ISIS terrorists swarming across the Mexican border!!! -- or not

Duncan Hunter is an officer in the Marine Reserves, a Republican member of Congress from San Diego and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. So when he goes on Fox News and utters nonsense like this, a good number of people believe him.

That's right. At least 10 members of ISIS have already been caught trying to cross our border from Mexico. And if 10 have been caught, heaven knows how many more have successfully infiltrated!!! Or maybe not. Danny Vinik of the New Republic went to the Department of Homeland Security in a quest to verify Hunter's claims. He was told:

"The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground. DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border."

That seems pretty definitive. But of course, we all know they're lying because ... Benghazi!!

Then we have Tom Cotton, also a military veteran, also a Republican congressman. He hails from Arkansas, and serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and on its subcommittee on terrorism. According to the polls, he will probably become the next U.S. senator from Arkansas.

This is what Cotton told a group of Arkansas voters recently:

"Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico, who have clearly shown they're willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas. This is an urgent problem and it's time we got serious about it, and I'll be serious about it in the United States Senate."

Again, wow. ISIS is collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to cut off the heads of the good citizens of Arkansas? Given Cotton's background, you might think that maybe he has access to inside information or briefings that would allow him to make such a statement. If so, you would think incorrectly. When asked for sources, Cotton's campaign referred reporters to rightwing fringe websites such as Townhall and Breitbart and an "exclusive" from World Net Daily.

Seriously.

My own favorite version of this story is the Islamic prayer rug that was supposedly found by an "independent

American security contractor", whatever that is, near the border in Arizona. As breathlessly reported by Breitbart, the story raises all sorts of questions. For example, why would Islamic terrorists carry their prayer rugs all the way from Iraq or Syria only to abandon them in Arizona, to mark their trail? Why didn't this "independent American security contractor" -- which I suspect is a trumped-up way of saying half-assed militia member -- take the "rug" as evidence so it could be evaluated by experts? Instead, as this unnamed "security contractor" told Breitbart:

"That's when I saw this thing laying around. And I was like, 'What the hell is that?' We walked over there and I didn't really want to pull at it not knowing what was on it. I poked a bit at it with a stick and noticed some of the Arabic writing and was just like, 'Oh boy.' I snapped a couple of photos and then went on our patrol."

Now, does that sound like a trained, professional "security contractor"? And why did the photograph of this "rug" show no "Arabic writing," and why does it look so much like a worn-out soccer shirt with an Adidas emblem of the type seen throughout Mexico?

It's been amazing and more than a little disconcerting to see this meme spin faster and faster within the right-wing echo chamber, picking up velocity and transforming from "they COULD do it" to "they're PLANNING to do it" to "they're ALREADY doing it!!, all without a smidgen of evidence to support it. The lack of rational analysis and responsible leadership, particularly by people elected to and seeking high office, is remarkable. They're like a pack of little Cub Scouts on their first overnight camping trip, sitting in the dark telling each other scary stories to the point that they're all too terrified to go to bed, and wishing they had Mommy nearby to kiss them on the forehead and make it better.