Recent racist musings from the likes of rancher Cliven Bundy and LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling bring to light one of right-wing media's favorite misnomers -- that racism and bigotry are over. It's a dangerous fiction that's also surfaced in recent Supreme Court decisions, and one that provides cover for modern racists and policies that hurt minorities.
"Is there racism? I don't believe there's racism," asserted Fox News' Eric Bolling, echoing a refrain that's become common place inside the conservative bubble.
For example, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer has argued that policies protecting against racial discrimination are no longer necessary because they're about giving "advantages to people who 50 years ago" were disadvantaged. Co-host of Fox's The Five Andrea Tantaros argued civil rights laws are no longer needed "because there is equality." According to Bill O'Reilly, racism is "an individual problem," "not a country problem," and America's sad history of discrimination is "all in the past."
This readiness to ignore the existence of racism provides cover for intolerance on the fringe. Over the last month, right-wing media propelled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to folk hero status for cheating the federal government out of millions, only to sprint away from him when was caught on tape wondering if black people were better off as slaves.
While many Fox News hosts and contributors eventually condemned Bundy and Sterling's racism, the rhetoric is largely reminiscent of right-wing media's stereotypes of minorities and denial of the existence of racism -- In the wake of their racist rants, both Bundy and Sterling denied they held any racist views.
Bundy and Sterling are extreme examples of cognitive dissonance, but the racism-denialist mindset is a pervasive and dangerous one.
Right-wing media's dismissal of racism has most recently surfaced in the wake of the recent April 22 Supreme Court decision in Schuette v. BAMN, that effectively overturned decades of civil rights precedent and gutted a core component of equal protection law by giving Michigan voters the power to change their state's constitution to ban race-based considerations for university admissions.
As Jeffrey Toobin described, the conservative majority took the position of "blame-shifting," suggesting that "the debate over affirmative action should and could take place in a genteel, controversy-free zone." He wrote:
Bundy and Sterling represent an ugly corner of contemporary American life, but it is one that is entirely invisible in recent Supreme Court rulings. In the Roberts Court, there are no Bundys and Sterlings; the real targets of the conservative majority are those who've spent their lives fighting the Bundys and Sterlings of the world.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote about a country where the Bundys and Sterlings still hold considerable sway. Indeed, she went beyond the simple bigotry of the Bundys and Sterlings and found that more subtle wounds of racism still exist in this country. "Race matters," she wrote, "because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: 'I do not belong here.'"
Decisions made and policies created on the premise that racism no longer exists in America have incredibly damaging impacts on civil rights and minority communities.
The Supreme Court's recent decision in Michigan is evidence of that. The ruling opened a door for state majorities to change their political systems to unfairly disadvantage minorities -- a decision that has dangerous consequences, particularly in a state like Michigan where white Americans are the overwhelming majority. Such consequences are already being felt by minority students in Michigan. In addition to racist incidents and racial tensions on campuses around the country, the enrollment of African-American students in Michigan has seen a dramatic decrease.
The Supreme Court's recent tossing aside of history and legal precedent is reminiscent of the court's June 2013 blow to voting rights -- a decision also made on the premise that racism no longer exists in America, but in reality had a negative impact on minorities. In the June 25 decision, the conservative majority invalidated the provision within the Voting Rights Act that prevents states and local jurisdictions from enacting racially discriminatory election practices. States wasted no time after the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act pushing highly restrictive voting laws that history has shown serve to make it harder for minorities to cast a vote.
Apparently inside the conservative bubble, it's easy to praise such devastating policies so long as you deny the existence of racism at all, a refrain that ultimately helps keep discrimination alive.
Fox's newest show, Outnumbered, features a rotating cast of four female hosts, one male host, and a litany of sexist tropes.
The program premiered April 28 with female co-hosts Jedediah Bila, Harris Faulkner, Sandra Smith, Kimberly Guilfoyle and their male co-host of the day Tucker Carlson, who was honored with the Twitter hashtag #ONELUCKYGUY and described by the women as "a good enough sport to join us on day one."
When Fox announced the new show, Amanda Marcotte noted its premise: "The man will be 'outnumbered,' meaning that even though Outnumbered is supposedly a female-centric show, the male point of view is still so central that it gives the show its title." The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg similarly predicted that the program would find its "heat" by highlighting opposition between men and women, essentially parodying "what conservatives often accuse feminists of wanting to do to men: overwhelm them and shout them down as a sort of rhetorical reparations for years in a subordinate position."
