equipped. Drugs flowed freely. Illegal immigration was rampant. Criminal immigrants, deported after committing crimes in America, returned the very next day to commit crimes again. President Clinton is making our border a place where the law is respected and drugs and illegal immigrants are turned away.

Or John McCain in 2008:

Border security is essential to national security. In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, and criminalgangs, allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks to the sovereignty of the United States and the security of its people.

Trump’s platform contains similar language – and, like all past platforms, also contains language praising legal immigrants:

Just as immigrant labor helped build our country in the past, today’s legal immigrants are making vital contributions in every aspect of national life. Their industry and commitment to American values strengthens our economy, enriches our culture, and enables us to better understand and more effectively compete with the rest of the world.

We are particularly grateful to the thousands of new legal immigrants, many of them not yet citizens, who are serving in the Armed Forces and among first responders. Their patriotism should encourage all to embrace the newcomers legally among us, assist their journey to full citizenship, and help their communities avoid isolation from the mainstream of society. We are also thankful for the many legal immigrants who continue to contribute to American society.

When Democrats and Republicans alike over the last twenty years say that we are a nation of immigrants but that illegal immigrants threaten our security, or may be criminals or drug pushers, they’re met with yawns. When Trump says exactly the same thing, he’s Literally the KKK.

7. What about the border wall? Doesn’t that mean Trump must hate Mexicans?

As multiple sources point out, both Hillary and Obama voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which put up a 700 mile fence along the US-Mexican border. Politifact says that Hillary and Obama wanted a 700 mile fence but Trump wants a 1000 mile wall, so these are totally different. But really? Support a 700 mile fence, and you’re the champion of diversity and all that is right in the world; support a 1000 mile wall and there’s no possible explanation besides white nationalism?

...

10. Isn’t Trump anti-Semitic?

I feel like an attempt to avoid crying wolf might reserve that term for people who didn’t win an Israeli poll on what candidate would best represent Israel’s interests, or doesn’t have a child who converted to Judaism, or hasn’t won various awards from the American Jewish community for his contributions to Israel and American Judaism, or wasn’t the grand marshal of a Salute To Israel Parade, or…

...

14. Haven’t there been hundreds of incidents of Trump-related hate crimes?

This isn’t a criticism of Trump per se (he’s demanded that his supporters avoid hate crimes), but it seems relevant to the general tenor of the campaign.

SPLC said they have 300 such hate incidents, although their definition of “hate incident” includes things like “someone overheard a racist comment in someone else’s private conversation, then challenged them about it and got laughed at”. Let’s take that number at face value (though see here)

If 47% of America supports Trump (= the percent of vote he got extrapolated to assume non-voters feel the same way), there are 150,000,000 Trump supporters. That means there has been one hate incident per 500,000 Trump supporters.

But aren’t there probably lots of incidents that haven’t been reported to SLPC? Maybe. Maybe there’s two unreported attacks for every reported one, which means that the total is one per 150,000 Trump supporters. Or maybe there are ten unreported attacks for every reported one, which means that the total is one per 45,000 Trump supporters. Since nobody has any idea about this, it seems weird to draw conclusions from it.

Oh, also, I looked on right-wing sites to see if there are complaints of harassment and attacks by Hillary supporters, and there are. Among the stories I was able to confirm on moderately trustworthy news sites that had investigated them somewhat (a higher standard than the SLPC holds their reports to) are ones about how Hillary supporters have beaten up people for wearing Trump hats, screamed encouragement as a mob beat up a man who they thought voted Trump, knocked over elderly people, beaten up a high school girl for supporting Trump on Instagram, defaced monuments with graffiti saying “DIE WHITES DIE”, advocated raping Melania Trump, kicked a black homeless woman who was holding a Trump sign, attacked a pregnant woman stuck in her car, with a baseball bat, screamed at children who vote Trump in a mock school election, etc, etc, etc.

But please, keep talking about how somebody finding a swastika scrawled in a school bathroom means that every single Trump supporter is scum and Trump’s whole campaign was based on hatred.

...

Whatever bizarre, divisive, ill-advised, and revolting thing you’re about to mention, the answer is probably yes.

This is equally true on race-related and non-race-related issues. People ask “How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Kenya, if he wasn’t racist?” I don’t know. How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism? How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that the Clintons killed Vince Foster? How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that Ted Cruz’s father shot JFK?

Trump will apparently believe anything for any reason, especially about his political opponents. If Clinton had been black but Obama white, we’d be hearing that the Vince Foster conspiracy theory proves Trump’s bigotry, and the birtherism was just harmless wackiness.

Likewise, how could Trump insult a Mexican judge just for being Mexican? I don’t know. How could Trump insult a disabled reporter just for being disabled? How could Trump insult John McCain just for being a beloved war hero? Every single person who’s opposed him, Trump has insulted in various offensive ways, including 140 separate incidents of him calling someone “dopey” or “dummy” on Twitter, and you expect him to hold his mouth just because the guy is a Mexican?

I don’t think people appreciate how weird this guy is. His weird way of speaking. His catchphrases like “haters and losers!” or “Sad!”. His tendency to avoid perfectly reasonable questions in favor of meandering tangents about Mar-a-Lago. The ability to bait him into saying basically anything just by telling him people who don’t like him think he shouldn’t.

If you insist that Trump would have to be racist to say or do whatever awful thing he just said or did, you are giving him too much credit. Trump is just randomly and bizarrely terrible. Sometimes his random and bizarre terribleness is about white people, and then we laugh it off. Sometimes it’s about minorities, and then we interpret it as racism.

...

Why am I harping on this?

I work in mental health. So far I have had two patients express Trump-related suicidal ideation. One of them ended up in the emergency room, although luckily both of them are now safe and well. I have heard secondhand of several more.

Like Snopes, I am not sure if the reports of eight transgender people committing suicide due to the election results are true or false. But if they’re true, it seems really relevant that Trump denounced North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom law, and proudly proclaimed he would let Caitlyn Jenner use whatever bathroom she wanted in Trump Tower, making him by far the most pro-transgender Republican president in history.

I notice news articles like Vox: Donald Trump’s Win Tells People Of Color They Aren’t Welcome In America. Or Salon’s If Trump Wins, Say Goodbye To Your Black Friends. MSN: Women Fear For Their Lives After Trump Victory.

Vox writes about the five-year-old child who asks “Is Donald Trump a bad person? Because I heard that if he becomes president, all the black and brown people have to leave and we’re going to become slaves.” The Star writes about a therapist called in for emergency counseling to help Muslim kids who think Trump is going to kill them. I have patients who are afraid to leave their homes.

Listen. Trump is going to be approximately as racist as every other American president. Maybe I’m wrong and he’ll be a bit more. Maybe he’ll surprise us and be a bit less. But most likely he’ll be about as racist as Ronald Reagan, who employed Holocaust denier Pat Buchanan as a senior advisor. Or about as racist as George Bush with his famous Willie Horton ad. Or about as racist as Bill “superpredator” Clinton, who took a photo op in front of a group of chained black men in the birthplace of the KKK. Or about as racist as Bush “doesn’t care about black people!” 43. He’ll have some scandals, people who want to see them as racist will see them as racist, people who don’t will dismiss them as meaningless, and nobody will end up in death camps.


America: Politically Correct, and Politically Free

FT_16.10.15_Freedom-of-Expression

Pew research looks at the level of support for free speech across the globe and finds that it's highest (according to their measure) in the U.S.:

Enshrined in the Bill of Rights, free expression is a bedrock American principle, and Americans tend to express stronger support for free expression than many others around the world. A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2015 found that Americans were among the most supportive of free speech, freedom of the press and the right to use the internet without government censorship.

