Headlines Always Lie: Reuters and the Muslim Registry Myth

by Rob Hansen

I’m growing steadily appalled at the quality of news reporting—which is pretty impressive, really, given how appalled I was already.  This time, Reuters is breathlessly telling us “Immigration hardliner says Trump team preparing plans for wall, mulling Muslim registry”.  But scratch the surface and a far different story emerges.

First, it’s good the transition team is preparing plans for a wall.  It truly is because the wall is completely unworkable from an engineering perspective.  I suggest you do the math involving a 25-foot wall with an eight-foot foundation, three feet thick, and over 2,000 miles of terrain.  Start by converting to metric for ease of analysis: ten meters total height, one meter thick, 3.2 million meters, equals thirty-two million cubic meters of concrete.  The Hoover Dam used almost exactly a tenth of that.  This plan would use so much building material it would completely and inevitably wreck the world construction industry, meaning this plan is completely and inevitably awful.  There is no way to polish this turd.

When you read about someone planning the impossible, cheer them on: their delusions are on a head-on collision course with some weapons-grade reality.  Make some popcorn and enjoy the show, because it’s better than anything you’ll find on basic cable.

The second part of this headline is just flat-out false.  The story offers zero support for the claim of a Muslim registry. Reuters themselves know it, as evidenced by their second paragraph:

“Kris Kobach… said in an interview that Trump’s policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.”

Think about that paragraph.  It isn’t the case that the President-Elect has decided to do this.  He hasn’t yet been presented with the option.  In fact, the whitepaper outlining the option hasn’t been written.  It hasn’t even been started.  Instead, some guys sat around drinking too much coffee and muttered about, “You know, we should reinstate NSEERS.”

NSEERS was a Bush- and Obama-era program that required people entering the United States from high-risk countries to go through extensive background checks before being allowed in the country, and sometimes going so far as to require them to periodically check in with the government.  It was not a religious registry: it applied based on national origin, not religion.  It was shut down in 2011 after it turned out to have never worked particularly well.  It had the toxic mix of bad public relations and no benefit, so it was quietly mothballed without further ado.

Bringing NSEERS back would likely be a stupid move: programs that get shut down for good reasons generally should be left shut down.

But the Reuters headline—“mulling Muslim registry”—is just grade-A fearmongering.

Don’t believe headlines any more, people, not even from news outlets that were considered reputable just a few years ago.  You must do your own research, dig for your own facts, independently confirm things.  Otherwise this spate of fake news will get a lot worse before it gets even a little bit better.