The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Atrocity Narrative in Action, or Why Is @BenMakuch Obsessed With Neo-Nazis?

Posted on | August 28, 2021 | Comments Off on Atrocity Narrative in Action, or Why Is @BenMakuch Obsessed With Neo-Nazis?

Everybody was enraged Thursday when Vice published an article by Ben Makuch entitled “Why Are So Many Marines Neo-Nazis?” This on the same day 12 Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed in Kabul.

The outpouring of indignation from conservatives overlooked the really important issue: Why is Ben Makuch obsessed with neo-Nazis?

A sampling of Makuch’s recent articles at Vice illustrates the point:

Neo-Nazi Leader Gets Prison
for Disturbing Threats Against Journalists

— Aug. 25

Infamous Capitol Hill Attacker Was Allegedly
Posting Inside Neo-Nazi Chatroom

— Aug. 24

Unmasking ‘Dark Foreigner’: The Artist
Who Fueled a Neo-Nazi Terror Movement

— July 8

Ex-Marine and Neo-Nazi Told Followers How
to Shoot Truckers to Dismantle Supply Chain

— June 22

Ex-Canadian Soldier Linked to Neo-Nazi
Terror Plot Pleads Guilty in US

— June 10

Mass Shooting Plotter Is Allegedly
Sending Prison Letters to Influential
Neo-Nazi and Is Calling for Violence

— May 26

Neo-Nazi Group The Base Is Recruiting
Again, Despite FBI Takedown

— May 20

This list could be extended almost indefinitely, but you see the point — Ben Makuch is basically a one-man SPLC on the Vice payroll, writing multiple articles monthly about the neo-Nazi menace. Let us stipulate (a) all of the people Makuch is writing about are reprehensible, and (b) their activities are newsworthy. But how much of a menace are they, actually?

In terms of statistical probability, are your chances of being killed by a neo-Nazi greater than being hit by a bolt of lightning? According to the National Weather Service, “Lightning kills an average of 49 people each year in the United States and hundreds more are injured.”

In other words, if neo-Nazis aren’t killing 50 people a year, you’re more likely to be killed by a lightning strike, but the relative rarity of murders committed by neo-Nazis is irrelevant to Ben Makuch’s purpose in publicizing the activities of such people, namely politics.

Saturation coverage of neo-Nazis functions as a guilt-by-association smear against right-wingers in general. This guy over here with the Nazi tattoos, spewing hate against Jews in some Internet forum? Why, he’s just like you, the suburban Republican voter. Both of you are “right wing” and therefore, dangerous. Such is the underlying theme developed by Ben Makuch and others like him who spend their time “unmasking” or “exposing” various “right-wing extremists” on the Internet. Let there be no doubt, of course, that some of these characters are actually dangerous, and the online audience for neo-Nazi sentiments is almost certainly numbered in the hundreds of thousands, at least.

So while I would not wish to dismiss the real danger posed by violent extremists, or deny the possibility that online forums could have a radicalizing effect, it is nevertheless the case that the actual threat is not as great as Ben Makuch’s reporting would imply. Permit me here to quote a CNN report from May:

A newly released government report on domestic violent extremism warns lone wolf attackers with easily accessible weapons present the greatest terrorism threat to the U.S. and the number of people dying at the hands of racially motivated extremists every year is on the rise since 2017.
The joint report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security shows 2019 was “the most lethal year” for domestic violent extremist attacks since 1995 — with 32 people killed, 24 of them by white supremacists. The report focuses on data from 2017-2019.
“In 2019, the FBI and DHS assessed RMVEs (Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists), primarily those advocating for the superiority of the white race, likely would continue to be the most lethal DVE threat to the Homeland,” the report said. “Our agencies had high confidence in this assessment based on the demonstrated capability of RMVEs in 2019 to select weapons and targets to conduct attacks, and the effectiveness of online RMVE messaging calling for increased violence.”
There were 57 domestic terrorism-related deaths between 2017 and 2019, the data shows, 47 of them racially motivated, mostly by white supremacists.