Moreover, Americans are much more tolerant of offensive speech than people in other nations. For instance, 77% in the U.S. support the right of others to make statements that are offensive to their own religious beliefs, the highest percentage among the nations in the study. Fully 67% think people should be allowed to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, again the highest percentage in the poll. And the U.S. was one of only three nations where at least half endorse the right to sexually explicit speech. Americans don’t necessarily like offensive speech more than others, but they are much less inclined to outlaw it.

To get a summary measure of support for free expression around the world, we built an index based on five survey questions about free speech and three about free media. Using this measure, Americans emerge as the biggest supporters of free expression among the 38 nations studied. And unlike so many other issues in the U.S., wide open, free-ranging public debate has an appeal across party lines. There are relatively few differences between Democrats, Republicans and independents when it comes to free expression.

However, there are some important generational differences on this issue. For instance, 40% of U.S. Millennials think the government should be able to prevent people from making statements that are offensive to minority groups, compared with 27% of those in Generation X, 24% of Baby Boomers, and just 12% of Silent Generation Americans. Nonwhite respondents (38%) are also more likely to hold this view than whites (23%).

Apart from debates over whether offensive language should be legal, most Americans believe people are just too easily offended nowadays. In a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 59% agreed with the statement “Too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use,” while only 39% said “people need to be more careful about the language they use to avoid offending people with different backgrounds.”

Yet another stereotype of American society down the drain. Germans consider America to be the homeland of political correctness, the dastardly censorship of controversial views which is spreading like a virus into German society. This impression, like so many others, is created by selective German news coverage. Most Germans still unthinkingly rely on the mainstream media to decide what it's important to know about the United States.

Which they do, according to their own narrow, nearly-identical criteria, determined by the tastes and preferences of educated urban haute-bourgeois Germans. And they have decided, for reasons which would be interesting to know, that Americans are afflicted by the worst case of political correctness on the globe. Journos pounce on every story showing the excesses of politically-correct scolding in the United States. 

Yet what Pew shows us is that Americans likely have the highest tolerance for offensive speech of anyone in the world.

The problem here is one of definition. Political correctness as a tendency of private persons in civil society to denounce someone's remarks, or Halloween costume, or state flag as offensive. There is a lot of that sort of thing in the United States. And there is certainly some chilling effect on college campuses, which are full of people whose job is essentially to have opinions.

Yet in another way, America is much more free than all other nations on earth. The Constitution and American culture prevent the government from punishing offensive speech to a greater degree than anywhere else. In America, the government cannot pre-emptively stop a newspaper from printing offensive speech, or stolen secret documents. Publications generally cannot be seized after they're printed. Ordinary citizens may advocate violence, deny the Holocaust, use ethnic slurs, and espouse racism without fear of government intervention. (As long as these are words alone -- you can still be punished for actions such as workplace discrimination or bias-motivated hate crimes). You can neither be punished by the government nor sued for money by a private citizen for an insult, not matter how vicious or crude it is. You can protest at the funeral of a soldier with signs which insult "fags" and say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers".

God-hates-fags

In almost all other countries on earth, any one of these actions or statements could expose you to criminal prosecution by the government or an order to compensate victims with money damages in civil court. Not in the U.S. And, as the Pew survey shows, the majority of Americans approve of this state of affairs. Even millennials, the most PC group of them all, are not clamoring for restrictions on free speech.

So in the United States, if you say something quite rude and non-PC, you may be castigated on Twitter and denounced by your audience.

If you say the same thing in many other countries, you could be hit with a government-imposed fine or civil damages verdict. Perhaps even a prison sentence.

The amount of politically-correct scolding in a country has no relation to the level of genuine freedom of expression. After all, politically-correct scolding is freedom of expression. The U.S. is a hotbed both of political correctness and of free speech.


