Rush Limbaugh characterized the debate over the racially charged name of the National Football League's Washington Redskins as a "manufactured controversy," wondering whether anyone is truly offended by the name. Limbaugh is apparently unaware that American Indian tribes, members of Congress, the U.S. judicial system, and others have all raised concerns that the team name is racially disparaging.
On the September 12 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh complained that the Redskins name was under attack and questioned whether anyone was actually offended by the team name. Rush asked, "Who is bothered by this?" He then argued that the franchise's consistent ability to sell out games was evidence that objections to the name are a "manufactured controversy, manufactured by the left."
To answer Limbaugh's question, a whole lot of people are offended -- and have been for a long time. Native Americans have been protesting the team name for at least the past twenty years. Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo told NPR, "The name is one of the last vestiges of racism that is held right out in the open in America." The Oneida Indian Nation -- an American Indian tribe in upstate New York -- has launched a radio ad campaign against the name, decrying it as a "racial slur."
Ten members of Congress have publicly requested that the team's owner, Dan Snyder, change the name. In a letter to Snyder this year, the legislators wrote, "Native Americans throughout the country consider the 'R-word' a racial, derogatory slur akin to the 'N-word' among African Americans or the 'W-word' among Latinos."
The name has even been recognized as derogatory by administrative bodies of the U.S. government. The Washington Post reported on a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board which found the name to be "disparaging" to Native Americans:
It is also a team with the most patently offensive name in pro sports. A 1999 ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board even found as much, revoking the Redskins' trademark because it "may disparage Native Americans and bring them into contempt or disrepute." The decision was overturned on the grounds that the lawsuit had not been pursued in a timely enough manner.
One prominent sports writer, Sports Illustrated's Peter King, will no longer repeat the name of the team because it "offends too many people," and he noted that, among many others, the American Indian Movement considers the name a slur.
The list goes on. But those who expect Limbaugh to acknowledge the sincerity of their concerns shouldn't hold their breath. The radio host isn't known for his grasp of racial controversy.
Days after appearing on Fox News to discuss a potential military strike against Syria, right-wing radio host Alex Jones elucidated an updated Syria conspiracy theory, arguing that a tentatively agreed upon effort to place that nation's chemical weapons under international control is the latest step in a broader globalist conspiracy to orchestrate the extinction of the human race and replace it with a new species of human-machine hybrids. Despite his regularly outlandish rhetoric, outlets like Fox News continue to mainstream the Texas conspiracist.
Earlier this month, President Obama began making his case to Congress for military strikes against Syria in response to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons on reportedly more than 1,400 of his own citizens, including hundreds of children, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment. On September 9, administration officials signaled a willingness to avoid using force against Syria if that country agrees to turn over control of its remaining chemical weapons reserves to the international community.
In the ensuing public debate, Fox News escalated its habit of merely echoing Alex Jones' conspiracies by actually hosting the theorist himself to discuss the chemical weapons attack in Syria. At the time of the interview, which took place prior to talks about Syria relinquishing its weapons, Jones believed that Syrian rebels -- whom Jones has subsequently referred to as "Obama's psychopathic Syrian rebels" -- were to blame for chemical weapon attacks against civilians. Jones appeared on the September 7 edition of Fox News' Geraldo At Large, where he claimed the Assad regime was not behind the attacks, saying, "[A]ll the evidence leans towards the rebels having the motive to do it. And the Russians have put out a new report saying they have proof the rebels did it back in March of this year."
Jones has since raised the bar. On the September 10 edition of his radio show, Jones expressed concerns about plans to take international control of the weapons, claiming it was part of an effort to dismantle and deindustrialize Syria (and eventually the world):
JONES: [W]hat the United Nations really wants to do here, is set the precedent that they can come into any country they want, that has any type of weapons systems -- and call them WMDs, and then dismantle that country's infrastructure.
