Update to Who is Behind Those Racist, Fearmongering Ads from Citizens For Sanity? (excerpt):
The required tagline lists the sponsor as a new group calling itself Citizens for Sanity. On one level, thanks to some excellent research by the campaign-finance watchdog Open Secrets, we know a lot about who these Citizens for Sanity are: the very worst, xenophobic remnants of Team Trump, offering America not just a new low for the 2022 midterms but a sneak preview of the nightmare that the 45th president’s 2024 comeback crusade is likely to be.
Open Secrets reports a close overlap between the trustees of Citizens for Sanity — as identified to the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC — and the pro-Trump America First Legal Foundation, which is spearheaded by Stephen Miller, the former Trump White House official behind harsh immigration policies such as family separation at the southern border.
It says three political operatives involved with the Miller-founded legal group — Gene Hamilton, John Zadrozny and Ian Prior — are also listed as involved with Citizens for Sanity. Zadrozny’s path, for example, has taken him from the fiercely anti-migrant Federation for American Immigration Reform— which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as a hate group — to the Trump administration, including a stint as a top U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service official, to the vile ads you’re seeing on TV now. Citizens for Sanity treasurer Hamilton was point man on Trump’s efforts to kill the program seeking legal status for young migrant “Dreamers.”
The apocalyptic fear mongering ads from Citizens for Sanity (run by insane individuals) are so over-the-top as to be cartoonish versions of bad disaster films. According to these racist anti-immigrant White Nationalists, all crime in America is due to “illegal” immigrants “invading” our Southern border, part of their racist Great Replacement Theory borrowed from the Nazis antisemitic “replacement” plot, and turning Democratic-run cities in Blue States into a hellscape of rampant crime (by minorities against white people, naturally).
None of this is even remotely true. That’s what Nazi propaganda is all about, to get you to believe in the Big Lie and to dehumanize, demonize and scapegoat a non-white minority for all of society’s ills.
The Nevada Independent earlier this year reported, Republicans turn to old playbook linking crime to immigration as election season heats up (excerpt):
Nevada televisions have been bombarded for weeks with messaging echoes from a decade ago — pointing to surging encounters at the southern border, juxtaposing images of tattooed gang members alongside rival politicians amid not only a surge in violent crime statistics, but the highest number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in two decades.
Research shows that there is little to no empirical evidence that higher levels of immigration correspond with higher rates of crime, even when those immigrants are undocumented. And though there are “concrete concerns” about increases in violent crime following the pandemic, Charis Kubrin, a criminology professor and researcher at the University of California, Irvine, said that any links to immigration are “completely politicized.”
“On average, across 50-plus studies … the relationship between immigration and crime is essentially null,” Kubrin said, pointing to a meta-analysis of research on the subject. “When there are significant findings, what we’ve found is they were 2.5 times more likely to be negative, meaning immigration goes up, crime goes down.”
But the realities laid out in the data — made more concrete as the body of work on the subject has swelled over the last two decades — have not slowed the crescendo of familiar political attacks tying rising numbers of encounters at the southern border to a post-pandemic surge in those violent crimes.
Paul Krugman recently wrote, Crime: Red Delusions About Purple Reality:
During last week’s Oklahoma gubernatorial debate Joy Hofmeister, the surprisingly competitive Democratic candidate, addressed Kevin Stitt, the Republican incumbent, who — like many in his party — is running as a champion of law and order.
“The fact is the rates of violent crime in Oklahoma are higher under your watch than New York and California,” she declared.
Stitt responded by laughing, and turned to the audience: “Oklahomans, do you believe we have higher crime than New York or California?” [Yuck, Yuck.]
But Hofmeister was completely correct. In fact, when it comes to homicide, the most reliably measured form of violent crime, it isn’t even close: In 2020 Oklahoma’s murder rate was almost 50 percent higher than California’s, almost double New York’s, and this ranking probably hasn’t changed.
Note: The most recent crime data available is from 2020 when Donald Trump was president and Mitch McConnell was Senate Majority Leader, and yes, Stephen Miller was still working in the White House helping Trump plot his coup d’état, yet the Citizens For Sanity ads all falsely claim crime was low under Trump and only surged since Joe Biden has been in the White House.
