Next week is Holy Week, meaning that the year is flying by. Our spring webathon, asking for your support, is almost complete, and already 2,561 wonderful and generous readers have donated $292,140, as of this writing. If you have donated, thank you. If you have not . . . maybe it’s worth kicking in a couple of bucks for everything NR has provided for free? Or becoming a subscriber if you’re not already?
On the menu today, Joe Biden made some predictably false claims about migrants at the border during his press conference yesterday . . . which raises the question of where all of these efforts to “fight disinformation” are. Oh, and Hunter Biden is in trouble again, which is arguably now so common, it might not be news.
Joe Biden and the ‘Avalanche of Misinformation’
An amazing amount of our time and energy in politics is devoted to determining what is actually going on and arguing about what exactly is going on. We spend almost as much time trying to convince people that a problem exists as we do discussing what to do about a problem.
To pick one example, what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border? White House press secretary Jen Psaki: “Children, presenting at our border, who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations, is not a crisis.” The Washington Post: “The migrant ‘surge’ at the U.S. southern border is actually a predictable pattern.” Ruth Coniff: “There Is No ‘Border Crisis.’”
The thing is, if you look at the numbers, it sure looks like a crisis:
More than 16,500 unaccompanied migrant children were in federal custody as of early Wednesday. More than 11,500 of those children were being housed in shelters and emergency housing sites, while another 5,000 were stranded in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, which the Biden administration has said are not appropriate for minors.
U.S. agents along the southern border are on track to apprehend more than 16,000 unaccompanied children in March, which would be an all-time high, according to an analysis of government records reviewed by CBS News. The previous record-high came in May 2019, when more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors entered U.S. custody along the southern border.
That’s a jump of 45 percent over the previous all-time high. If something we don’t want to happen — unaccompanied migrant children at the border — is happening a lot more frequently than it ever happened before, that sure sounds like a crisis, doesn’t it? If anything bad — car accidents, shootings, heart attacks — nationwide jumped to 45 percent higher than the previous all-time high, wouldn’t we think of that as a crisis?
Yet yesterday, President Joe Biden stood before the American public and insisted that “nothing has changed,” and that everything we were seeing — to the extent the Biden administration is allowing the public to see it — was normal: “Truth of the matter is nothing has changed. As many people came, 28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration. 31 percent in the last year of — in 2019, before the pandemic, in the Trump administration. It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March.”
Biden went on to say that the “vast majority, the overwhelming majority of people coming to the border and crossing are being sent back.” That’s not true at all. “Just 13 percent of nearly 13,000 family members attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border were returned to Mexico between March 14 and March 21 using the public health order.”
This week brought the news that Prince Harry was joining the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. In a statement announcing the move, he declared: “The experience of today’s digital world has us inundated with an avalanche of misinformation, affecting our ability as individuals as well as societies to think clearly and truly understand the world we live in. It’s my belief that this is a humanitarian issue, and as such, it demands a multi-stakeholder response from advocacy voices, members of the media, academic researchers, and both government and civil society leaders.”
This “avalanche of misinformation” that the Aspen Institute is so worried about . . . what if some of it comes from the types of people the Aspen Institute considers the good guys — such as Joe Biden?
Our large and respected institutions — the mainstream media, big tech companies, the heights of academia, think tanks such as the Aspen Institute — are well-practiced and on guard to spot and dispel any misinformation that comes from the right side of the political spectrum. But they either don’t see, don’t care, fear confronting, or support misinformation that comes from the left side of the political spectrum.
Yeah, it’s really annoying that we have to deal with random guys on the Internet who claim that the coronavirus isn’t dangerous but the vaccine is. Or Trump’s nonsensical claim that he won the 2020 election in a landslide. Or Sidney Powell, or Lin Wood, or Alex Jones. Or Marjorie Taylor Greene contending that the Capitol Hill rioters were not Trump supporters.
But we also have to deal with much bigger, much more prestigious voices who tell us Andrew Cuomo’s “competent and, at times, charismatic handling of the coronavirus crisis in his state has made him one of the most popular politicians in America today.” And the credulous coverage of that Florida Grim Reaper guy, who argued that people were taking reckless risks with others’ lives by going to the beach. And the nonsensical claims of the so-called “top scientist” leading Florida’s pandemic response, who has held three jobs in her field, with all three ending in her being terminated and criminally charged. And that Georgia’s decision to allow gyms, churches, and hair and nail salons to reopen represented an “experiment in human sacrifice.”
Does any of that count as “misinformation” that needs to be dispelled by an esteemed think tank?
We’ve also had to deal with news coverage and analysis for much of the past year contending that Europe was handing the pandemic so much better than the United States. The arrival of vaccines altered that assessment dramatically. The U.S. has administered 40 shots for every 100 people; only two European countries (Malta and Hungary) are above 18 shots for every 100 people. (And mind you, this is individual shots, not full vaccinations.)
All year long, we’ve been dealing with claims and warnings about “super spreader” events that turned out not to lead to any measurable increase in cases. Remember that infamous crowded swimming pool at the Lake of the Ozarks that went viral and was seen as a giant example of what people weren’t supposed to do? No big outbreak; one positive test.
Remember when playing college football in 2020 was considered wildly reckless and dangerous? There were indeed thousands of student athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 over the past year. Yet young people in prime athletic condition are among those least likely to have a serious health problem from the virus, and a study of pro athletes found few cases of inflammatory heart disease and no cases of “adverse cardiac events” from resuming athletic competition, thankfully.
And even if the accusations that the NCAA was being reckless and gambling with players’ lives wasn’t deliberate misinformation, could we at least acknowledge that the risk to student athletes was overstated? I’ve got a long list of beefs with the NCAA, but could we at least agree that it doesn’t want its players to die?
This isn’t even getting into the early 2020 coverage that insisted the flu was more dangerous than the “Wuhan virus” and discouraged the wearing of masks.
Where’s the misinformation? It’s like Palmolive; you’re soaking in it. And I would argue that disinformation in the form of widely held conventional wisdom that turns out to be inaccurate — Andrew Cuomo is doing a great job, stricter lockdowns with tougher enforcement are better lockdowns, schools can’t be opened without a massive outbreak that will kill lots of people — often turns out to have worse consequences than the kind of disinformation that is most commonly discussed — e.g. your Aunt Edna sharing a false Facebook story that Bill Gates is putting microchips in vaccines. The crazy claims from random people on social media get a lot of pushback, almost immediately. The conventional wisdom from political and cultural elites gets challenged far less often and far less quickly.
I’d like to believe that the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder really does want to dispel false information in our public discourse, to lead to a better-informed and wiser general public. But I won’t believe that it’s anything more than a comfortable group of left-leaning elites kicking around kooky no-name schmoes for social-media posts until I see it ruffling some feathers about widely held, inaccurate beliefs among progressives.
Hunter Biden — the Gift That Keeps on Giving
Look, Democrats. Either you can believe that people who lie on their application for a firearms license should be prosecuted, or you can argue the latest allegations against Hunter Biden are no big deal. But as Charlie Cooke observes, you can’t do both:
Politico notes that “prosecutions for it are exceedingly rare,” which is true. But this raises more questions than it answers — among them: “Why is this true?” “What is the point in Form 4473 if it’s ignored?” And “Why, given that we are not bothering to prosecute people who lie about being eligible to own guns, is Joe Biden so keen to add new gun-control laws to the books?”
Over and over again, Joe Biden and his party insist that we need to add more bureaucracy into the gun-buying process. Indeed, were “universal background checks” to be imposed upon the 37 states that have thus far declined to add them, Form 4473 would be a part of every single gun transaction — including, in many cases, wholly non-commercial transactions. Why, if it’s so obviously pointless?
A law that is rarely if ever enforced really isn’t much of a law, now is it?
ADDENDUM: Someone will be guest-writing the Morning Jolt next week. As they used to say on Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.” Have a blessed Passover, Easter, or whatever you celebrate.