You’ve probably noticed that there hasn’t been a lot of content on this blog over the last six months or so. As I’ve alluded to several times, I’m currently dealing with ongoing health problems, the nature of which make not just writing about books, movies, games and all the fun media we usually cover here, but even just digesting them for review, extremely difficult. This naturally means that there’s not a lot I could actually write about even if I had the energy to do so (I know it doesn’t look like it, but those Let’s Read posts actually take a fair bit of effort).
However, I do want to try and stay productive in some way, even just to alleviate my own boredom. Recently, I got all Mad Online about some alt-right people getting Mad Online about a video game, and the experience of getting outraged over other people’s outrage was kind of cathartic. The world sort of turned into total bullshit at the same time as my own personal life, and I’m not saying that pushing back against the rising tide of right-wing extremism will somehow alleviate my own health problems through a hitherto unknown process of psychological transference, thus earning me a Nobel prize in medicine, but isn’t it worth a shot?
They give you money when you win one of those things, did you know that?
Anyway, there are a lot of anti-immigration memes doing the rounds at the moment on social media, meme images being the primary knowledge currency of the alt-right, and I thought we could have some fun debunking them. Yes, I know it’s not what people come to this blog for, but I do have a big video-game related post I’ve been working on slowly for a while, which should go up some time later this month. If you’re not interested in the #Politics, stick around for that.
We’re going to start off with this picture, posted to Twitter by a delightful account called @DefendEvropa (I can’t tell whether that’s a typo or an attempt to look vaguely Roman), one of those anti-immigration groups with a Germanic rune for a logo. This symbolizes pride in their white heritage and absolutely nothing else please don’t google it.
Here’s how the good
volkfolks at Defend Europa presented the image:
Pretty straightforward, really. There is no refugee crisis. These supposed “refugees” are actually being picked up and transported to Europe by various government entities…in the middle of the ocean, for some reason. That doesn’t seem very convenient, but I’m not a member of the
JewishGlobalist conspiracy to wipe out the white race, so what do I know?
Like most alt-right memes, the picture is presented with no context or source, so I had to really bust out my investigatory skills and spend ten seconds on google image search to find out where it came from: this New York Times article from June 14th, which is about how humanitarian efforts at rescuing refugees crossing the Mediterranean are encouraging more people to attempt the journey, often on dangerous boats provided by organized crime groups.
Even without being told that, you could probably work out the basic gist of the article just by looking at the text on the picture itself, but Defend Europa and their fans don’t seem to have actually spent a lot of time looking at the image before using at as evidence for their conspiracy theory. And you might be wondering, what’s even the point of debunking this? The claim is so obviously absurd that it basically debunks itself, right?
And you’re correct. Like with hardcore holocaust deniers, anyone so far down the rabbit hole that they’re insisting the current refugee crisis is a coverup or a hoax is probably beyond saving. But it’s a nice illustration of how cavalier these people are with the truth, and how willing they are to swallow any bullshit that confirms what they already believe.
Speaking of Defend Europa, I can tell they’re going to be a good source for posts like this going forward, as they’re astonishingly prolific when it comes to the old image memes. For example:
The article this image came from, Nearly 10,000 Migrants Suspected Of Crimes, is sourced from a Dutch newspaper report on crimes committed by asylum applicants staying in the country temporarily while their application is processed. I unfortunately don’t speak Dutch and can’t find a translation online, so I’ll give the article’s author the benefit of the doubt (probably unwisely) and assume that they’re accurately reporting the basic numbers in the documents. But even granting that leeway, there’s a lot of dishonesty going on here.
First of all, while the story itself clarifies exactly what demographic the data is talking about, the two ready-to-tweet images that accompany it refer only to “migrants”, which is a rhetorical ploy frequently used by anti-immigration groups. To them, anyone from certain geographical or cultural backgrounds (often just anyone from a Muslim-majority country) who travels to a European country is a “migrant”, regardless of how they came there or why. Refugees, wealthy tourists, asylum seekers, expats, people who enter the country both legally and illegally, are all given the blanket designation of “migrant” in the understanding that many people conflate that word with “refugee.” Sometimes even the children and grandchildren of those people, born in Europe and legal residents of their home country with full citizenship, are labelled as migrants. This is done to flatten the complicated reality of migration into Europe into a specter of Muslim “invaders” streaming across Europe’s borders.
Looking at the crime numbers themselves, the chart above has the somewhat confusing “burglary (without breaking in)” as the most commonly committed crime…which is odd, because burglary is defined as the illegal entry of a building with intent to commit some other offence, so burglary “without breaking in” is like saying that someone has been arrested for murder (without killing anyone) or theft (without stealing anything). The actual article states that shoplifting was the most common crime committed by asylum seekers, and I suspect that whoever created this image invented the nonsensical burglary-without-burglary designation because shop-lifting doesn’t sound scary enough (remember, they’re counting on most people who see these images never checking the context, and they seem to be right–most of their blog posts have 0 comments, in contrast to a fairly sizable twitter following).
You can also see that “crimes against someone’s integrity” has been artificially inflated by putting rape and spitting in someone’s face into the same category. I don’t know a lot about the Dutch legal code, so maybe this is how those crimes are classified, but even if so, it is clearly dishonest to include rape and violent assault in the same data point as threatening someone without providing a breakdown of how many people committed each specific crime.
The second image included with the article (which, strangely, isn’t actually commented on by the text itself) lists numbers of migrants from “safe” countries, but doesn’t explain what’s actually meant by that. In the context of asylum seekers, a “safe” country is one that’s considered safe for the asylum applicant to return to, meaning that applicants from those countries will probably be rejected and have to go back.
This doesn’t actually help anyone with an anti-refugee agenda, as it proves that refugees–the people most urgently in need of entry to Europe and the ones most often accused of having nefarious intent– are the least likely to commit crimes. I suspect that’s why no explanation for what a “safe” country means in this context was given in the article; looking at the image out of context, it’s easy to assume it means something entirely different.
Anyway, that’s just a small sampling of dishonest statistic usage from a fairly small-time anti-immigration group. If you happen to see your racist uncle sharing these images on Facebook, feel free to point him to this post.
Let me know if you find content like this informative, or at least entertaining. It’s a lot easier to write than my usual blog posts, and it’s nice to feel that I’m doing some small part to stymie the tide of anti-immigrant prejudice taking hold in Europe at the moment. If you’ve run across any similar claims that you’d like me to take a look at, leave a comment below and I’ll keep them in mind for future posts.