Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Holding Lou Dobbs accountable

-- by Dave

It's been pretty clearly established, at least since he was spouting phony statistics about leprosy, that Lou Dobbs' relationship with reality is not exactly a healthy one. Since then, in nearly every aspect of his coverage of the immigration debate, from his reportage on the Dreams Train to his misbegotten coverage of the Ramos/Compean case, he's made a travesty of nearly every basic tenet of accuracy and fairness that journalists like to pretend they're the guardians of.

Meanwhile, from those journalists, we've been hearing crickets. And when a journalist like Amy Goodman finally does get ahold of Dobbs, we're treated to the usual: a ceaseless barrage of bullshit -- evasions, nonsequiturs, distortions, and factual falsehoods. But still, no one in the journalism industry has called him out on it.

Recently, however, Latino advocacy groups have taken the initiative on this matter -- not just with Dobbs, but with the mainstream media and public figures generally, calling them to account for their respective roles in inflaming the discourse to the point that an onslaught of bias crimes has resulted.

But Dobbs hates being called to account -- and furiously responds with another barrage of bullshit whenever someone does. So yesterday, he invited Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza (you know -- the organization whose name nativists and idiots like to translate as "the Race") to appear on his show.

And though she landed a lot of well-placed shots, it was really remarkable watching Dobbs at work -- simulataneously offering to let Murguia present her case and then constantly interrupting her and tossing in bon mots that included the usual nonsequiturs and nonsense. At one point, he offered to just let her have her say that day, and he would just respond the next -- and then, no more than a minute later, rudely interrupting her and accusing her of making these charges solely because she represented an (evidently evil) pro-illegal-immigrant interest group.

Most remarkable of all is that, while Dobbs in the past has just refused to engage or deal with the facts that contradict his reportage or his claims, this time around he actually spews a number of factual falsehoods, and they appear to be deliberate. That is to say, he's lying.

Let's go to the transcript:
MURGUIA: We're talking about a wave of hate and the way that that hate is manifested in different representatives that you have on this show.

We have got self-avowed vigilante representatives. This is Chris Simcox. He's been on your show five times on CNN.

DOBBS: The founder of the Minutemen.

MURGUIA: Founder of the Minuteman Project. And according to the SPLC, Southern Poverty...

DOBBS: Which is nothing more than a fund-raising and...

MURGUIA: That's your opinion. Let me just get this stuff...

DOBBS: That's right, but I'm going to tell you what it is.

MURGUIA: Simcox was convicted in 2003 of carrying a weapon in the national park while searching for undocumented immigrants. That same year, he was quoted in an Orange County newspaper saying, "So far, we've had restraint, but I'm afraid that restraint is wearing thin. Take heed of our weapons, because we are going to defend our borders by any means necessary."

He's a self-avowed vigilante...

DOBBS: Is he in charge of the Minutemen?

MURGUIA: Yes. He's the founder of the...

DOBBS: No, he's not.

FACT: Chris Simcox is the executive director of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, an offshot of the original Minuteman Project which envisions itself as a nationwide organization and not merely a border-watch operation. More importantly, at the time that Simcox appeared on Dobbs' show, he was in fact still very much the cofounder and chief spokesman for the Minuteman Project.

Indeed, on Dobbs' programs, he was consistently described as "Minuteman project cofounder Chris Simcox" or variations on that.

Dobbs' evasion isn't just a lie -- it's flat-out bald-faced bullshit. And it continues in this interview:
MURGUIA: ... of the Minutemen Project.

DOBBS: He's no longer associated with the Minutemen.

MURGUIA: He is associated and is a spokesperson...


MURGUIA: ... and was a spokesperson all these times.

DOBBS: Jim Gilchrist?

MURGUIA: Jim Gilchrist -- co-founder of the Minutemen Project, self-avowed vigilante. And he's been on your show eight times and on CNN 27 times.

You said that you proudly, proudly support these projects, that they're fine Americans and who make up all...

DOBBS: Can we see what you...

MURGUIA: Sure. I'm sorry. You said that you support the Minuteman Project, and that they're fine Americans who make it up in all they've accomplished fully, relentlessly, and proudly.

DOBBS: Right.

MURGUIA: So I want to make sure you understand. These are folks who are documented to be part of hate groups.

DOBBS: Who documented them?

MURGUIA: Southern Poverty Leadership...

DOBBS: Southern Poverty Law Center...

MURGUIA: And the American Defamation League, ADL.

DOBBS: Both of whom are absolute advocate groups for open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens.

MURGUIA: That's your opinion.

DOBBS: No, it's not my opinion.

MURGUIA: Yes, it is your opinion.

DOBBS: No, it's a fact.

FACT: Neither the SPLC nor the ADL advocates for open borders, or for that matter takes any kind of position on border-security matters beyond the humane treatment of immigrants -- and Dobbs will come up dry should he ever bother to attempt to find any position papers or public statements from officials and leaders of those groups to indicate that they do. Both organizations are involved in the immigration debate strictly because it has become a significant recruiting ground for racist and ethnic-hate groups -- the kinds of groups that the SPLC and ADL make it their business to monitor, and with good reason.
MURGUIA: We have a Web site that documents not just these individuals, but others who are tied to hate groups or vigilante groups...