43% of Criminals in Hamburg...; or Why Germans Are So Ignorant About Crime in Their Country

Much debate in Germany revolves around the question of whether foreigners commit more crimes than Germans. Whenever this subject comes in mainstream German television talk shows, the responses fall into four predictable categories:

  • Those on the center-left (and everyone to the left of them) get up on their hind legs and immediately start lobbing rhetorical smoke-bombs about "over-generalizations" and "stoking prejudice" and "doing a disservice to the millions of hard-working...", etc.
  • Those on the far right consider all immigrants potential criminals, but hardly care, since they would oppose even the most law-abiding immigrants because they want to keep Germany Deutsch. However, their views don't really matter, since people this far right are never given a chance to air their views on mass media.
  • Those on the center-right do occasionally mention statistics, but are too afraid of being labeled xenophobic to say anything specific. They quickly revert to waffle about "criminal structures", "inadequate integration", "challenging and supporting", etc.
  • Those on the right (including the AfD, which contrary to common belief does not (g, pdf) oppose all immigration) say what the numbers show: that foreigners are over-represented in crime statistics. Representatives of this political tendency were almost never invited onto German talk shows until the rise of the AfD made this inevitable. Aside from the AfD, the only other talk-show guests who mention this are are representatives of the Hungarian or Polish or Czech governments who are invited to be the ceremonial punching bag of everyone else on the show, including the moderator.

These programmed responses and euphemisms make informed debate on this issue nearly impossible. One by-product is that most Germans have no idea that foreigners are vastly over-represented in German crime statistics. Dozens of times, I pointed this fact out in class, only to be challenged by students who didn't believe the numbers, some accusing me of "peddling right-wing propaganda". Needless to say, all of the students were keenly aware that blacks are over-represented in American prisons relative to their numbers in the population. Yet they had no idea the same thing was happening in their own country.

So now, in the service of just plain information, a story that appeared in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper a few weeks ago, then quickly fell down the memory hole. The report was based on a confidential police report leaked to the newspaper. The story appears to be pay-walled, but a confidential source furnished me with the paper originals at a 4 AM meeting in an abandoned parking garage, in return for guarantees of confidentiality and a substantial cash payment. I can now reveal the following statistics:

  • In the first half of 2106, Hamburg police investigated 38,000 criminal suspects.
  • Of these, 16,600, or 43%, did not have German nationality.
  • 3882 suspects, or 9.5% of the total, were "refugees" (that is, recent migrants)
  • These numbers do not reflect offenses merely against immigration laws, those were removed from the calculation to avoid distortion.
  • In all of 2015, Hamburg authorities investigated 68,868 criminal suspects, of which 28,400 (41 percent) were foreigners.
  • The crimes most often committed by refugees were assault (1014 cases). Refugees were also responsible for 30.6% of all thefts and 27.5% of all drug smuggling and distribution offenses.
  • Refugees also committed 18.2% of all cases of "sexual insult" and 18.9% of all more serious sexual offenses. A majority of these cases resulted from New Years' Eve in Hamburg.

There are currently about 25,000 refugees in Hamburg, out of a population of 1,814,597 (g) million. So refugees are 1.37% of the population. But it sure looks like they are committing crimes way out of proportion to the raw numbers.

We can't say exactly how over-represented refugees are among criminals in Hamburg, since it's entirely possible a single refugee enriched the crime stats with 7 pickpocketings, 3 simple assaults, and one sexual assault. This is known to police and criminologists as the 80/20 rule of thumb: 80 percent of all crimes are committed by 20% of the people; 80% of all police calls are to the most unruly 20% of the city, etc.

Without a detailed breakdown of the identity of the offenders, we can't know for certain just how disproportionate the rate of crime among refugees is. And of course cops and politicians will use this gap in the knowledge -- which they themselves created -- to constantly muddle the issue: "This doesn't necessarily mean refugees are more criminal, because it just might be a small number of refugees committing most of these crimes." Kind of like the boy who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. This also raises the question of why Germany imported these one-man crime waves and allows them to stay, but those are questions for another post.

