The Bus Full of Refugees That Wasn’t


Adam Kwasman, a Republican state legislator now running for Congress in Arizona, is one of those far right politicians who is simultaneously demanding that all of the refugee children be sent back immediately and that Obama is to blame for the mistreatment that led them to come here in the first place. And he has an anecdote to prove it:

Republican congressional candidate and state legislator Adam Kwasman had just raced up to Phoenix Tuesday morning from the Oracle protest over the expected arrival of dozens of migrant children at a shelter.

He had tweeted from the scene, “Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law.” He included a photo of the back of a yellow school bus.

Kwasman later told me he saw the migrant children. “I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces…. This is not compassion,” he said.

There was just one little problem: The bus he saw was kids on the way to a YMCA summer camp, not refugees. Amanda Marcotte accurately spots a pattern:

I have to imagine most of you, except of course our right wing trolls, are as appalled and even depressed at the display of raw racist hatred that has been emanating from the right in recent weeks with regards to the exploding number of unaccompanied minors migrating to the U.S., usually to escape severe poverty or violent persecution in Mexico and Central and South America. To hear conservative pundits and politicians tell of it, migrant children are only here because they want to rape white women and give diseases to white men while cackling evilly at how they tricked us all by being, you know, children. I’ll leave it to the more academically minded to parse out all the various sociological research about the reactionary approach to youth, race and ethnicity, etc. that is feeding into this disgusting display of pure inhumanity towards these extremely vulnerable young people.

But what I do know and know well is how right wingers consider their own public image and how to manipulate it. And “manipulate” is the right word, as conservatives feel fully entitled to lie and bullshit to present a “compassionate” image to graft over their real motivations, from waxing poetic about “liberating” Iraq to pretending that they worry about women seeking abortion to claiming they want to end universal health care to protect people to claiming they want to end the social safety net to help poor people. They know that hate doesn’t sell well and so will generally, in the face of bad press, try to come up with some line of bullshit about how they’re trying to help the people that they’re actually out to hurt. And so it was just a matter of time before they realized that screaming about how 12-year-old migrants are disease-ridden rapists was a bad look and they needed to feign concern about their welfare, so as better to accomplish the real goal of sending them back home to be murdered by gangs…

While this is funny, it also points to a larger problem that tends to flourish in racist and reactionary circles: The role that urban legends and assumption-drawing on very thin and anecdotal evidence plays in all this. There’s a lot of right wingers hearing someone speaking casually in Spanish at the grocery store, and by the time they get home, it’s turned into some elaborate morality play about the evils of immigration. Or seeing a kid gazing out of a bus window and, before you know it, you have concocted his whole life story. Or seeing Latino men walking down the street and drawing elaborate and unfair conclusions about what they’re up to. Or sharing legends about how you heard from a friend of a friend that some immigrant did something awful and therefore all your paranoia and hatred is justified.

Spot on.

Comments

  1. D. C. Sessions says

    And then there’s the sympathy that he and Sheriff Underpants have gotten for all of the unfair, biased, unAmerican, etc. criticism they’ve received over this whole business.

  2. frankniddy says

    While this is funny, it also points to a larger problem that tends to flourish in racist and reactionary circles: The role that urban legends and assumption-drawing on very thin and anecdotal evidence plays in all this.

    It does seem like a lot of political positions held by racists/reactionaries/right-wing nut jobs are informed for urban legends and paper-thin assumptions. See also: the anger at people on welfare having possessions.

  3. says

    This whole business has pretty well laid bare the moral bankruptcy of the modern conservative establishment in the US, hasn’t it?

  4. raven says

    wikipedia:

    In addition, Hispanics and Latinos made up 29.0% of Arizona’s population. The state has the third highest number (and the sixth highest percentage) of Native Americans of any state in the Union

    and

    Arizona is projected to become a minority-majority state by the year 2015 if current population growth trends continue.

    1. What is driving this rise in overt racism is a demographic shift.

    2. Arizona has 30% hispanics and is projected to go majority minority in 2015, 6 months from now.

    3. Polls show whites are afraid that minorities who become a majority will treat them, like they treated the minorities!!!

    Which in Arizona at least, they seem determined to make into a self fulfilling prophecy.

  5. says

    It’s a massive case of confirmation bias. They start with the story — brown people are bad or gay people are bad or rich people are job creators. Then any tiny shred that can be made to fit that story is glued on; anything that contradicts the story, no matter how clear and unambiguous, gets left behind.

