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Elon Musk's obsession with anti-white bias
On May 1, Jordan Neely, an unhoused subway busker and Michael Jackson impersonator with a history of mental illness, was killed on the F train in New York City. At about 2:30 in the afternoon, Neely entered a subway car and began screaming that he was hungry and thirsty. "I don’t care if I go to jail and get locked up," Neely said, according to a witness. "I’m ready to die."
Daniel Penny, a white 24-year-old passenger and former marine, approached Neely from behind and put him in a chokehold for several minutes. Neely went limp, and EMTs were unable to revive him on the scene. Neely was eventually transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The medical examiner determined that Neely's cause of death was "compression of the neck," and ruled the death a homicide. Nevertheless, Penny has not been charged with a crime.
The far right, unable to defend Penny's conduct, has criticized media coverage of Neely's murder. They have pushed unsubstantiated, misleading, and false information to suggest that the media is only covering the story because Neely was Black and Penny is white. Online, these claims have attracted the attention of Twitter's billionaire CEO, Elon Musk.
For example, the Twitter account @endwokeness, which has 1.1 million followers, has relentlessly pushed the narrative that the media has an anti-white bias. One tweet that has been viewed more than 16 million times suggests that "Black on White" crime is the most common form of crime but receives scant media attention. Musk, who has 138 million followers, responded by accepting the premise and asking why "the media [would] misrepresent the real situation to such an extreme degree?"
Musk's reply exposed the tweet to millions of additional people. But it is still grossly misleading.
One major issue with the chart, which has been circulated online for years by racists since it first appeared in The Blaze in 2019, is that it excludes "White on White" and "Black on Black" crime. Crimes by whites against other whites are by far the most common type of crime in the United States.
Knack, a Belgian media site, debunked the image in 2020. The outlet also created its own version of the chart, which includes crimes where the perpetrator and victim are the same race. It paints a far different picture.
Further, the chart does not normalize the data based on population. The data is based on the Department of Justice's 2018 Crime Victimization report when about 75% of Americans were white. So there will be more white victims of crimes because there are many more white people in the United States than other races.
But when you normalize the data for population, the rate of "Black on White" crime is similar to the rate of "White on Black" crime. The Department of Justice does just that in Table 14. The data shows that 15.3% of crimes against whites are committed by Black people. And 10.6% of crimes against Black people are committed by whites.
Musk also promoted numerous other tweets claiming the media was ignoring crimes with a white victim and a Black perpetrator. In one instance, Musk expressed alarm at a claim that a May 4 incident of a Black man in Oklahoma who killed two white victims "because they were white" was ignored by the media and treated as a "meaningless local story."
But the man, Carlton Gilford, has already been charged "with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill, and one count of malicious intimidation or harassment – which is Oklahoma’s version of a hate crime charge." The story was covered nationally and internationally in the New York Post, Fox News, Newsweek, Yahoo News, the Daily Mail, MSN, numerous conservative publications, and virtually every outlet in the state of Oklahoma.
Another tweet claimed that "a black man threw his infant down a flight of stairs and threw his white wife off a rooftop" and there was "ZERO OUTRAGE." Musk responded that this was "concerning." The narrative in the tweet is false. The man, Tyler Griffen, was violent, but police determined that his wife jumped off the top of the hotel. Griffen has been charged with "assault, reckless endangerment, and acting in a manner injurious to a child." The story has been covered by the Daily Mail, Pix11, the New York Post, and Fox News.
Musk is clinging to anything he reads that suggests the media has an anti-white bias. But the evidence suggests the opposite is true.
The facts about how the media covers crime
Crime coverage has always been – and continues to be — biased. Since the 1990s, research has shown that the media propagates negative stereotypes of Black people as criminals.
In a 1998 study of Philadelphia local news, researchers found that people of color were overrepresented as perpetrators of violence against white actors at a rate that was four times more than what was captured by homicide data. White Philadelphians, on the other hand, were overrepresented as victims.
Similarly, in 2000, a study of Los Angeles local news found that Black and Latino people were more likely to be portrayed as perpetrators compared to white people. Meanwhile, white people were more likely to be depicted as “defenders of the law.” Researchers determined “that the distribution of perpetrators of crime by race on television news” was ultimately “inconsistent” with data on arrests.
Another study in 2003 indicated that the news disproportionately covered homicides that involved a Black perpetrator and a white victim, particularly if the victim was a woman.
More recently, in 2016, a group of researchers found that “victims killed in predominantly Black neighborhoods [in Chicago] receive less news coverage than those killed in non-Hispanic White neighborhoods.” On average, Black victims received 2.8 news articles, compared to White victims, who received 3.8 articles. A separate study from 2021 finds that, compared to Black victims, the media is four times more likely to present a white victim with a photo featuring friends or family.
These biases in coverage, aside from perpetuating racist thinking, have contributed to making the criminal justice system more punitive towards Black people. “Racially biased media coverage has been a substantial factor contributing to unreliable and unjust outcomes in the criminal legal system,” Byran Stevenson, director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said in a 2021 press release. And, when white Americans associate crime with people of color, they’re more likely to support punitive criminal justice policies, research shows.