It should also be remembered that there is some unknown number of people who have German citizenship, and are thus accounted for as German nationals, but were not born in Germany. German authorities intentionally fail to keep records on these numbers, but they're probably at least another 15-20% of criminals.

So, to sum up, here are a few : Most immigrants aren't criminals, but most criminals are immigrants, or were not born in Germany. Most immigrants are law-abiding, but immigrants as a whole commit crimes at a much higher rate than Germans.

See, now you know the truth. Let it set you free!


Nobody, Not Even You, Really Cares about Mass Surveillance

One reason why German journalism is often so naive is that many journalists seem never to have been trained to skeptically evaluate underdog stories. The German presumed-underdog list includes: Indian farmers, Palestinians, American death row inmates, African sharecroppers, artists, writers, indigenous/minority activists, human-rights lawyers, small-time entrepreneurs, folk healers, slum dwellers, etc. When interviewing an underdog, German journalists never critically question anything that person says, nor do they check that his behavior actually conforms to his claimed principles.
 
Another case in point: German magazine Der Spiegel filed a criminal complaint (g) claiming it has been subject to illegal mass surveillance by the NSA and other agencies, and asking the federal prosecutor of Germany to investigate the allegations. The German federal prosecutor announced it will take no action, meaning the case won't proceed. They cited a 'lack of concrete evidence' to back up the editors' suspicions. The editors are angry, but this is not big news in Germany.
 
Despite what you may have read, the majority Europeans and Americans don't really care about mass surveillance. They claim to, but the empirical social scientists' mantra is:
 
Stated preferences are meaningless, revealed preferences are not.
 
A revealed preference for maximal privacy would involve people encrypting all their communications. But they don't. Why download some app and think up yet another password when you have no proof you're being overheard, and even if you were, you would never know, and would never meet the person who heard your call, and even if you did, that person would never mention it? If you are not willing to incur any inconvenience or cost to realize your stated preference (100% privacy), you reveal that you don't really care about it as much as you claim to.
 
Voting behavior shows this as well. Germans claim to be deeply concerned about NSA spying, but the majority vote for parties which either endorse and cooperate with the spying, remain silent about it, or who mouth lip-service about how much they disapprove without ever actually doing anything.
 
German internet start-ups have repeatedly tried to profit from a model which promises supposedly privacy-obsessed German users 100% privacy and no data sales to corporations, but they have all been crushed by Facebook, Twitter, and others.
 
I could provide more examples, but you get the point. And one reason there is no genuine revealed preference for more privacy is because there have been almost no abuses. Intelligence agencies promise us that they don't care about and don't listen to the vast bulk of the data; they have algorithms that look for interesting stuff and they focus only on that. They also promise they haven't shared the data with anyone outside the law-enforcement community.

And so far, they have kept their promises, as far as anyone knows. There haven't been any stories I can find of the NSA blackmailing some ordinary citizen with recordings of his calls to his mistress, or of NSA leaking sexy pictures to the tabloids. Of course, you can always argue this is all going on in secret, etc., but things like this generally come to light. And they're apparently not happening.
 
Meanwhile, no matter what European governments say, their law-enforcement agencies eagerly accept the help of the NSA:
While normal wiretaps and mobile phone surveillance can be done by small intelligence and police services such as those in Belgium, grabbing huge amounts of phone data and electronic signal intelligence — and rapidly processing it — was beyond their capabilities.

The Belgian authorities knew they needed help, and had made a decision, which has not been previously reported, to involve an ally with a vested interest in dismantling a dangerous ISIS network: They called on the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The two officials described the scene at the funeral, where a known suspect was filming on his cell phone: “The guy is filming on a smartphone — that tells us he’s going to send that file to someone, right?” the security service source said. “We had the NSA hit that phone very hard.”

The NSA refused to comment on the operation, but a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence forwarded an article in which James Clapper said: “The NATO Alliance faces an increasingly complex, diffuse threat environment. Consequently, we are always striving toward more integrated intelligence to stay a step ahead.”

