Information Wars: PolitiFact Rules Rep. Grothman’s Border Claims “Mostly True” Employing “Entirely Absurd” Reasoning
Hypothetical scenario: Someone builds a dam to stop a downstream village from flooding on a regular basis. The dam is doing its job reasonably well. Later, someone else comes along and dynamites the dam, resulting in a deluge that wipes away the downstream village. Who is responsible for devastating flood?
If you work for PolitiFact, your conclusion is likely to be that they guy who built the dam is as much responsible for the obliteration of the village as the guy who dynamited it, because the dam itself caused the enormous collection of water that was turned lose with devastating effect – proving that an assertion can be simultaneously “absolutely true” and entirely absurd.
Vanessa Swales, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and a duly deputized member of PolitiFact’s truth squad, applies precisely this sort of logic to Wisconsin Representative Glenn Grothman’s recent statement about the Biden Border Crisis. The GOP House member stated, on July 18, “With three months remaining in the Fiscal Year, (the border patrol) has already encountered more illegal immigrants along the Southwest border” than in any previous fiscal year. Which, Ms. Swales concludes, is “mostly true” but “misleading.”
Swales notes that the “Remain in Mexico” policy that was in place under former President Donald Trump “forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait for court hearings in Mexico, instead of the U.S.” Thus, when President Joe Biden came along and dynamited this policy: Whoosh.
Even if you are inclined to believe that the person who created the Remain in Mexico policy is as culpable as the person who abruptly ended it, there were at most tens of thousands of people waiting in Mexico for the opportunity to cross the border, not the millions who have crossed since President Biden took office. The sustained high numbers of illegal border crossings can only be blamed on the person who sent the signal that the border is wide open.
“Apprehensions soar, but analysts call numbers misleading,” states a sub-header in large font, and bold typeface. The analysts turn out to be the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), an outfit that is anything but the “nonpartisan, independent think tank” Swales describes them as. Nevertheless, MPI is correct that the approximately 2 million encounters of illegal migrants at the border so far this fiscal year do not necessarily represent 2 million unique individuals.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol notes that of the 207,416 border apprehensions in June, 26 percent of them were people who had been encountered at least once before in the previous 12 months. Thus, the actual number of unique individuals was really 153,370, PolitiFact notes. If we apply that same rate of recidivism to the 4.9 million illegal border crossings that have occurred in the 18 months President Biden has been in office that means that more than 3.6 million unique individuals breached our borders during this period.
The vast majority of these 3.6 million people were not sitting on the other side of the border biding their time for Biden to take office. Rather, the vast majority of these folks were back in their home countries, deterred from making their way to the border knowing that, in all likelihood, they would be prevented from entering by the metaphorical dam known as Remain in Mexico – and would have stayed where they were had that and other deterrence policies remained in place.
Ms. Swales’ parsing of Rep. Grothman’s absolutely true statement illustrates Mark Twain’s famous quip, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” In an age of ideologically-driven news media, it is not only possible, but routine for media outlets to carefully select the facts they like and omit the ones they don’t, in order to reach utterly absurd and distorted conclusions.
In other words, be sure to fact check the fact checkers.