As news of the attacks in Paris spread, ostensibly conservative websites began running breathtaking reports about an invasion of “refugees” (their scare quotes).
Here’s one from a site I see frequently on my Facebook feed, The Conservative Treehouse.
Later on, after the photo and scary subhead, the blog post links to Powdered Wig Society‘s post on the topic. Here’s how they handle it.
Aren’t you scared? Don’t you want to share these posts with your friends so they can see the mass of Islamic terrorist men that are streaming into our country?
The better questions are: do you care about the truth and do you want to undermine your credibility and reputation so conspiracy theorist bloggers can make more money on pop-up ad revenue?
If you do just a tiny bit of research, you can find that only a handful of Syrian refugees have arrived in New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole. The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported that in total the state has received 13 Syrian refugees.
According to the Catholic relief agency in Louisiana helping to place the refugees, they’ve worked with two families. Yep, families, which include, I have to assume, women and children.
If you want to actually know about those coming in, here is a news story from Fox 8 in New Orleans about the refugees arriving.
The claim that most of the refugees are 18-45 year old men is false. The Fox 8 story does include this quote from a terrorism expert and former FBI chief: “It’s going to be the 18 to 45-year-old male for the most part.”
But the context of that is him speaking of those who will undergo the most scrutiny before being allowed to enter the U.S. He’s saying anyone in that demographic will face extensive screening before they have any hope of getting through.
That is the demographic from which we will investigate and reject the most people, not accept. The stories are objectively wrong in what they claim.
According to the UN, less than half of the Syrian refugees are male. And more importantly, only 22% are males aged 18-59.
— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) November 16, 2015
But what about the photo both sites use? That’s dozens of men. Clearly, this is a group of male Muslim terrorists invading the Big Easy this weekend under Obama’s command, right? Shockingly, not so much.
With a simple Google search, I discovered it’s a Reuters photo … from Hungary … in September. Here’s the new story from The Christian Science Monitor.
OK, so it’s in Budapest and not New Orleans and it’s from two months ago not this weekend, but that’s still all men claiming to be refugees … except that little boy holding a banana peel on the right side of the front row, but ignore him. This is just about military aged men invading Europe and America, right?
Well, here’s the other photo that ran with the CS Monitor story.
Not quite as ominous looking as the other photo is it?
So what is actually happening with Middle Eastern individuals and families seeking refugee status?
The conservative sites point to an AFP story to show that Obama is bringing in 10,000 Syrian refugees. What they don’t talk about, from the same story, is the scrutiny under which these refugees are placed.
Some 18,000 of these people — chosen because they are the most vulnerable whether through family circumstances, injury or disability — have been referred to the United States for resettlement.
Once the US State Department receives their case files it employs NGO contractors to pre-screen them for eligibility for refugee status, then they are subjected to health and security checks.
Officers from the Department of Homeland Security fly from Washington to the camps and conduct interviews with candidates, seeking to weed out what a US official called “liars, criminals and terrorists.”
Each case file is reviewed by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s terrorist screening center, the DHS, the Department of Defense and “other agencies” — US intelligence.
“Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States,” another State Department official told reporters.
Meanwhile they receive medical tests and those with communicable diseases, most commonly tuberculosis, are given treatment before they can travel to the United States, often delaying the process.
Understanding all the facts of the situation completely undermines the story being pushed by these websites.
This is why I immediately discount any story I see from these types of sites. They aren’t concerned about the truth.
Here’s just a small list of fake or false news stories that were written and/or spread by conservatives and Christians across social media:
- Was a Vermont Pastor Sentenced to One Year in Prison for Refusing to Marry a Gay Couple?
- Is a Gay Man Suing Bible Publishers for $70 Million?
- Is There a New Eyewitness Document About Jesus Performing a Miracle?
- Did Pope Francis Say “All Religions Are True”?
You cannot lament the dishonesty of mainstream media outlets while promoting and sharing stories from conservative blogs that do nothing but exaggerate, mislead and blatantly lie to push their agenda.
As I wrote about one of the numerous Facebook privacy hoaxes:
Your credibility is expendable and can run dry quickly. I find it almost impossible to not evaluate differently the words of someone who shares hoaxes and conspiracies on social media. They have spent their trust and have little means to gain it back.
No, Syrian refugees are not pouring across our borders. No, the president is not bringing in thousands of Muslim men with terrorist backgrounds and inclinations.
It is no less blameworthy to lie in the name of conservatism than to lie in general. Stop sharing these stories. Stop visiting these sites.