Smoke and Mirrors at the Border

Recently we had confirmation of what every sensible observer has long known: the media narrative about a Trumpian reign of terror at the border is absolute nonsense.

Statistics from the Border Patrol confirm that the number of deaths of border-crossers in 2017 and 2018 were close to an all-time low. This comes despite intense mainstream media attention paid to each and every border death in recent weeks and months, and especially the deaths of a Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande. The press has been covering these deaths as though they were unprecedented. In reality, many more illegal immigrants died during the Obama years—provoking complete media indifference. Odd, no?

In addition, while the press has focused on internal government documents and eyewitness reports indicating problems in detention facilities caused by overcrowding, it has failed to put these allegations of poor treatment—sometimes blown out of proportion, as when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called them “concentration camps”—into proper context.

Whenever the border is inundated with migrants, the resources of ICE, Border Patrol, and the Department of Health and Human Services inevitably are stretched thin. Some agency standards are therefore not met. This was true under Obama no less than under Trump. The difference? The failures and missteps of government agencies under Obama were a nonissue for the media. Today, they are treated as a travesty, proof of President Trump’s alleged racism, and a national disgrace—despite the improvements in migrant services that the Trump Administration has achieved.

What changed? The insurgent attitude of the media changed, of course. Now its mission is to topple Trump’s presidency, by any means necessary.

Likewise, the separation of migrant children from their parents or guardians after their apprehension by U.S. authorities received little media attention when it occurred regularly during Obama’s tenure. In addition, the constant and ongoing separation of incarcerated U.S. citizens from their children is of no interest to our corporate leftist press. The occasional and temporary separation of illegal immigrant parents from their children under Trump is, by contrast, treated as a human rights emergency.

In the same vein, the brisk pace of deportations under President Obama elicited little outrage from the media, while deportations under President Trump, which are occurring at a lower rate, are pitched as an all-encompassing, indiscriminate dragnet ensnaring all “immigrants.”

This counterfactual—or, to put it more succinctly, “fake”—reportage, indicating a massive increase in U.S. government-sponsored inhumanity at the border and in immigration enforcement, is paralleled in its sheer disingenuousness by the media’s faulty analysis of “Russiagate.” Despite the lack of evidence to indicate any illegal or nefarious connections between the 2016 Trump campaign, the Trump Administration, and Russia, the press repeated unconfirmed rumors and idle speculation so incessantly that it convinced a significant portion of the American people that their president is, in fact, an agent of a hostile foreign power. A neat trick.

The truth, of course, is that the only thing remarkable about the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia is that there were exceedingly few of them. In fact, the Trump campaign was the least compromised, in terms of foreign connections and entanglements, of any major party presidential campaign in recent memory.

Trump, after all, was an outsider, as were many of his campaign staff. An insider campaign like that of Hillary Clinton, by contrast, of necessity included numerous officials with a long history of Russian, and other foreign, connections. And yet the media never disclosed this important context, so that its false narrative of “Trump-Russia ties” would seem more credible.

At the border, in terms of Russiagate, and with respect to a litany of other domestic and foreign policy issues, the media has chosen to forfeit its credibility and to report the news deceptively—all in an effort to foment support for the impeachment of Donald Trump, or, as a fallback, his decisive defeat in 2020.

One is tempted to say that the gentlemen (and ladies) of the press must be “lying” about Trump and the news in general. Lying, however, requires conscious and intentional falsehoods, whereas the reality, in a depressing number of cases, appears to be that the media believes its own “spin.” That is, reporters and news editors are so profoundly debilitated by Trump Derangement Syndrome that their capacity to distinguish truth from falsities has all but evaporated. They believe every distortion and fabrication about Trump, in other words, for no better reason than because they want to.

Whether the media is “lying” or not, however, is irrelevant in two senses: either way, their reportage is false, and in addition it is worse than useless, because it is doing permanent damage to American democracy and to the image of this country abroad.

The only remedy? The American people must switch off CNN and MSNBC, and cancel their subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Only abject commercial failure can kill off these journalistic abominations, which is what they so richly deserve.

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

About Nicholas L. Waddy

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.

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