Monday, November 23, 2009

Anti-Sexual Orientation Hate Crimes Up 11% In 1 Year

New FBI statistics are out on hate crimes, showcasing a disturbing trend. Equally disturbing are how news organizations are covering it.

AP Version

In the story released by the Associated Press, they state:
Overall, the number of reported hate crimes increased about 2 percent from last year. These same figures show a nearly 11 percent increase in hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and a nearly 9 percent increase in hate crimes based on religion. The largest category, racially-motivated hate crimes, fell less than 1 percent.

With anti-gay legislation on the ballot in California last year, and the deliberate GOP incitement of the right-wing base, an increase in crimes against people based upon sexual orientation, should have been expected.

And yet, the AP includes their own skewed analysis:
The increases may be partly due to more law enforcement agencies reporting hate crimes data to the FBI: 2,145 agencies in 2008, compared to 2,025 agencies the year before.

Let's do the math. Hate crimes up 11%. Agencies reporting hate crimes up 5%. No it does not add up. Especially when one notes that racially-based hate crimes actually fell (which is rather startling, considering the anti-immigration rhetoric).

And, what of religion. Simply saying that religious-based hate crimes also were up would probably cause smug Christians to feel that maybe they are also under increased attack. Curious that the AP left out the most significant component of that segment, because it wasn't even anti-Muslim sentiment that was the reason.

CBS News version

For details on this, check out the CBS News account of the story:
Anti-Jewish bias accounted for 65.7 percent of the religious bias attacks; 7.7 percent of the attacks were against Muslims.

One would think that this would be a significant story, in and of itself.

But I digress.

In the CBS account, there is no mention of the huge increase in anti-sexual orientation attacks. In fact, they report it this way:
Hate crimes rose slightly in 2008, with bias-motivated attacks based on race, religion and sexual orientation all increasing, according to new data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Didn't the actual number of race-based incidents drop slightly?

One interesting thing that CBS did, in its report, was make clear that anti-sexual orientation hate crimes are not gay male-specific. They report:
Gay men were the victims in most of the sexual orientation-bias attacks - 58.6 percent.

Why not mention the numbers of anti-lesbian and anti-transgendered attacks? My guess is because it helps to keep those groups invisible.

(Note: The picture in this blog post is that of 15-year old, African-American, lesbian Sakia Gunn. Gunn was slain in Newark in 2003 and got nowhere near the coverage that Matthew Shepard's killing received, despite her young age.)

Sometimes it is not the story that is the focus, but the way that the story gets reported. As I have done in my past glbt-activism, one of the focuses of this blog will be watching and monitoring the way glbt news is covered. We need to hold news organizations accountable for what they tell the public, because all of this matters when it comes to changing hearts and minds on glbt issues.

Source Material

Click on the following links from the FBI website for the summary, and the full report on hate crimes.

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