DOBBS: What did President Bush call them?

MURGUIA: ... and we've seen them on the air...

DOBBS: What did...

MURGUIA: ... relentlessly...

DOBBS: You have never...

MURGUIA: ... representing a point of view on immigration. It's like having David Duke on a panel to talk about affirmative action.

DOBBS: You're way...

MURGUIA: It's unaccepted -- it's unacceptable...

DOBBS: You're way overreaching (ph)...

Actually, Murguia is just scratching the surface here when it comes to Dobbs' real record for hosting far-right extremists and white supremacists on his show, and neglecting at the time (or at any time, for that matter) to inform his viewers that these people head up actual hate groups.
MURGUIA: And we don't want to tolerate it anymore. We're taking our case to the network heads and we're asking them to hold the networks accountable. We want to hold...

DOBBS: You want me fired, don't you?

MURGUIA: No, I'm saying that...

DOBBS: Don't you want me fired?

Yes, Lou -- it's all about you. As always.
MURGUIA: No, I want to hold you accountable for how you use your microphone every night.

DOBBS: Who am I to be accountable to? You?

MURGUIA: No. You're accountable to the broader...

DOBBS: Aren't I accountable to my audience?

MURGUIA: You're accountable to the broader public, in making sure that we're bringing factual information...

DOBBS: OK, let's talk about some facts, shall we?

Woops! Don't wanna answer that! Let's change the subject, pronto!
MURGUIA: ... to the people.

DOBBS: I want you to get through your charts.


DOBBS: I want to point out one thing, if I may, on this. The statement about the Minutemen came after President Bush had called the Minutemen vigilantes.

MURGUIA: That's right.

DOBBS: The fact is, that the Minutemen -- and please, this is your opportunity. The Minutemen have never, ever been charged with an act of violence...

MURGUIA: Chris Simcox was arrested and convicted.

DOBBS: Oh, was he a member of the Minutemen when that occurred?

MURGUIA: Yes. It was in 2003, and he was founder of the Minutemen Project.

DOBBS: And he was doing what?

MURGUIA: He was convicted -- arrested and convicted of carrying a gun into a national park searching for undocumented immigrants. All this is documented on our Web site.

DOBBS: So you would cast the entire organization of the Minutemen...

MURGUIA: I'm casting him. I'm holding you accountable for putting him on the airwaves and saying that he is an expert on immigration reform. That's ridiculous. He's not an expert on immigration reform.

DOBBS: Did we say he was an expert, or did we say that he was one of the founders of the Minutemen?

Um, actually, Lou, you just tried to skewer her for saying he was one of the founders of the Minutemen ... So is he or isn't he, Lou?
MURGUIA: I think you couch this -- you gave him this aura of respectability. You also cited in 2006 a source of your, you know, branding it CNN and Lou Dobbs, around the Council of Conservative Citizens, which also the SPLC has named as a white nationalist hate group. This is a group that denigrates routinely blacks as genetically inferior, complained about, you know, Jewish power, and also denigrated homosexuals as perverted sodomites.

All I'm saying is, you're co-branding yourself and CNN with a white supremacist nationalist hate group.

DOBBS: Did we do that?

MURGUIA: This...

DOBBS: Did we really?

MURGUIA: ... was on your program on May 23rd...

DOBBS: How long was that on the air?

MURGUIA: ... 2006.

DOBBS: How long was that...

MURGUIA: It doesn't matter how long.

DOBBS: Of course it does.

MURGUIA: It doesn't.

DOBBS: Of course it does.

MURGUIA: You're using hate speech, hate group to make a case on immigration.

DOBBS: I'm going to tell you straight up...

MURGUIA: To make a case on immigration.

DOBBS: Do you want the answer?


DOBBS: You want to know how long it was on the air?

MURGUIA: It doesn't matter.

DOBBS: Seconds. You have just given them more airtime than this network, this broadcast ever did.

MURGUIA: And I'm holding you accountable for having given them any sort of exposure.

DOBBS: Oh, you are?

MURGUIA: And the fact that you're associating yourself...

DOBBS: So you should be...

MURGUIA: ... with this extremist...

DOBBS: I associated myself?

MURGUIA: You cite them as a fact...

DOBBS: I did?

MURGUIA: ... on this...


MURGUIA: This says, "Dobbs -- LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, CNN."

DOBBS: Right.

MURGUIA: That's there for everyone to see.

DOBBS: Right.

MURGUIA: This is from your show on May 23rd, 2006.

DOBBS: Right.

More here. The important point to remember here is that the CofCC material indeed was flashed for only a few seconds, but Dobbs and his reporter, Casey Wians, have never, ever backed down from the entire reporting that went along with the graphic -- namely, the nonsensical garbage about "Aztlan" and the "Reconquista" theory. And as we demonstrated long ago, that entire conspiracy theory in fact originates with white-supremacist hate groups. And if his interview with Goodman is any indication, Dobbs still very much believes this garbage.
MURGUIA: This kind of hate speech, this kind...

