‘Malice of Absence’ in Media Coverage of Border Assault

A photo of a mother and two small children running from a fogging canister, shot by Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon this past Sunday, has been splashed across just about every news outlet in the world. It is the media’s “money shot” from the migrant “caravan” that has now reached the border between Tijuana and San Diego.

It depicts a mother and two small children on the Mexican side of the border running from what appears to be tear gas allegedly fired by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from the U.S. side of the border. But the use of this photo, much like the one of a crying child snapped a few months ago by Getty Images photographer John Moore earlier this year, evokes the tag line from Sydney Pollack’s 1981 film about journalistic malfeasance, Absence of Malice: “Suppose you picked up this morning’s newspaper and your life was a front page headline… And everything they said was accurate… But none of it was true.” Fast forward 37 years and the tag line here might read, “Suppose you picked up this morning’s newspaper and Border Patrol agents doing their jobs was a front page headline… And everything they said was accurate… But none of it was true.”

The photo has not been doctored in any way. What is shows appears to be accurate. It’s what it doesn’t show, and the deliberate failure of many media outlets to provide the proper context, that makes it a distortion of the truth.

This now ubiquitous photo does not show what led up to the moment photographer snapped it. It does not show the hundreds of migrants storming the border in an attempt to breach it. The photo does not show migrants hurling rocks – potentially lethal weapons – at U.S. Border Patrol agents on the other side of the border. It does not show that the vast majority of the migrants are not mothers and small children, but rather young men.

It’s not as though the countless news outlets that ran this photo were unaware that some of the migrants had turned violent, or that caravan provocateurs were using women and children as human shields. Rather, caravan organizers were counting on the fact that a compliant media would broadcast the images of frightened children rather than rock-throwing men – and once again, the compliant media came through for them.

But, despite the media’s best efforts to be accurate without being truthful about what is taking place at the border, occasionally the truth does leak out as it did in a Monday morning CNN interview with Rodney Scott, Border Patrol Chief for the San Diego sector. The truth is that the Border Patrol was not firing tear gas at women and children, but rather legitimately protecting themselves from rock-throwing men trying to assault them.

FAIR is also compensating for malice of absence in the media coverage of the orchestrated assault on our border and sovereignty. A team of FAIR staff members is deployed at the border to get a firsthand account of what is taking place. That information is being disseminated through dozens of talk radio outlets and on FAIR’s social media sites. Stay tuned as FAIR continues to provide information and context that is conspicuously missing from much of the media’s coverage of this event.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    Like it or not, the far left agenda for open borders and other socialist programs is working. They are managing to import a large number of Democrat “obligated” voters who they gather up and bus to the polls. They have managed thru leftist judges to encourage assaults on the law as its stands and negate attempts to enforce reason. Many, if not most, of the masses get their opinions from the news media in the form of sound bites and selective “reporting” . I was hoping Trump would be able to do more, use his authorities to stop some of it. He has pretty extensive powers to declare emergencies and such. Just do it until somebody makes you stop, i.e. the Supreme Court. It didn’t stop Obama from doing that.

  2. avatar

    I think what is confusing the public is the mis- wording of this whole event.
    It should stop being labeled as a “Migration”
    The proper label is “Invasion”

  3. avatar

    The Army Was Just at the Border As a Political Stunt?

    I wouldn’t call a violent attack by 10,000 asylum seekers a political stunt….how about a violent MASS invasion attempt. Thank God the Army was there to stop it.

  4. avatar

    Ira, it’s admirable that your peeps are down there to give us a glimpse of the truth. Unfortunately, anything you write or exhibit will be dismissed as the biased product of a “hate group.” This is the classic Leftist tactic; it’s known as ad hominem. When they can’t argue with facts, they’ll attempt to discredit the speaker.

  5. avatar

    Thank goodness for alternative media like talk radio to help get our message out. The political left and their
    mainstream media allies have a sinister agenda, but they can’t mask their true intentions as easily now as they could 30 years ago.