An abun­dance of ac­cu­sa­tions and an ab­sence of proof

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

We all know that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was se­cretly born in Kenya. And that there will soon be enough Mus­lims here to take over the coun­try.

And that Pres­i­dents Hoover, Tru­man and Eisen­hower col­lec­tively de­ported 15 mil­lion il­le­gal aliens.

We all know these things — if by “we” you mean cer­tain con­ser­va­tive blog­gers and the gullible peo­ple who be­lieve them and if by “know” you mean, “take as gospel, even in the ab­sence of ev­i­dence.” Oth­er­wise, “we” don’t know any­thing of the sort.

So I am in­trigued by Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brewer’s re­cent state­ment: “We all know that the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple that are com­ing to Ari­zona and tres­pass­ing are now be­com­ing drug mules.” She was re­spond­ing to a re­porter who had asked her for proof of an ear­lier state­ment that most il­le­gal im­mi­grants carry nar­cotics for drug car­tels.

Brewer went on to say, “They’re com­ing across our bor­ders in huge num­bers. The drug car­tels have taken con­trol of the im­mi­gra­tion. ... So they are crim­i­nals. They’re break­ing the law when they are tres­pass­ing and they’re crim­i­nals when they pack the mar­i­juana and the drugs on their backs.”

You’ll no­tice the one thing she didn’t do was an­swer the ques­tion. The one thing she didn’t do, or even “at­tempt” to do, was ex­plain upon what statis­tics, facts or chain of logic she based her claim.

I will say right here that I have no idea whether that claim is true, though I sus­pect it’s not, given that those who stand lit­er­ally on the front lines of the im­mi­gra­tion bat­tle — U.S. Border Pa­trol agents — have cast doubt upon it.

Mario Es­calante, a spokesman for the Border Pa­trol, told The As­so­ci­ated Press the ser­vice could not even pro­vide the num­ber of de­tainees caught car­ry­ing drugs, but “I wouldn’t say that ev­ery per­son that is ap­pre­hended is be­ing used as a mule.”

T.J. Bon­ner, speak­ing for the union that rep­re­sents the agents, went a step fur­ther, telling CNN Brewer’s claim doesn’t “com­port with re­al­ity.”

You’d think these men, be­cause of their pro­fes­sional stand­ing, could speak with author­ity on the mat­ter. You’d think their opin­ions would carry weight. You’d think that would give pause to the gover­nor’s airy, un­sub­stan­ti­ated as­ser­tions. You’d be naive.

In­deed, hours af­ter speak­ing with the re­porter, Brewer re­peated those as­ser­tions in a state­ment. It is, she said, “com­mon knowl­edge” that Mex­i­can drug car­tels use il­le­gal im­mi­grants to smug­gle nar­cotics.

“Com­mon knowl­edge.” she says. “We all know,” she says. Again, note the lack of proof. The state­ment is quan­tifi­able, yet the gover­nor doesn’t bother to quan­tify. But then, you only quan­tify for the ben­e­fit of the head. You toss the raw, red meat of emo­tion for the ben­e­fit of the heart. In this case, the emo­tions be­ing ap­pealed to could hardly be clearer: na­tivism, xeno­pho­bia, and that old standby, fear. And they don’t ask any ques­tions.

Maybe you re­mem­ber the In­for­ma­tion Age. At the dawn of the In­ter­net, we were promised a Jef­fer­so­nian utopia of in­stantly avail­able in­for­ma­tion that would make us a wiser, more en­light­ened cit­i­zenry.

In­stead, we find our­selves stranded in a Mis­in­for­ma­tion Age where truth is mul­ti­ple choice, geared to your po­lit­i­cal be­liefs and one need never bur­den one’s cher­ished and pre­con­ceived ideas with any­thing as fusty and out­dated as a de­mand for ver­i­fi­ca­tion, au­then­ti­ca­tion, fact.

But some of us are can­tan­ker­ous apos­tles of the old school, some of us re­flex­ively sus­pi­cious of ap­peals to the heart that will­fully by­pass the head — es­pe­cially when made by those in po­si­tion to make pol­icy and law on the ba­sis of things “we all know.” So it seems not a lot to ask that next time Brewer says the ma­jor­ity of il­le­gal im­mi­grants are drug mules, she fi­nally do the one thing she has failed in three at­tempts to do.

Prove it.

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