These predictions proved accurate. In fact, Outnumbered's set even placed the lone man at the center, surrounded on a couch by the female hosts wearing Fox's famous short skirts. The hosts kicked off the show by indulging the parody that men and women are profoundly opposed to each other, with Carlson joking at the very beginning that he was "in a defensive crouch already," because living with four women had given him experience he needed to "submit" and handle this "outnumbered" position:
Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized his own network's coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, blasting the network for elevating Bundy's anti-government agenda and turning the lawless rancher into a folk hero before falling silent when Bundy's racist remarks came to light.
Fox News darling Cliven Bundy rose to his folk hero status after he failed to comply with court orders directing him to remove his trespassing cattle from public land, following decades of refusing to pay required grazing fees. Fox News and other right-wing media elevated the story with substantial coverage, championing Bundy and his supporters as they threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials.
But when Cliven Bundy revealed his racist worldview, Fox News fell silent, abruptly ending their incessant promotion of the lawless rancher. The New York Times first reported that Bundy had questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," and Media Matters quickly obtained video of the racist remarks.
On the April 27 edition his Fox News show #MediaBuzz, Kurtz posited that Fox News "fell seriously short" in their coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy once his "blatantly racist" comments were revealed, after having previously built Bundy up "as a symbol of resistance":
From the April 23 edition of Free Speech TV's The Bill Press Show:
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Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson has stepped up her campaign to paint herself as a victim of media bias by floating half-baked conspiracy theories about the research that exposed factual issues with her work. These newest allegations are as unsubstantiated as the shoddy reporting that has previously tarnished her -- and CBS'-- record as a reliable source.
Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson is augmenting her campaign to paint herself as a victim of liberal media bias with conspiratorial and false attacks on Media Matters.
Earlier this year Attkisson, who had been celebrated by conservative activists for her often shoddy reporting on the Obama administration, ended her two-decade career at CBS News. She has since made numerous media appearances, often on Fox News, claiming that her reporting had been curtailed by CBS managers who opposed critical reporting on the administration. As Media Matters noted last week, Attkisson has provided little to no evidence to support her broad claims that politics, rather than newsworthiness, was keeping her stories off CBS' air.
Attkisson responded during an April 20 appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources. After Attkisson claimed that there is a "campaign by those who really want to controversialize the reporting I do," host Brian Stelter asked, "Media Matters has been campaigning against you and saying you've been inaccurate in your reporting, is that what they're doing? They're just trying to controversialize the issue?" Attkisson responded that she had been "targeted" by Media Matters and hinted at a motive, saying, "I don't know if someone paid them to do it or they just took it on their own." After Stelter asked her whether she really believed Media Matters had been paid to target her, she responded, "Perhaps, sure. I think that's what some of these groups do, absolutely."
Attkisson's claims quickly found a ready audience on Fox News.
But Attkisson's claims are false. Media Matters has never taken contributions to target her or any other reporter. We have published research on her reports on green energy and Obamacare, among other topics, when those reports have been inaccurate or misleading -- the same standard to which we hold any other reporter.
Attkisson decided to float this conspiracy theory without any evidence during an appearance on a news program, suggesting that she doesn't believe she needs to prove her contentions before bringing them to a national audience. If that was the reporting standard she sought to uphold at CBS News, it's no wonder that her managers were unwilling to let her promote half-baked conspiracies on their airwaves.
The Hill published an op-ed criticizing the "growing fascination with publicly funded broadband networks" and touting the "private-sector" as the best way to build telecommunications networks. But the Capitol Hill paper failed to disclose that the author is a telecom consultant and co-chair of a telecom trade association.
Larry Irving wrote an April 9 piece claiming "the specter of governments operating broadband networks in competition with the private sector, or of state or local governments serving as both regulators and owners of competing broadband networks, could stifle investment or reduce private-sector access to capital." Irving added that "with the exception of bringing or improving service to remote geographies, I don't see many problems that government-owned or -operated broadband networks will solve."
The Hill simply identified Irving as follows: "Irving is the CEO of the Irving Group and served for almost seven years as assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)."
