Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why Van Jones is an asshole

Here is something tweeted by Van Jones earlier this year:

There is some confusion about why this is fake news, so let's break it down.

THE CLAIM: "You’re 7 Times More Likely To Be Killed By A Right-Wing Extremist Than Muslim Terrorists"

THE ABSURD PARAMETERS: Excluding 9/11, for some reason. 9/11 is *always forgotten* in progressive statistics


Reasonable people may think that the numbers cited compare politically motivated attacks. However "journalism" in Van Jones style does not fit to the expectations of reasonable people.

By the numbers, this is the comparison most often cited by the New York Times between "right wing" and "Jihadist" killings in the United States since 9/11. (Including only domestic deaths is very silly, but this is a digression)

Quite plainly, there is no "7 times more likely to be killed" anywhere in this chart. It's more like 50/50, at the best of times. And this is including tons of groups - racist, tax protest, survivalist, sovereign citizen, pro-life nutjobs - under the banner of "right wing".

So how does Van Jones arrive at "7 times more likely"?

It comes from a report briefly cited first in NYTimes, then cited again by ThinkProgress, and then repackaged by the Bossip piece that Van Jones shared.

The original quotation in New York Times is the following:

No where else in the paper does it seem that Arie Perliger's data is mentioned, let alone taken seriously. In the publicly available PDF of Perliger's report, there is no indication of how Perliger actually arrived at a number of 254 fatalities due to right wing nutjobs.

Compare this to NewAmerica's data, which has a chart annotated with every attack they categorize as "right wing". The result is a strongly supported final count of 50. Again, this is the count the New York Times uses in their own reports.

It's impossible to debunk Perliger's data, as it's unclear where it even comes from.

Regardless, what Van Jones needs to prove is that Perliger's information is solid, even though the New York Times does not use it, nobody can see what is counted and the data starts in 9/11 and ends in November 2012.

To recap the mistakes, Van Jones says you are "7 times more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist" by doing the following:

  1. Excluding 9/11
  2. Excluding foreign deaths (apparently Americans can't die in a club in Bali or a cafe in Paris!)
  3. Relying on a source that nobody else uses
  4. Excluding San Bernardino 
  5. Excluding Pulse

Let's be clear - only ten days after 49 people were executed in Orlando, Van Jones was busy tweeting bogus data from 2001-2012 that only appears on hack clickbait sites. This happened even though the New York Times was tweeting far more legitimate (but also flawed) data since San Bernardino, which was December of the previous year.

Van Jones didn't do any due diligence, apply any skepticism to the data as it supported a narrative about "Trump's America" and rural whites that he wanted to put forward, no matter what was real. 

If one performed this mathematical distraction against the black community or the muslim community, it would be unforgivable and obviously racist.

But since this is fake news and lies that "punch up", it is on CNN every other night.


  1. If I say it enough it will become the truth.If I say it enough it will become the truth.....

  2. Thanks for taking the time to put together this analysis.

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