The Media is the (Anti-Immigrant) Message: Sen. Menendez Calls for Study of Link Between Media and Hate Crimes

December 13, 2007

Senator Robert Menendez

In what appears to be the expansion of a media front in the ongoing immigration wars, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has called on Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez to commission a new study of the “relationship between telecommunications and hate crimes”.

In a letter delivered to Gutierrez last week, the New Jersey Senator expressed concern about the effects of the heated (and getting hotter) immigration debate raging in print and electronic media. “Over the past year” wrote Menendez, “the debate over immigration reform has unfortunately taken a very biased and hateful turn in some of our radio, television and cable outlets, and I am concerned that this rhetoric could have a harmful effect on the portrayal and safety of our nation’s immigrant population, as well as on our Latino communities.”

He also provides examples of the kind of violent language many of us have been drawing attention to, including words and phrases heard in media daily such as ‘the Latino invasion’, ‘illegal alien lobby’, ‘amnesty agenda’, ‘criminal illegal aliens’ and other terms.

His letter references a a 1993 study mandated by Congress, which called on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to study the telecommunications and hate crime link. To bring urgency to his claims, Menendez also cited recent FBI hate crimes statistics showing a serious increase in such crimes against Latinos since 2004.

Menendez letter marks a major acknowldgement of the ongoing work groups like the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Hispanic Media Coalition to focus attention and resources on the deadly relationship between language, media and the rise in anti-immigrant, anti-Latino violence.

Kudos to these and other groups and individuals and to Senator Menendez for further opening this critical linguistic/media flank in the movement.

One Response to “The Media is the (Anti-Immigrant) Message: Sen. Menendez Calls for Study of Link Between Media and Hate Crimes”

  1. writer Says:

    Thanks for this. I didn’t realize this development, and I’m glad to hear lawmakers are waking up, representing the people, and looking into this scary development on the hate-crime front?

    Aren’t you leery, a little though, about the government getting into what the media can, and can not say? Although the hate crime increase is frightening, and needs to be addressed. I’m up for a government study, but hopefully no “homeland security” mandates on press.

    As a journalist I see the pulse of mainstream media is to stick with The Associated Press style — for whatever. In this case it still calls for the use of “illegal immigrant” to refer to people who arrived or overstayed without following the immigration laws set forth.

    So, at least where i work, we won’t use “illegals” or “illegal alliens” in news articles.

    Even an AP style change wouldn’t have an impact though, with all the insane Cable and Radio negative energy. And regardless of the style used in media reports: Most news organizations hold a completely different standard for the readers posting comments on media articles published online. There, anything goes as the spot is seen as opinion, forum, commentary. If you want to see some hate-inspired language read those folks interpretations of “illegal immigrants.”
    (I saw a disturbing replacement for the word Hispanic in one recent one where someone said there are as many “illegal immigrants” in this town as African-Americans.)


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