Cities across the United States are literally on the verge of anarchy, according to Bill O’Reilly, who was particularly unnerved in his latest rant on crime in America earlier this week. In his “Talking Points” tirade, he explains to his viewers how the “violent crime rate is skyrocketing in some places run by liberal politicians,” which he attributes to the fact that “many on the left do not want to punish people, especially the poor, who commit crimes. They see those folks as victims of an oppressive society, i.e., America.”
O’Reilly’s prime example for this rapid crime wave comes in New York City, where the Fox News host has to commute to every weekday from his Long Island home. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s liberal vision, O’Reilly believes, is bringing the city back to its harsh old days when Times Square was the main venue for pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers. He provides statistics of the increase in murder rate this year: “In New York City run by liberal mayor Bill de Blasio, murders are up by more than 9 percent in one year. Rape up nearly 7 percent.” What O’Reilly decided to leave out of his rant is that NYC is actually headed for its lowest rate of major crimes (rapes, robberies, felony assaults, burglaries, grand larcenies and auto theft) since record-keeping started in 1994. Furthermore, as of July, overall crime was down 6 percent, while the month of June saw a 34 percent drop in murders from the previous June.
And so it seems O’Reilly decided to carefully leave out parts of data to fit his argument -- and keep the fear-mongering alive! Now, O’Reilly blames this imaginary wave of crime on the leniency of those bleeding-heart liberals:
“Some of the chaos is coming from the top as President Obama's openly declared so-called nonviolent offenders should be given leniency by the criminal justice system. Included in that nonviolent category -- people who sell heroin, cocaine, crack, meth, folks who sell poison to kids. Estimates are more than 70 percent of all the crime in this country is drug-related as is child abuse and neglect.”
First of all, the non-violent offenders that Obama commuted were mostly victims of extremely draconian and inherently racial drug policies, particularly those targeted at crack cocaine, which is mostly a problem in minority neighborhoods. Before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, the sentencing disparity between the amount of crack cocaine and powdered cocaine was 100:1, meaning that one gram of crack was equivalent to 100 grams of cocaine in the eyes of the law -- what made this especially detestable is that powdered cocaine was mostly associated with white people, while crack was largely associated with African Americans. There was also a mandatory minimum five year sentence for any possession of cocaine, no matter how small.
Beyond these inherently racial injustices, the war on drugs has been a complete disaster. America has by far the largest prison population in the world, and since the drug war began in the 1970’s, this prison population has risen by 700%, while it has done little to stop abuse. It has also been a waste of over one trillion dollars, and everyone knows how much O’Reilly and his friends hate government waste.
While O’Reilly basically targets immigrants and poor people, he gives a bizarre reference to the case of Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who killed his girlfriend in 2013:
“So the U.S.A. is now on the verge of becoming South Africa. As you may have heard, paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius is expected to be freed from prison this week after serving only 10 months for shooting and killing his girlfriend...When a society is fine with giving a man who kills his girlfriend 10 months in prison, you don't have a criminal justice system. When a society feels sorry for a heroin dealer, you have chaos. When a society refuses to incarcerate illegal aliens with aggravated felonies on their sheet, you have anarchy.”
Pistorius’ early release has since been blocked, but the case of the Olympian does actually provide an example of how the United States criminal justice system is broken, but certainly not in the way O’Reilly imagines. It’s odd that O’Reilly would provide an example of a rich and famous Olympian to rant about how poor people are getting away with crime. Indeed, the reality is that wealthy people in the United States are the ones who manage to commit crimes and avoid jail time, and this is the true problem with America’s criminal justice system. While poor minorities go to prison for possessing marijuana, millionaire investors can crash the economy because of their predatory lending, receive a bailout, and then get off with a fine that amounts to chump change for them. A hedge fund manager like Steve Cohen can run a criminal organization that commits insider trading, get off with a fine, and continue making billions in profit afterwords.
Money is the key to overcoming the criminal justice system in America. If you can buy the best lawyer, there’s a good chance you will walk away scot-free, as in the strange case of Robert Durst. If you are poor, however, there is a very good chance you will go to prison if you become addicted to a drug. So, if you are rich and commit a crime that hurts millions of people, there is nothing to worry about. If you are poor, and become addicted to heroin or crack, hurting nobody but yourself, you get locked up for many years.
So yes, our criminal justice system is fundamentally broken -- not because liberals refuse to send people away for life because they made a mistake when they were young, but because those with money can do whatever they want, while those who live in poverty, especially people of color, are many more times likely to go to prison for something that hurts no one but themselves. This is morally abhorrent. In the future, America’s broken criminal justice system and prison population will be looked at as todays slavery. The only way to disguise these injustices is to fear-monger, which is what O’Reilly and his ilk are doing. Screaming “chaos” and “anarchy” while people rot away in cells, their lives ruined because of fear. When one has to rely on fear-mongering to promote their ideology, as so many authoritarian regimes have in the past, there is something deeply wrong with that ideology.