Montana Politics The Media

The Daily Interlake Serves Up the Worst Editorial in My Memory

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.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • Sry Pete, had to get my put. Can I get the air miles?

    The 10,000 figure for fiscal 2016 was considered modest by most Western standards. Canada, for instance, is importing 50,000 Syrians this year, and the United Kingdom promised to take 20,000.

    States that have received the most Syrian refugees since October 2015 are:

    Michigan: 1,028
    California: 1,004
    Arizona: 766
    Texas: 735
    Pennsylvania: 600
    Illinois: 569
    Florida: 527
    New York: 538
    North Carolina: 450
    Ohio: 424
    Georgia: 313
    Connecticut: 301

    Among the cities being hit hard with Syrian refugees are Chicago with 424; Troy, Michigan with 295; Dearborn with 220; Glendale, Arizona with 369; Tucson with 206; Phoenix with 191; Houston with 222; Dallas with 264; Buffalo with 217; Syracuse with 156; Atlanta with 210; and New Haven, Connecticut, with 240.

    Smaller cities also being hit hard

    Smaller cities getting pummeled include Stone Mountain, Georgia, with 58; High Point, North Carolina, with 103; and Clinton Township, Michigan, with 211.

    Many other cities, such as Helena, Montana; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Spartanburg, South Carolina, have been named as possible targets to receive Syrian refugees, but plans to deliver them have been delayed due to outcries of protest from local citizens.

    Amid the pro-refugee crowd on the Washington Mall Sunday were several counter-protesters.

    One man held a sign that said, “Saudi Arabia Refuses Muslim Refugees” while another had a sign that touted websites that provide information on the negative aspects of resettling Muslim refugees in America, including Corcoran’s Refugee Resettlement Watch, Understanding the Threat and the Center for Security Policy.

    “The organizers got mad and told our people they had to leave,” Corcoran told WND.

    The Obama administration started out slowly with the Syrian refugee program, but in April announced it would slice the vetting period from at least 18 months down to three months, which led to a “surge” of refugees from the war-torn country. They have arrived at a rate of nearly 400 a week since May.

    More than 98 percent of Syrian refugees who have entered the U.S. since last October have been Muslim, and the vast majority of those have been Sunni Muslim, the same sect as the Islamic State, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, al-Nusra Front, al-Shabab, Hamas and many other terrorist groups. The Islamist regime leading Turkey into the grips of Shariah law is also Sunni.

    And the Syrians make up only about a quarter of all refugees coming to the U.S. from jihadist-infested areas around the globe. The Obama administration is bringing in a total of 85,000 refugees from all countries in fiscal 2016. About half of the 85,000 will be Muslim, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

  • Regarding “The Obama administration started out slowly with the Syrian refugee program, but in April announced it would slice the vetting period from at least 18 months down to three months…,” it would be helpful were you to be so kind as to provide a link to the official government policy document explaining the policy change.

  • Who knows, the same few that put together the Benghazi “Operation Zero Footprint?” No real answer here. Starts with a Syrian home country reference checks / background check tailored to end with a tax payer paid airplane ticket. Say hi to your new neighbors in Helena. I wonder if GG will pull out of race so he doesn’t have to move to Helena?

    This Is How the Syrian Refugee Screening Process Works

    Under New U.S. Syrian Refugee Surge, Processing Time Reportedly Slashed to 3 Months

  • According to the State Department at,

    “The total processing time varies depending on an applicant’s location and other circumstances, but the average time from the initial UNHCR referral to arrival as a refugee in the United States is about 18-24 months.”

    I doubt the processing time has been reduced sixfold. Those reporting that it has may be referring to a few special cases in which the requisite information was immediately available, if such cases exist. Or, the report could be wrong.

    I appreciate your response, and thank you for responding with alacrity.

  • James, thanks, and I find your link interesting as I don’t see any reference or process to additional vetting for Syrian Refugees.

  • Bill, if you would spend more time listening carefully, and less time trolling in the service of right wingers trying to make political hay out of the misery of political refugees, you would hear national security experts covering their southern exposures by cheerfully acknowledging that no vetting system is perfect.

    The corollary is that perfect safety is not possible, and that those who insist upon it are knaves or fools. The proposition that a member of ISIS would pose as a refugee and expose himself to lengthy and deep vetting when it would be a lot simpler and safer to sneak across the border with a forged passport doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test.

    Over and out. Do have the last word.

  • Syrian Refugees and Illegal Immigrants. I guess we can pontificate about this all we want, but our alternatives are to pressure our Governor, State Representatives and Senators or not. Bottom line is for the voter to determine if they will vote for Hillary and more Syrian immigrants and continued open southern boarders with amnesty or Donald with the wall/selective deportation and establishment of Syrian safe zones in Syria with with humanitarian aid. It is not all that really complicated.

    • You’re still having difficulty separating Syrian refugees from illegal immigrants, Bill. The first group is vetted and the second is not. See the difference?

      As to the Donald’s wall: good luck with that. It has as much chance of happening as Trump’s plan Syrian safe zones. Smarter and more diplomatic people than Trump aren’t able to resolve the conflict. He can’t begin to grasp the complexities of the Syrian situation.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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