Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ask the experts at Newsday: How to slant the "news" about illegal immigration

Newsday, an ultra-liberal paper serving (so to speak) Long Island's New York suburban counties, demonstrates how alleged journalists disguise their support for illegal immigration as news. Take this article headlined "Immigration Fracas."

The writers and editors involved do show a certain talent — as propagandists. Observe the technique:

1. What is the news here, in the sense of an actual event? A county official has gone to Washington "to ask for federal help with the burden he said undocumented immigrants impose on communities around the country, including Suffolk." Uh-oh, you don't (if you're a Newsday reporter) want that to be the story. It might lead some readers into thinking about the social costs of illegal immigration. Then there is some sort of conference, about which the reporting is so unprofessionally vague that you can't gather much except that controversial groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Numbers USA are involved.

So, if you write for Newsday, you turn the beat around. You ring up an immigrants-as-victims group spokesman to get a comment whose essence you already know before you've hit speed dial. Now you've found an acceptable narrative: critics who "knock" the executive for trafficking with "questionable" groups. The "news" is about the critics.

2. You reduce the issues to the simple-minded and personal. The writer, Bart Jones, wants you to get the message that the controversy has nothing to do with laws and law-breaking, or whether a culture is obliged to accept limitless numbers of unskilled, indigent opportunists. You'd never dream there were principles involved. For Mr. Jones and his masters at Newsday, the only question is whether you are "pro" immigrants (the heroes) or "anti" immigrants (the villains).

3. You carefully avoid using the words "illegal immigrants" until well into the piece. Until the fourth paragraph, it's "immigrants" and "undocumented immigrants." They aren't people who are in violation of the law — the sort of thing you or I might get arrested for — they're just "undocumented," like someone who has misplaced his library card.

4. You make sure that even before we hear from the the county official, the ostensible subject of the news, the "pro-immigrant" spokesman gets his licks in first with the serious and unsubstantiated accusation that FAIR and Numbers USA are "ideologically motivated hate group[s]." (Unlike purely disinterested "community organizations," of course.) Only five paragraphs later are the "hate groups" permitted to respond.

5. Desperate for more ammunition, you ring up the Southern Poverty Law Center. Southern? Poverty? Never mind, they're reliable for another quote bashing the "anti-immigrant" organizations. They don't "list" FAIR and Numbers USA as hate groups — probably just haven't gotten around to it yet, there are so many to list.

6. If you're a Newsday editor, make sure there's a "pro-immigrant" sidebar, like "Immigrants to Get Safety Gear." String section, let me hear you! "Many struggling Latino immigrants on Long Island don't have the money for a car, so they often rely on other means of transportation: they walk, take buses or ride bicycles. The problem is they place themselves in dangerous situations that sometimes result in accidents — some of them fatal." (It may be just as well for the legal residents of Long Island that the struggling Latino immigrants don't have cars: illegal immigrants are also especially prone to causing drunk driving accidents, some of them fatal.)

7. Also make sure there's a link to an immigration-pimp columnist like this one.

Only then do you give readers the other side with a story containing arguments by supporters of FAIR and Numbers USA like ... uh ... well, I'm sorry, I can't seem to find one on the Newsday site, but I'm sure they'll run one any decade now.

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