In February, Gallup released the results of a recent poll about immigration showing 40% of US citizens are dissatisfied with current immigration policy and want to curb immigration (compared to just 19% in 2021). A sharp and alarming increase seemingly based on misleading and false information stemming from xenophobic rhetoric often amplified in our nation’s news media.
While the advent of social media can be faulted for being largely responsible for the spread of hate towards people who are not white cis-gendered males, we can’t ignore the impacts journalists have also had in the proliferation of widespread social animus. Aside from far-right reporters at outlets like Breitbart who once devoted an entire section of their website to Black crime, many journalists are contributing to the hate of Black and Latino immigrants.
CBS News recently provided a perfect example of how normalized the ignorance of immigration has become and the media’s complicity in that normalization. In their report, you can hear a man saying, “I don’t feel safe with adult males with no health screenings, no criminal background checks around our children,” to uproarious support from an unseen crowd. The worst part? CBS News did nothing to correct the record or challenge the man’s comments.
What was wrong with the man said? Well, firstly, every migrant who applies for naturalization – which includes asylum – is subjected to rigorous background checks conducted by the US government. In addition, all migrants are subjected to and must pass health screenings before reaching the US in order to be admitted into the country. If these requirements are not met, migrants are barred entry according to Title 8 of the US code.
In other words, CBS News allowed xenophobic misinformation to air on national television without challenging it. For this reason, criticism of the media and the objection to “unbiased” reporting are crucial. Journalism in the US has for centuries been based on anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, and anti-immigrant inclinations to the detriment of non-white communities across the country. That hasn’t changed much for the media other than the increased normalcy.
Remember the start of the war in Ukraine? Remember how Charlie D’Agata (also of CBS News) referred to Ukrainian children as blond-haired blue-eyed Christian children that were not from some other barbaric society (referring to countries in the Global South)? Yeah, me too. That’s that “unbiased” journalism they continue to push on us as a society and as journalists.
As journalists, it’s up to us to ensure we don’t fall into these draconian and frankly, white supremacist tactics. Letting hate speech or ideas born of hate go uncorrected is creating an environment that is deeply unsettling and dangerous for immigrants, Black people, and other non-white groups as well as the LGBTQ community.
Many legacy media outlets have been rightfully excoriated for allowing the unfettered opinions of others that defy science and reality to be circulated throughout society. These narratives are dangerous as they impact not just individuals here in the US, but citizens of foreign countries within the grasp of the United States. From Latin America to the Middle East, the demonization of non-white groups continues to grow unabated.
And United States media is largely responsible for it.
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