How the media fans the flames of hatred for people on sex offense registries

By Sandy . . . Fox News, a self-proclaimed conservative media outlet, had distributed this story out of Austin, Texas. While its overt message is that “defunding the police” puts the public in danger, the very strong subtext is that anyone with a sexual crime conviction is evil, dangerous, and only held in check from constant reoffense by a strong, diligent police department.

“Defunding the police” is a term utilized not by those who call for more responsible managing of our tax coffers but as a weapon intended to stir the flames of dissent and anger. In this one, short article, starting with its inclusion in the title, the phrase is used eight times. Those who are blamed for “defunding the police” want to do no such thing. They want, rather, that money allotted to law enforcement be used in evidence-based initiatives shown to be required for public safety.

Running police sting operations are not among these. Nor is constant monitoring of approximately 90% of any jurisdiction’s sexual offense registry. Those who have not reoffended would be as well left alone, reoffending at an average rate of approximately 5%, and, even if some are non-compliant with a few of the many and onerous rules and regulations, they are at no significantly greater risk of reoffense than their totally compliant brothers and sisters.

Will someone occasionally go against the odds and commit a reoffense? Of course. But so will any given member of the community at large. In fact, the risk of a non-registered individual committing a sexual crime is well over 90% higher than the risk of a registrant doing so. Would law enforcement register and monitor the entire community if they had the funds?

To bolster their agenda and support their arguments, Fox uses a series of totally unsupported rhetoric and phrases. In fact, some are so vague as to be laughable.

“[C]ivilian monitors lack arrest authority and some question whether they are able to keep up.” Some who? The people who hired them to do the job of keeping up with records? Surely when an arrest is needed, one of the police officers can do that. If the needed arrests of registrants are so high that the abilities of four actual officers are strained, why wasn’t the number given? That is a fact that could – and should — have been included: since this change in personnel, how many arrests of persons on the registry have been required?

“[T]he staffing shortage has had dire consequences and is potentially responsible for a recent high-profile incident.” Dire consequences? Potentially responsible? The high-profile incident referred to is an alleged reoffense, and if I said that it most likely would have occurred regardless, I would be criticized for a vague unsupported opinion, and rightly so. But “dire” and “potentially” are no less vague and unsupported than “most likely” and no less of an opinion.

Still referring to the same incident, Fox reports, “They took those officers back and those officers were tasked with field visits, sex offender compliance checks, things that could have prevented things like this from happening.”

 Could have prevented – another way of saying potentially. And who is the “they” that “took the officers back”? Would those in command of officer assignments in the Austin Police Department have truly removed officers from positions known to be crucial for public safety?

Not satisfied with “dire,” this decision has also had “a devastating impact on the lives of the citizens” and has “. . . created an unsafe environment.” And just as with “dire,” the reader is left wondering what the “devastating impact” and the “unsafe environment” are. No evidence is offered of either.

None of these, however, are the worst of Fox News’ blunders in the reporting of this piece, for near the end we are told, “The Austin Police Department told Fox News that it did not have a specific estimate of the number of cases handed over to civilians at this time, but a source tells Fox that it’s about 650 cases.”

And just like that, we are back to vague, unsupported, unidentifiable entities: a source. And, to compound the injury, it is a source who seems to have intimate knowledge of the Austin Police Department’s information that even they do not have since they lacked even an “estimate,” for is a “specific estimate” any more definitive than a non-specific estimate? An estimate is an estimate, and the APD did not have one. But the mysterious source did.

Responsible use of law enforcement resources requires initiatives empirically shown to be needed for public safety.

Responsible journalism saves emotionally charged language and unsupported rhetoric for opinion pieces and does not present them, as it has done here, as news.

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11 Thoughts to “How the media fans the flames of hatred for people on sex offense registries”

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  1. Curtis

    I will not get into a political argument, but I will say that Fox News exists on fear. It is their primary goal to strike fear of almost everything to its viewers. When it comes to SO’s, they are an easy target for all of the “news/entertainment” fear factories.

    1. Tim in WI

      Curt,
      Best to follow\research the ownership of any firm down to the individual level. Mike Bloomberg for example. Bloomberg doesn’t have stake in Fox. But he least puts his name on his network and ALL parts of it. Ted Turner did the same. Billionaires however operate in wide scope thus necessitating “the political” and separation in identity in their media wings. Both sides have those that operate ” in anonymity ” to make an agenda. They have the means to operate on both sides of the aisle so long as the embedded elected are placated sufficiently. Which brings me to conclude SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION start-up successfully satiated: A. Big Labor. & B. Big Biz with billions in government tax dollars for A:State union contracts & B: Big tech sales. Each are long-term guaranteed endeavours as evidenced. But has violence actually decreased? Quite the opposite indeed. In fact, the avant guard approach to the unfettered mass use of database has been exacerbating violence and very much used to incite fueds or conflict in a public way. Public attitude very much resembles the virtue signaling in Smith V Doe in precedent. Not much virtue at all. Ultimately we will see how the people protect themselves from the Databases themselves. And if the state’s “no call lists” are any indication; the outlook grim.