On March 15, just a few days after the funeral, Belgian police made a move based on the information they had garnered from the NSA. Alongside French investigators, they raided an apartment in the Brussels neighborhood of Forest. It ended in a firefight; four officers were wounded and one of the occupants was killed. But investigators learned from fingerprint and DNA evidence that Abdeslam and a co-conspirator, Mohamed Abrini, had been there, although the two men escaped over city rooftops during the shoot-out.

It was an embarrassing blow to the investigation, but the NSA was at least now helping the Belgians track the suspects via their phones. Having lost his safe house, Abdeslam was forced to move around and communicate with people outside his rapidly shrinking network. Abdeslam and Abrini called a friend searching for a new place to hide out.

That’s when, according to the military intelligence official, they got him: “Finally … we have this asshole.”

If you polled Europeans on whether it was right for the Belgian authorities to enlist the help of the supposedly infamous and hated NSA to catch a terrorist fugitive, 70-80% would say 'yes'. The number would probably be even higher among French and Belgian people.

Ordinary people have no problem with their communications being monitored, as long as (1) they don't know it's happening and no abuses come to light; and (2) the authorities can claim some legitimate purpose for doing so. You may find this apathy reassuring, you may find it appalling (this is not a normative argument about whether surveillance is good or bad), but it is the case.

If I were designing a remedial training course for journalists, one of the key lessons would be to always, always perform an independent check to see if your subject's revealed preferences line up with their stated preferences. Even if your subject is (what you consider to be an) underdog. Especially if he's an underdog.


"Substantial" Genetic Influence on Choice of A-Levels

Your genes play a key role in deciding whether you decide to take A-levels and which subjects you decide to take them in:

We have previously shown that individual differences in educational achievement are highly heritable throughout compulsory education. After completing compulsory education at age 16, students in England can choose to continue to study for two years (A-levels) in preparation for applying to university and they can freely choose which subjects to study. Here, for the first time, we show that choosing to do A-levels and the choice of subjects show substantial genetic influence, as does performance after two years studying the chosen subjects. Using a UK-representative sample of 6584 twin pairs, heritability estimates were 44% for choosing to do A-levels and 52–80% for choice of subject. Achievement after two years was also highly heritable (35–76%). The findings that DNA differences substantially affect differences in appetites as well as aptitudes suggest a genetic way of thinking about education in which individuals actively create their own educational experiences in part based on their genetic propensities.

This result would surprise and probably alarm many Germans, but they won't hear about it. One of the problems with the insular clique of German mainstream journalists is the blinders they wear. The majority studied sociology, German literature, comparative literature, political theory, history, philosophy, or some other liberal-arts subject. There, they learned plenty about Kant and Mann, but nothing about economics, the military, or hard science.

I think this explains why German journalism on these areas is often terrible. Conditioned by their highly moralized culture and the ideological slant of liberal-arts education, they immediately seek out the underlying moral 'lesson' to be drawn from nuclear research, or the Higgs boson, or gene therapy, etc. They may spend a few paragraphs actually explaining what is going on from a scientific perspective (often getting key things wrong), but before they're even done with that, they start reciting their tired old platitudes (this is what mankind gets for trying to play God, nature's way is always the best, human dignity is the prime directive, etc.) and canned Lessons of History™.

And that goes triple for genetics. If they did learn anything about genetics in their seminars, it was usually accompanied by stern, moralizing lectures about how the Nazis used genetic pseudo-science to justify genocide. The result is a nearly-unshakable belief in the discredited 'blank slate' theory of human variation (i.e., that it's all caused by nurture, not nature). Anyone who points to the ever-growing mountain of evidence that genes play a crucially important role in human personality, achievement, and behavior is automatically assumed to be a crypto-eugenicist until proven otherwise.

I don't have a solution to this problem, but I suppose scholarships and training programs for aspiring science journalists might be something to think about.