DOBBS: What year?

MURGUIA: 2006.

DOBBS: You got anything a little more recent?

Um ... well, yeah. A lot.
MURGUIA: We have got a whole Web site that documents all of this.

DOBBS: I -- let's go through your Web site. OK?

MURGUIA: Yes, sure.

DOBBS: Let's go through this.

MURGUIA: Yes. Because we've made a case.

DOBBS: I want you to...

MURGUIA: We want to make sure that you need to know. Just make one point -- hate speech has consequences. We have seen the rise in hate crimes in the same time that these types of comments and people were on your show and on other CNN shows...

DOBBS: So I'm responsible for that?

MURGUIA: ... Fox, MSNBC -- we're holding all three networks. We saw a rise in hate crimes against Hispanics raised by 23 percent. And twice that in California.

Hate speech has consequences.

DOBBS: Janet, OK, is it my turn? You have now been talking for over four minutes.

MURGUIA: You have the mike every night.

DOBBS: So you're taking it away from me tonight?

MURGUIA: I'm just saying, I want to make my case.

DOBBS: So you wouldn't like -- OK.

MURGUIA: I appreciate...

DOBBS: Would you like me to -- OK. So what would you like me to do? I will tell you what, we'll give you some more time, and then I'll respond to you tomorrow evening.


DOBBS: How about it?

MURGUIA: Well, I appreciate that.

I just want to make sure you know, for us, it's intolerable and untenable.

DOBBS: Who's us?

MURGUIA: The National Council of La Raza. We represent a civil rights and advocacy organization...

DOBBS: You're a civil rights and...

MURGUIA: ... for 40 years.

DOBBS: You're a socio-ethnocentric organization with a specific interest in driving illegal immigration and amnesty, and you know it.

That's right -- don't bother to address the actual charges. Just bluster about how they're being raised by eeeeevil "open borders" and "illegal alien" advocates.

Beats wrestling with the facts for Dobbs, no doubt.

In any event, the discussion continues in this vein for some time, with Dobbs dismissing the ADL and SPLC out of hand, mostly as his way of defending his continuing reliance on material from designated hate groups. Finally, he comes up with a bizarre defense for the prepronderance of hate speech within the immigration debate and his potential role in that -- namely, it's all Mexico's fault:
DOBBS: Excuse me. You would not even be involved in this debate on illegal immigration unless the preponderance of those illegal aliens were Hispanic. And you know that is a fact.

MURGUIA: I know...

DOBBS: I would be involved in this debate no matter what.

MURGUIA: ... that we can't stand for dehumanizing and demonizing and scapegoating a segment of our society...

DOBBS: Then why in the world have you not taken on the government of Mexico and Central America, and those who create the conditions that drive -- that drive illegal immigration?

Um, maybe because those conditions don't cause the demonizing and scapegoating of illegal immigrants that Lou Dobbs likes to indulge. Just a thought. In any event, your question is a complete non-sequitur.

Murguia goes on to make two more important points:
MURGUIA: There is no coincidence between the extreme rhetoric that the debate has taken and a rise in hate crimes. Words have consequences. And our community is feeling the brunt of that.

Again, Dobbs mostly whines that it's unfair to blame him for this -- and it is, were anyone blaming him directly, but no one is. Rather, there's a level of culpability related to causality, and it's something anyone in the position of being a powerful media figure must deal with responsibly.

Dobbs? Eh, not so much. In fact, NOT AT ALL.

Muguia gets to the heart of the matter a little later:
MURGUIA: We can have -- we can have a separate discussion on immigration.

DOBBS: No, that's what the Congressional Budget...

MURGUIA: But don't dismiss this hate speech and the fact that these individuals that you parade and cloak with an air of respectability are identified and self-avowed vigilante organizations and hate groups.


MURGUIA: I mean, we can have a separate discussion about immigration. This is about keeping hate and hate speech out of the debate.


Dobbs goes on to whine that efforts to confront this speech are an "attack on free speech" -- when in fact, they are simply themselves an exercise in free speech.

Standing up to bad speech of any kind with speech of your own denouncing it is the way American discourse is supposed to work. And it becomes imperative when that bad speech is being broadcast over the national airwaves -- at which point, the question is not a matter of infringing on free speech, but of demanding that the guardians of our public airwaves meet basic community standards of human decency (not to mention journalistic accuracy) we expect.

And it's important to remember: Those guardians face commercial, not governmental, consequences for the failure to act. No one is trying to censor Lou Dobbs. But we the public want him held accountable for his misbegotten journalism, which lately has even devolved into outright lying -- reportage that has not just polluted the public discourse, but has played its role in harming the public's actual well-being.

It's clear Dobbs refuses to accept any accountability whatsoever. And if his bosses refuse to act, then the next step will be to begin talking to their advertisers. At some point, Dobbs will discover that words really do have consequences -- of all kinds.

No comments: