Immigration Debate: Lies, Hate, and Lack of True Journalism

Last month I wrote about a Media Matters report that revealed that when it comes to immigration and undocumented immigrants, instead of news and/or facts, we are getting a bunch of lies and misinformation. Cable news anchors like CNN's Lou Dobbs and Fox's Bill O'Reilly use their "news shows" to promote a message of fear and anger, creating and encouraging hate and a strong sense of resentment against undocumented immigrants.

The result: (nothing positive of course) hate groups in the United States have increased by half since the year 2000 and the number of new anti-immigrant groups increased to 300.

Unlike the United States, as reported by the New York Times; England, Canada, Germany, France, the Netherlands, India, South Africa, and Australia have created laws or signed international conventions banning hate speech. In Canada for example, Maclean's magazine published the article "The Future Belongs to Islam," arguing in a biting tone that the "rise of Islam threatened Western values." The magazine was accused of violating a provincial hate speech law by stimulating hatred against Muslims and was put on trial. The Ontario Human Rights Commission dismissed a complaint against the magazine but stated, "By portraying Muslims as all sharing the same negative characteristics, including being a threat to 'the West,' this explicit expression of Islamophobia further perpetuates and promotes prejudice toward Muslims and others."

On the other side of the border, however, things are different; hateful and biting comments and lies instead of facts about undocumented immigrants and minorities have become a common practice of mainstream media outlets. And as Harvard's Professor Frederick Schauer mentions, unlike the United States, " In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one's legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk."

But when it comes to the issue of immigration and anchors like Lou Dobbs, the problem is beyond hate: no commitment to objective and ethical journalism. For instance, when Media Matters fellow Paul Waldman was invited to Dobb's CNN show to "discuss" the findings of the report, Dobbs refused to have a discussion and did not show both sides of the story. During the show, Dobbs kept promoting his lies, constantly interrupting and dismissing Waldman.

Promoting hate and lies clearly benefit cable news channels and anchors like Dobbs. While Americans receive false information, they continue on increasing their ratings. As anchors like Dobbs continue reporting lies and instigating immigrant hate, perhaps those who still believe in true journalism should stop being part of this falsehood. Why participate in Dobb's show when is clear that he won't allow for a fair and real discussion? Why give him more space and opportunities to promote his lies and message of hate? Although a government's ban on speech might not necessarily be the answer, we should expect more of our nation's journalists.

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