The NY Times Shows German Journalists How It's Done Again

If you want to learn interesting background on events in Germany, you'll just have to wait until the New York Times gets on the case. There'll be a slight delay, but you'll finally get specifics:

To the German authorities, he was Mohammad Daleel, a 27-year-old Syrian traumatized by war who arrived in Europe seeking refuge.

To the Islamic State, he was Abu Yousef, a jihadist who went to Europe for medical treatment after being wounded, intending to return to battle....

[The bombing] has also reinforced doubts about whether the authorities actually know whom they have admitted into the country, and highlighted the challenges of verifying the identities, documents and back stories of those allowed to stay. A 17-year-old who carried out an ax attack on a train the same week that Mr. Daleel blew himself up, for example, has yet to be properly identified, even though he had already been assigned to a foster family in Germany.

As he sought asylum in Europe, Mr. Daleel appears to have either embellished or omitted key parts of his history in constantly shifting accounts....

Mr. Daleel was one of 290 asylum seekers who had appealed to the organization for help in November 2013. Mr. Daleel told the organization that he had no money and nowhere to live, and that he required medical treatment for his knee.

“I particularly remember this case because we don’t see people with shell fragments in their legs very often,” Ms. Savova said. “He told us he got the fragments in his legs when a shell exploded in his house and killed his wife and children.”

The Islamic State called Mr. Daleel a soldier, too, but in his case, it also provided a long account of his ties to the group, including as a fighter in Aleppo, Syria. Last week, the group said Mr. Daleel had first joined its ranks in Iraq and later fought in Syria, “where he was injured by shrapnel of a mortar.”

After seeking treatment in Europe, it said, Mr. Daleel wanted to return to Syria to fight but was unable to do so, and instead “started creating accounts” on the internet to support the Islamic State.

The German police say Mr. Daleel opened six Facebook accounts, at least one of which was under a false name.

The Islamic State also claimed that Mr. Daleel had studied how to make a bomb for three months, was in contact with a handler and had visited the site of the attack the day before.

Even before the attack, Germany had tightened laws to register and share data about newly arriving refugees. It has also been sending out teams of customs officers or soldiers to locate unregistered asylum seekers....
 
The teams record basic personal information and country of birth, and take biometric photos and fingerprints, said Andrea Brinkmann, a spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Those are checked against the domestic intelligence office’s databases and data on refugees already registered elsewhere in the European Union. Since February, all offices dealing with refugees, from the border police to state and local officials, have been able to review that information.

But whether those steps will be sufficient remains to seen. Officials and humanitarian groups say they have long tried to balance the protection of refugees against security.

Comments:

  1. The German coverage of this case is so vague as to be near-useless, because it doesn't name names or give specifics. Also, just about every assertion of fact is prefaced by a 'supposedly' or 'is said to' wishy-washy hedging phrase. Except for things Yousef/Daleel himself reported (such as that his leg injuries came from a shell which killed his family) which were often reported straight ("His family were killed by a bomb," not "He said his family were killed by a bomb"). This is politically-correct taboos getting in the way of understanding. To avoid 'stoking anti-foreigner resentments', German journalists tend to leave out the most interesting facts and cover up others in a stultifying baffle of euphemisms.
  2. As always, German coverage provides a few superficial reports on what actually happened, then shifts immediately into stories about what politician X said about what politician Y said about politician Z's comments on the attack. Much easier to cobble together quotations from wire services than to leave your office, pound the pavement, collect leaked documents, and try to find out why a trained IS terrorist was allowed into Germany. Or, heaven forbid, how many others might in Germany now, patiently waiting for the right opportunity.
  3. This man was in the country for years, went to counseling sessions, got therapy and treatment and subsidies, and still nobody had an inkling what he was preparing to do. As I've said before, the language and cultural barriers are so immense in these cases that the authorities are basically flying blind.
  4. Not all the young men who entered in 2015 are terrorists, of course. But Germany has no way of knowing which ones are or may become terrorists. This is why the situation is so unsettling: Both of the recent attackers sent no warning signals, and were considered pleasant, helpful, and stable (note that these adjectives describe their demeanor, which is all you have to go on when there's a language barrier). IS specifically tells agents to lie low. Which is even easier to do when your hosts wouldn't even recognize any warning signs because they don't speak your language or understand your culture.

