Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Call to End Free Speech

Depriving Hannity, Dobbs, Glenn Beck of Free Speech Rights? No Worries at the NYT

By Clay Waters | February 1, 2008 - 14:37 ET

On the New York Times's political blog this morning, Ariel Alexovich reported in a very mild tone on a very shocking speech by National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia -- "A Call to End Hate Speech." http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/01/a-call-to-end-hate-speech/#more-4074

By calling to end "hate speech" (an inflammatory phrase the Times doesn't put in quotation marks), Murguia means that anyone harshly criticizing illegal immigrants -- specifically, mainstream opinion-makers like Sean Hannity on FOX News and Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck of CNN -- should be removed from the air waves.

"The head of the country's largest Latino civil rights organization called on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to stop providing a forum for pundits who consistently disparage the documented and undocumented Hispanic immigrant population.

The group, the National Council of La Raza (meaning 'the people'), also has asked Mike Huckabee to renounce the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, a co-founder of the Minuteman Project, a private organization dedicated to preventing people from illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border."

Actually, "La Raza" translates to "The Race," a strange name for a purportedly anti-racist group, but Alexovich spouted The National Council of La Raza's propaganda line that it means "the people."

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday, Janet Murguia, the N.C.L.R. president, said that anti-Latino remarks on the big three cable news networks are insulting not only to minorities but also to the greater American population.

"It's personal, it's intolerable, and it has to end," she said.

She listed Glenn Beck, who sometimes appears as a commentator on CNN as well as hosts his own radio show [actually, Beck has his own show on CNN's Headline News - ed.], as one of the worst offenders. Last June, he suggested that America create an alternative energy source out of the bodies of illegal immigrants.

Such talk has serious consequences, Ms. Murguia said. She cited an F.B.I. report which showed a double-digit percentage rise in violence against Latinos since 2003. What's more, these negative feelings towards Hispanics carries over into U.S. legislation.

"Very often they're taking their issues straight from some of the hate groups that we just described here, so that actually these words that go out from the hate groups get turned into campaign strategies and political strategies," said Cecilia Munoz, an N.C.L.R. vice president.

Other major "vigilantes" that need to be kept in check are CNN's Lou Dobbs, and Fox's Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes -- and most of their guests.

Who's the group's favorite Republican? But of course.

Ms. Murguia didn't directly endorse any candidate or, for that matter, any political party. However, she had kind words to say about John McCain, the arguable front-runner in the Republican race. Mr. McCain's plan to handle immigration does not involve the deportation of all illegal immigrants.

Near the end Murguia called for depriving immigration critics of First Amendment rights. Again, no quotes around hate speech, as if the Times is simply assuming that what Murguia smears as "hate speech" truly is.

Ms. Murguia argued that hate speech should not be tolerated, even if such censorship were a violation of First Amendment rights:

"Everyone knows there is a line sometimes that can be crossed when it comes to free speech. And when free speech transforms into hate speech, we've got to draw that line. And that's what we're doing here today. And we need to make sure that network executives will hold their people accountable and not cross that line.

Times Watch is unable to detect in Alexovich's posting a single raised eyebrow at the thought of Murguia's frightening dismissal of free speech. It's a particularly bizarre omission coming from someone who works in journalism.

—Clay Waters is the director of Times Watch, an MRC project tracking the New York Times.

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