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Nov 22, 2008

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Andrew Bolt has been banging on about Africans again– Sudanese and Somalian born Africans in particular and their crime rates compared to the Victorian population as a whole. It stems back to some arsehattery about how Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon might have produced statistics that Bolt found misleading on the issue of Sudanese migrant crime rates in Victoria last year – stats that she gave in response to a Kevin Andrews spiel about the same.

Apparently, Bolt reckons that Nixonhelped to turn voters against the Howard government” in those heady weeks before the poll and that she “ fed a campaign of abuse against the immigration affairs minister, Kevin Andrews, that was so vitriolic it may have ended an honest man’s career.

(Which we can only take to mean as a Minister of the Crown since he’s still a Parliamentarian).

Oh really?

Yes, in the parallel dramaverse of Andrew Bolt, the polling patterns and election result in Victoria went a little something like this:

In this mad, mad topsy turvy world, there was no late swing back to Howard in Victoria – Christine Nixon’s words were mind control beams, helping turn voters away from the government, ending the career of Kevin Andrews and worse, they were so insidious that even Bolt himself – who obviously wasn’t wearing his designer tin foil hat that day – became but a mere victim.

“I rang Nixon’s office at the time to confirm that these figures were genuine. I was assured they were.
And, stupid me, I believed them. Perhaps tired of being on the hard end of another race debate, and knowing of fine African boys who’d volunteered to coach local basketball teams, I gratefully joined in hammering Andrews. Sure, I didn’t call him a racist, but I still kicked hard.”

He kicked Kevin Andrews hard!

One could only imagine the wave of angst that swept through his readership. With the toxic twins of Bolt and Planet Janet saying naughty things about the Liberals, and with Dennis of Shanahan getting sillier by the minute over the dismal polling – it was little wonder that large parts of the News Limited blogging section came to resemble the aftermath of the Jonestown Massacre.

Anyhoo, Bolt purchased a new calculator the other day – one that actually does real maths. His trusty old Casio AGW Denialist 3000 model he’s previously been using –the one that made statisticians and mathematicians across the country cringe in vicarious embarrassment, well apparently it’s seen better days and has been replaced by something that actually works. Rumour has it that Andrew handed Old Trusty down to Christopher Pearson so that he can do some more splendid psephological analysis for our enjoyment. Stay tuned for that dear readers!

To celebrate this great leap forward in numeracy, Andrew has been looking at immigrant crime and doing himself some subtraction, a bit of multiplication – and a hell of a lot of division.

That division button on his spiffy new toy has been getting hit more than the actual blog site of Mr 1 Million Hits himself.

The worst type of tawdry media comes from a mix of creating deliberate outrage by the exposition of some usually innocuous fact(s) aimed at a very specific point on the one hand, but with arms length responsibility from the way those facts might be used as they feed into broader issues on the other hand – and in these days of new media, an ambivalence towards how readers and blog participants run with and interpret that info is par for the course with this type of horseshit. That ambivalence, the complete absence of ever challenging any of the readers and comments on these (usually Murdoch tabloid) sites regardless of how far they fly off the handle with this stuff pretty much defines what they’ve become.

So it was that we got another outburst from Bolt about those damn Africans, but this time aimed at the semi-serious issue of attacking Nixon’s dubious use of crime statistics – and as sure as night follows day, the usual dross in the comments started flowing and went entirely uncontested by Bolt himself (except for Crikey’s Jonathan Green where, in response to a comment Jonathan left, Bolt beat his little chest, stamped his little foot and his minions obligingly kissed his little arse in a spectacle so pathetic you really have to see it to believe it).

This is where I come into it. Jonathan Green made a comment in response to Bolt getting all bloggier than thou about Crikey’s Wednesday Editorial, an editorial that went like this:

“Andrew Bolt, perhaps encouraged by the ‘revenge of the nerds’ regime change at Melbourne’s Herald Sun is off the long run this morning, returning to one of his pet themes, the eerie juxtaposition of crime and dark skin. Kevin Andrews was right, Bolt reminds us, to “worry and urge caution” over our intake of African refugees, people who, it appears, all too readily turn to crime. Bolt concludes after a lengthy (he does bang on) survey of the available statistics.