That identification vastly understates Irving's financial connections to the industry he wrote about. Irving is the founding co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), an IRS 501(c)(6) telecommunications trade association whose purpose is to "prevent the creation of burdensome regulations," according to documents filed with the IRS. IIA reportedly receives financial support from AT&T and includes members such as Alcatel-Lucent and TechAmerica, which lobbies on behalf of technology companies. The group's 2011 IRS tax form -- the most recent one available -- states it received over $18 million in revenue.
While The Hill noted that Irving heads the Irving Group, it did not disclose that the firm provides "strategic advice and assistance to international telecommunications and information technology companies."
Fox News baselessly claimed that the Obama administration plans to give up control of a key Internet administrator to the United Nations,ignoring Obama administration officials' repeated insistence that it will not let a governmental organization run the agency.
On the April 10 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett claimed that the Obama administration was to "give up" direct oversight of the Internet and "transfer control to an international body controlled by foreign governments." Guest Jordan Sekulow agreed, claiming that the Obama administration plans to cede control of the Internet to the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Jarrett advanced Fox's previous distortion of the plan, falsely suggesting that nations like China and Russia may now be able to control the Internet and that the plan would lead to the U.N. taxing the Internet. Sekulow agreed, saying that the ITU "is run by dictators" and "authoritative regimes."
But there is no evidence to support Jarrett's claim that the U.S. intends to give control of ICANN, the agency that administers the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS), to the ITU. In a March 14 press release, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) announced it will proceed with a 1998 plan to transition U.S. control over ICANN to a multi-stakeholder body, explicitly stating that "NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution."
In his April 10 congressional testimony, Commerce Department assistant secretary Lawrence Strickling reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment that no government or inter-governmental body would control ICANN [emphasis added]:
STRICKLING: We need to ensure that the broad Internet community--companies, technical groups, civil society and governments--continue to work together as equal partners in crafting the rules of the road for the Internet through the multistakeholder model. Some authoritarian regimes however do not accept this model and seek to move Internet governance issues, including the DNS, into the United Nations system in order to exert influence and control over the Internet.
Some have argued that what NTIA is doing is tantamount to "giving away the Internet".That could not be further from the truth. There is no one party--government or industry,including the U.S. Government--that controls the Internet. The Internet is a decentralize dnetwork of networks. What we have in fact done, is demonstrate leadership and strategic vision by laying out a framework with clear conditions to finalize a process that has been ongoing for 16 years.
With the March 14 announcement, NTIA has taken the next step in the 16-year process to privatize the coordination and management of the DNS. ICANN last month began the process of convening stakeholders for the first of many public discussions on this topic. During this period, NTIA's role will remain unchanged. As we have said repeatedly, we will not accept a transition plan that would replace the NTIA role with one led by governments or an inter-governmental organizationand we have established a framework of four principles that the process must address. This must be a careful and thoughtful process. If a plan that meets these criteria cannot be implemented by September 30, 2015, we can extend the contract for up to four years.
Further, Internet experts have stated that the U.S. plan to relinquish control of ICANN actually weakens the power of the ITU. Politico quoted Nick Ashton-Hart, the Geneva representative for the Computer & Communications Industry Association and a former ICANN official, as saying that "If the U.S. was to try and maintain the master key, it would have been more likely to result in the fragmentation of the Internet," because other countries could claim a similar role. Politico also quoted Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) stating that if the federal government hadn't relinquished its oversight, the ITU could continue to argue that ICANN functioned as a pawn for the U.S. government.
From the March 30 edition of MSNBC's Up With Steve Kornacki:
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Fox News cherry-picked comments made by former President Bill Clinton on his questions regarding the Commerce Department's plan to transition internet domain name management to an international body. But the plan is based on principles that echo Clinton's remarks.
In a March 14 press release, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), an Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues, announced the administration's plan to transition internet domain name functions:
To support and enhance the multi-stakeholder model of Internet policymaking and governance, the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announces its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multi-stakeholder community.
From the inception of ICANN, the U.S. Government and Internet stakeholders envisioned that the U.S. role in the IANA functions would be temporary. The Commerce Department's June 10, 1998 Statement of Policy stated that the U.S. Government "is committed to a transition that will allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS management."
On the March 24 edition of America's News HQ, co-host Bill Hemmer claimed that during a Clinton Global Initiative summit, Clinton spoke "out against U.S. plans to hand over control of the internet" to countries like Russia and China:
CLINTON: The United States has been by far the country most committed to keeping the internet free and open and uninterrupted. And a lot of these people who say they want multi-stakeholder control over domain names and internet access, what they really do is want the ability to shut down inconvenient exchanges within their own countries.
