Well, no. The headline asserts something for which there is absolutely no basis whatsoever. I made it up out of whole cloth. Which puts me in the company of the Dallas Morning News:
In Houston alone, about 300,000 sex trafficking cases are prosecuted each year.
(Dallas Morning News Editorial: Cracking down on sex traffickers).
This was an editorial, and people read editorials and rely on them to form their opinions. And so it would seem that there is a “sex trafficking,” which is commonly understood to mean the sexual slavery, epidemic in Houston. Except the number is just as baseless as mine.
To their slight credit, the Dallas Morning News retracted its claim, after people like Bennett, Alkon and Olson called bullshit. But it didn’t offer any explanation beyond the number being “inaccurate,” and therefore it deleted it from the editorial. Yet, retractions are worthless compared to the initial assertion.
Mistakes happen? Sure. But mistakes of this magnitude should never make it past fact-checking. It’s inexcusable.
On the other hand, advocates of a cause will throw whatever baseless claims against the wall they can to see what sticks. Remember the animal rights registry folks?
Ms. Beecher stated that Westchester County ranks number 9 out of 62 counties in the state for cases filed for animal abuse and this is why they are asking for animal abuser registry. She said 71% of abused or battered women report that their abuser has hurt or killed animals, 32% of battered women with children report that their children have hurt or killed animals, and 25-48% of battered women report delaying leaving their abuser for fear of their animal being abused.
She said there was a woman (not in Westchester) in a domestic violence shelter who received photos from her mother of her estranged husband cutting off her dogs ears with garden shears and he was threatening to hurt her other animals. This woman left the shelter to go rescue her animals and she has since disappeared.
Ms. Beecher continued by saying 40% of battered women report that they are forced to perform sexual acts with animals, 48% of rapists have committed acts of animal cruelty as adolescents, 30% of child molesters have committed acts of animal abuse, and 15% of active rapists also rape animals.
So someone on the Westchester County Board asked for a source for these numbers and statistics, right? Well, no. Maybe they would have if they weren’t so busy wiping tears from their eyes and applauding.
The Fourth Estate serves as check and balance on government, which is why it was deemed worthy of protection in the First Amendment. Many people confuse the fact that various mainstream media don’t promote their political agenda as proof of unworthiness. Whether it’s the disingenuous positions taken by Fox News or the liberal pap of the New York Times, they have failed us because they take a political view of the world that doesn’t confirm ours. That’s a different issue.
The problem of making up “facts,” like 300,000 sex trafficking cases are prosecuted each year in Houston alone, or 200,000 innocent defendants are in Houston prisons, is substantively different from reaching what we might think are the wrong conclusions from the facts. When the newspapers spout false numbers, or allow others to spout false numbers which are then repeated uncritically, they not only make every reader stupider for having done so, but create the myth that frames our perspective.
Reading a lot, as I do, and being critical of claims of “facts” by nature, as I am, the problem is both far more pervasive and far more subtle than this rather flagrant gaffe by the Dallas Morning News suggests. When I read the stories, the reporters’ spin is usually obvious, much as it is in this twit by Ken White:
When the Dallas Morning News blithely tossed off the 300,000 number on a subject so serious and incendiary as sex trafficking, it was so shockingly wrong as to invite skeptics to call them out. But what if it had used the number 6,743? Surely, the number wouldn’t be so shockingly out of whack as to jump off the page as nonsensical, and yet it too could have been made out of whole cloth. But you wouldn’t question it and no one would ever know.
Be skeptical. It’s not, as I’m regularly accused, a matter of being a hater, but a matter of concern for accuracy. Scrutinize everything, including the assertions of your friends who promote causes which you support. If your cause is as just as you think it is, the facts will back it up. If not, then the problem isn’t with the facts, but with your choice of causes.
If you look, chances are pretty good that you will find pervasive nonsense masquerading as fact, both in the mainstream media as well as alternative media. Just because it’s in writing doesn’t make it true, and just because someone you believe says so doesn’t make them right. And that applies to me, and here, as well as anywhere else. Be critical. It doesn’t make you a bad person, but it may save you from being stupider.
So how many innocent people are sitting in Houston prisons? How the hell would I know?