If You Want To Believe This Country Is Falling Apart, Just Ask Those Who Are Supposed To Be Keeping It Together

from the lies,-damn-lies,-and-statistical-fuckery dept

If you really want to believe the nation is unsafe and under threat from foreigners of all kinds, the government entities in charge of ensuring your safety are more than happy to oblige your dark fantasies.

No one should be surprised that the [Texas] Department of Public Safety overstated the number of "high risk" arrests they made as part of the border surge, as AP's Paul Weber ably reported last week. "Among the 'high-threat' incidents was a trailer that unlatched from an RV and rolled into oncoming traffic, killing another driver in a town more than 150 miles from the border. Other crimes lumped in with suspected killers and human traffickers were speeding teenagers and hit-and-runs that caused no serious injuries."

Nothing sells like fear. And the Department of Public Safety is in need of some sales. There's $800 million in border security dollars at stake. At least. The DPS would like $300 million more this year because it's just damn unsafe to share a border with a foreign country.

If securing that money requires portraying any influx of Mexican citizens as an apocalyptic crimewave, the DPS can certainly do that. There are no limits to its statistical manipulations. Grits for Breakfast points to the Corpus-Christi Caller's derisive editorial detailing the DPS's bullshittery.

The DPS classified 1,800 arrests as high-threat. And apparently many of them actually were. But, according to an Associated Press analysis, many of these arrests turned out to be for drunken driving, failure to pay child support and minor drug possession. The DPS didn't bother to differentiate user amounts from smuggler amounts in its statistics. It also considered 60 counties to be border-region, which undoubtedly would tax the imaginations of even our best and brightest middle school geography teachers.

It's not just a border thing. The same number are used to nail down Drug War dollars. The DPS says "high threat" traffickers, conveniently obscuring the fact that nearly 30% of the busts it references were for less than a gram of cocaine or marijuana.

The DPS responded to the AP investigation with the rather astounding claim that the numbers it was inflating to obtain more border security dollars weren't being misrepresented to obtain more funding.

In response to the AP's findings, the Department of Public Safety said it will recommend removing child support evaders from the list and signaled a willingness to stop classifying other arrests as "high threat." However, it defended the data overall, saying it isn't intended to measure border security, even though the figures are included in briefings to lawmakers.

Whatever. Lawmakers certainly believed the DPS was making border security "measurements" with its twisted facts. That's all that matters. While there are some disbelievers, like Rep. Terry Canales ("It's deceptive to say the least..."), there were certainly far more who bought into the "fear for your safety" narrative.

And why wouldn't they? Using illegal immigrants to gather tax dollars is a longstanding Texas tradition. If the DPS feels comfortable calling deadbeat dads "high threats," it's only because its role models -- a long string of indistinguishable governors (Rick Perry, Greg Abbott) and alleged serial killer Sen. Ted Cruz -- have built sustainable political careers by capitalizing on a fearful narrative not actually backed up by numbers. And if it's not Mexican immigrants, it's ISIS setting up franchises right over the fence.

So, yeah... this:

It's not just a Texas thing. The federal government does the same thing and has for years. The Drug War hasn't resulted in any less funding over the past forty years despite steep drops in crime rates and legalization efforts in multiple states. The existential threat of terrorism makes sure everyone from the DHS to local PDs have plenty of grant money to buy surveillance tech to hunt down amateur photographers and fast food thieves.

Donald Trump's speeches have portrayed America as a war zone populated by criminals, sounding for all the world like he still believes it's the mid-80s and everyone's just now hearing about crack. Clinton is little better, willing to sacrifice encryption in the name of national security and put boots on the ground in response to state-sponsored hacking efforts.

The truth is America has never been safer. Crime rates have generally remained at historic lows for much of this decade. For all the talk about a "war on cops," officers are safer than they've been in fifty years. Law enforcement wants us to belive sex trafficking is an epidemic, but long, well-funded investigations routinely fail to turn up any evidence of this. Any number of law enforcement and parenting groups portray every passing vehicle and pseudonymous social media account as potential child molesters, but the pedo playground they believe the internet is simply doesn't exist.

All these histrionics have almost nothing to do with safety or any government agency's concern about the wellbeing of those putting money in their pockets. It's about the money. It always has been. The primary goal of any government agency is to secure the same amount of funding as last year, if not a little more. Whatever it takes to achieve that goal is deemed acceptable, even if it means using stats to lie to those controlling the purse strings.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2016 @ 3:04pm

    When Frank Herbert wrote the line “Fear is the mind-killer.”, I’d like to think this was the sort of bullshit he had in mind when doing so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2016 @ 3:15pm

    Whatever it takes to achieve that goal is deemed acceptable, even if it means >using stats to lie to those controlling the purse strings.

    If lies don't work, good old fashioned blackmail is always an option. 'Vote for more funding for me, or I'll leak this to your opponent next election so s/he can run attack ads that you're soft on [whatever]'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2016 @ 3:17pm

    Listen to Deep Throat

    "Follow the money."

    Still the best advice for ploughing through bullshittery.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2016 @ 3:25pm

    The country is falling apart but only from its own bureaucracy and greed. If anything, I fear the Government and Police far more than any criminals or terrorists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2016 @ 3:43pm

      Re:

      That means they've done their job well.

      Seriously though... I see the Government and Police spreading more FUD and terror than any foreign terror agents.

      War is peace. Slavery is freedom. We've always been at war with our government.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Nov 2016 @ 4:34pm

    I don't want to believe it...

    ...but the facts speak for themselves. The government creates fear, so that they can sequester more money for fear abatement rights abolition. The government coddles corporations, so that the corporations will support certain political campaigns, and therefore ideologies. Members of the government appoint positions (bureaucrats and judges) with ideology that is guaranteed to support their antics.

    I don't want to believe it, but the evidence says...so, I believe it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2016 @ 6:28pm

      Re: I don't want to believe it...

      You're forgetting the money is going right back to the corporations to purchase equipment in the form of surveillance gear, weapons, armor, vehicles and hacking services.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 12:17am

      Re: I don't want to believe it...

      No need to attribute malfeasance to explain the state of affairs. A public servant loses nothing by playing up the risks, but if they give a non-hysterical evaluation then when something goes wrong (as it will sooner or later because low risk does not mean zero risk) then they will lose their job unless they can say "I told you so."

      The problem lies with the public being risk intolerant. Too much "better safe than sorry" and not enough "shit happens." Either extreme leads to problems, but right now we've got way too much of the former.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re: I don't want to believe it...

        "The problem lies with the public being risk intolerant."

        Yep, but there is no solution for these people. Just like the poor, they will always be with us. We need to learn to tell them to stfu and deal.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2016 @ 4:38pm

    "The primary goal of any government agency is to secure the same amount of funding as last year, if not a little more."

    Budget is the name, fudging is the game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 4:01am

    So answer me this...

    "The truth is America has never been safer. "

    Does that mean we can keep our guns? Or do yo still want those?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 6:52am

    The incentives are all wrong

    As a couple people here have pointed out, the incentives are all wrong. As I found when I used to do immigration law, there is no downside for the examiner to refuse a qualified person, but there may be severe consequences for allowing someone who later turned criminal. The incentive is not to do your job to the best of your abilities, but to exaggerate the dangers.

    Bonus that it helps your department get more money. In the score-keeping world of bureaucratic government, money is prestige. Getting more means you're more important.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    schnick (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 6:57am

    Isis over the border schmorder

    They are right here, training!

    Jihadi Training Camps

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 11:14am

    Us foreigners sure screwed over the natives. We murdered raped and stole their land when we coveted it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.