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Media Conference: Getting Hate Speech Off the Dial

 by Danielle Maestretti

Tags: media, media reform, National Conference for Media Reform, hate speech, immigration, Southern Poverty Law Center,

Over the past few years, as the immigration debate has heated up, a lot of so-called “mainstream” folks have shown up on television and radio stations to espouse anti-immigration perspectives. When their organizational affiliation shows up on the bottom of the screen, it probably doesn’t sound overtly racist: the Center for Immigration Studies, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and so forth. But as a group of experts discussed at the “Standing Up Against Hate Speech” panel at the National Conference for Media Reform, a teeny bit of digging reveals that many of these talking heads have close ties to hate groups (FAIR was, in fact, recently classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center). But in spite of this, they’re invited back to the airwaves again and again, spreading false information and drumming up fears that immigrants carry diseases, fill our prisons, and drain the economy.

These “commentators” are not experts—they’re extremists. “If the mainstream media was doing its job,” said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, “we wouldn’t see them.” Here’s a quick list of resources to keep track of reality vs. rhetoric, hate group vs. think-tank:

* Truth in Immigration, created by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

* Intelligence Report, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center

* The Anti-Defamation League’s section on Immigration Reports and Resources

* The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights