About Those Misleading ADL Statistics On Anti-Semitism (And Right-Wing Violence)
October 31, 2018
“According to the ADL, the number of anti-Semitic attacks has jumped by nearly 60% in the first year that Donald Trump was in office.” But that’s not any more accurate than her claim about ISIS, as Robby Soave at Reason pointed out yesterday.
The ADL statistic captures anti-Semitic “incidents,” which is a much broader category of behavior than “hate crimes” or “attacks.” Incidents include things like bullying in schools—which is bad, but usually not indicative of criminal conduct…
The ADL report came up with three subcategories of anti-Semitic incidents: vandalism, harassment, and assault. An increase in vandalism accounts for much of the overall increase, but Bernstein doubts that all of the included incidents were actually examples of anti-Semitism. The harassment category also saw an increase, largely due to a series of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the U.S. made by a disturbed Israeli teen. It’s not at all clear that these threats were motivated by anti-Semitism.
Finally, the assault category saw a 47 percent decrease.
Soave also refers to this article at the Volokh Conspiracyby David Bernstein which suggests the ADL report is intentionally misleading, at least with regard to the bomb threats against Jewish Centers (something I wrote about extensively when it was happening):
There are several problems with relying on this study for Trump-bashing, however. The first is that the study includes 193 incidents of bomb threats to Jewish institutions as anti-Semitic incidents, even though by the time the ADL published the study, it had been conclusively shown that the two perpetrators of the bomb threats were not motivated by anti-Semitism. One can only guess why the ADL chose to inflate its statistics in this way, but none of the explanations speak well of it…
I could wrap this up here but I’d like to point out that the ADL also publishes an annual report titled “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 20xx.” In 2016, the ADL published this striking claim which got quoted quite a few times by people on the left: “Over the past 10 years (2007-2016), domestic extremists of all kinds have killed at least 372 people in the United States. Of those deaths, approximately 74% were at the hands of right-wing extremists, about 24% of the victims were killed by domestic Islamic extremists, and the remainder were killed by left-wing extremists.”
Last year I asked ADL if they could provide the information to back up that claim because the actual data is not available on their website and wasn’t included in the 2016 report itself. Initially, they responded and agreed they would pull together some information for me. But it never arrived. I sent 2 or 3 follow-up emails over a period of months and they never responded to those at all.
I guess it’s fair to say white supremacists are doubly dangerous to their immediate family, but I don’t think that’s what most people have in mind when they skim a report titled “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 20xx.”
Similar to what it is doing with its handling of anti-Semitic incidents, the ADL appears to be padding the numbers. In the case of the extremism reports, the ADL never hid the fact it was including these non-ideological murders, but I suspect most people reading a quote second hand, like the one I started this with above, aren’t fully aware what is included in the bottom line.