Clinton went on to ask Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales whether he is worried "that if we give up this domain jurisdiction that we've had for all these years that we'll lose internet freedom."
But Fox left out a key portion of Clinton's comments where he explained the he favors the multi-stakeholder process in general:
From the February 23 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the February 21 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the January 22 edition of Fusion's The Morning Show:
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The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown that misleadingly accused teacher unions of "making it more difficult to protect children from molesters" and failed to disclose that Brown's husband is a board member of an anti-teacher union organization.
The Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act of 2013 from Rep. George Miller (D-CA) passed in the House of Representatives in October 2013. Politico reported that the bill will "require school employees, applicants and contractors to pass a comprehensive background check that includes a check of the FBI fingerprint database, standardizing national background check policy. It would forbid school districts from knowingly transferring employees who have engaged in sexual misconduct, and it would allow districts to share background check information."
In a January 17, op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Brown dismissed the objections of teacher unions such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) to the bill as "unconvincing," claiming the organizations' stance is "making it more difficult to protect children from molesters."
Campbell recounted two "horror stories" of sexual misconduct by teachers to paint the legitimate concerns of the AFT and NEA regarding the bill as an attempt by teacher unions to protect sexual predators:
These are sensible measures that are overdue. Yet the two most powerful teachers unions in the country have voiced objections to the bill. Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers complained about the bill before it passed the House. The NEA claimed in a letter to House members that background checks "often have a huge, racially disparate impact." Randi Weingarten, the AFT chief, warned of inaccuracies in the FBI database and cautioned that teachers would be inconvenienced by potentially long screening delays.
This response is unconvincing. Twenty-five states already use FBI searches in teacher hiring. More important, the bill includes an appeals provision for anyone who believes the results of background checks are mistaken.
However, the AFT, an organization that represents over 1.5 million teachers, does not oppose the bill. In an open letter to the House of Representatives the organization affirmed support for the bill while also addressing legitimate concerns and suggestions for "improving and strengthening the bill."
AFT specifically addressed parts of the bill that they believe need further consideration and deliberation including the possibility that imposing a national protocol could create inefficient duplication processes in states with already rigorous procedures, and that the data in FBI records used for background checks are often incomplete or inaccurate. AFT say they would also like the bill to consider how individuals will be burdened with addressing inaccurate data, and to address the possibility that this bill may cause serious backlogs and delay in the hiring process.
The NEA offered their view "that criminal background checks often have a huge, racially disparate impact. In addition, we are concerned that H.R. 2083, while well intentioned, may run counter to existing state laws requiring background checks." Although background checks have a history of acting as a racially discriminatory tool for companies, Campbell dismissed these points as "unconvincing."
In addition, WSJ did not disclose Brown's possible conflict of interest in writing about teachers' unions - her husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of StudentFirstNY, an organization that actively opposes teachers' unions.
The WSJ has a habit of failing to disclose their contributor's conflicts of interest when it comes to conservative policies the paper supports. According to a 2012 Media Matters review, WSJ's editorial page published op-eds from 12 writers without disclosing their roles as advisers to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. In 2012 the paper also did not provide Campbell's background when she wrote a similarly critical op-ed of teachers unions in New York.
Broadcast nightly news shows completely ignored the day's landmark court ruling striking down federal net neutrality regulations, an omission that deals a huge disservice to the public audience and a boon to the news outlets' parent corporations.
Net neutrality -- the principle that corporate internet providers should provide equal access to content for subscribers -- was dealt a serious blow the morning of January 14 when the D.C. Court of Appeals invalidated the Federal Communications Commission's requirement that providers offer equal access to online information, regardless of the source. Prior to the ruling, the FCC prevented internet providers from blocking (or slowing down access to) content in order to benefit their own business interests.
That evening, neither NBC, CBS, nor ABC acknowledged the ruling in their evening news broadcasts.
Here's why that's important -- NBC is owned by Comcast Corporation, which bills itself as the nation's largest high-speed Internet provider. CBS' parent company is CBS Corporation, which also owns multiple sports networks and Showtime, while ABC is part of The Walt Disney Company empire, also the owner of ESPN.
This is a huge conflict of interest for the broadcast news channels, as their parent corporations all have a vested interest in striking down net neutrality laws and promoting their own content at the expense of competitors that lack an advantage in size or Internet service. As PCWorld explained: