Maybe I’m splitting hairs but these words from Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs have me perplexed:  “recent refugees.”

In a larger context he’s telling the Magic Valley Times-News about inaccuracies from bloggers who claimed Syrian refugee boys raped a local 5-year-old girl.  In stories from the Times-News and Idaho Statesman there are claims the bloggers have their facts dead wrong.  In one story a state director of refugee resettlement explains no Syrian refugees have been resettled in Twin Falls and also uses the opportunity to denounce hate and bigotry.  Remember she gets a check for administering the program.

In the other story it’s mentioned a handful of Syrian refugees are living in Twin Falls County and receiving forms of government assistance.

Now, keep in mind refugees, once brought to the United States, are given a brief housing voucher and then left on their own.  Which means they have the right to move about.  The same liberty most of us enjoy.  So people who aren’t “recent refugees” could be long ago refugees who have children who misbehave.  While the prosecutor says no rape was committed he does admit something happened between the young boys and the little girl and the records are sealed because all involved are children. Much like homicide I suspect there are degrees of sexual assault.  For instance, murder is a degree of homicide as is manslaughter but not all homicides are murder and not all homicides are manslaughter.

In one of the earliest opinion blogs I came across the writer made it explicit the two youngest boys weren’t physiologically ready to penetrate the little girl.  Remember the case of the CBS reporter assaulted in Cairo?  It wasn’t a rape.  It was sexual assault and still pretty serious stuff.

Courtesy, Bill Colley.
Courtesy, Bill Colley.

What I think is now taking place in media is an effort to portray concerned local citizens as toothless and bigoted Visigoths who are looking to stake and fire Muslim refugees and, yet.  I saw a video from a Twin Falls City Council meeting last week and it appears some elected politicians are dripping with condescension for constituents.  Members of the public could just as well have legitimate concerns.  Think about what they’ve been exposed to in media in only a few short weeks.

Some months ago I read a travel story and it described nearby Ogden, Utah as being a trip back to the 1950s.  We’re a lot like Ogden in Twin Falls and I dare say local government is still locked in 1959.  Today the idea is generally to get out in front of a story and defuse the tensions.  We’ve got this “recent invention” called the Internet and it drives conversation in directions that can quickly careen out-of-control.  My advice would be to drop the condescension and speak to the public as equals.  It’s a good start when it comes to corralling Internet rumors.

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