The Corner

It Depends Whom You’re Lying to

Michelle Malkin does a great job in her column today excoriating the serial criminality of Jose Antonio Vargas, the Filipino illegal-alien Pulitzer Prize winner (perjury, false claims of U.S. citizenship, identity fraud — he got into the White House, for heaven’s sake, using a fake SS#). His confessional stunt in the NYT wasn’t so much a case of spilling his guts because he couldn’t keep a secret any longer than the opening shot of a carefully planned lobbying campaign to revive the Dream Act amnesty in Congress.

The funny thing is that it doesn’t seem to be having the intended effect. Sure, ordinary people are outraged — just look at the reader comments. But the main intended target of his story was other reporters, so they’d put their own shoulders to the wheel and push amnesty in their commentary and “news” reporting even more strongly than they do already.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the amnesty — reporters don’t like being lied to. Here’s the Poynter Institute take on the piece. And here’s Slate’s Jack Shafer, who prefaces his piece by pointing out that “I believe in open borders,” just so you don’t confuse him with a bad person:

I get on my high horse about Vargas’ lies because reporter-editor relationships are based on trust. A news organization can’t function if editors must constantly cross-examine their reporters in search of deliberate lies. I’m more disturbed with Vargas for lying to the Washington Post Co. (which—disclosure alert!—employs me) than I am about him breaking immigration law. His lies to the Post violated the compact that makes journalism possible. … The trouble with habitual liars, and Vargas confesses to having told lie after lie to protect himself from deportation, is that they tend to get too good at it. Lying becomes reflex. And a confessed liar is not somebody you want working on your newspaper.

So, apparently the employer-employee relationship is not “based on trust.” Or the police-citizen relationship. Apparently, journalism is special, a place where trust and truth are more important because journalism is more important. Shafer doesn’t mind if illegal aliens lie to the police, lie to their employers, lie to the DMV, lie to immigration authorities, lie to Social Security, lie to the Secret Service, lie to their schools, landlords, banks, etc., etc., etc. But lying to the Fourth Estate? The Guarantors of Democracy? The bulwark against greedy capitalists and fascistic police? Who does Vargas think he is?

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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