Was Stitt unaware of this fact? Or was he just counting on his audience’s ignorance? [Absolutely he was counting on their “Fox Nation” ignorance!] If it was the latter, he may, alas, have made the right call. Public perceptions about crime are often at odds with reality. And in this election year Republicans are trying to exploit one of the biggest misperceptions: that crime is a big-city, blue-state problem.
Americans aren’t wrong to be concerned about crime. Nationwide, violent crime rose substantially in 2020 [Again, when Donald Trump was president and Mitch McConnell was Senate Majority Leader, and yes, Stephen Miller was still working in the White House]; we don’t have complete data yet, but murders appear to have risen further in 2021, although they seem to be declining again [in 2022.]
Nobody knows for sure what caused the surge — just as nobody knows for sure what caused the epic decline in crime from 1990 to the mid-2010s, about which more shortly. But given the timing, the social and psychological effects of the pandemic are the most likely culprits, with a possible secondary role for the damage to police-community relations caused by the murder of George Floyd.
While the crime surge was real, however, the perception that it was all about big cities run by Democrats is false. This was a purple crime wave, with murder rates rising at roughly the same rate in Trump-voting red states and Biden-voting blue states. Homicides rose sharply in both urban and rural areas. And if we look at levels rather than rates of change, both homicides and violent crime as a whole are generally higher in red states.
So why do so many people believe otherwise? Before we get to politically motivated disinformation, let’s talk about some other factors that might have skewed perceptions.
One factor is visibility. As Bloomberg’s Justin Fox has pointed out, New York City is one of the safest places in America — but you’re more likely to see a crime, or know someone who has seen a crime, than elsewhere because the city has vastly higher population density than anyplace else, meaning that there are often many witnesses around when something bad happens.
Another factor may be the human tendency to believe stories that confirm our preconceptions [and biases]. Many people feel instinctively that getting tough on criminals is an effective anti-crime strategy, so they’re inclined to assume that places that are less tough — for example, those that don’t prosecute some nonviolent offenses — must suffer higher crime as a result. This doesn’t appear to be true, but you can see why people might believe it.
Such misconceptions are made easier by the long-running disconnect between the reality of crime and public perceptions. Violent crime halved between 1991 and 2014, yet for almost that entire period a large majority of Americans told pollsters that crime was rising.
However, only a minority believed that it was rising in their own area. This tendency to believe that crime is terrible, but mostly someplace else, was confirmed by an August poll showing a huge gap between the number of Americans who consider violent crime a serious problem nationally and the much smaller number who see it as a serious problem where they live.
Which brings us to the efforts by right-wing media and Republicans to weaponize crime as an issue in the midterms — efforts that one has to admit are proving effective, even though the breadth of the crime wave, more or less equally affecting red and blue states, rural and urban areas and so on suggests that it’s nobody’s fault.
It’s possible that these efforts would have gained traction no matter what Democrats did. It’s also true, however, that too few Democrats have responded effectively.
[I’m] not a politician, but this doesn’t seem as if it should be hard. Why not acknowledge the validity of concerns over the recent crime surge, while also pointing out that right-wingers who talk tough on crime don’t seem to be any good at actually keeping crime low?
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes did a good piece on this on Tuesday night: “The myth of crime as a big-city, blue-state problem.”
Chris Hayes referenced a study conducted by Third Way, The Red State Murder Problem which found:
- The rate of murders in the US has gone up at an alarming rate. But, despite a media narrative to the contrary, this is a problem that afflicts Republican-run cities and states as much or more than the Democratic bastions.
- In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.
- 8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century.
Right-wing media has dismissed this study with the same self-assured haughty arrogance of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt yucking it up in his debate with Joy Hofmeister. Right-wing media is in the business of propaganda and disinformation, and promoting Trump’s Big Lie. Lying is what they do, so consider the source.
Michael Daly reports, Border Crime Wave Is Just a Right-Wing Fantasy:
As fearmongers depict the southern border as a region made lawless by invading hordes, Police Chief Victor Rodriguez of McAllen, Texas, has presided over a 12th straight year of crime reduction.
“We’re working on the 13th,” he told The Daily Beast on Friday.
In fact, crime in his border city of 145,000 is at the lowest level going back to 1985 when stats began to be accurately recorded.
