Lessons in Media Literacy

  • How stories about the border are designed to scare you, one way or the other;
  • How right-wing sites promoted a false story about immigrants displacing veterans from New York City hotels;
  • Heather Cox Richardson on the debt crisis and how Republicans are using it for political purposes, never mind the global impact

NY Times, Megan K. Stack, 20 May 2023: If You’re Hearing About the Border, Someone Is Trying to Scare You


The U.S.-Mexico border was full of uncertainty in the days before May 11. Title 42, the Trump administration-crafted health ordinance that had been invoked millions of times to turn migrants back from the border, was about to expire, and nobody knew what to expect. Many predictions were lurid and sensationalistic: Masses of desperate people would pour into the country, flood the border towns first and then press northward.

“Right-wing media says there are 700,000 en route,” a friend texted me from the border city of El Paso. “What if true?” (It wasn’t.) The Biden administration sent 1,500 troops to help with the expected influx. Border Patrol agents handed out fliers urging migrants sleeping on El Paso’s sidewalks to surrender to custody.

The writer covered the border in the late 1990s, so has some familiarity with what goes on there:

Here’s the truth: If you’re hearing about the border, it’s likely that somebody is trying to scare you. Broadly speaking, Republicans want you to be scared of immigrants, and Democrats want you to be scared of Republicans. Our fixation on terrorists has faded, but we have retained, as a legacy from that frightened era, the habit of thinking about the border as a security risk that must be mastered.


Right Wing Outlets Ran Fake Story About Homeless Vets Being Ejected From Hotels To Make Room For Migrants:

For example,

Fox News: 15 May 2023: Biden admin, NY officials slammed after homeless veterans allegedly booted from migrant hotels, subtitled “As many as 20 homeless veterans reportedly booted from hotels in upstate New York”

NY Post, 13 May 2023: Outrage grows over vets evicted from New York hotels to house migrants

Newsweek, 13 May 2023: Outrage grows over vets evicted from New York hotels to house migrants

Look at the sites making such claims. Turns out, the claims weren’t true. To their credit, the Newsweek and NY Post items have this identical editor’s note: “This non-profit CEO has since been accused of misrepresenting the veterans who have been displaced for migrants. ” But nothing on that Fox News page.

Other sites have been pointing out the true situation.

The Hill, 19 May 2023: Story of homeless veterans booted from hotel for migrants was a hoax: NY lawmaker

NY Times, 20 May 2023: Ugly Tale of Migrants Displacing Veterans Makes Waves and Then Dissolves, subtitled “The eviction in Newburgh, N.Y., became an instant talking point. The problem was that it apparently had not occurred.”

Verify, 19 May 2023: No, homeless veterans were not kicked out of New York hotels to house migrants, subtitled “News reports claimed multiple homeless veterans were evicted from hotels in New York state due to an asylum seeker program. But that didn’t happen.”

Associated Press, 19 May 2023: Group accused of making up story about homeless vets being evicted to make room for migrants


The seven links about this story that I’ve posted were the first seven links that came up when I searched Google News for “homeless veterans nyc” about an hour ago.


As always, a good resource is the Interactive Media Bias Chart® and the adage that “reality has a liberal bias” (e.g. as coined Stephen Colbert, and discussed by Paul Krugman).


Today from Heather Cox Richardson, about the debt ceiling.

The Republicans’ threat to blow up the U.S. economy—and, with it, the global economy—comes at a time when the economy is, in fact, quite strong and President Biden’s measures have significantly reduced the deficit after Republican tax cuts exploded it. Destroying the economy on Biden’s watch would undoubtedly help to hamstring his reelection campaign. It would also kill popular support for his return to a government that supports ordinary Americans rather than concentrating wealth at the top of the economy, as Republicans insist—contrary to economic studies—will expand the economy and benefit everyone.

Politicians of all stripes know that most people don’t pay much attention to politics, and tend to blame whichever side they don’t like for any kind of calamity that makes the news. This is part of understanding how the news and media works. The current calamity, however, has global consequences, even if many in the US, especially conservatives, simply don’t care about anything global.

Their attack on the economy is more than that, though: it is an attack on the nation’s global standing. Yesterday, Christopher Chivvis, the director of the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment, wrote that the debt ceiling crisis brings into question “how serious Washington is about leading the world…. In an era of global strategic competition, the United States will be entering the ring with one hand tied behind its back if its leaders can’t make progress on their domestic disagreements and moderate vicious political polarization.”

“Foreign leaders will doubt American reliability more and more, hurting Washington’s relationships with the very countries whose loyalty it’s competing for with Beijing,” he wrote, as other countries doubt that the U.S. can commit to a program for longer than a single administration. Moreover, the crisis will hurt the power of the dollar, whose domination of the international monetary system has brought the U.S. extraordinary advantages.

“Washington’s dysfunction also helps its autocratic adversaries in the global contest over ideology,” Chivvis notes.


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