    2. WC_TN

      Our media abandoned the idea of presenting verified facts in a balanced manner long, long ago. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

  2. Lovecraft

    Thing I hate seeing the most in these types of articles is: “convicted pedophile.” They put that word in there to fan the flames just like in the article you refer to in this piece. Pedophilia is a fairly rare medical diagnosis that can only be determined by a doctor and refers to an attraction to prepubescent minors only. It has about as much meaning as the media saying, “John Doe who was a convicted of cancer.” Every article I have read in the last few years that uses that phrase has always used it when referring to people with victims all past puberty or at least some. To my knowledge, you cant be convicted of anything if you never act on it, but they sure make it seem like that isnt the case. So, every way the media has used this term is dishonest at best, but we all know better than that.

    1. Sandy

      And in addition to what you said, there is no statute against pedophilia, so there is no such thing as a convicted pedophile. Pedophile/pedophilia are medical terms, not legal ones. Even if the inclination is acted on and the individual is convicted, he is not convicted of pedophilia. He is convicted of child molestation or whatever legal statute he was convicted under. The use of the word ‘pedophile’ in the situations you reference are indeed intended to be inflammatory and are totally without any factual basis. No one can know if another is indeed a pedophile unless he has been so diagnosed and someone has access to his private medical records.

    2. Tim in WI

      Clearly Mr. Epstein was not a pedo as teenage females do not fit the definition but that doesn’t preclude hype types from stating his crimes as such.
      The word is vastly overused and often absent the necessary context. Nevertheless media types are rarely held accountable for such distortion of fact.
      No doubt FOX uses anything for ratings and it appears to work for them as they have higher cable viewership than the rest of their peers. However on Average FOX only gets 3.2 million prime time views on their TV national broadcast. Far more get their opinion news from online entities these days. This means TV news are going the way of the local newspaper albeit more slowly. Personally I miss the days of AM Talk radio.

    3. WC_TN

      If the media insists on using clinical terms, they need to use the term “ephebophile”. That is, if I am not mistaken, the paraphilia that deals with post-pubescent minors that are still under the age of consent. But, as everyone else has already pointed out, the term “Pedophile” stirs up much more venomous vitriol.

      It really grinds my gears to hear all these self-appointed psycho-sexual experts engage in their pedantic armchair diagnoses.

  3. Mike

    Hello, boy I have a alot on this subject, to many to list. What I had wondered is why was the registry enacted in the first place. Well the Doj gives the reason of public safety. The US Supreme court justices say’s: “SO have 80% recidivism and it’s High & Frightening ” How can the US Government enact a Sex Offender Registry but before they enacted the laws the US Gov. has done studies on recidivism rates of sex offenders. In 1994 the studies results show 9% recidivism and has done a study every year since 1994 and every study shows recidivism below 5% but they said the reason they need the registry is ” High & Frightening ” rate of 80%. The 80% recidivism came from a magazine “Psychology Today” and the author has since retracted that statement, because 80% is not true. The US Gov. knew the truth since 1994 and enacted the Sex Offender Registry anyways. That’s fraud and if you don’t believe me the studies they did are on Doj & Smart.gov website.

  4. WC_TN

    The sources are never revealed because they don’t exist. This is a false narrative and the ones speaking know it. I am telling you in the strongest language I can possibly muster that these laws are borne out of nothing but animus and a bloodlust for unending vengeance. The “public welfare demanding it” and “non-punitive civil regulatory scheme” are just window dressing which allows these laws to evade an honest strict constitutional scrutiny by the courts. I am convinced judges know what the aim and motivation of these laws is. They’re just not going to be honest about it until the needle is threaded just right and the exact argument against it is so spot-on that the judge has no choice but to rule against the law.

  5. Kurt

    I looked at this “incident” they reported. It was an actual reoffence if the claim by police is correct, but I find it a little questionable. Supposedly the officers did a compliance check because the individual was homeless and failed to report something on the registry. When the officers contacted the individual things get a little confusing. In one sentence they claimed they “caught him in the act of have sex with a 14 year old autistic boy” in the following sentence they said that he was accused of soliciting a minor for sexually explicit photos. Maybe it was both, but I am still unsure how more cops would have stopped both reported things he is accused of.

  6. Perry P.

    Once again, I’m not surprised by this at all. Responsible Journalism does not exist at Fox, and never really did anyway. It’s a lot like Today’s Divisional Politicians. Both scream nearly the same things because it’s popular to do so. Such tactics keep up Ratings and keeps them in Power. Sooner or later though, something’s going to backfire on them all and I hope I’m alive to finally see it.