They are in turmoil over Heather MacDonald’s well researched and solid articles delving into the reasons behind the current rise in crime rates, as this article from the Wall Street Journal notes.
Academics claim to revere open debate but often recoil when they see the genuine article. Witness the campaign some scholars—loosely defined—are waging against Heather Mac Donald for challenging university pieties about a recent surge in violent crime.
The Manhattan Institute scholar has argued in these pages that political agitation after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots has left many law enforcement officers reluctant to engage in proactive policing, thus contributing to the crime spike in some cities. Ms. Mac Donald’s articles have incurred the wrath of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), the professional organization for academic criminologists.
In a June email to members, Laura Dugan, a professor at the University of Maryland and chair of the outfit’s policy committee, fretted that Ms. Mac Donald’s “misinformed campaign” was “getting a lot of play in the media” and “may have the attention of some key policymakers on the Hill.” She singled out a May 29 Journal feature “The New Nationwide Crime Wave” as an instance of “cherry-picking of the facts.”
The facts—such as a 180% year-to-date increase in the Milwaukee murder rate—are hard to explain away, but Ms. Dugan encouraged the criminologists to try. “So far, there have been a few rebuttals to the ‘Ferguson effect’ claim,” she wrote, “but these may not have enough of a reach.” As an unironic example of “more balanced dialogue,” the professor cited articles from the likes of the left-wing Sentencing Project.
The American Society of Criminology claims to pursue “scholarly, scientific, and professional knowledge,” but a better description of its priorities is one-sided inquiry and activist politics.
Earlier this year former ASC president Joanne Belknap of the University of Colorado at Boulder published a call for “criminology activism” among crime experts, citing their responsibility to “advocate for social and legal justice.” The society’s journal has since shifted toward papers that downplay particular crime trends and emphasize a policy agenda that opposes broken-windows policing or much attention to black-on-black violence. In the process it has abandoned its old role as a forum for a healthy clash of ideas.
We suppose this intellectual panic over Ms. Mac Donald is a tribute to the power of her persuasion and, we hope, of the Journal’s editorial platform. But it’s also a shame to see an academic group that ought to be a forum for scholarly debate descend into hackery.
Retrieved July 16, 2015 from http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-crime-of-disagreement-1437089809