You can read the full FBI/DHS report and see for yourself. The point is that in “the most lethal year” of 2019, the number of people killed by white supremacists in the United States was 24 — about half the number of Americans killed by lightning strikes in an average year.

In other words, neo-Nazi violence is statistically rare, and Ben Makuch’s obsessive coverage of neo-Nazis is therefore an example of what I have called the “Atrocity Narrative” method of propaganda:

Find some particularly heinous type of crime, which is actually rare, then call attention to it as a trend — a “growing problem,” an “epidemic”!
People having sex with dogs, for example. If the producers at CNN decided to report every time someone in America was arrested on bestiality charges, we’d probably have a federal dog-sex prevention task force by now. . . .
In a nation of more than 320 million people, incidents that are statistically rare (i.e., less than 1% frequency) will occur quite commonly. For example, there are about 250 million adults (18 and older) in America and, if lesbians are 2% of the population, that means there are 5 million lesbians. If only 1% of those lesbians are pedophiles, that means there are 50,000 lesbian pedophiles in America. Well, if some national news organization decided to carefully scrutinize reports from around the country, compiling a list of every case in which a woman is arrested for molesting a girl, how easily could a daily drumbeat of media coverage generate a climate of paranoid witch-hunt hysteria?
Keep in mind, as you contemplate this hypothetical, that an irresponsible tabloid editor could gin up such a frenzy despite the fact that (a) far more than 90% of women are heterosexual, and (b) only a tiny minority of lesbians are pedophiles. Yet it would still be possible to generate lurid headlines on an almost daily basis, thus making these highly anomalous crimes seem as if they were commonplace.

I first became aware of this phenomenon — excessive coverage of unusual crimes — during the 2014 “campus rape epidemic” hysteria that inspired the gang-rape hoax at the University of Virginia. Data demonstrated that, contrary to the media hype, female college students were less likely to be raped than women in the same age group who did not attend college. Campus activists, however, were engaged in a propaganda campaign to make it seem as if sexual assault had reached “epidemic” proportions among students, and the media engaged in uncritical hype of these claims, which led directly to the Rolling Stone article about an alleged gang rape at a UVA fraternity which turned out to be entirely fictitious.

Returning to Ben Makuch’s hype of the neo-Nazi threat in the Marine Corps, what are we looking at? Well, there are about 180,000 active-duty Marines, and if only 1% are neo-Nazis, that would translate to 1,800 neo-Nazis in the ranks. Out of such a number, it would probably not be difficult for a diligent investigator to identify three or four Marines engaged in online neo-Nazi activity every month. So that’s three stories about neo-Nazi Marines in May, four stories in June, three stories in July, and so forth. This means that a journalist like Ben Makuch, who has devoted himself to “exposing” such cases, is never going to run out of material for articles about the “extremist” threat in the U.S. armed forces, even if 99% of the troops have no involvement in neo-Nazi activity.

Ben Makuch takes advantage of a readership that is not willing to do the kind of critical thinking necessary to put this in perspective. In 2019, there were about 19,000 homicides in the United States. According to the FBI/DHS report, 24 of those were committed by white supremacists, or barely 1/8th of 1% (0.126%, to be more exact). Or to put it another way, if you got murdered in 2019, there was a 99.8% chance that the person who killed you was not a white supremacist, which perhaps will be of some comfort to your family. So far in Chicago this year — as of 10 a.m. ET Saturday — 518 people had been shot to death. That’s more than 20 times larger than the total number of people killed by white supremacist violence in 2019. Which is more dangerous: Chicago or neo-Nazis? The answer is obvious, unless you’re Ben Makuch.

And why is he ignoring the really important news?

Florida veterinarian, 40, pleads guilty
to sexually abusing dogs in his care,
possession of more than 1,600 files
of child porn and making
‘crush videos’ where he tortured
and trampled small animals to death

Is the dog-rape epidemic being covered up by the media? Somewhere on the Internet, a conspiracy theorist is probably blaming the Jews.



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