Monday, February 23, 2004

Transmitting extremism

We've known for some time that the Washington Times not only has betrayed Americans and concretely harmed the war on terrorism, all for the sake of partisan gain, but it is also a significant media transmitter of right-wing extremism.

Today it continued in that fine tradition.

Monday's edition of the Times contains the following report from Assistant National Editor Robert Stacy McCain:
Washington's name seen as sullied

On first glance, the story seems somewhat innocuous -- until you get to this part:
Applying a politically correct standard to history "eliminates nearly every white man from our pantheon of heroes" and is "part of an effort to deconstruct Western civilization," Mr. McGrath told the American Renaissance (AR) conference.

This is, in fact, a report on the biannual conference of a so-called "academic" white-supremacist organization that publishes a variety of anti-immigrant and white-supremacist screeds in the guise of serious research. Unlike previous Times stories about the annual conference, though, this one included some noteworthy background information:
The weekend gathering at the Dulles Hyatt was the sixth biennial conference organized by AR, a monthly journal about race issues that has been included in "hate group" listings by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a self-designated civil-rights "watchdog" group.

AR publisher Jared Taylor, a Yale graduate and international business consultant, is the author of the 1992 book "Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has included Mr. Taylor on its "Extremism in America" list, accusing him of promoting "pseudoscientific ... studies to validate the superiority of whites."

Indeed, here's the complete ADL file on Taylor and American Renaissance.

The Times report at least has the advantage of including this not-insignificant background. This is a distinct improvement over the two appearances by Taylor on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, where the national audience was presented the expertise of Mr. Taylor as though he were a respected expert from the mainstream, instead of the extremist crackpot that he is.

However, the tone of the reportage is largely approving. And it's important to understand what guys like Jared Taylor excel at -- namely, lending a respectable sheen to old-fashioned bigotry through a combination of pseudo-social science and pseudo-logical obfuscation. They constitute the self-proclaimed "academic wing" of the white-supremacist movement. Nothing in the report tries to examine the conference material critically, or discuss the real credentials of the speakers.

This shouldn't come as any great surprise, considering who the reporter is, either. Robert Stacy McCain has been the subject of several discussions at Eschaton and an excellent report by Michelangelo Signorile, not to mention several reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, including this devastating piece that examined both the Times' predilection for spreading extremist ideas and McCain's significant role in that, notably his warm coverage of American Renaissance:
Defending Dixie

Of particular note was this passage from the second page of the report:
With the arrival of Assistant National Editor Robert Stacy McCain in 1997, the Times' disassociation from the racism of American Renaissance became a distant memory. McCain, who wrote the story about Democrats and Dixie, has covered the group's biannual conferences in 1998, 2000 and 2002, making the Times the only major American newspaper to devote news stories to American Renaissance. Since 1999, the Times has also reprinted at least six excerpts from American Renaissance in its page-2 culture section, never acknowledging the highly controversial nature of the source.

"Activist warns of border war," blared the headline for McCain's latest American Renaissance story on Feb. 25, 2002. McCain was covering an American Renaissance conference on immigration, and his opening paragraph was almost as sensational as the headline: "A border war between the United States and Mexico 'could happen any day,' a California activist warned at a weekend conference in Virginia."

All 572 words of the story either paraphrased or quoted this same "activist," Glenn Spencer, who runs the anti-immigration group, Voice of Citizens Together, which the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League officials have described as a hate group. Without questioning their factuality, McCain's story reported Spencer's assertions that Mexican leaders were conducting an "invasion" of the United States and that "I love Osama bin Laden" T-shirts were all the rage south of the border after 9/11. No opposing viewpoint was offered or even referenced.

"Sending a reporter to this conference was like sending a reporter to a Ku Klux Klan rally," a flabbergasted reader wrote to the Times. Though the paper printed his letter, the reader's objections appear unlikely to be heeded. McCain has made no bones about being a fan of American Renaissance, writing a letter of "warm congratulations" to the magazine in 1997. ...

There's a great deal more about McCain's activities, including his membership in the secessionist League of the South.

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