This post follows on from yesterday’s by JohnBhoy where he sought to debunk and refute Steerpike’s comments previously. You can read part 1 here.
ANALYSIS: CLAIM 2 –
Catholics are “hardly victims”
Steerpike also claimed that Catholics are “hardly victims” of religious prejudice. His “stats” compared one religion against another in an ugly equation of blame. Etween Catholics and Protestants. Unfortunately to dispel his “stats” it is also necessary to compare and contrast the relative attacks of religious prejudice using the same two protagonists in his comparative relationship. However, there will be no blame attached to either Catholics or Protestants. Where there is religious prejudice against Catholics and Protestants then they are both victims.
Catholics formed 16% of the population in Scotland so one would expect that 16% of the sectarian crime would fall on (the same number of) Catholics. Using the 2011-2012 Scottish government figures on this type of crime we can see that there were 876 sectarian crimes. In line with statistical expectations, one would anticipate that Catholicism would suffer 16% of those crimes: 16% of 876 = 140. Yet Catholicism was targeted on 509 occasions, rather than the expected 140, 3.63 times more than expected. That represents 58% of the sectarian crime in 2011-2012.
Protestants formed 32% of the population in Scotland so one would expect that 32% of the sectarian crime would fall on (the same number of) Protestants. There were 876 sectarian crimes in 2011-2012, giving an expectation of .32 X 876 crimes = 280.32. However, they were targeted on 353 occasions, an increase of 72.68 sectarian crimes, i.e. 1.26 times more than expected. This means that Catholicism was targeted on more occasions than Protestantism, both in terms of real and relative values. In other words, Catholicism was more likely to be the target of religious prejudice than Protestantism, by a significant margin.
Below is a summary of the figures for 2011-2012 for religiously aggravated crime Catholics and Protestants for the period 2011-2012.
|2011-2012: (876 crimes)||% of population||Expected||Actual||% of attacks|
|Catholicism||16%||140||509 (+ 369)||58.1% (factor 3.63)|
|Protestantism||32%||280.32||353 (+72.68)||40.3% (factor of 1.26)|
Let’s update our statistics and look at the figures for 2012-2013:
|2012-2013: (687 crimes)||% of population||Expected||Actual||% of attacks|
|Catholicism||16%||109.92||388 (+ 168.16)||56.5% (factor 3.53)|
|Protestantism||32%||219.84||199 (- 20)||29% (factor of 0.91)|
In total, there were 687 charges of religiously aggravated crime. A normal expectation would be that 16% of the sectarian crime was directed at Catholicism: 16% of 687 = 109.92. Yet Catholicism was targeted on 388 occasions, 3.531 times more than expected. That represents 56.5% of the total crime in 2012-2013. Once again, even though the number of attacks against Catholicism reduced, from 509 to 393, the relative percentage remained almost exactly the same: Catholicism suffered religious prejudice over 3.5 times more than expected.
We also know that in 2012-2013, Protestantism was the intended target on 199 occasions, rather than the expected 219.84 (32% of 687), actually 20 occasions less than statistically expected, giving a factor of 0.91. We only know about the intended victims, not the perpetrators. We know that Catholics were the intended victims, disproportionately so, and that Protestants were the intended victims but below statistical expectations. Once again, Catholicism was targeted on more occasions than Protestantism, both in terms of real and relative values and so Catholicism was more likely to be the victim of religious prejudice than Protestantism.
Without any evidence of who is committing what sectarian crime we can only fall back on statistical expectations: that Catholics will be responsible for 16%, Protestants 32%, atheists 37% etc. To assume that it is actually those baptised as Catholics and those labelled Protestants who are responsible for each other’s crime is to fall back on historical prejudices. That is personal opinion, not evidence.
And yet despite the clear empirical evidence Steerpike can make the ludicrous assertion that “there is no evidence [of anti-Catholicism], we have Catholics who FEAR sectarianism as if it exists, probably a throw back to their historical Irish roots”. Even when Steerpike found official evidence that clearly contradicted that position (he referred fellow posters to the report after all), and further that those perceived to be Catholic were targeted far in excess of statistical expectations, he still chose to assert that Catholics are “hardly victims” in his mind.
He should also have looked at the wider picture and saw that other religions were under attack and, like Catholicism, disproportionately so. Attacks of religious prejudice increased relative to total crimes by 10.4% on Islam from 2.2% (19) of all attacks in 2011-2012 to 11.6% (80) of all attacks in 2012-2013. Also worrying was the percentage increase in attacks – relative to total crimes – based on “religious prejudice” against Judaism, from 1.6% (14) of all attacks in 2011-2012 to 3.9% (27) of all attacks in 2012-2013, quite remarkable for a population of under 6,000 Jews. Six of those arrests were for posting anti-Semitic remarks on Facebook and 50 Police Officers took part on those arrests after complaints from the Jewish community in Giffnock (http://www.timesofisrael.com/scottish-police-arrest-6-for-creating-anti-semitic-facebook-page/):
Interestingly, most of the religiously aggravated crime that takes place is, according to the stats, unrelated to football. In 2011-2012 only 31% of such crime was directly related to football; in 2012-2013, the figures were even less: 15.9%. The reduction in figures for 2012-2013 will have been influenced by the introduction of The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, under which some of the sectarian crime would have been recorded.
