Honesty too much to ask from Andrew Bolt

It’s really hard to believe that this guy is so widely read in our country. His latest attempt at contributing to public debate — drivel, I tell you — doesn’t even try to be intellectually honest. In support of his argument associated race and religion with increased fear and crime, virtually all that Bolt does is attack the Attorney General for not living in his electorate (relevance unclear) and present very specific cases where the perpetrators of violence were religious.

Yes, because specific cases magically prove the rule!

But Bolt does make a  half-hearted attempt at dumping some statistics, hoping he can dupe readers into thinking he’s actually doing his homework. His point comes out like this:

  • Dandenong has crime statistics 40% greater than the Victorian average.
  • Dandenong has lots of Muslims and other minorities.
  • Therefore, it’s their culture that’s responsible for the crime statistic.

You can see just how flimsy that is. All you have to do to throw it into real question is actually do research, maybe lift some 2011 Census statistics from the ABS. Let’s take the Greater Dandenong local government area and compare it to, say, the City of Frankston.

Dandenong has lots of Muslims, Africans — whoever Bolt is targeting. 13,610 people identified as Muslim in 2011. Frankston? Hardly any.

Frankston has twice the number of Australian-born residents as Dandenong.

Frankston has just over nine tenths the population of Dandenong.

But Frankston still has nearly nine tenths the number of crimes, and over eight tenths the number of violent crimes.

In other words, Dandenong only has slightly more crimes per resident. Given Bolt’s scaremongering about everpresent ethnic strife, you would expect the vast gulf in numbers of Muslims and Australian-born residents to correspond with a vast difference in crime. Instead, an ethnic correlation is on pretty weak foundations.

Without proving anything, other explanations, such as higher crime being linked to a lower socioeconomic status, seem much more plausible at first glance. Incomes in Dandenong are only 84% of those in Frankston. And incomes in Frankston are quite a bit lower than in inner eastern local government areas, where crime is also quite a bit lower.

Not that looking at the whole picture would stop Bolt’s racially tinged “analyses”.

I hope to do more than rant about this excuse for a columnist in future, I really do. But it’s simply frustrating to know that this is mainstream stuff in a mainstream publication.

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