Weapons inspections, Jones argued, are essentially a Trojan horse -- a premise globalist leaders use to infiltrate nations for the purpose of dismantling not only weapons, but its entire infrastructure. According to Jones, such 'deindustrialization' has taken place in Iraq and Libya already, and eventually it will take place in Western nations as well. Once this has been achieved, "Obama and the globalists" will maintain control of advanced tools like "jetcopters" and "life extension technologies" that will be denied to most of humankind:
JONES: Everyone is going to be deindustrialized. Everyone is going to be put back in the stone age to be controlled, and then Obama, and the globalists, and the robber barons, they're gonna fly around in their jetcopters, and their Air Force Ones, and their red carpets like gods above us, and they're gonna get the life extension technologies.
Jones sees the globalist plan extending further than merely relegating humanity to a primitive, jetcopter-less state of subservience. The globalists, represented in part by Obama, France, Saudi Arabia, the military-industrial complex and large financial institutions, are using conflict in Syria as a distraction to further a more insidious plan: "The extinction of almost everybody," to be replaced by "a new species ... of humans merged with machines."
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is using the victory of conservative Tony Abbott in Australia's recent race for prime minister as a cautionary tale, warning American politicians to "beware the faddish politics of climate change." The warning, issued by an editorial board with a long history of misinforming the public on climate policy, comes on the heels of accusations that Abbott's victory was influenced by severe attacks on his opponent lobbed in the pages of Murdoch's Australian press empire.
Over the weekend, Australians elected Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott -- a man who has been compared to former American President George W. Bush -- to serve as the nation's 28th prime minister. Among other initiatives, Abbott intends to dismantle the country's fight against climate change, arguing that the science behind the phenomenon is "absolute crap."
In an editorial September 9, The Wall Street Journal attributed former PM Kevin Rudd's loss, and the overall defeat of the center-left Labor Party, to the party's push for a tax on carbon emissions and other "anticarbon policies." The Journal argued that Abbott successfully made the carbon tax a "political liability," and the editorial board used the opportunity to warn Republicans in the United States against going along with attempts to curb carbon emissions:
A carbon tax is one of those ideas that economists love to propose but that turn out to be lousy politics. If Republicans want to toy with the idea, they had better be prepared to eliminate the income or payroll tax along with it. Otherwise voters will figure out that the politicians are merely looking for one more way to tap into their incomes, in this case by raising their electricity and other energy bills.
Despite The Wall Street Journal's claim, voters were probably not sending a message about carbon policy. Only 37 percent of Australians support eliminating the carbon tax and replacing it with the policies of Abbott and the Coalition. The tax didn't even break voters' top three concerns, with those spots going to concerns about the economy, asylum seekers, and health care. In fact, most Australians think the country's climate policies should remain the same or stronger.
Instead, voter antipathy toward the center-left government may be rooted in an aversion to political hypocrisy and broken promises. Leaders of the Labor Party, including former PM Julia Gillard, previously promised there would be no carbon tax, then flipped on the issue and instated one any way. A reporter for The Guardian's Australian edition noted that the Labor Party was thrown out of power because for voters, it "became an issue of her [former PM's] credibility really rather than carbon pricing." The Journal did not see fit to include this important context in its editorial.
Conservative radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham attacked the speakers at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, at one point using the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965. Ingraham used the speech's anniversary to race-bait about black-on-white crime statistics and hosted Pat Buchanan to bemoan the idea that minorities face any higher level of adversity in America 50 years later.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC over the weekend to commemorate and recreate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington, an event originally dedicated to calling for civil and economic rights for African Americans. CBS News reported that the 50th anniversary event -- part of a week-long build-up to Wednesday's anniversary -- "was sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Martin Luther King III and the NAACP, featured a roster of speakers, including King, Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. They spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where 50 years ago this month King delivered his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech."
On her August 26 radio broadcast, Ingraham criticized the event and its speakers, saying the goal "was to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda," and scoffing at the topics speakers supposedly discussed: "From gay marriage, to immigration -- amnesty, was thrown in for good measure. We talked about the Voting Rights Act."
