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Jewish World Review July 9, 1999 /25 Tamuz, 5759

Larry Elder

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Econophone

Hatemongers and
the Elvis factor

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --

ANOTHER BIGOT. More screaming headlines about a racially bigoted serial killer. Subtext? That America remains an intractable, racist hellhole. What nonsense.

White supremacist Benjamin Nathaniel Smith shot himself during a high- speed chase. Authorities suspect him of shooting and killing two, while wounding nine -- all racial or religious minorities.

Smith associated with a religious hate group, the World Church of the Creator. Its racist head, the Rev. Matt Hale, achieved fame because Illinois refuses to grant him a license to practice law. One major newspaper described his "church," with apparently several hundred members, as "one of the fastest- growing hate groups in the nation"

Several hundred members? Out of a total U.S. population of over 270 million? Certainly hundreds, maybe thousands of chest-thumping bigots can do a great deal of damage. But does this reflect a "growing trend," a rise in hate groups? We live in a computer/e-mail/web page-driven society. Just as the shut- in who enjoys playing Grand Master level tennis can now get up a game with a player in Taiwan, a nutcase like Smith can locate, stimulate, encourage and interact with the like-minded in ways more efficient than ever before.

Is there more hate? The FBI records approximately 8,000 hate crimes annually, half involving racial hatred. Out of over 30 million violent and non- violent criminal acts each year, this represents a tiny fraction of 1 percent. I know, I know. If you belong to the family of James Byrd, the man dragged to death by white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, these numbers provide little comfort. If, however, you wonder whether Matthew Shepard’s killers, or the white supremacists who dragged and killed James Byrd in Jasper, Texas, and Benjamin Nathaniel Smith represent a significant slice of America, then perspective matters.

Is hatred on the rise? According to a Gallup Poll in 1958, only 4 percent of whites approved of black-white marriages. By 1994, the number increased to 61 percent. In 1958, only 35 percent of whites said they would consider voting for a black presidential candidate. The number now is 93 percent. A Time/CNN poll asked black teens whether they considered racism a "big problem," a "small problem" or "not a problem at all." Eighty-nine percent of black teens called racism either a "small problem," or "not a problem at all." Notably, white adults and white teens thought racism a bigger problem than did black teens!

A recent poll commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League called 12 percent of Americans anti-Semitic, a historical low. (Blacks, however, were three times more likely to be considered anti-Semitic than non-black Gentiles. And, of the nearly 1.7 million "interracial" violent crimes in America each year, nearly 90 percent involve black perpetrators and white victims.)

Let’s discuss the 12 percent anti-Semitic figure. I recently gave a speech to the Los Angeles Anti-Defamation League, during which I urged the organization not to expect the 12 percent number to decline very much. "Remember the Elvis factor," I said. "Ten percent of the American people believe Elvis is still alive, and 8 percent believe if you send him a letter, he will get it." You’ve heard the expression "hard-core unemployed"? What about "hard-core nutcases"? They exist, but they are marginalized. As John O’Sullivan, the editor of the National Review put it, "The social power of racism is weak and the social power against it overwhelming."

Meanwhile, the media loves this great-white-bigot stuff. But the press corps focuses its "hate criminal" telescope quite selectively. For example, the FBI just declared as Public Enemy No. 1, Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, a Mexican suspected of killing at least eight people, all but two were white Americans. Yet, does anyone call Resendez-Ramirez a hate criminal? Resendez-Ramirez's wife, according to People magazine, "concedes that, while in the United States, he fell in with a hate group opposed to gays and abortion doctors. 'They were anti-everything,' she says. 'It ate his soul.'" So, despite Resendez-Ramirez's association with a hate group, the media withholds the label "hate criminal." Why?

For an answer, look at the way the FBI compiles its statistics on hate crimes. You will search in vain for a category of "Hispanic offender." When the FBI compiles its hate-crime stats, the agency feels that Hispanics can be victims but apparently not offenders. Thus, if a non-Hispanic white person, for racial reasons, shoots and kills a Hispanic, the white guy becomes a hate killer. If, on the other hand, a Hispanic, for racial reasons, shoots a non-Hispanic white guy, well, the shooter’s just a regular ol' killer.

Is hate on the rise? Remember the Elvis factor. Economists use the term "structural unemployment" to describe people who, for many reasons, remain unemployed. America certainly contains its share of racist clowns, jerks, nutcases, nimrods, dipsticks, dummies and, yes, violent criminals -- for whom all we can do is remain vigilant ... and pray. Let’s call this "structural stupidity."


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©1999, Creators Syndicate