Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why Is Tucson's KVOA Treating Hate Group Leader Glenn Spencer As A Legit News Source?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Here's a classic example of the way far-right hate groups have been moving into our mainstream discourse, being legitimized by a clueless and culpable mainstream media.

Tucson's NBC News affiliate -- KVOA-TV, Channel 4 -- ran this interesting segment the other day on a new/old technology to catch border crossers. The most interesting thing about it, though, was their chief source for the story: American Border Patrol's Glenn Spencer:
HEREFORD - Most people agree we need to secure the border, right? The issue is, how do we know when the border is secure? How do we measure that? The American Border Patrol, a non-governmental organization that monitors the border, thinks an old technology may hold the new answer.

They're called geophones, basically, a magnet inside of a coil. But they can sense the smallest vibrations, like someone walking across the border. American Border Patrol installed the system on their ranch to test its effectiveness.

"And it works. It's been here for 11 months underground, working. And it counts everybody who crosses," said Glenn Spencer, American Border Patrol.

The sensors pick people up at 600 feet, but can start to analyze it better and tell if it's human from 300 feet.

"Showing in Google Earth where on the border the detection and the alert happened," said Spencer.
Notice anything missing from this story? Well, how about even the slightest mention of the fact that Spencer runs one of the most notorious anti-immigrant hate groups in the country?
Spencer was one of the first well-known anti-immigration activists to more or less openly court white supremacists and anti-Semites. He has attended conferences of American Renaissance magazine, which specializes in racist theories about blacks and others, and interviewed the magazine's editor, Jared Taylor, on his syndicated radio show. Another Spencer radio guest was California State University, Long Beach, Professor Kevin MacDonald, who is the architect of an elaborate anti-Semitic theory dressed up as evolutionary biology. Spencer also promoted on his website a booklet published by Taylor called The Color of Crime that claims to be a "relentlessly factual" study alleging — on the basis of Taylor's mixing up of all interracial crimes and race-motivated hate crimes — that blacks and Latinos are far more likely than whites to be hate criminals.
The ADL has more on Spencer.

Moreover, how about a disclaimer pointing out that the video footage of Spencer's that they run in this segment is part of his ongoing project to demonize Latinos?

It's not as though Spencer's involvement in anti-immigrant hate is an unknown matter in Arizona. After all, Shawna Forde was arrested on his property only two years ago.

Moreover, using him as a news source of any kind ought to raise big red flags for any journalist. After all, this is a guy who has spread false rumors that immigrants were carrying the Ebola virus. He's made his living for the past 15 years promoting the "Reconquista" conspiracy theory/hoax. And now he's a legitimate news source? On what planet?

So I called up the newsroom at KVOA to ask. I spoke with an assistant editor, a woman named Lisa, who defended the story by pointing out that it was about the technology Spencer has been using on his ranch -- and which is apparently about to be adopted on a test basis by state authorities -- to detect border crossers. I pointed out to her, however, that the story used Spencer's videos and legitimized his activities by treating him as a benign border-activism group.

She admitted that she was personally unaware that Spencer's American Border Patrol has long been designated a hate group. But she did not indicate whether any clarification would be broadcast for their viewers.

You see, Spencer has been working hard to mainstream himself these days, particularly by taking on a new tea-party guise that lets him reach a much broader audience than his old Minuteman schtick, now that Forde went and messed that up for him.

And thanks to the ignorance and irresponsibility of media mavens like the reporters at KVOA, he's getting there with plenty of help.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seasons Greetings From DOJ: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Rebuked For Abusing Civil Rights In Arizona

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Christmas came early for the law-abiding residents of Arizona's Maricopa County yesterday:
PHOENIX — In a strongly worded critique of the country’s best-known sheriff, the Justice Department on Thursday accused Sheriff Joe Arpaio of engaging in “unconstitutional policing” by unfairly targeting Latinos for detention and arrest and retaliating against those who complain.

After an investigation that lasted more than three years, the civil rights division of the Justice Department said in a 22-page report that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which Mr. Arpaio leads, had “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos” that “reaches the highest levels of the agency.” The department interfered with the inquiry, the government said, prompting a lawsuit that eventually led Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies to cooperate.

“We have peeled the onion to its core,” said Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, noting during a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning that more than 400 inmates, deputies and others had been interviewed as part of the review, including Sheriff Arpaio and his command staff. Mr. Perez said the inquiry, which included jail visits and reviews of thousands of pages of internal documents, raised the question of whether Latinos were receiving “second-class policing services” in Maricopa County.

Mr. Perez said he hoped Sheriff Arpaio would cooperate with the federal government in turning the department around. Should he refuse to enter into a court-approved settlement agreement, Mr. Perez said, the government will file a lawsuit and the department could lose millions of dollars in federal money.

A separate federal grand jury investigation of Sheriff Arpaio’s office is continuing, focusing on accusations of abuse of power by the department’s public corruption squad.
That investigation -- unlike this probe, which involved civil law -- is a criminal matter. The other shoe has yet to drop on that score.

Arpaio, of course, claims that this is all politically motivated:

"Don't come here and use me as a whipping boy for a national, international problem," said Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The DOJ warned Arpaio to stop racially profiling Hispanic members of the community, or face the consequences. But Arpaio vowed to continue his controversial immigration sweeps.

"I took an oath of office. I'm enforcing the state and federal laws," Arpaio said.. "It's as simple as that, and I will continue to enforce those state laws."

The normally media friendly sheriff stayed away from the cameras for most of the day today. And when he did speak, it was during a late-afternoon news conference with his attorneys at his side.

"I'm going to say it again, I will continue to enforce all the laws," Arpaio said during the 40-minute news conference.


"President Obama and his band of his merry men might as well erect their own pink neon sign on the Arizona-Mexico border saying welcome to your United States," Arpaio said. "Our home is your home."
The immediate effect, as the LA Times reported, is that Arpaio and his deputies have lost their right to enforce federal immigration law, and are moreover being kicked out of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities" program:
In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said her department was ending one agreement with Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and restricting the office’s access to another Homeland Security program.

“Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust,” Napolitano said. “DHS will not be a party to such practices. Accordingly, and effective immediately, DHS is terminating MCSO's 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office access to the Secure Communities program.”

Under the 287(g) program, Arpaio’s deputies could question jail inmates about their immigration status. Under Secure Communities, fingerprints collected by state and local police are shared with immigration authorities to identify and deport tens of thousands of people each year.


U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, who represents part of Maricopa County, praised Homeland Security for terminating Maricopa County's participation in the 287(g) jail program, saying it underscored how serious the Justice Department’s findings were.

“It's been used wrongly and in a very abusive way,” Grijalva, longtime critic of the sheriff, said in an interview.
Indeed -- and those abuses raise serious questions about the programs themselves. If they give abusive law-enforcement agencies the power to substantially increase their abuse -- which was clearly the case here -- doesn't that seriously undermine the already questionable value of these programs in the first place?

Just asking.