Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Rise of Hate Search

One phenomenon that ought to be disturbing is the rise of hate speech, especially among the Republican party base.  And the increase in such hate speech has, in my view, directly correlated to the rise of the Christofascists and racists in the party base.  The mind set increasingly seems to be that if one is not a white, far right, heterosexual Christian, then you are not human and worthy of all kinds of lies, threats and intimidation.  We've seen this pattern directed towards gays for years by the "godly folk," but now it is taking on a wider range of targets.  Worse yet, Republican candidates are getting in on the act.  A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon.  Here are highlights:

HOURS after the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2, and minutes after the media first reported that at least one of the shooters had a Muslim-sounding name, a disturbing number of Californians had decided what they wanted to do with Muslims: kill them.

The top Google search in California with the word “Muslims” in it was “kill Muslims.” And the rest of America searched for the phrase “kill Muslims” with about the same frequency that they searched for “martini recipe,” “migraine symptoms” and “Cowboys roster.”

People often have vicious thoughts. Sometimes they share them on Google. Do these thoughts matter?  Yes. Using weekly data from 2004 to 2013, we found a direct correlation between anti-Muslim searches and anti-Muslim hate crimes.

When Islamophobic searches are at their highest levels, such as during the controversy over the “ground zero mosque” in 2010 or around the anniversary of 9/11, hate crimes tend to be at their highest levels, too.

In 2014, according to the F.B.I., anti-Muslim hate crimes represented 16.3 percent of the total of 1,092 reported offenses motivated by religious bias. Anti-Semitism still led the way as a motive for these crimes, at 58.2 percent.

The frightening thing is this: If our model is right, Islamophobia and thus anti-Muslim hate crimes are currently higher than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.  

If someone is willing to say ‘I hate them’ or ‘they disgust me,’ we know that those emotions are as good a predictor of behavior as actual intent,” said Susan Fiske, a social psychologist at Princeton, pointing to 50 years of psychology research on anti-black bias. “If people are making expressive searches about Muslims, it’s likely to be tied to anti-Muslim hate crime.”

[M]any Muslim Americans have already experienced the havoc that one Islamophobe can create.

Asma Mohammed Nizami is a 23-year-old Muslim woman from Minnesota who directs services for students at a nonprofit and wears a head scarf, or hijab. Last Saturday, driving home from an event, she stopped at a traffic light, where she saw a man in the next car over glaring at her. He rolled down his window and called her a “Muslim bitch.” When Ms. Nizami started to drive away, he trailed her and then tried to run her off the road with his red Chevy Impala.

While the vast majority of Muslim Americans won’t be victims of hate crimes, few escape the “constant sense of fear and paranoia” that they or their loved ones might be next, said Rana Ibrahem, a Muslim woman from Long Island who works as a paralegal.

We examined prejudicial searches against black people, white people, gay people, Asians, Jews, Mexicans and Christians. We estimate that negative attitudes against Muslims today are higher than prejudice against any group in any month since 2004, when Google began preserving detailed data on search volumes.

[W]e think there are three things the rest of us not giving speeches in the Oval Office can do.

First, parents should be talking to their kids about how the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans pose no threat to them.

Second, police departments would be wise to use search data to allocate resources through predictive policing. The data, for example, could tell police chiefs when sending a cop to do an extra drive through a Muslim neighborhood, or making sure that the town mosque was safe overnight, would be a good idea.

Third, Muslim Americans are right to take some precautions. Like most grave threats, hate crimes are rare. Our model suggests that, if Islamophobic sentiment stays at its current level, about one in every 10,000 Muslims will be the victim of a reported hate crime over the next year, similar to the rate of automobile fatalities and orders of magnitude higher than the chance of being a victim of terrorism.

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