Democracy Dies in Darkness; Objectivity and Truth Die in the Pages of the Washington Post

By Dan Cadman on March 6, 2017

The Washington Post has a new logo embedded in its masthead: "Democracy Dies in Darkness".

It took a few moments for me to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes before I could move on to pondering the unutterable pomposity of these peacock reporters and editors who think that they are shouldering the weight of democracy on their poor meager shoulders. No; more likely the weight they feel is all of those tail feathers dragging behind them as they make their royal progress through the streets of our capital.

Perhaps they should, themselves, ponder the words of Wesleyan minister William Lonsdale Watkinson: "[D]enunciatory rhetoric is so much easier and cheaper than good works, and proves a popular temptation. Yet is it far better to light the candle than to curse the darkness." It seems to me that the Post as an institution has fallen into the dual traps of denunciatory rhetoric and skewed reporting in its zeal to "oppose" the Trump administration — as if that were their job.

Two prime examples:

On Thursday, March 2, the Post published on its Worldview/Analysis page an article by columnist Amanda Erickson titled "Adolf Hitler also published a list of crimes committed by groups he didn't like". The article is about Trump's newly organized office for "Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement" (VOICE), and compares its creation with something that would have been done by Nazi Germany.

This new office's job is to be a compassionate voice of advocacy for citizens and resident aliens who in the past were victimized by illegal aliens only to find a cold shoulder from the Obama administration when trying to make their hurts known, their voices heard, or even to find out basic information about the perpetrator who caused their pain.

CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan wrote about one such case clear back in July 2012, "DHS Gives Criminal Alien Privacy but Snubs Victim". I wrote about another such victim in March 2014, "Public Advocacy, Victims, and Skewed Moral Compasses", in which I commented about the lopsided state of affairs in which an obscure office in an immigration enforcement agency went out of its way to accommodate illegal aliens, but steadfastly ignored a citizen who was maimed by such an alien. There have been dozens and dozens of such victims, including infants, law enforcement officers, Border Patrol agents, and ordinary Americans, perhaps the best known being Kate Steinle, although each of the stories behind these cases is equally tragic, and sometimes horrific.

To his credit, Trump recognized and sought to balance the ugly status quo by creating the new office. It will also be charged with assembling statistics on crimes committed by aliens — an area in which honest statistics are hard come by and that in any sane world would be welcomed by scholars and researchers on all sides of the debate. In fact, Nolan Rapaport, a Democrat of liberal views whose thinking I sometimes profoundly disagree with, has recently publicly taken that view himself in an article for The Hill: "On immigrant crime, Trump's right. Americans deserve more data."

Erickson in some way analogizes the alien criminal data collection effort with Nazi information gathering on Jews. I'm unable to see the connection, which is not just specious but reprehensible. The subjects of VOICE will be aliens from dozens of countries, spanning various races, ethnicities, religions, ages, and social and educational backgrounds. The only thing they will have in common is their criminal histories, and even those will undoubtedly cover a range of offenses.

In short, Erickson's comparison of the new office with fascists is so over-the-top as to be scandalous. It is toxic waste posing as journalism, and should never have seen the light of day in any responsible news organization. But the Post, despite its moralistic, preening new masthead, is blind to its own biases.

On Saturday, March 4, the Post published an article by journalist Antonio Olivo: "After decades in America, the newly deported return to a Mexico they barely recognize".

A deportee who has been in the United States for decades; a Mexican being repatriated who doesn't speak Spanish. Are such things possible? In the realm of immigration, everything is possible, but would such cases be likely or usual? Absolutely not. They would be anomalous; outliers of the first order that wouldn't even represent a blip on the statistical screen. Both the lede and the article would have us believe that the entire group was composed of such individuals. Yet Olivo is disturbingly vague on the exact composition of the group of removals. He also says not everyone was a criminal, but again provides no breakdown.

It's worth noting, though, that even among the "non-criminals," there is a vast pool of perfectly justifiable targets of immigration enforcement action. Consider, for instance, aliens who were deported previously and chose to reenter illegally. While doing so is a federal felony, not every such case actually results in prosecution. Thus it would be technically accurate to call such an individual a non-criminal even though he has committed a felony. And, of course, such an individual is a priority for location, re-arrest, and removal again, even if he ends up not being prosecuted. Most Americans would be surprised how often reentry after deportation occurs. Two or three years ago, Vaughan and I did an analysis of thousands of removal cases over a span of time, and were dismayed to discover that roughly one out of every four aliens arrested at the border and in the interior was a prior removal — some having been deported several times. Some of these individuals are incredibly dangerous. The murderer of Kate Steinle was a multiple deportee. The alien I mentioned earlier who murdered the Border Patrol agent was also a prior deportee.

There is another large population of "non-criminal" aliens who also merit consideration. These are individuals who roam the streets of America under final orders of deportation, from which they have fled rather than surrender themselves. They number in the hundreds of thousands; the figure nearly doubled under the Obama administration with its lax enforcement and restrictions on agents, and now approaches one million aliens. Like reentry after deportation, willful failure or refusal to depart when under an order of removal is a federal crime, but very few aliens are actually prosecuted for the offense, no matter how evident it is that they have fled rather than comply with the order of removal.

Do the individuals figuring in Olivo's story meet either of these "non-criminal" profiles? Almost certainly they do because, unlike Mexicans who don't speak Spanish or who have resided in the United States for decades (was this one-and-the-same person?), they are not statistical anomalies. That Olivo chose not to examine or discuss such aliens is either the result of shockingly sloppy journalism or reportorial bias; you choose which.

But let's assume for a moment that some very small number of these deportees were nothing more than illegal aliens just working quietly and trying to get by. Would that gain much sympathy among out-of-work coal miners in hardscrabble Appalachia, or pink-slipped autoworkers in the rust belt? Probably not, because they resent the fact that they are competing in economically depressed areas with individuals whose very presence undercuts jobs and wages.

I know that the effects of displacement are often disputed by open-borders, post-national cosmopolitans (most of whom haven't had to confront such impoverishment) — but read Mr. Olivo's own words, written, apparently, with no appreciation for their irony:

More returnees means lower wages for everybody in blue-collar industries such as construction and automobile manufacturing, where competition for jobs is likely to increase, economists say.

I'm wondering exactly how that economic truth only exists south of the border where deported Mexican returnees are concerned, and not on our side of the line where the influx of illegal migrant workers has been thousands of times larger than the number of removals to Mexico.

So back to that masthead logo: If you hear death rattles, they are the sounds of truth and objectivity gasping their last breath in the dripping yellow pages of the Washington Post.