“And the only reason it’s only 37 years is that’s what’s on the books,” he said.
With Mexico only 11 miles away, McAllen is visited by a steady stream of politicians who come to inspect the border, and Rodriguez has perpetual difficulty dispelling the presumptions they bring with them.
“The reality and how the world is seeing us are two different things,” he said.
As of this month, McAllen’s violent crime rate is 180.2 per 100,000 people, less than a tenth that of the cities with the nation’s highest rate, St. Louis (2,082), Detroit (2,057), and Baltimore (2,027).
The violent crime rate in the other border cities is not as low as McAllen’s but still below what most people would likely expect. The Texas cities of McAllen, Brownsville, Laredo, Eagle Pass and El Paso, combined with Yuma in Arizona, Sunland Park in New Mexico, and San Diego in California, have a violent crime rate of 340.2. That is well below the national average of 388.5.
The numbers all along the border are partly explained by the wild west simply being not so wild, especially with the presence of Customs and Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies. McAllen’s crime rate of less than half the national average can also be attributed to the application of a kind of unplugged version CompStat—the computer-based strategy of rapid deployment and relentless follow-up that triggered New York’s dramatic decline in violent crime during the 1990s.
[S]uch successes reassure McAllen’s majority of honest working people, which the chief credits as the major factor in reducing homicides and other forms of mayhem.
“We have a good community, we have a peaceful community,” Rodriguez said. “We have a law abiding community, and that translates to less what we call violent crimes.”
Meanwhile, a host of politicians continue to foster the illusion that McAllen is at the epicenter of chaos. Rodriguez stands ready to enlighten anyone who is interested in the reality.
“We’re going great,” he said. “We could be doing maybe greater, I think, if we didn’t have to overcome the perception. It is something we contend with on a regular basis.”
This law-abiding border town is a continuing example that the whole country could turn to as crime threatens to spike out of control and the social fabric seems to be unraveling.
“We keep plugging away,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not like we woke up yesterday and said, ‘Okay, we gotta do better now.’ We’ve been at this now for going on 13 years, trying to make sure that our community is not what the rest of the world thinks it is.”
Justin Nix, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska Omaha reports at Salon, Criminology expert takes a sledgehammer to GOP claims “blaming Democrats for an increase in crime”:
In the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections, Republican candidates across the nation are blaming Democrats for an increase in crime.
But as a scholar of criminology and criminal justice, I believe it’s important to note that, despite the apparently confident assertions of politicians, it’s not so easy to make sense of fluctuations in the crime rate. And whether it’s going up or down depends on a few key questions:
- What you mean by “crime,”
- What the “up” or “down” comparisons are in reference to, and
- The location or area being examined.
Here’s an explanation of those elements – and why there is no one answer to whether crime has increased in the past year, or over the past decade.
What is ‘crime,’ anyway?
Usually when politicians, public officials and scholars talk about crime statistics, they’re referring to the most serious crimes, which the FBI officially calls “index” or “Part 1” offenses: criminal homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.
Because these crimes vary a great deal in terms of seriousness, experts break this list up into “violent” and “property” offenses, so as not to confuse a surge in thefts with an increase in killings.
Each month, state and local police departments tally up the crimes they have handled and send the data to the FBI for inclusion in the nation’s annual Uniform Crime Report.
But that system has limitations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, fewer than half of all events that could count as crimes actually get reported to police in the first place. And police departments are not required to send information about known crimes to the FBI. So each year what are presented as national crime statistics are derived from whichever of the roughly 17,000 police departments across the country decide to send in their data.
In 2021, the optional nature of reporting crime statistics was a particular problem, because the FBI asked for more detailed information than it had in the past. Historically, the bureau received data from police departments covering about 90% of the U.S. population. But fewer agencies supplied the more detailed data requested in 2021. That data covered only 66% of the nation’s population. And the patchwork wasn’t even: In some states, such as Texas, Ohio and South Carolina, nearly all agencies reported. But in other states, such as Florida, California and New York, participation was abysmal.
With those caveats in mind, the 2021 data estimates that criminal homicide rose about 4% nationally from 2020 levels. Robberies were down 9%, and aggravated assaults remained relatively unchanged.
