Murder Spike in Rural, Red Counties Exposes Media’s Anti-Reform Double Standard
When crime rises in large cities it’s because of liberal decay and Soft on Crime DAs. When murders increase at the same rate in rural areas, for US media, the reasons remain a mystery.
One essential point that police and prison reform activists and abolitionists have been making over the past year, as reaction to modest reform has grown into a full blown moral panic, is that data very clearly indicates that crime—namely, murder rate—increases appear to be entirely divorced from the policies of the prosecutors and police budgets of the affected areas. Despite the widespread, casual lie that radical, far-left reform prosecutors or defunded police budgets have caused a spike in crime, a number of researchers have noted this is entirely without basis.
Of course, this doesn’t matter. The Narrative had emerged, one backed by leaders in both parties, that the covid-era surge in crime was the result of lax DAs, bail reform, and other far-left measures. And the only way to combat it, by extension, was to remove these reforms, fund more police, and effectively sunset the Black Lives Matter movement. And no amount of data, essay writing, or graphs showing spikes in murders in Republican or Tough on Crime Democratic jurisdictions was going to undermine The Narrative.
A stark example of this ideological thingamajig is a glaring double standard in a Wall Street Journal report from June 10 on the surge of murders in rural, largely red areas of the country. New CDC data shows an increase in murders of 25%, not too dissimilar to the 30% increase in urban areas. The piece points not to a lack of over policing, or of conservative Tough-on-crime policies as causing the spike in crime, or a lack of social services, safety net, or investment in anti-poverty measures. Instead, the primary culprits offered are covid lockdowns and a lack of “pastoral care” from churches.
Compare this to a Wall Street Journal report “Murders in U.S. Cities Were Near Record Highs in 2021” from last January covering the increase in murders in urban areas. Here the following culprits are offered:
“Progressive prosecutors take the approach of not prosecuting some low-level offenses like drug possession. In Philadelphia, for example, cases brought by the district attorney’s office from 2018 through 2021 dropped by nearly 30% compared with the prior four years. This week, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner defended progressive prosecutors while promising to tackle gun violence at the swearing-in ceremony for his second term.”
The “Defund movement” is mentioned twice as a possible cause.
“Others blame bail reform and moves in some cities to bring fewer prosecutions. Homicides rose by 4% in 22 major American cities through the third quarter of 2021, according to a study by the Council on Criminal Justice, a think tank focusing on criminal-justice policy and research.”
“police officials blamed bail-reform measures for not keeping more criminals behind bars. In Chicago, a 7-year-old girl was killed in a McDonald’s drive-through in April by someone who police said had been let out on electronic monitoring.”
The formula is simple: when crime increases in liberal cities, or areas seen as broadly reform-minded, the cause is clear: reform prosecutors, bail reform, and defunding the police movements—even if their successes are largely a right-wing phantom.
When murder spikes in counties coded as white, and controlled largely by Republicans, the causes are sociological and blameless in nature—namely the fraying of the social fabric brought about by the pandemic.
Social disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are given a single passing mention in Wall Street Journal’s January report detailing crime rates in inner cities. In the outlet’s piece on the rural crime spike, it’s mentioned 17 different times and offered up as the primary cause of violence.
This is the nature of carceral ideology: It cannot fail, it can only be failed. When crime goes up in areas with modest reform efforts, it’s the reform efforts that are to blame. When crime goes up—by roughly the same percentage—in places where no such reforms exist, Tough on Crime ideology and the lack of a robust welfare state or social services cannot be blamed. Instead, it’s blamed on a lack of churchgoing and oppressive liberal lockdowns. No doubt the social disruptions brought about by Covid are a primary reason for the increase in crime—as reforms have argued for over a year—but even in making this point, The Wall Street Journal screams out subtext that nanny state liberal 2020 pandemic measures of closing public spaces are the primary cause. Again, a justification not afforded to jurisdictions coded as black and liberal.
At no point are the well-funded police or right-wing prosecutors blamed for their inability to stop the spike in murders happening under their watch. Instead, they are presented as fumbling to keep up, under-funded, and in need of—you guessed it—even more resources, money, and tougher sentences to combat the rise in crime under their watch. Carceral ideology, by definition, can never be discredited. If crime and murders increase under reformers, the reform is to blame. If crime and murders increase under the most well-funded police departments and harshest DAs on Earth, they simply need more funding and to be even harsher. It’s a rigged game—social science and data are irrelevant. What matters is The Narrative, and no amount of counter-narrative, counter facts, or glaring media double standards will stand in The Narrative’s way.