Ingraham ran through a list of African-American crime rates before hosting Pat Buchanan, a prominent racist with white nationalist ties. Buchanan dismissed the idea that minorities suffer any disadvantages in contemporary America, calling the idea "absurd" because "black folks excel and are hugely popular figures in everything from sports to entertainment to athletics to politics. Everywhere you go ... So the progress has been enormous."
At one point during her broadcast, Ingraham began playing a clip of Lewis' speech from the 50th anniversary rally, before interrupting the playback of his comments with the sound of a loud gunshot.
Fox News and right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh have not hesitated to inject harmful and unnecessary racial overtones into their coverage of an Australian teen shot and killed at random in Oklahoma. Fox and Rush are feeding into a well-worn script of biased media coverage of violent crimes that academic research has shown favors white people and disparages black people with seriously ill effects on racial comity and equal justice in America.
On August 16, three teens -- one white, two black -- shot and killed Christopher Lane, an Australian attending school in Oklahoma, while he was out for a jog.
Conservative media figures pounced on the story with a racial lens. On his radio show, Limbaugh called the murder, "Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse," and speculated that the teenagers "got bored and said, 'Let's go shoot a white guy!'"
Over at Fox News, guest Pat Buchanan appeared on the set of On the Record With Greta Van Susteren to predict that the shooting was "racial" while running through a list of dubious statistics on interracial crime that he used to claim that "racial hate crimes [are] 40 times more prevalent in the black community than the white community, and nobody talks about it."
On the morning side, Fox & Friends wondered why civil rights activists Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson hadn't responded to the murder, while Fox News' White House correspondent Ed Henry asked Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest if the White House had any reaction to Lane's murder "apparently by three African-American young men."
Unfortunately, Fox News' coverage of this tragedy fits a long pattern of racially-biased media coverage of crime stories -- a pattern that has demonstrably harmful effects. Professor of media & public affairs at George Washington University Robert Entman highlighted a few of the subtle media trends recorded in various studies. They include:
1. Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to appear as lawbreakers in the news - particularly when the news is focusing on violent crime. [...]
2. [W]hites are overrepresented as victims of violence and as law-enforcers, while blacks are underrepresented in these sympathetic roles.
3. [B]lacks in criminal roles tend to outnumber blacks in socially positive roles in newscasts and daily newspapers. [...]
4. [D]epictions of black suspects...tend to be more symbolically threatening than those of whites accused of similar crimes...In the ubiquitous "perp walks," blacks were twice as likely as whites to be shown under some form of physical restraint by police - although all were accused of scary and generally violent crimes.
7. [B]lack victims are less likely to be covered than white victims in newspaper coverage of crime.
Pat Buchanan continued his long history of racially controversial statements by using the murder of an Australian student in Oklahoma to engage in a discussion of interracial violence that appeared to serve no purpose other than to perpetuate stereotypes of African Americans.
Last week, an Australian baseball player jogging in an Oklahoma neighborhood was shot and killed "by three 'bored' teenagers who decided to kill someone for fun."
On the August 21 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, guest Pat Buchanan speculated that the shooting was "racial" (even though one of the alleged perpetrators is white). He blamed hip-hop, rap, and cable television for engendering a culture of violence among young African-Americans before claiming that "racial hate crimes" are "40 times more prevalent in the black community than the white community, and nobody talks about it." He argued that African-Americans are disproportionately violent and pointed out that "interracial rape is almost exclusively black-on-white," comments that echo century-old stereotypes of African-American men as innately brutish predators.
The co-hosts of Fox News' The Five struggled to grasp the facts surrounding the New York City Police Department's (NYPD) use of a law enforcement tool known as stop-and-frisk. In their rush to attack a federal court decision finding the NYPD tactics violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, the Fox figures bungled even the most basic stop-and-frisk facts.