Rapes are notoriously underreported to police, but the 2021 National Crime Victimization Survey suggests there was no significant change from 2020.
What’s the benchmark?
Those comparisons look at the prior year to assess whether certain types of crime are up or down. Such comparisons may seem straightforward, but violent crime, particularly homicide, is statistically rare enough that a rise or fall from one year to the next doesn’t necessarily mean there is reason to panic or celebrate.
Another way to assess trends is to look at as much data as possible. Over the past 36 years, clear trends have emerged. The national homicide rate in 2021 wasn’t as high as it was in the early 1990s, but 2021’s figure is the highest in nearly 25 years.
Meanwhile, robberies have been trending steadily downward for the better part of 30 years. And though the aggravated assault rate didn’t change much from 2020 to 2021, it is clearly higher now than at any time during the 2010s.
Crime is highly localized
These figures are imperfect in other ways, too. The data being used in today’s assertions about crime rates is more than 10 months old and presents national figures that mask a substantial amount of local variation. The FBI won’t release 2022 crime data until the fall of 2023.
But there is more current data available: The consulting firm AH Datalytics has a free dashboard that compiles more up-to-date murder data from 99 big cities.
As of October 2022, it indicates that murder in big cities is down about 5% in 2022 when compared with the first 10 months of 2021. But this aggregate change masks the fact that murder is up 85% in Colorado Springs, Colo.; 33% in Birmingham, Ala.; 28% in New Orleans; and 27% in Charlotte, N.C. Meanwhile, murder is down 38% in Columbus, Ohio; 29% in Richmond, Va.; and 18% in Chicago.
Even these city-level statistics don’t tell the whole story. It is now well established that crime is not randomly distributed across communities. Instead, it clusters in small areas that criminologists and police departments often refer to as “hot spots.” What this means is that regardless of whether crime is up or down in cities, a handful of neighborhoods in those cities are likely still significantly and disproportionately affected by violence.
Stephen Miller is trying to distract you from the biggest “crime wave” ever inside the White House, in which Stephen Miller was helping Donald Trump plot his coup d’état. Stephen Miller sued to block January 6 committee’s subpoena for his phone records, but he eventually testified to the January 6 Committee in April. Ex-Trump aide Stephen Miller testifies to House January 6 panel for eight hours: “Miller’s appearance was at times heated and adversarial, the source added. Miller invoked executive privilege to some questions concerning his conversations with Trump, and only testified in response to the subpoena and after protracted negotiations involving his lawyer.”
In September, the Department of Justice subpoenaed Stephen Miller in connection to Trump PAC fundraising: report:
The Justice Department has subpoenaed Stephen Miller, who served as a senior White House adviser under former President Trump, in its investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, The New York Times reported, citing people briefed on the matter.
Miller was one of more than a dozen people connected to the former president who received subpoenas this week from a federal grand jury seeking information related to Trump’s Save America PAC and alleged plans to submit slates of fake electors in an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, according to the Times.
Trump’s Save America PAC is likely one of the “dark money” sources of funding for Stephen Miller’s America First Legal Foundation, and these apocalyptic Citizens for Sanity ads.
Ads about crime from the criminals who staged a coup d’état against the U.S. government.
Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times wrote last month, “That unbelievably racist ad during the Dodgers playoff? Ex-Trump aides were behind it”, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-10-17/stephen-miller-behind-racist-ad-dodgers-game
[T]he ad consisted of video images depicting a torrent of obviously Latino immigrants pouring over the border.
“This giant flood of illegal immigration is draining your paychecks, wrecking your schools, ruining your hospitals, threatening your family,” stated the overwrought narrator, over the obligatory ominous soundtrack. “Mixed among the masses are drug dealers, sex traffickers and violent predators.”
Who’s behind this commercial? The ad identifies its sponsor only as “Citizens for Sanity,” but that last line should give you a further clue: It’s an organization of several former Trump aides who spearheaded his administration’s attacks on immigrants.
The ad’s characterization of immigrants as criminals almost exactly echoes Trump’s line during his announcement of his presidential campaign in 2015 about Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
The leaders of Citizens for Sanity are associated with the America First Legal Foundation, which was founded by Stephen Miller, its president.
