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In psychology, the illusion of truth effect is “the tendency to believe false information if it is repeated often enough.” Politicians use the illusion of truth by repeating the same message every opportunity they have, even if the message has nothing to do with the discussion at hand. It is done to cement the preferred narrative within the community. Journalists feed the illusion of truth by repeating what appears to be the truth by not providing the necessary context to the issue. In the television news cycle, seconds count making the sound bite the key ingredient in the news narrative. When television reporters report the news, they rely on the sound bites they record. When only one sound bite is available, it becomes the truth.

This is the case with Yvonne Rosales and the controversies over the district attorney’s office. Rosales has chosen to remain silent on the controversy. It has been said, but not confirmed, that her silence can be the result of the gag order imposed by the judge on the Walmart case. Accepting that the gag order is the reason does not explain why her office refuses to address issues, such as what effect the District Attorney Information Management System (DIMS) may or may not have had on the dismissal of criminal cases in recent days. Other than to allege that the dismissed cases are “mostly cases that were not presented to the DA’s office through the DIMS process,” the facts to back up that statement have not been released by the district attorney’s office.

El Paso News submitted an open records request on August 26 with the district attorney’s office asking, “of the cases that are being dismissed in recent days, how many are DIMS cases?” In response we received a request on September 7 asking that we “provide dismissal date, cause number and defendant information.” Because we do not have that information, we filed our open records request asking for it.

We assumed that the district attorney’s office would have that information because they had issued the statement that many of the dismissed cases were DIMS cases that were not presented to their office.

The unresponsiveness of the district attorney’s office to the controversy has allowed one voice to become the narrative on Yvonne Rosales. Facts are scarce in the controversy. Court filings are not facts, but rather one perspective of an issue. The legal system is adversarial with each side presenting information, often dubbed as facts, that better serves a specific purpose. The news media relies on sensationalism to create the click bait that generates the eyeballs to their content. The eyeballs in turn convert to measurements used to sell advertising or raise donations.

The controversy over the district attorney’s office is an “illusion of truth” created for a specific purpose. We can only speculate what the purpose is. Some argue that it is to remove a duly elected official from office to make way for another – making the truth a political one. Others argue that the community has been put in danger because of an “incompetent” district attorney. What the truth is, is not known.

What we believe the truth to be is just an “illusion of truth” being driven by self-serving operatives fulfilling personal biases, working for a political agenda and news outlets simply looking for eyeballs to report success to their supporters. A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth, is often attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, but was explained by Adolf Hitler as the “big lie” in Mein Kampf. Nonetheless, propaganda is about creating an illusion of truth to drive an agenda, often a political one.

What the community currently knows is what the court documents allege and what Omar Carmona’s petition to remove Yvonne Gonzalez from office states. It is Carmona’s petition that both starts the “illusion of truth” and proves it.

On August 24, 2022, Omar Carmona filed his Petition to Remove District Attorney Of The 34th Judicial District Yvonne Rosales and Jury Demand. In it Carmona makes several statements in support of removing Rosales from office.

One statement of fact that Carmona makes is that “Rosales’s [sic] actions potentially violated” Texas law. According to Carmona’s court filing, the “Texas Ethics Commission released an opinion, stating that Rosales had used governmental resources for political purposes.”

This is factually incorrect.

What the Texas Ethics Commission released was a draft of a proposed opinion that was never adopted by the Commission. Although it was on the Texas Ethics Commission agenda for discussion and action, the opinion was never adopted because it was removed from the agenda by Rosales’ office before it could be voted on. As such, there is no ethics opinion alleging what Carmona states as fact in his petition.

This is akin to a lawyer arguing they won a motion in court by sharing a proposed motion that the judge has not signed into an order. Attorneys frequently submit proposed motions for a judge to sign that are either not accepted by the judge or modified before the judge signs it into an order. An unsigned proposed court motion is not valid just like an ethics opinion that does not have an opinion number is also invalid.

Nonetheless, the common narrative in the community is that the ethics commission found Yvonne Rosales to have misused “public funds” when the facts show otherwise.

That is the definition of the “illusion of truth.”

The rest of the current community narrative on Yvonne Rosales emanates from the Omar Carmona court filing and thus it is an extension of Carmona’s bias, political agenda or both. To be sure, Yvonne Rosales’ continued silence on the controversy only feeds the “illusion of truth” that is driving the narrative currently.

But the fact remains that what we may believe about Yvonne Rosales today is nothing but an “illusion of truth.” Is an “illusion” enough to remove someone from office or to throw someone in jail? The rise of the fake news narrative is the byproduct of the “illusion of truth” effect. There are two poignant cases in El Paso’s history that shows that an “illusion of truth” coupled with the hysteria driven by a news media focused on eyeballs has ruined the lives of several individuals.

In 1985 two low-income women were accused of child molestation. It took decades and ruined lives to exonerate them of the horrific crime. El Paso News will explore in depth the case of the YMCA child molestations cases in an upcoming article. The second example is the 2010 targeting of school officials by a politician, Eliot Shapleigh and two journalists; Bob Moore and Zahira Torres to fulfill a political agenda. The so-called El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) cheating scandal demonstrates that political agendas are often driven through the collusion of the news media and politicians fulfilling a political agenda. In its wake, the EPISD case left many individuals hurt. El Paso News will also explore this in an upcoming series.

The EPISD and YMCA cases demonstrate how a community’s “illusion of truth” has individuals believing a reality that did not exist. To this day, many believe what happened in those two cases without realizing that what they believe is nothing more than a lie.

What may be fact in the Yvonne Rosales controversy may be nothing more than an “illusion of truth.” To believe we know the truth is just an “illusion of truth.”

Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.