Although I prefer CNN, MSNBC and PBS, every day I try, although it’s sometimes agonizing, to watch some Fox News, to make sure I’m not completely isolated in a mainstream TV-news bubble.
Watching Fox last night I was reminded of two truths:
- It’s most popular prime-time anchors (i.e., Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity) constantly proclaim unsubstantiated and often even demonstrably untrue things, without evidence, and
- About three million viewers daily — several times the number tuning into CNN and NBC — watch ratings-king Fox. That’s more than a billion cable viewers a year. And, frighteningly, we can probably reasonably assume most if not all of them believe what they’re seeing and hearing is true and that the information has been objectively vetted in good faith by Fox beforehand using standard journalistic fact-check protocols.
- If only.
My first clue last night was during an interview with attorney and U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member Peter Kirsanow on the Tucker Carlson segment. Of note, Kirsanow is an arch-conservative black Republican, which should be a contradiction in terms in a rational world, and an outlier activist against such longstanding practices as affirmative action, which aims to give African Americans a leg up in a society built on racism (slavery). Kirsanow’s the kind of guy who views fellow minorities who take advantage of such programs as wimps, and the programs themselves as wrongheaded mollycoddling.
When Carlson asked Kirsanow last night how illegal immigration was affecting U.S. crime, he replied:
“There’s an overwhelming amount of data that shows that illegal aliens not only commit more crimes — at a higher rate, that is — than lawful residents, but more serious crimes at a far higher rate than lawful residents.”
Up to “250 percent more,” he said, quoting one professor’s data from from he claimed was “30 years of study” of the Arizona penal system.
Kirsanow also claimed on the program that “the various organs of state and federal government consciously avoid getting data” on illegal immigrant crime. In other words, there’s an expansive national conspiracy in place to block such data getting to the public and informing us it’s a much bigger problem than we know. Thank goodness we have Kirsanow, right?
Except, try to find anything that actually corroborates his hypotheses in the real world.
As I watched this program last night, little red flags popped up in my mind. Everything I’d heard or read on this topic prior — and I mean everything except on Fox — concluded the exact opposite. The consensus among media, mainstream pundits and academia, etc., was that not only do illegals not commit more crimes and more readily than permanent citizens, they (along with all immigrants) commit substantially fewer crimes — serious or otherwise — and less readily than regular citizens.
I did some research on the internet after the program last night, trying to learn what was actually true and check whether my memory might have been faulty on this.
This is timely because Cristhian Rivera, an illegal Mexican alien farm worker reportedly living in Iowa for seven years, was arrested this week for allegedly murdering Iowa college student Mollie Tibbet, whose body was recently found dumped in a corn field. Unsurprisingly, Donald “The Big Beautiful Wall” Trump and his minions immediately jumped on this as a political cause celebre, a way to rev-up his anti-immigration base and gain more political ammo for forcing Congress to pay for the southern border wall he promised his voters during his presidential campaign. And possibly to distract his base from his growing legal worries.
“A person came in from Mexico illegally and killed her,” said Mr. Trump in a video he posted to Twitter. “We need the wall, we need our immigration laws changed, we need our border laws changed.”
Except, virtually no one outside Trump’s orbit believes either that illegal immigration is a serious U.S. crime problem or that a wall at the Mexican border will effectively keep out immigrants of any kind. It’s just a made-up political slogan that panders to people who are irrationally fearful and don’t read much to check their biases. By all sane accounts spending $20 billion (Trump’s price tag) on a wall would be a monumental waste of time and money. Most illegal immigrants, after all, fly in.
In my research last night I ran across scads of solid information debunking Mr. Kirsanow’s and Mr. Trump’s fever dreams.
“[S]everal studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.”
Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, which advocates more liberal immigration laws, was quoted in the article saying:
“There’s no way I can mess with the numbers to get a different conclusion.”
He concluded, according to The Times, that “undocumented immigrants had crime rates somewhat higher than those here legally, but much lower than those of citizens.”
In his anti-immigration executive order in 2017 the president said illegal aliens “present a significant threat to national security and public safety.” However, The Times reported:
“Analyses of census data from 1980 through 2010 show that among men ages 18 to 49, immigrants were one-half to one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as those born in the United States. Across all ages and sexes, about 7 percent of the nation’s population are noncitizens, while figures from the Justice Department show that about 5 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons are noncitizens.”
In a comprehensive 2107 article, the online magazine Governing concluded, “A large body of research, however, finds no link between immigration and high crime rates, with some studies suggesting places with more immigrants actually enjoy slightly lower crime rates. Still, critics often contend that illegal immigration leads to more crime …”
Even in 2017, conservatives still see a bogeyman. Writing in The Times’ daily “Opinion Today” newsletter emailed to subscribers, conservative guest columnist Chris Buskirk wrote this about the Iowa tragedy today:
“The way many people see it, if a foreign national, apparently in the country illegally, kills an American citizen, it underscores the urgency of Trump’s message of putting Americans first. In other words, the murder of Mollie Tibbetts was not only ugly and evil, it was unnecessary and utterly preventable by government action.”
Buskirk is obviously an intelligent person, but this is falsely conflated nonsense. One incident — even two, even three — does not a national crisis make. He’s surely smart enough to know that.
Besides, such heinous crimes are always a rarity, and always preventing them, even with a big, beautiful border wall, is always impossible. These things are not “utterly preventable,” any more than lone-wolf terrorist attacks are. Government can’t monitor and control everyone constantly, even if they know who they are.
Of course, virtually everyone in the country is appalled by the death of this lovely young woman with the big heart in Iowa, and enraged that an illegal immigrant did it. But a border wall or draconian, un-American, unconstitutional immigration enforcement (such as forcibly separating kids from parents) won’t guarantee success. Unfortunately.
But a rational, proportionate-to-the-reality immigration policy would be the best way to guarantee the most effective response. Not waving hands around, not hysteria, not provably false notions vigorously spread. No false-security wall.
At the end of the day, I’m still terrified knowing that three million Americans every day are soaking up manifest fantasies on Fox News and thinking they’re facts.
Please sign up for new post notifications (top right). Shares, likes, comments appreciated!