Saturday, December 27, 2008

Right-Wing Media Using Immigration Debate to Mainstream Hate



December 27, 2008 by Advocate
Filed under Media

In 2008 and beyond, immigration may be what gay marriage was to the 2004 election: a divisive issue used not to present an actual policy or platform, but rather to galvanize a voting bloc.

Fear-mongering on the issue of immigration comes from a bevy of sources — from white supremacist groups to CNN.

“Illegal immigrants are attacking our culture and our way of life,” Glenn Beck told his audience on his “CNN Headline News” in the manner typical for his prime time-show — Beck discussed the “scourge” of undocumented workers on more than a quarter of his 2007 programs.

In a report released in May, the watchdog group Media Matters documented and dispelled a pattern of myths propagated by cable news shows and their anchors that fuel anti-immigrant racism and have sparked an increase in hate crimes against Latinos.

“The language of today’s hosts, like Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, is divisive and inflammatory, and often misleading,” said Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, at a Capitol Hill news conference announcing the release of the report. “It only creates fear, hatred and negative stereotyping of immigrants.”

Dobbs, the host of CNN’s prime-time show “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” is the ringleader of the cable news anti-immigration fear mongers — featuring often-distorted stories about immigration on 70 percent of his programs in 2007.

Frank Sharry, founder of the immigration reform group America’s Voice, said, “Lou Dobbs’ show is marketed as ‘a time for answers,’ when we know it should be marketed as ‘a time for anger.’”

Janet Murguía, the president of the Hispanic advocacy group National Council of La Raza, said the distorted rants of the anti-immigration news anchors can’t be simply dismissed as an exercise in free speech. “Hateful words have hateful consequences,” she said.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., noted that the period of increased anti-immigrant vitriol on cable news has correlated with a period that’s seen an unprecedented increase in hate crimes against Latinos, according to the FBI.

Dobbs, Beck and O’Reilly often build upon several themes of what they claim undocumented workers, often referred to simply as “illegals,” do to the country. The Media Matters report, “Fear and Loathing in Prime Time: Immigration Myths and Cable News,” systematically dismantles many of the harshest talking points.

One of the most common myths is that undocumented workers drain government resources while the same workers pay nothing into the system. But as Media Matters notes, “even documented immigrants are ineligible for most forms of public assistance for the first five years they reside in the United States or until they attain citizenship,” let alone undocumented ones.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., used humor to skewer the idea that undocumented workers don’t pay taxes by wondering aloud if there was some secret line at retail outlets where undocumented workers bought their goods without paying sales tax (sales taxes represent the largest share of taxes paid by all low-income workers). Moreover, the Media Matters report points out that most undocumented workers use false social security numbers to get jobs and, through paycheck deductions, pay taxes that they will never be able to draw benefits from.

In fact, undocumented workers pay a plethora of other taxes, too — even by paying rent, they contribute to property taxes.

But the patently false drain on the economy and social services are the least of the worries of the anti-immigrant crusaders: They also focus on the myriad of ways that undocumented workers threaten Americans with bodily harm.

One of the most common claims, discussed during 94, 66 and 29 episodes of Dobbs’, O’Reilly’s and Beck’s shows, respectively, is that illegal immigrants are more prone to crime, endangering the very security of Americans.

Noting that no academic or government study on immigration and crime differentiates between illegal and legal immigrants, the Media Matters report says, “The evidence strongly suggests that immigrants in general are less likely to commit crimes” than the native population. READ MORE....

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