Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The right doesn't want to be confused with facts

There's a couple of stories out today that support this thesis. First of all, you may have heard that Arizona's controversial immigration law is needed to stop the rampant crime that those dirty Mexicans are importing. The state's governor, Jan Brewer, alleges that they're finding headless corpses everywhere. But what's really going on?

The Arizona Guardian Web site checked with medical examiners in Arizona's border counties, and the coroners said they had never seen an immigration-related beheading. I called and e-mailed Brewer's press office requesting documentation of decapitation; no reply.

Brewer's mindlessness about headlessness is just one of the immigration falsehoods being spread by Arizona politicians. Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world's No. 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong.

This matters, because it means the entire premise of the Arizona immigration law is a fallacy. Arizona officials say they've had to step in because federal officials aren't doing enough to stem increasing border violence. The scary claims of violence, in turn, explain why the American public supports the Arizona crackdown.

Source (h/t Blaque and Pensito). So in other words, it's a big lie.

My second example comes from our very own Stockwell Day, who is trying to justify his government's tough-on-crime stance using dubious claims about Canada's crime rate:

Although the official crime rate is going down, a senior Harper government minister says there is reason to disbelieve the statistics and spend billions of dollars on new prisons: an “alarming” increase in unreported crime.

Stockwell Day’s argument is based on a Statistics Canada survey, conducted like a large poll, which showed a slight rise in unreported crimes – though the increase was in property crimes and petty theft, not violent crimes. And the survey was conducted in 2004 – an ironic twist given that Mr. Day made his case only minutes after he maintained that the long-form census is not very reliable because it can be as much as five years out of date.

Mr. Day, the Treasury Board president, is not the first tough-on-crime Conservative politician to disbelieve the official statistics on reported crimes. Senator Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu said last month that “someone, somewhere, is manipulating the numbers.” The latest Statscan figures, released last month, show the number of crimes reported to police dropped 3 per cent last year, and was 17 per cent lower than in 1999.

But Mr. Day also argued that a tough-on-crime agenda is needed to keep dangerous criminals off the streets and deter them with stiffer punishments. The Harper government has dismissed arguments that tougher sentences alone won’t dent crime rates, but now finds itself defending a multibillion-dollar prison-expansion program when crime rates are falling.

From the Globe. Trouble is, there's more crime on TV than ever, as the news outlets trip over each other trying to cover every lurid detail of every crime that happens anywhere on the planet. Now I won't deny that there's a certain fascination with some of those stories, but when the news is dominated by this stuff it can skew the public's perception of crime rates. And unfortunately, right wing politicians love this stuff.

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