Federal judge Shira Scheindlin ruled on August 12 that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York City. According to the New York Times, Scheindlin determined that "the Police Department resorted to a 'policy of indirect racial profiling' as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers' routinely stopping 'blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.'" Indeed, between 2011 and 2012, nearly nine out of ten people stopped by NYPD for a stop-and-frisk were black or Hispanic.
Fox's The Five responded by attacking the decision with a litany of falsehoods about stop-and-frisk, mangling even the most basic aspects of the practice.
Various co-hosts claimed the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy was behind the reduction in murder rates and firearms confiscations in New York City.
While New York's violent crime rates are indeed falling, statistics indicate this is not due to the NYPD's accelerated stop-and-frisk program. New York's murder rate began dropping before stop-and-frisk was ramped up. According to Forbes contributor Naomi Robbins, the "astronomical increase in stop-and-frisk came well after the significant decrease in number of murders, and thus cannot be the cause of the drop." As for guns, fewer than 0.5 percent of stop-and-frisk stops produce one, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union:
Tellingly, the hosts ignored the fact that multiple cities without similar stop-and-frisk policies have had greater reductions in violent crime than New York.
A New York Times profile of Georgia anti-immigration activist D.A. King left out important context about King's white nationalist ties and the similarly racist background of NumbersUSA, a nationally prominent nativist organization cited in the article.
On August 7, The New York Times published an article detailing efforts by King and his organization, the Dustin Inman Society -- a group named after a boy killed in a car accident by a driver who was an undocumented immigrant -- to pressure Congressional Republicans to oppose efforts at immigration policy reform. The Times interviewed King and described some of his anti-immigrant policy stances while also highlighting his influence with NumbersUSA:
D. A. King, who quit his job as an insurance agent a decade ago to wage a full-time campaign against illegal immigration in Georgia, is one reason this state rivals Arizona for the toughest legal crackdown in the country. With his Southern manners and seersucker jackets, he works the halls of the gold-domed statehouse, familiar to all, polite and uncompromising.
Now, like other local activists around the country, he is looking beyond Georgia to stop the House of Representatives from following the Senate and passing legislation that would open a path to legal status for illegal immigrants.
As lawmakers return to their home districts for the August recess, advocates like Mr. King are joining forces with national groups that oppose legalization and favor reduced immigration for an all-out populist push.
"These local people live in the middle of these places, they know how to be effective in their districts," said Roy Beck, executive director of one of the largest national groups, NumbersUSA, who is now holding regular strategy calls with Mr. King and more than 50 other state advocates.
The Times' profile of King made note of some of the activist's inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric -- for example, King's depiction of Latino groups as "tribalists" and his description of immigration from Mexico to the U.S. as "an invasion" -- but omitted ties to white nationalist figures that permeate both King's and NumbersUSA's past.
NBC Entertainment's plans to produce and air a miniseries about Hillary Clinton just ahead of the 2016 presidential election raises serious questions about NBC News coverage of the former U.S. Senator and secretary of state and whether it will be slanted or tainted by the parent company's commercial interests.
On July 27, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt announced plans for a Clinton-based miniseries timed to precede the 2016 presidential race as part of a new NBC effort "to create 'event' programming that will draw viewers to the shrinking world of broadcast network TV."
NBC's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd acknowledged the complication this will create in a series of posts on his Twitter account, surmising that "Clinton lovers or haters will assume some sort of NBC News involvement" and assuring his followers that NBC News "has nothing to do" with the miniseries.
NBC News, via Todd, appears to be publicly quarantining itself from NBC Entertainment, though the network itself has yet to address the thorny ethical issues raised by the close nexus between NBC News and NBC Entertainment and the financial interests at stake in NBC producing a miniseries connected to Clinton's potential political future. It remains to be seen whether American media consumers will accept the distinction and whether NBC's reputation for objective journalism will be tarnished by NBC's pursuit of ratings gold.
Right-wing media have responded to a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a barrage of false attacks and overheated rhetoric. The rule, which attempts to increase minority access to community resources like public transportation and education, has been called an act of "tyranny" designed to "encourage diversity, for diversity's sake."