Sunday, January 6, 2019
Fool Me Twice: Inconvenient Truths About Middle Easterners Inside Central American Caravans
Media Criticism from The Epoch Times
As the official network of the anti-Trump “Resistance,” CNN is known these days less for the journalistic prowess that led it to dominate cable news than for journalistic posturing and preaching. It’s anti-Trump 24/7/365, and the abandonment of its core values has cost it dearly, in terms of both ratings and reputation.
The worst offender is anchor Don Lemon, who has a two-hour broadcast every weeknight. In any given segment, no matter what the subject or its relevance, Lemon seems incapable of not bringing up that he is a gay black man who was a victim of child sex abuse and that he believes Trump represents both a personal and a political affront to him because of who he is—although he never quite explains why that is.
But lately, Anderson Cooper has been getting in his own angry, indignant, and condescending licks. The moralizing is cut with a self-righteous refusal to acknowledge facts and realities that challenge his biases and those of the network.
This, of course, isn’t the way journalism is supposed to work, skepticism being the mother’s milk of the news business. But in the age of the anti-Trump, skepticism has taken a backseat to proselytism and agitprop. A lot of newsrooms don’t do skepticism anymore if it means one of the following:
• challenging liberal pieties that have come to define the discourse on immigration, especially illegal immigration and the white-hot issue of Central American migrant caravans exploiting our asylum system to win residency in the United States; or
• having to report factual realities and evidence that might actually validate and legitimize Trump’s policy position—and the harsh rhetoric he uses to articulate them—or highlights the substantive validity of what he is saying, however badly phrased or misframed.
Cut to a recent “ focused on the migrant caravan that originated in Honduras and is traveling north to the United States’ southern border. The caravan had just crossed a bridge between Guatemala and Mexico after being stalled for a day, in what the media was calling a “showdown” between armed Mexican border guards and the thousands of Central Americans said to be solely “fleeing poverty and violence.”
On Twitter, President Donald Trump insisted that the caravan represented a “national emergency” and that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.” Later that day, he repeated the charge in the Oval Office with the media present. The claim drew scorn and outrage from much of the press, with Trump’s insinuation that terrorists were using the caravan as cover being seen as a ploy to fan fear and induce public panic in the face of the looming midterm elections.
Repeating a pattern established during the 2016 campaign, the media focused more on Trump’s scary rhetoric than on any underlying truth. There was also a refusal to correct the blind spots and biases that corrupted coverage of the Great Family Separation Crisis on the Texas border with Mexico just a few months earlier. Central American border-crashers still wore a halo, idealized in such a way to avoid acknowledging the following:
• that many were not, in fact, fleeing political persecution but were seeking economic opportunity;
• that the vast majority would attempt to defraud authorities on the border with bogus asylum claims;
• that hostile elements from outside the hemisphere might be in the mix.
The “AC 360″ segment epitomized the eye-rolling condescension and indignant scoffing at Trump, and at any and all available facts that might have substantiated his insistence on undesirable Middle Eastern infiltration. In his opener, Cooper told the audience: “A senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN there’s no evidence that ISIS or any other Sunni terror groups are trying to get into the country by coming across the southern border. No evidence. … No evidence of terrorist infiltration in the migrant caravan now making its way through Mexico. Zero, none.”
He was leading the broadcast with this, he explained, “because simple facts matter and the quiet truth bears repeating.” With just two weeks to go until the midterm elections, Trump “has chosen to fill the public arena with the exact opposite of a quiet truth or simple facts and he’s doing it in a way that seems designed to scare people,” he said, adding that the president of the United States is “out there loudly, repeatedly, unabashedly spreading falsehoods.”
Cooper followed with a video from the field, but only aired it after apologizing for doing so. “We’re only going to show this video sparingly because you can make the case that to play wall-to-wall pictures of thousands of men and women making their way north only serves the president’s purpose of making it appear more threatening than it actually is,” Cooper maintained.
CNN correspondent Bill Weir said that all he saw were “impoverished and genuine people” streaming north and Mexican villagers greeting them with freshly cooked tortillas and Christian gestures of welcoming a stranger. Trump was wrong to smear them, one migrant said, telling Weir through a translator: “We’re not terrorists. We just want to work. We’re running away from a form of terrorism in Honduras.”
Joining Cooper was CNN’s Van Jones, who dismissed Trump’s warning as a “talking point,” and a toxic one at that. Jones took pains to point out that “just because someone is Middle Eastern—of course, there are no Middle Easterners there—but doesn’t mean that they’re bad, it doesn’t mean that they’re terrorists.
“You know, we’re in this world now where Trump can say ‘Middle Eastern,’ and everybody then immediately somehow begins to think of ‘terrorist.’ Most of the terrorists that we, instances we’ve had in the United States, are not being committed by Middle Eastern people, by Muslims, they’re being committed by right-wing extremists in our country. So this is lie, on top of lie, on top of lie, wrapped in lies, and then with some lies on top of it.”
Jones said he appreciated the effort to check out the facts but still found it unseemly. “You’re talking about sick kids, you’re talking about pregnant women. They’re not demanding they’re being—they’re asking for help, they’re applying for asylum,” he said.
CNN’s resident supporter of Trump, Steve Cortes, said there might, in fact, be something behind the president’s charge. Jones countered with an extraordinary burst of virtue-tripping and guilt-mongering.
“The idea you’re going to participate in this smear campaign against these sick, hungry, scared people, it’s not fair, it’s not right. And I’m sad to hear you do it,” Jones said.
Later on in the broadcast, Cooper introduced Washington Post columnist Max Boot, who said that Trump was “firing up the base” with “appeals to prejudice and bigotry.”
Boot, who got the Saddam Hussein story on weapons of mass destruction exactly wrong during the Iraq invasion, insisted that Trump was trying to “pretend that these small numbers of impoverished Latin American refugees are somehow Middle Eastern terrorist[s]” bent on invading America. A “cult of personality” was at work, Boot maintained, appealing to “white nationalism,” to “racism,” and to “xenophobia.”
‘It Is Absolutely True’
For students of asymmetrical warfare, the use of refugee flows as cover to insert a fifth column of insurgents wouldn’t be surprising in the least. And it takes less than a minute of googling to find information on how Middle Easterners have, in fact, been showing up on the southern border with increasing frequency, courtesy of sophisticated and very far-flung human smuggling networks. And a significant complement of them has been found to have ties to terror groups who find our lax asylum-seeking procedures quite appealing.
Cooper and Jones had to work hard not to bring that into the discussion, preferring to look at the issue in terms of its Election Day salience rather than its implications for national security. The idea of Middle Easterners using the caravan as a cover was anathema—an insult to refugees and to a proud U.S. tradition of offering sanctuary to them. In doing so, CNN completely ignored one of the most knowledgeable intelligence analysts on the subject: former Texas state counterterrorism analyst Todd Bensman, who was actually traveling to New York for a speaking appearance the next day in an event sponsored by the Washington-based , where he has become the senior fellow for national security.
A former reporter who traveled through the Middle East in the years after 9/11 to report on vulnerabilities in our immigration and asylum systems that terrorists can use to their advantage, Bensman joined the intelligence community after getting a masters from the Naval Postgraduate School, where he wrote a thesis titled “The Ultra Marathoners of Human Smuggling: How to Combat the Dark Networks that Can Move Terrorists Over American Land Borders.” I met him in San Antonio last spring on a reporting trip I took through the Rio Grande Valley just before the last border crisis. He is laconic in that shy Texas cowboy kind of way, but tells it like it is…