Here is some other number crunching, just to put this poisonous little call to arms into perspective.

Says Bolt, “The Victoria Police Crime Statistics 2006-07 record that 115 Somalis allegedly committed a crime that year. Given the 2006 Census says 2626 Somalia-born people live in Victoria, the police figures mean one in 23 Somalis was allegedly involved in crime in just one year. For the rest of us, it’s just one in 85.”

So he’s saying that 1 in 23 Somalis of all ages allegedly commit offences in a given year in Victoria. Which is barely different to the 1 in 24 of all Victorians between the ages of 15-19 that allegedly commit offences in a given year. Most of the Somali offenders are actually between 15 and 24. The document that this all comes from can be seen here (it’s only a page). So really you’d have to view the Somali crime rate as a triumph of successful social integration. No better, no worse than the rest of us.”

I was responsible for doing the numbers the editorial was based on. I also entirely agree with the general slant of it, in that Bolt is being a nasty little twat – not because his numbers are wrong, in fact, the few numbers he provided are generally correct – no doubt a testament to his new calculator.

No, what makes this yet another nasty little episode in Andrew Bolt’s The Days of Other Peoples Lives is either his unique lack of awareness about how his facts flow through into the wider community (particularly on his own blog, but also with the nastier elements of his column readership), or worse, that he does realise how it occurs but refuses to undertake any real effort to make it more difficult for the moonbat end of the community to start peddling their usual divisive tosh using his work . One only has to delve into the grimy pit of his comments section on just about any given issue to see how that plays out – too many pitchforks and not enough hay. Freedom of speech has never meant that all opinions are equal – the complete lack of Bolt confronting any of his minions going apeshit with stupidity speaks volumes.

If it’s the latter I could at least understand – not agree by any means, but at least understand why he does what he does; herding the bottom feeders that make up the majority of his blog community would be a tough commercial ask for anyone – “leave the net benefit of human welfare at the door – this is about eyeballs, particularly the eyeballs of a large number of loudmouthed dickheads”… so to speak, might be good for the wallet and the business model – but not good for the soul, and not a particularly positive contribution to the further development of the world we live in. But if that’s his brief, then he has to live with himself and you can at least understand where it’s coming from– even if it would be a wholly disgusting attitude.

The problem is that the rest of us have to live with the fallout of the steaming little turds he leaves on the carpet of public opinion, and the way an army of miscreants then drags them around the house trying to turn the whole place to shit.

If Bolt was trying to bring to our attention a few simple facts, but in such a way that it didn’t stir the hornet’s nest of bigotry – then he failed dismally. Any idiot can produce those numbers – hell, any idiot did. When it was pointed out that the proportion of total distinct offenders born in Somalia was about the same as the proportion of 15-19 year old Victorians of any hue – a little bit of nuance to calm the rampaging hysteria over at Cult Bolt, that’s when he got all manbeastly. His dick swinging, chest beating attempt at a pissing contest in the comments would be pretty funny if it wasn’t actually a real community of people we were dealing with here.

On the other hand, if he wanted to tickle his demographic’s bigoted little tummy, then he was profoundly successful by the looks of his comments section.

So let’s do what Bolt didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t/wouldn’t know how to/couldn’t give a toss about – and treat this issue with a little more finesse that migration settlement issues deserve.

The two groups that Bolt is banging on about are the Somalian and Sudanese communities in Victoria. Unfortunately there is no available Victorian crime data for people whose birth place was in Sudan by age cohort, so we can’t have a look at that particular community here, but we can for Somalia.

The Somalian community in Victoria has a problem, a large problem, a large mostly youth problem that needs urgent attention by both the community themselves and government and community sector support agencies.

First up, let’s contrast the age distribution of both the Victorian population as a whole against the Victorian population whose place of birth was Somalia, and we’ll do this using the 2006 Census data.

As we can see, the Somalian population skews heavily toward the bottom end, with 15-40 year olds making up 64% of the entire Somalian population in Victoria compared to that same age group making up only 35% of the broader Victorian population.

