First they issued statistics alleging 60% of teen girls at the ranch were pregnant or had kids, without adding that more than 80% of the girls so identified disputed the agency's assessment of their ages. (See "Lies and Statistics") I'm not sure I've ever seen a case where the state repeatedly labels supposed abuse victims "liars" in the press, but that appears to be DFPS' current media approach.
Then yesterday at a hearing of the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee, DFPS said they're investigating "possible sexual abuse of some young boys." Uh ... based on what, exactly? They provided the committee zero detail beyond the salacious topline allegations, which dominate this morning's headlines. Anything's "possible," but abuse allegations against FLDS in other states have focused on underage girls, to my knowledge never molestation of young boys. It's similarly "possible" the sun will rise in the west tomorrow, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Even more disingenuous was out-of-context testimony to the committee declaring 41 kids had been found to have had broken bones at some point in the past. Not mentioned: That's probably a LOWER rate of broken bones than experienced by kids in the outside world! Reacting to an account of the hearing by MSNBC, UCLA law prof Eugene Volokh explains why that assertion was misleading:
the particular news account here strikes me as a highly unhelpful, and potentially misleading, use of statistics, because it (1) includes the numerator in the headline, and leaves the denominator for paragraph seven, and (2) suggests that the number is significant evidence of abuse, without even trying to provide a comparison with the broken-bone rate among ordinary, nonabused children. The story does later quote the state agency as saying, "We do not have X-rays or complete medical information on many children so it is too early to draw any conclusions based on this information, but it is cause for concern and something we’ll continue to examine," but that does little, I think, to undercut the attention that MSNBC focused on the 41 number in its headline.After Prof. Volokh posted that, FWIW, MSNBC actually changed its web headline, though the story still includes the misleading statements he cites. Volokh is right these news accounts are, to say the least, "highly unhelpful." But grandstanding and irresponsible media coverage isn't the whole story. IMO the release of such speculative information to the press amount to overt media manipulation by DFPS. Their court case appears weaker and weaker as time goes on, so they're trying the case in the press.
I'd like to believe DFPS is not acting in bad faith by releasing these data, but I can't help but wonder, if there really was widespread abuse going on at the YFZ Ranch would this CYA disinformation campaign be necessary?