Saturday, April 9, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder: “The facts are clear. Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45."

And he's right that the facts are clear. The facts are clear that Holder is wrong.

As that Volokh Conspiracy blog post explains (corroborating a column by Christina Hoff Sommers), homicide is not the most common cause of death of African-American women ages 15 to 45. It's the 5th most common. And those are homicides by anyone, including strangers; only a fraction of them involve domestic violence.

Sommers adds:

Holder's patently false assertion has remained on the Justice Department website for more than a year.

How is that possible? It is possible because false claims about male domestic violence are ubiquitous and immune to refutation. During the era of the infamous Super Bowl Hoax, it was widely believed that on Super Bowl Sundays, violence against women increases 40%. Journalists began to refer to the game as the "abuse bowl" and quoted experts who explained how male viewers, intoxicated and pumped up with testosterone, could "explode like mad linemen." During the 1993 Super Bowl, NBC ran a public service announcement warning men they would go to jail for attacking their wives.

In this roiling sea of media credulity, one lone journalist, Washington Post reporter Ken Ringle, checked the facts. As it turned out, there was no source: An activist had misunderstood something she read, jumped to her sensational conclusion, announced it at a news conference and an urban myth was born. Despite occasional efforts to prove the story true, no one has ever managed to link the Super Bowl to domestic battery.
Snopes has a longer takedown of the Super Bowl myth. Snopes concludes:
The ensuing weeks and months saw a fair amount of backpedalling by those who had propagated the Super Bowl Sunday violence myth, but — as usual — the retractions and corrections received far less attention than the sensational-but-false stories everyone wanted to believe, and the bogus Super Bowl statistic remains a widely-cited and believed piece of misinformation. As Sommers concluded, "How a belief in that misandrist canard can make the world a better place for women is not explained."