We also know that, historically at least, 15-29 year olds make up the highest proportion of distinct offenders when it comes to crime across Australia. So we would expect, ceteris paribus, that the effects of the Somalian population distribution would push up their average crime rate. If you have a disproportionate number of people in the age group that historically commits the most crime, you would expect that population to have a higher number of offenders.

However, what is happening in, to and with this community goes far beyond the expected increase in crime levels associated with such a skewed age population distribution. In fact, what is happening with Somalian born Victorians can only be described as a complete failure of the migrant resettlement and support system in Victoria.

If we compare the Census data to the Victorian crime data and look at how many distinct offenders there are per thousand population for each age cohort, and compare the numbers for the Victorian community as a whole against the Somalian born community in Victoria, we find some pretty disturbing numbers.

However, first we need a bit of perspective here. The Somalian community is small – around 2600 all up. The crime numbers in each cohort are likewise small and it can cause some odd things to happen.

For example, where it shows Somali born people in the 55-59 age group having a higher than average proportion of distinct offenders than the broader Victorian community, we should keep in mind that this result comes from 1 single Somali born offender among a population of 58 Somali’s that age.

When dealing with small numbers, the tails become highly uncertain and aren’t worth a great deal of attention.

But with those age cohorts between 15 and 30, there is unambiguously something problematic happening. In the 15-19 age cohort, there were 43 distinct offenders from a population of 404, in the 20-24 group there were 31 distinct offenders from a population of 334. These are extraordinary numbers by any yardstick and point to not only dysfunction within the community itself, but the abject failure of existing Federal and State government funded (and independent community sector) migrant support services.

The simplest answer is simply to stop migration from Somalia at its source and substitute it for other African groups – which sounds kind of appealing on that simplistic, superficial level that Andrew Bolt does so well.

But it defeats the entire purpose of the humanitarian refugee intake, does nothing about dealing with the existing problem and does even less when it comes to the development of a properly functioning migrant support architecture that would not only let us deal with exactly these types of problems should they ever occur again in the future, but one which should lower overall first generation migrant crime rates if it was working properly.

Community integration works best when there is a bit of trust floating around. Having high distinct offender rates among a highly visible migrant community does no one any good, not the migrants themselves, not the victims of their crimes and certainly not broader community harmony. The only mob that would appear to benefit are the Tabloids that thrive on human misery.

With only 115 distinct offenders in the Somalian community in Victoria, we need to be careful not to turn this into the latest Moral Panic de jour, as the total numbers we’re talking about here need to be kept in perspective. If you see someone born in Somalia, you don’t need to cross the road (as if you lot don’t know this anyway).

But neither should we be blasé about what’s happening and quietly ignore it, or worse, man the ideological barricades and go into denial. There’s a problem with this community, and developing a means to fix it not only provides us something to work with in the future should similar issues happen to another migrant group down the track, but may also give us ideas on how to fix another similar problem, but one of which we should all be ashamed – high distinct offender and incarceration rates in indigenous communities.

Victoria is a very community centric place – if you’re a large company and you aren’t in the community partnership game then you just aren’t with the in crowd. The non-government migrant support sector is one of the largest in the country, there are good working relationships between them and government agencies. The resources are there, but is the organisation to utilise them and the willingness to deploy them also there?

We’re only talking about a community of 2600 people, if we can’t fix this we probably couldn’t find our arse with a map.

And then we’d all be like Andrew Bolt.

UPDATE:

Having been informed about Bolt’s latest spiel on this, someone in comments posted a link to this article. The response:

I won’t dignify that Crikey article with a link, but quote from it the passages that give the gist – that I’m a despicable racist for providing accurate figures about a problem we, er, must confront:

‘Bolt is being a nasty little twat – not because his numbers are wrong, in fact, the few numbers he provided are generally correct – no doubt a testament to his new calculator…

The Somalian community in Victoria has a problem, a large problem, a large mostly youth problem that needs urgent attention by both the community themselves and government and community sector support agencies.’

These two critical concesssions are buried among many hundreds of words of undergraduate and vile abuse of the kind for which Crikey under Jonathan Green is now infamous.

Oh please, someone hand this princess some tissues.  Lucky blogging cryptorchidism isn’t fatal.

Elsewhere: Larvatus Prodeo where there’s some really good discussion in comments by people that actually know what they’re talking about.

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