Two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump last week include clauses that seem designed to provide Breitbart.com and other xenophobic right-wing media outlets with fearmongering content about the supposed criminality and dangerousness of immigrants, particularly Muslim ones.We expect our government to generate dry but accurate reports rooted in statistical reality. We don't expect our government to replace data with emotion-driven anecdotes. But that may be what's about to happen.
A little-noticed clause in Trump’s executive order temporarily banning nationals from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and barring admission of refugees, signed Friday, states that ... the federal government will release biannual reports detailing terrorism-related offenses and gender-based violence and honor killings committed in the U.S. by foreign nationals.
Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement likewise included a clause calling for the weekly publication of “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens” in jurisdictions that don’t honor federal requests to hold arrestees in jail due to their immigration status (so-called “sanctuary cities”).
... the purpose of these orders is not to provide the American people with accurate information in proper context. It’s to scare the hell out of them -- particularly Trump’s base -- by taking advantage of a network of right-wing outlets that have spent years driving their audiences into a frenzy with horror stories of crimes committed by foreign nationals.
This could be seen as Steve Bannon's way of using your tax dollars to find material for stories at Breitbart, which, as Gertz notes,
aggregates reports of Muslim “honor killings” from around the globe... they have an entire tag devoted to the subject. They have a similar tag for stories about child marriage in Muslim countries. And one detailing instances of “female genital mutilation.” They also regularly suggest that American Muslims are secret operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood.But this isn't just about Breitbart. Fox and the Drudge Report have been obsessed with gathering anecdotes on these subjects. For more than a decade, Free Republic has used the tag "crimaliens" to collect stories such as "Illegal Alien Rapes Nuns."
To conservatives, anecdotes are the news. At right-wing sites, it's impossible to escape the impression that statistics on crime by the undocumented or violence by Muslims are somehow elitist -- the real truth is in the anecdotes, and only effete bubble-dwelling liberals object that these anecdotes may be unrepresentative.
Our new president, of course, is a voracious consumer of right-wing media. His public statements make clear that he draws conclusions based on emotion-stirring anecdotes rather than data. Judging from this past November's election results, this may be true for 46% of the electorate as well. The goal of the right-wing media -- and, now, the federal government -- is to get that number permanently over 50%.