Journalists need to watch for the headfake

Leslie Loftis
2 min readFeb 1, 2017

The Immigration Ban is a Head Fake is all over my social media feeds. While I think Jake Fuentes sees conspiracy where there are rookie mistakes, his reasoning is sound and the piece is worth a read for various good points.

But I want to highlight one point that illustrates how difficult it is to get beyond the distractions. Consider the Department of Homeland Security press release after the courts started issuing stays. Most writers and media outlets saw defiance. "It is a much bigger deal that the DHS felt they could ignore a federal court than that Trump signed an EO blocking green card holders in the first place.” That was Fuentes take. I noted others in my own piece on the airport cases.

But the DHS was not ignoring a federal court.

Let us be kind and simply note that the press release aggravated an already angry situation.

But, oh the irony, the press release only sounded like defiance. It had tried to say that the stay doesn’t stop enforcement of the entire EO, and that DHS would follow the court orders but continue to enforce the rest of the EO. DHS even tried to calm things down by issuing a clarifying press release a few hours later, one that opened, “Upon issuance of the court orders yesterday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immediately began taking steps to comply with the orders.” but the media and public were already at peek frenzy with no inclination to listen.

Since then, I’ve noticed that the impression of the first press release stuck.

The news came fast and hard last weekend. Even for a lawyer commentator, it was hard to keep up. It was worse than waiting for the decision in Bush v. Gore and then watching TV journalists flip through a thick stack of still warm pages from the printer trying to find the holding. All that, only faster and more intense.

Last weekend had multiple executive orders issued on immigration. There were dualing press releases and cases filed all over the country. Fuentes is right that we need writers watching for the head fake, whether intentional head fakes or randomly misplaced shiny topic objects. Others, like Michael Tracey here, are right that it is almost impossible to keep up at the moment. When we can’t keep up, mischief happens. But some writers are working on it.

My full airport cases piece is here:



Leslie Loftis

Teacher of life admin and curator of commentary. Occasional writer.