Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lou Dobbs And The ‘Legal Immigrant’ Dodge

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

Sam Stein at HuffPo picked up on an interesting passage in David Sirota’s superb new book, The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington, in which Sirota discusses Lou Dobbs:
"If we are to have a national debate and a national dialogue and a decision about national policy and we make a judgment that we are going to raise immigration levels – let’s say that we double them, lets say that we triple them – sign me up," Dobbs is reported as saying in February 2007. "There is nothing in me that is a restrictionist whatsoever, and I realize that separates me from others who are against illegal immigration on the basis that there is too much immigration. I don’t believe that. I do believe that we are not in control of our immigration policies or what is happening in this country. And that leaves me in despair."
Well, as Stein notes, Dobbs "has rarely, if ever, expressed such a viewpoint on his show." Recently, he tried a similar angle in his teeth-baring encounter with Paul Waldman, arguing that "I am also for raising legal immigration." He did it before in an interview with Janet Murguia, in the video above.

However, none of this explains why Dobbs:
  • Makes up phony statistics connecting immigration generically with a supposed increase in diseases like leprosy.
  • Why he broadcasts white-supremacist mythology about a Hispanic “Aztlan” conspiracy to return the Southwest to Mexico.
  • Why he continually claims that Latino immigration is responsible for an increase in crime.
  • Why he once said that this wave of immigration is turning America into “a third world cesspool” (a remark that has since been removed from the CNN website).
  • Why he constantly promotes the notion of making English the official U.S. language.
  • Why he regularly refers to this wave of immigration as an “invasion.”
  • Why he regularly hosts anti-immigrant voices from white-supremacist groups and vigilante scam artists like the Minutemen and yet neglects to explain his guests’ troubling backgrounds.
I could go on all day, but you get the point: None of this has anything to do with the legality, or lack thereof, of these immigrants. Dobbs regularly bashes and demonizes Latino immigrants generically, irrespective of whether they are legal or not.

Dobbs regularly whines, as he does in Sirota’s book, that "there’s never been an issue of race introduced into this discussion by me" — which is true enough insofar as his making explicit references to race.

But the reference is implicit anytime you begin picking up and broadcasting appeals, ideas, and phony "facts" that originate with white supremacists, and when you have them on your show to spout their bile without explaining their background to your audience.

What Dobbs is doing, in fact, is what right-wing pundits of various stripes have been doing for the past decade and more: repackaging the ideas and talking points of far-right hate groups, stripping them of their more obviously racist and noxious language, and presenting them to the public as nominally "normal" ideas. The right has been doing this ever since Pat Buchanan recommended the strategy of "expropriating" David Duke’s racist appeals — on immigration, affirmative action, and on welfare particularly — back in 1989.

But it’s only a facade. And when you strip it away, people like Lou Dobbs stand revealed as the hatemongers they really are.

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