However, the low level of football-related religious prejudice gives the false impression that religious prejudice does not take place at football grounds. There is an alternative explanation: that arrests at football grounds do not reflect the magnitude of the incidences of religious prejudice and offensive chanting taking place. The 2012-2013 report admitted that the inability of the Police to deal with sectarianism within a crowd situation was an issue: “these figures may also not adequately reflect the religious prejudice that police became aware of but were not able to deal with, for example on occasions where there were large groups of people singing religiously offensive songs.”
Large group arrests for religious aggravation are not unknown in Scotland. For example, at a march by the Scottish Defence League in Glasgow, reported in the 2012-2013 figures, there were 57 anti-Islam charges (http://news.stv.tv/scotland/229386-sharp-increase-in-anti-islamic-hate-crime-put-down-to-single-sdl-march/).
In academia when two sets of data are juxtapositioned with the effect of presenting, wittingly or unwittingly, a misleading conclusion it is referred to as a “crafty conflation”. Politicians are famous for using this tactic to convince the public to support or oppose a particular political stance. Either deliberately, or through laziness or incompetence, or through a mistake honestly made, a variety of seemingly believable “statistics” are combined to produce an alarming statement and one that, if allowed to stand untested, could have serious repercussions for a section of our citizens.
For example, if someone produced “statistics” to show that Catholics are “hardly victims” but, on the contrary, the cause of the greater element of sectarian crime then it is only a short step from there to campaign for the whole-scale dismantling of a corner stone of Catholicism: Catholic schools. So, rather than attempting to understand why Catholics are disproportionately targeted, and seeking ways to address that anomaly, Steerpike’s position could be used by those with an agenda against Catholicism and Catholics to push for a political policy that would adversely impact on Catholicism and Catholics in Scotland.
It is also interesting to note that the very same people who constantly goad others with false statistics about sectarian crime caused by Catholics, and that the situation is so bad that Catholics schools need to close as a result, also argue against overwhelming evidence of religious prejudice against Catholics by shouting that there is nothing to worry about, there is very little sectarian crime anyway!
We have seen that the erroneous juxtapositioning of “16% of the population” with “40% of sectarian crime” [i.e. Catholics against Protestants] presents, for the uninformed, a prima facie justification for the conclusion that Catholics are “hardly victims”. However, it was shown that the “16%” was wrong as was the “hardly victims” insult.
There is no empirical data available to allow us to produce any statistics on the number of Catholics, Protestants, or people of no religious belief, or those from other denominations, who were actually responsible for the sectarian crime.
It is interesting how the conflation of two basic pieces of information can present a disturbingly misinformed picture of a situation. Fortunately, Steerpike’s conflation of “16% of the population” with “carry out 40% of sectarian crime” was so obviously wrong that it was easily discredited. His attempt to dismiss the evidence of Catholics as disproportionate victims (“hardly victims”) and instead to represent, based on no evidence at all and on unproven assumptions, Catholics as disproportionate offenders, was irresponsible.
Cherry-picking bits of the stats and introducing unsubstantiated assertions, although having the benefit of brevity, gives a completely distorted picture of sectarian crime in Scotland.
Steerpike made two main claims:
- That “the stats don’t lie, 16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”; and
- Catholics are “hardly victims”.
His claims were shown to be false.
Steerpike committed four serious errors:
- He failed to grasp the complexities of simple Primary School arithmetic, in particular the use of fractions and percentages as applied to population groups and sectarian crime;
- He presumed to know the religion of those accused of sectarian crime;
- He apportioned blame to an entire religious community; and
- He omitted a major population group – “non-religious” – from his statistical calculations.
His biggest shame was the overall impact of his stark headline statement: “the stats don’t lie, 16% of the population carry out 40% of sectarian crime”, meaning Catholics against Protestants. It is profoundly disturbing because it apportions blame, asserts false authority (“the stats don’t lie”) and uses dramatic numbers that collectively could mislead others to adopt a view of Catholicism and Catholics that is false.
When Steerpike made his appearance on Random Thoughts Re Scots Law he put his cards down on the table: “… I am a troll and an East Fife fan, currently supporting decent Rangers fans against Celtic bigots.” He did not declare “… I am a troll and an East Fife fan, currently supporting decent Celtic fans against Rangers bigots.” As it turned out, that was not the full story. He was a Rangers supporter. I am sure that Steerpike simply forgot to inform fellow posters that he was a Rangers supporter. On matters of more importance, sectarianism in Scotland, he needs to take greater care when it comes to disseminating information.
It is unfortunate that Steerpike chose to focus on the accused rather than the victims and then to apportion blame to one religion in particular, and to do so from a position of ignorance. Other religions are also being targeted. Scotland is a wonderful mix of people. Church of Scotland, Roman Catholics, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, non-religious. Sectarianism is historical baggage. That sectarianism features in a contemporary Scotland is not the fault of any particular religion. In relation to Catholicism and Protestantism, the religious communities are not blaming each other for the sectarianism: the fault lies with individuals within a sub-culture. They may or may not be Catholic. They may or may not be Protestant. They may or may not be from any other religious persuasion. They may or may not have any religious affiliation. But they are relics of the past and do Scotland, and its communities, religious or not, a great disservice.
Moral of the story: statistics are often more nuanced than many of us realise but sometimes the statistics are so bad that they do lie.
It would make no difference to the validity of Steerpike’s claims if he based his population figures on the 2001 census: his claims would still be false.