When Andres Oppenheimer writes a column on immigration, my head starts to shake instinctively. His latest column
on purported "fear-mongering and reckless journalism" by conservative cable TV hosts such as Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs, is no different in the sense that there is a lot I disagree with him on.
Bravo! A new study has found widespread fear-mongering and reckless journalism by cable television hosts such as CNN's Lou Dobbs and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who have made a career of bashing Hispanic undocumented immigrants and their home countries.
Also good news: Likely Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told me in an interview last week that he shares concerns ''about the anti-immigrant tenor that I have seen in some of the broadcasts,'' which are helping create a climate of hatred against Hispanics.
The study by Media Matters Action Network, a watchdog group, says Dobbs, O'Reilly and CNN's Glenn Beck serve up steady anger, resentment and myths ``seemingly geared toward creating anti-immigrant hysteria.''
Among the myths perpetuated in these broadcasts are the notions that undocumented Hispanic immigrants are responsible for a crime wave in the United States, that they consume a disproportionate amount of social services and don't pay taxes, that Mexicans are somehow conspiring to take over the United States and that undocumented immigrants are bringing leprosy to the United States.
Oppenheimer is using a study by Media Matters Action Network
to back up his claim, or did he merely write a full column which basically agrees with the study without providing much in the way of personal analysis. I think the latter is more accurate. What is revealing is that Oppenheimer fails to point out that the Media Matters Action Network is a partner project of Media Matters for America, a liberal
watchdog group. Too bad Oppenheimer didn't provide that little nugget of detail. Another red flag was raised when he considers Barack Obama's concern for the "anti-immigrant tenor" of the shows "good news". I suppose he might also consider the Fairness Doctrine "good news". Just guessing.
Here is the closing of the column, with my overall thoughts following:
My opinion: These wild broadcasts are a shame on reputable networks such as CNN and Fox News and an embarrassment to our profession. They should either ask these Hispanic-phobic showmen to present both sides of the story, or present their shows as ''opinion'' talk shows.
For the record, this column -- like all my columns -- is published under the label ''in my opinion.'' These television networks should air these shows under equally unambiguous labels.
As someone who watches The O'Reilly Factor and Glenn Beck regularly, I can say without reservation that Oppenheimer is dead wrong is labeling these guys as "Hispanic-phobic". In fact, the more I think of it, the more embarrassing it is for Oppenheimer to make that accusation. I can't speak for Lou Dobbs since I don't watch his show.
Are O'Reilly and Beck critical of illegal immigration? Do they show stories of illegals committing heinous crimes? You bet. But I have yet to sense a palpable Hispanic-phobia in either man and believe me, my radar is well-tuned to pick that stuff out. Beck sometimes veers in that general direction, mainly because he shoots from the hip more than O'Reilly, but primarily because he's not as polished and likes to embellish. However, I don't sense any real strong negative feelings on his part.
I can tell Oppenheimer doesn't watch either show regularly because not ONCE have I EVER heard either of them make a general statement about Hispanics being inferior or prone to crime. In fact, I would challenge him to come up with an episode, just one, in which either man made a sweeping anti-Hispanic statement.
Another reason I know he doesn't watch either show is his last statement that "for the record, this column -- like all my columns -- is published under the label 'in my opinion.' These television networks should air these shows under equally unambiguous labels."
Both O'Reilly and Beck go out of their way to mention that their shows provide commentary, and their stories and shows reflect their beliefs. In other words, "their opinion", just like Oppenheimer. Besides, both hosts frequently invite guests from both sides of the issue (countering another erroneous Oppenheimer observation) and in many cases Hispanic guests from both sides.
I'm afraid this is all part of the backlash to the anti-illegal-immigration movement that is often just as unreasonable as those few Americans who really
hate Hispanics. Since when does criticizing illegal immigration automatically mean you're Hispanic-phobic? Just because Beck and O'Reilly cover stories about illegals committing crimes (they also do stories on good ol' American criminals), comment on how these guys come from countries with violent cultures (unfortunately in most cases this is very true) or talk about "reconquista" groups (they do exist - just see footage from any pro-immigration rally out west) doesn't make them racist towards Hispanics, nor does it imply that they don't provide context when they do these stories, when in fact they do. Their fault is in not being politically correct enough to please groups such as Media Matters.
As Bill O'Reilly would say: Mr. Oppenheimer, wise up!