Earlier this week, the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage vertical decided to try and poke at people with a very provocative headline. They claimed that they had data that would prove that there was no migrant surge taking place at the border right now. The piece is obviously as misleading as it gets and everyone knows it.
Now, the authors seem to have realized the error of their ways and they are taking a completely different approach at this point. They could have simply done this from the very beginning but we digress. The headline has been changed, as they are now willing to acknowledge that the surge is real.
This is a major change but it was very predictable one. Of course, there are some who are going to point out the obvious. Authors are not always responsible for writing their own headlines, so it is possible that their words were being twisted for more engagement. This is something that lots of publications are resorting to, especially now that we are in squarely in the “this story has been hidden behind a paywall” era.
The words surge and crisis were even taken out of a paragraph, so that they could blame the issue on a common seasonal shift. However, there was an even bigger change that went much deeper than one simple paragraph. The first major mistake that the writer made was focusing on the idea of a seasonal surge.
Sure, this crisis may be seasonal by nature but that does not mean that it is any less of a crisis. That’s a major misnomer. Think about it this way: a hurricane is not a year-round problem but when they take place, they are a major crisis, right? It’s the same principle that should be applied to the crisis that is occurring at the border right now. Every year, this surge takes place but that does not mean it can be waved away so easily.
The piece was also incredibly misleading because they were only willing to focus on the number of migrants who have arrived at the border. That’s not the actual crisis that is currently being discussed, though. Child migrants are currently arriving in record numbers and overwhelming our detention facilities. That’s the true issue and focusing strictly on an overall number is a huge mistake.
Pundits and chart-makers are using CBP data from Feb to insist nothing unusual is happening at the border.
Beat reporters are getting data about what's happening in March, as the govt mobilizes FEMA, opens 7 emergency shelters and says it'll be a 20-year high.
That's the gap. pic.twitter.com/g9gKblR23p
— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) March 25, 2021
The revised story seems ready to admit to that fact but it’s too little, too late. When the original story has already had a chance to widely circulate, it seems somewhat pointless to try and backtrack after the fact. Wait until you see how they managed to turn this one back around (we have kept the new part in bold so that you can see the difference).
“What is more unusual at this moment is the increase in border crossings by unaccompanied minors, which appears to be more than just a seasonal pattern. This poses a more distinctive challenge for the Biden administration, although it is also possible that there will be a similar drop in crossings by minors during the summer months,” the revised piece reads.
This was obvious to anyone who reads the Washington Post on a regular basis. The newly added link that was attached to the erroneous story shows that there at least 17,000 minors who could be apprehended at the border by the time this month is over. The chart also shows what a spike this would be from a historical standpoint.
This analysis is based on last month's data. It's March 24.https://t.co/GYHtnviuyN
— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) March 24, 2021
Again, how did they possibly miss this information? It would be one thing if they hadn’t already covered the issue in depth. If we had to guess, we would have to assume that the author who was responsible for the initial research may have given them a tug on the sleeve. It’s a sad state of affairs when “hey, maybe you would like to be right for once? just saying.” is what passes for high-level journalism.