German Journalists Effortlessly Scooped Again

While German newspapers are currently full of cookie-cutter opinion pieces denouncing Trump and Erdogan, American reporters write about things that actually matter. To Germans. In this case, how IS recruits and trains terrorists to infiltrate into Europe. And they do so by interviewing a German man in Germany. And publishing his full name and picture. Right under the noses of tens of thousands of German journalists who were too busy pursuing internecine cat-fights and bloviating about events half a world away.

This may be a slight exaggeration, but I wager you will learn more from reading this article than you would have learned from reading everything the German press has published on this issue since IS was formed. One interesting finding:

The bureaucratic nature of the intake procedure was recently confirmed by American officials after USB drives were recovered in the recently liberated Syrian city of Manbij, one of the hubs for processing foreign fighters.

Mr. Sarfo checked all the necessary boxes, and on the third day after his arrival, the members of the Emni came to ask for him. He wanted to fight in Syria and Iraq, but the masked operatives explained that they had a vexing problem.
 
“They told me that there aren’t many people in Germany who are willing to do the job,” Mr. Sarfo said soon after his arrest last year, according to the transcript of his interrogation by German officials, which runs more than 500 pages. “They said they had some in the beginning. But one after another, you could say, they chickened out, because they got scared — cold feet. Same in England.”
By contrast, the group had more than enough volunteers for France. “My friend asked them about France,” Mr. Sarfo said. “And they started laughing. But really serious laughing, with tears in their eyes. They said, ‘Don’t worry about France.’ ‘Mafi mushkilah’ — in Arabic, it means ‘no problem.’” That conversation took place in April 2015, seven months before the coordinated killings in Paris in November, the worst terrorist attack in Europe in over a decade.

'Refugees' Will Shortly Turn Back into 'Migrants' in the German Press

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During the 2015 Summer of Love, German journalists unanimously decided to call all migrants headed toward Europe 'refugees', in a transparent attempt to cultivate sympathy and to downplay the distinction between refugees fleeing war and persecution and those simply hoping to reach a country with a higher standard of living.

This was propaganda. A person moving from one country to another is a migrant. This person only becomes a 'refugee' after a formal legal process has conferred that title on him or her. Calling all migrants 'refugees' is like calling all females 'wives'. The BBC explains this basic fact at the end of its articles on migrants, including this article about the brother of the Prime Minister of Kosovo claiming 'political asylum' in Germany because he wanted a free operation at a German hospital:

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

The problem with the German press' unilateral, unanimous decision to mislabel migrants is becoming clear right now. As a result of an agreement with Turkey, nobody will be allowed to enter Europe from that country unless they can prove they face life-threatening persecution in Turkey. This 180° lurch in policy was rushed into place just a few days ago, and is already leading to chaos. Of course, since almost nobody will be able to prove they are in danger in Turkey, almost all the 'refugees' will be turned back. Only a handful of Syrians will be let through.

Which leaves German journalists with a serious problem. In 2015, calling all migrants 'refugees' made Germany seem noble and pure. Now, when the websites roil with videos of screaming, desperate migrants being forced against their will back to Turkey, the notion that Germany is doing these horrible things to refugees suddenly makes Germany look like quite the bad guy.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive!

So here's yet another one of my pretty darned reliable predictions: In the German press, 'refugees' sill shortly turn back into 'migrants', like Cinderella's carriage turning into a pumpkin. Of course, this being the German press, where accountability is a four-letter word, there will be no explanations or corrections. We'll also see a spate of articles and opinion pieces about how it's really not so bad that the migrants are being sent back, since most of them are economic migrants entitled to no protection anyway.