As if Western Media didn’t learn from propagandizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata (and many others) reminded us during the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine how the media sees nonwhite people. In an unforgettable and unsurprisingly, yet, shocking moment in broadcast journalism history, journalists made it a point to refer to Ukrainian children as more civilized–as if white babies are more valuable than Black and brown children.

[Ukraine] isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European–I have to choose those words carefully, too–city, one where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.

Charlie D’Agata, CBS News

We also can’t ignore the one-sided coverage after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. Most media outlets were running stories without vetting the validity of the claims. They began amplifying them much like they did to promote previous US wars in the Middle East. News media ran with stories offered up by both the states of Israel and the US as if they were bulletproof only to find out later that many were blatant lies. Western media reports about what’s happening in Gaza are still a major issue of contention due to the lack of context.

Despite D’Agata and others apologizing for their comments or biased reporting on these critical issues, why so many journalists make the same mistakes should be noted. Western news media’s history has a long and sordid legacy of being prejudicial, discriminatory, and outright racist when reporting stories of nonwhite people both domestically and abroad.

For example, US society is all too aware of how media coverage of Black people and Black communities fills beds in the prison industrial complex. One could say US news media participated in fulfilling that sneaky little clause in the 13th Amendment–you know the one.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

13th Amendment of the US Constitution

Adding to the continued problematic media coverage of Black communities, Gaza, and so much more, we’re seeing a shift in coverage of immigrants using Latinophobic undertones. Much of this coverage seems focused on creating and maintaining divisions between nonwhite communities.

When Klan-like rhetoric popularized by David Duke becomes mainstream and we hear words like crisis and invasion in the same sentence with Chicago, New York City, and the border, it creates fear and panic in various poor and underserved communities. In other words, it’s scapegoating. And we all know who scapegoats the most: racists.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest people in the United States fund hate groups disguised as think tanks and policy institutes. They invest in social media platforms that cater to white nationalists and neo-nazis, fund hate-filled protests, and support prominent hate groups. With all that money floating around, it’s no wonder that their social media and alternative media campaigns are successful in controlling the conversation in broader society and mainstream media.

The lack of effort to debunk misinformation should also be noted.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Are there good reporters out there? Sure. I know a ton of them. I’ve even seen great reporting on mainstream media channels recently. However, too often the stories that run across legacy media lack context. A lot of it. There’s no better recent example of that than immigration and that could be for myriad reasons–including lazy reporting.

Whether it’s producers, editors, or higher-ups, not every part of every story gets equal attention. I remember how I was told years ago that immigration was played out as an editor rejected one of my articles and asked me to cover something else–this is largely why I remain a struggling independent journalist. Whether knowingly or not, this is the kind of bias that puts entire communities in danger.

Examples of the failure to more diligently report on immigration include:

  • The hype about a surge of migrants when Titlte 42 was ending. Independent reporters and activists pointed out that this particular story was all hype. At the time, many Biden administration rule changes came into effect–including the use of the problematic and barely functional CBP One app.

    During that time, I noticed that most migrants feared crossing the border due to not knowing what might happen to them. In other words, there was a lot of confusion and fear. Meanwhile, the CBP One app wasn’t recognizing the faces of migrants of color during the onboarding process leaving many asylum seekers stranded on the Mexico side of the border and beyond.

    However, while we voiced what we knew, our reporting was ignored by mass media and there was never a surge related to Title 42. We were right. The fearmongering about a nonexistent event brought with it renewed hate toward Latinos and immigrants of color. The reporting, however benign they think it might’ve been, fed the far-right and racist invasion narrative that has now gone mainstream. 
  • The fanfare about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s buoy barrier being ordered removed. In a world where screenshots of headlines are shared as memes, this reporting painted a picture that there was an opening at Eagle Pass, Texas allowing asylum-seekers to cross, turn themselves in, and legally claim asylum. The reality was that the judge ordered the buoy barrier repositioned on the bank of the river, not removed.

    In other words, he sided with the US government which was arguing that the barrier was impeding access for US Customs and Border Protection’s boats. Also, in Texas, the bank of the river often includes the water. Therefore, the barrier wasn’t going anywhere.

    As Texas filed its appeal, Gov. Abbott had the barrier relocated closer to the shore. By the time the court ruled he had to clear a path for the CBP boats, it had already been done. The buoy barrier remains in place today.

Many more aspects of immigration are left out of reporting seen in mainstream news media outlets. Especially when looking at CBP data. That CBP counts apprehensions and expulsions as encounters is arguably the biggest data point not reported. That the news media largely ignored how many migrants were apprehended more than once is another. Both of these bring the number of actual migrants at the border down significantly, thus, silencing the millions of migrants narratives that are driving so much fear and hate in broader society.

Many have previously highlighted the problematic history of media bias against nonwhite people and communities. We still see it across many aspects of society today and in the case of immigration, nothing has changed except the targets–Latinos and immigrants of color. The reporting, however benign they think it might be, feeds far-right and racist invasion narratives that are part of white replacement conspiracy theories that have since gone mainstream. 

The reporting about modern-day media bias covered here encompasses more recent examples showing that we don’t have to go too far back in history to point out the problem. Fearmongering about nonexistent or out-of-context events in white-owned media has historically brought with it animus toward nonwhite people. Today, this doesn’t seem to have changed and for news media to redeem itself, it absolutely must.

The Antagonist Magazine is a project made up of journalists, activists, and writers focused on amplifying the stories of marginalized communities. The goal is to educate the public by sharing narratives focused on independent voices. Born of an online community in 2019, our platform operates independently; free of corporate influence. Please consider supporting the work of dozens of writers from various communities.

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.