  6. raven says

    This whole business has pretty well laid bare the moral bankruptcy of the modern conservative establishment in the US, hasn’t it?

    And fundie xianity.

    They are almost the same.

    Fundie xianity is just right wing extremist politics with a few crosses stuck on for show. AFAICT, the dominant part is the politics. Those crosses really are just for show.

    It’s all a package deal. Racism, misogyny, science hatred, creationism, global warming denial, worship of fossil fuels, right wing extremist politics, hate, fear, lies, etc..

    They own the Dark Side of our society.

  7. D. C. Sessions says

    What is driving this rise in overt racism is a demographic shift.

    Yeah — the flood of whites fleeing other parts of the country [1] for Arizona. Especially the retired (“snowbird”) contingent.

    I give up. I was born here, and between us we’ve been here for more than a century. We went to school with kids whose families were here before Statehood and whose ancestors came from China, Mexico, Canada, and who knows where else. Some came over the land bridge from Asia. It wasn’t perfect by a long shot but I liked it better then.

    I’m leaving. In a few months I’ll be living where blue-eyed people like us are in the minority and always have been. And that suits me just fine.

    [1] Where there are too many brown people.

  8. Crimson Clupeidae says

    feeding into this disgusting display of pure inhumanity towards these extremely vulnerable young people.

    That’s a feature, not a bug.

    Mission accomplished.

    Az is my home state, and I actually want to move back there, but I hate the politics.

  9. says

    I see a lot of cognitive dissonance with conservative friends posting on Facebook. They rant against illegal immigrants and that we should be taking care of our own instead, but then they consistently vote for Republicans who want to gut the social safety net, oppose unions and raising the minimum wage, etc.

  10. abb3w says

    So, can the “larger problem” pattern tendency be given empirical measure and experimental validation obtained; and if so, what’s underlying the pattern?

  11. uncephalized says

    @D.C. Sessions “I’m leaving. In a few months I’ll be living where blue-eyed people like us are in the minority and always have been. And that suits me just fine.”

    Getting out of Arizona is one of the prime reasons we are traveling semipermanently ourselves. We are making our home state a place to visit family rather than a place to live. (My reply to you on a previous AZ thread notwithstanding)

    Out of curiosity, where are you moving to?

  12. busterggi says

    “I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces…”

    Now why would a busload of kids be afraid of an angry mob, some of whom were probably carrying guns (it is Arizona), storming their bus, shouting insults at them ?

  13. D. C. Sessions says

    They rant against illegal immigrants and that we should be taking care of our own instead, but then they consistently vote for Republicans who want to gut the social safety net, oppose unions and raising the minimum wage, etc.

    That is “taking care of their own.” For suitable values of “their own.”

  14. Doc Bill says

    Clearly, Adam Klanman believes his ticket to DC is wooing the hard-core white bigots of Arizona.

    The video of him is bound to haunt him in November. When told the bus contained YMCA campers, without skipping a beat he said, “Well, they looked unhappy.” However it was actually observed that the kids were laughing and taking pictures of the protesters.

    What a macaroon. Is that the best Arizona can do these days?

    I lived there in the 60-70’s and the place wasn’t that crazy. What happened?

  15. Kevin Kehres says

    They know that hate doesn’t sell well…

    Since when? Hate is the only thing that such odious jerks as Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin, Thomas, Krauthammer, et al sell.

    Hate has made them very, very rich. And their Tea Party masters very, very powerful.

    That gets my nomination for the most egregiously incorrect statement anyone has made this year.

  16. D. C. Sessions says

    I lived there in the 60-70′s and the place wasn’t that crazy. What happened?

    About three million refugees from the Great Society, dedicated to small government. Many of whom are living on Social Security and military pensions.

  17. says

    The bus he saw was kids on the way to a YMCA summer camp, not refugees.

    Do you have any idea what kind of diseases those camps spread?

  18. D. C. Sessions says

    Do you have any idea what kind of diseases those camps spread?

    You mean, besides norovirus?

  19. dingojack says

    ‘A bunch of kids going to a YMCA* camp. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law.’

    @@

    Dingo
    ——–
    * ‘I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces…. This is not compassion’
    Well if the YMCA in America has the same evil reputation for perpetrating and covering-up child molestation as it does here, no wonder the poor kids looked terrified…

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