January 10, 2017

Competing Narratives in the Alleged Kidnapping in Chicago

A house with broken windows and debri...
A house with broken windows and debris in the front yard during a race riot in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was recently asked to write something on the subject of the left's reaction to the alleged kidnapping (and possible hate crime) in Chicago involving a White victim with special needs and the apparent double-standard involved. As you are probably aware, four Black suspects have been arrested and there is what appears to be a livestreamed video. As a result of my efforts to take a break from the constant onslaught of outrage media, I had to admit that I did not consider myself sufficiently familiar with the emerging details to have much to say. Little has changed.

I have not watched the video, nor do I desire to do so. I have not spent more than a few minutes searching for information online. Again, I have little desire to do so. I feel like I have more than enough to be outraged about without going out of my way to find new sources of outrage. But because I use social media, I have encountered two very different reactions to this case that I was unable to avoid. And while I still don't have much insight into the alleged incident, I do have some brief thoughts about both of the reactions I'll share below.

The first reaction came from some the right rather than the left, and I mention it first because it was the first thing I saw on Twitter shortly after news of the alleged assault broke. In essence, it blamed the entire thing on #BlackLivesMatter and dubbed it the "BLM kidnapping." What was interesting about this was that there was no evidence of any connection to BLM but that this did not matter in the least. Why not? Because it fit the narrative on the right that construes BLM as a terrorist organization that does things like this. BLM hates White people, and these alleged assailants seem to have hated White people. Therefore, this was clearly BLM. The narrative was far more important to let facts or evidence get in the way. And not surprisingly, some on the right opted to blame Democrats too. Would you care for an example of someone blaming both BLM and the Democrats? Here you go.

I do not believe that this absolute conviction that this was about BLM and/or the Democrats is widespread on the right. Most of those I saw pushing it the hardest have well-deserved reputations for that sort of thing, and I don't think that it would be remotely fair to say that most of the right is blaming this on BLM. I realize I was not asked to comment on the right, but I wanted to do so in the interest of fairness.

What about the left and their double-standard? That's easy. Although this is not a position that I have seen from most on the left, there is a group on the left that dismisses any possible hate crime angle because they do not believe that persons of color can commit hate crimes against White people. I find this position to be thoroughly absurd. The basic argument is that members of oppressed groups can be the victims of hate crimes perpetrated by those with privilege but never the reverse. It is a clear double-standard, and it raises many fascinating questions. Suppose a homeless Cambodian refugee was viciously assaulted by a group of Native American teenagers, one of whom was in a wheelchair, and all of whom were described by witnesses as shouting racist slurs during the attack. Could this possibly be a hate crime? I don't think there is any sort of consensus about this on the left, but I am reasonably confident that some would try to figure out who was more "privileged" to arrive at an answer.

Because I think it is important here, I'll say again that I do not believe the view of hate crimes as being something that cannot happen to White people is one held by most on the left. Still, it is clear that some on the left do hold this view and are not bothered by what appears to be a double-standard. For them, it is all about power, privilege, and hierarchy. They see Whites as perpetrators but not victims and persons of color as victims but not perpetrators of racially motivated violence.

As I said above, I have made little effort to research this alleged incident. I am aware that the four Black suspects have now been charged with a hate crime, as well as aggravated kidnapping , unlawful restraint, and battery. Assuming that there is sufficient evidence that these suspects committed these crimes in the manner alleged, the decision by prosecutors to treat this as a hate crime is understandable. This does seem to be uncomfortable for some on the left, and this strikes me as an example of narrative winning out over facts.

For me, the bottom line is this: some on the right and some on the left appear to prefer their preferred narratives to facts. I think this is unfortunate. It reminds me of the sort of thing we atheists often criticize about religious believers who willfully distort reality to maintain their belief system. The good news is that both of these positions seem to apply to only a portion of the right and a portion of the left rather than to the entire right and entire left. There are still many people on both sides of the political spectrum who are willing to be guided by facts and evidence. At least, we better hope so.