I don’t generally read the editorials from the Daily Interlake because I prefer receiving actual information to becoming less aware of the truth, but yesterday’s editorial in the DIL was such a towering work of misinformation I had to respond. And, once again, it’s about refugees—a class of people it is apparently acceptable to lie about with impunity if you are on the conservative side of American politics.
Attacking the Missoulian and Bozeman Daily Chronicle for their criticism of Greg Gianforte’s shameless anti-refugee mailer last week, Frank Miele marshalled an impressive collection of falsehoods to support his position that the governor of Montana should wave a magic wand and stop refugees from coming to Montana. Like Mr. Gianforte, Mr. Miele offered no actual proposal for how this might be done practically or legally, but that seemed less important than demonizing Muslims and suggesting that accepting a small number would turn the American dream into a “nightmare.”
The center of the piece is a five paragraph rant about an alleged rape committed by Muslim refugees in Twin Falls, Idaho. Miele doesn’t want to sully the debate with facts, so he merely encouraged his readers to “do web search for “Twin Falls refugee rape” and read about it.” From there, he contended that there was a cover-up to protect the Muslim boys in that bastion of liberal progressivism, Idaho.
There’s probably a reason that Miele wanted his readers to rely on web searches. The Twin Falls case is another example of the hyper-illogic of conservative media, with increasingly wild tales and unsupported claims spinning their way through the clickbait gullibility of xenophobic conservative circles. Snopes discounts much of what these stories: there have been no Syrians relocated to Twin Falls, the claims about the assault and aftermath were badly overstated, and there was no cover-up because the case involved juveniles, who are protected by the law. Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs went on to say that, while two juveniles were charged, the Internet hysteria against the boys was designed to fan anti-refugee sentiment:
Loebs said he didn’t want to “fan the flames of anti-Syrian refugee people” but suspects the false reports are the work of a local group opposed to refugee resettlement who hoped to stir up trouble by claiming the incident involved Syrian refugees who committed a violent sexual assault.
“There is a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees, and thus far they have not been constrained by the truth,” Loebs said. “They have not been constrained by the truth in the past, and I don’t expect them to be constrained by the truth in the future.”
All that, of course, ignores another salient point: even if the lurid tales spun by anti-refugee propagandists were true, a quick perusal of the often lurid crime reports in Montana newspapers makes it abundantly clear that sexual violence is hardly something limited to one community or the practitioners of one faith.
Miele is wrong about other details, too. He writes:
How many Americans have to be killed by refugees or Mideastern immigrants such as the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston Marathon bombing), Omar Mateen (Pulse nightclub massacre), Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik (San Bernardino massacre) or Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez (Chattanooga military recruiter shootings) before the Missoulian and the Bozeman Chronicle recognize there is a real problem? Are we supposed to be OK with a couple dozen murders of Americans per year in exchange for feeling good about helping refugees escape their own countries? It’s not fear-mongering when you can point to dead bodies, is it?
The Tsarnaev brothers were neither refugees nor from the Middle East. Omar Mateen was born in New York. Syed Farook was born in Chicago, and his wife came to the US on a K-1 marriage visa. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez came to the US 12 years before the shooting, and was not a refugee.
Every example Miele used in his piece to demonize refugees was not about a refugee, meaning that the position he’s taking is either that it’s acceptable to lie about refugee status to make a point or that the US should block the entry of all Muslims, whether on tourist, marriage, work, or any other visa. Attacking other state papers for having the courage to stand up to xenophobic racism, calling them “apologists” for refugees when Miele lacks the courage to honestly state his position or defend it with facts explains just why people are so dismissive of the Interlake.
This is an embarrassing piece of work, and Miele should offer a full retraction. And should probably do some reading of American history. There were an awful lot of people in the late 1800s and early 1900s who would have argued that migrants with names like his and mine shouldn’t be welcomed here—and they told about as much truth then as Miele did yesterday.