Notoriously, Miller was an architect of Trump’s cruel and crude immigrant family separation policy, his Muslim ban and his shutdown of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which defers deportation for immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors by their parents and allows them to work, but requires regular renewals.
A whole page on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, is devoted to Miller.
[T]he group has also erected billboards nationwide, including in California, with sarcastic, infantile glosses on Democratic policies: “Vote to keep our borders, jails and bathrooms open. Vote progressive”; “Demand Transportation Equity for Pansexuals NOW”; “Too much freedom is a bad thing. Get your IRS audit today.” And so on.
The connections tying together Miller, the America First Legal Foundation, and Citizens for Sanity have been laid out by the nonprofit group OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. A public document cited by OpenSecrets identifies the top executives of Citizens for Sanity as Gene Hamilton, Ian Prior and John Zadrozny.
Prior told OpenSecrets that his group has “no relationship with America First Legal Foundation.”
Is that so? Prior identifies himself on his own LinkedIn page as “Senior Advisor for America First Legal.” Hamilton is vice president and general counsel of America First Legal. Zadrozny is identified on America First Legal’s website as its deputy director for investigations.
All three have impeccable credentials as former Trump aides.
Prior was a Justice Department spokesman during the Trump administration. While working in the Trump administration, Hamilton wrote the memo that formally ended DACA, according to a deposition he gave that was cited by the New Yorker. Zadrozny worked at the State Department and the White House under Trump, according to emails published by the progressive organization Democracy Forward.
Citizens for Sanity has indicated that it will spend at least six figures promoting its messages. [Based upon the extensive advertising it has been doing, I would estimate they have already spent tens of millions of dollars in “dark money” advertising across all platforms.]
If that’s so, brace yourself for an outpouring of misleading and mendacious ads. The immigration commercial, for example, makes much of the arrest of an immigrant in connection with the rape of a 3-year-old child.
The ad asks, “Who is Joe Biden letting into our country?” The image associated with that point, however, refers to the case of Christopher Puente, which occurred in 2020.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Puente was deported in 2014, under the Obama administration, but managed to reenter the country with false papers. At the time of the alleged sexual assault, he was at large after being arrested by the Chicago Police Department and then released despite a request by ICE to detain him, according to the agency.
There are several candidates for blame in that episode, but Biden is not among them.
As for where the money for the ad campaign is actually coming from, good luck finding out. Citizens for Sanity is a “dark money” group, meaning that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors. Had the commercial been directed at a local political campaign or a California ballot initiative, its principal funders would have to be listed on the air. But it’s a national ad, so its backers are anonymous.
[A]nd who can forget the Willie Horton affair, when George H.W. Bush’s campaign aired a commercial aiming to blame Michael Dukakis, his Democratic opponent, for the rape and murder committed by a Black felon who was on a weekend furlough from prison.
That ad had all the same Grand Guignol elements as the Citizens for Sanity commercial — mainly racism and fear of crime — but it seems almost understated compared with the turbocharged bigotry on view on your television screens today. Can anyone look at this product and say American politics are in a healthy condition?
Godwin’s law is about things like people calling their HOA board Nazis because they got a ticket for weeds in their yard.
It doesn’t apply to people like Miller.
I approve of the meme photo in this case, not just to just make a point, but also because it applies in Miller’s case.
“In November 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center acquired more than 900 emails Miller sent Breitbart News writer Katie McHugh between 2015 and 2016.
The emails became the basis for an exposé that showed that Miller had enthusiastically pushed the views of white nationalist publications such as American Renaissance and VDARE, as well as the far-right conspiracy website InfoWars, and promoted The Camp of the Saints, a French novel circulating among neo-Nazis, shaping both White House policy and Breitbart’s coverage of racial politics.”
His racist history goes back to high school and he should have been tried for human rights violations while in the White House.
I don’t understand how a Jew from Santa Monica turned out so warped, either, but Stephen Miller deserves what he gets and so much more.
If Miller had been a European Jew during the Nazi era he would have been a capo in Auschwitz. Or, when his fellow Jews were dying of starvation in the Warsaw ghetto he would have been in there gaining weight. Just a disgusting being, barely human.
Take down the meme photo. Just do it. Miller was born in to a Jewish family. This is just wrong. Stop it. Granted he is a psychopath, but you are better than this. Why go full Godwin?