Carlos Maza

Author ››› Carlos Maza
  • VIDEO: Why Are Trump Supporters So Afraid Of Immigrants?

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    Donald Trump has made attacking immigrants a central part of his presidential campaign, tapping into anti-immigrant sentiment that’s been brewing for years thanks to a concerted effort by right-wing media outlets like Fox News.

    Trump’s campaign has been defined by his animosity toward immigrants: he launched his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals, called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, and, most recently, argued that an American-born federal judge with Mexican heritage can’t be trusted to do his job.

    Trump’s attacks on immigrants are copied and pasted from right-wing media, which have spent the better part of a decade warning Republican voters that immigrants are pouring across the border to take their jobs, commit crime, and spread disease. That constant barrage of misinformation has pulled Republican voters to the right -- Fox News Republicans have a considerably more negative view of immigrants than other Republicans.

    That coverage has also had an effect on GOP lawmakers and candidates, who know that sounding too moderate on immigration might make them targets for right-wing pundits. The fear of retaliation from conservative media helps explain why, by the end of the GOP primary, Trump’s opponents sounded a lot like him when it came to immigration.

    The Republican Party’s embrace of Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry is a dramatic shift from the “compassionate conservative” approach touted during the Bush years, and demonstrates the power of right-wing media to influence Republican voters. A paper from the Harvard Kennedy School last year concluded that conservative media now dictate the direction of the Republican Party on immigration, driving it far to the right.

    Regardless of what happens in November, the Republican Party will need to come to terms with the anti-immigrant monster that right-wing outlets like Fox News have created.

  • VIDEO: The Bogus Panic About Abortion Safety

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    News coverage of laws regulating abortion clinics lends credence to bogus myths about abortion being unsafe, contributing to a wave of clinic closures that’s threatening abortion access across the country.

    Abortion is one of the safest common medical procedures in the United States: safer than childbirth, safer than a colonoscopy, and safer than wisdom teeth removal. In many cases, abortions are non-surgical -- completed through medication rather than surgery.

    Despite the safety of legal abortion, conservative lawmakers across the country are enacting TRAP laws -- Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers. TRAP laws often require abortion providers to meet absurd and unnecessary medical standards in order to stay open. Unable to keep up with the burden of TRAP laws, a number of abortion providers have been forced to close their doors.

    But when news outlets cover TRAP laws, they often uncritically echo anti-abortion activists who claim TRAP laws are necessary to protect patient’s health and safety. Reporters often describe TRAP laws the way anti-choice opponents refer to them, “as safety measures,” without noting that major medical organizations have dismissed these measures as unnecessary and thinly veiled efforts to limit abortion access.

    That kind of shoddy reporting of TRAP laws contributes to abortion stigma -- which is the collection of negative tropes and ideas about abortion as being morally wrong, dangerous, or socially unacceptable -- that pervades even mainstream news coverage.

    Legal abortion is already safe. TRAP laws make it unsafe by burying abortion providers under mountains of unnecessary regulations, putting access to legal abortion out of reach and forcing people to seek out dangerous, self-induced abortions. Any news coverage of TRAP laws that doesn’t make those facts clear to audiences actively contributes to misinformation about abortion safety.  

  • Anti-LGBT National Review Writer Reportedly Being Drafted To Run For President

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol is reportedly considering drafting David French -- a staff writer at National Review -- to run for president as an independent candidate. French has repeatedly demonized the LGBT community in his writing and worked as a lawyer at a right-wing legal group that has defended laws criminalizing homosexuality.

    According to Bloomberg, Kristol -- who has been trying to kickstart a “never Trump” movement among Republicans -- has recently focused his search for an independent candidate on French:

    Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.

    [...]

    Reached in Israel late Tuesday afternoon, Kristol declined to comment on his efforts to induce French to run. The two Republicans confirmed that French is open to launching a bid, but that he has not made a final decision. One of the Republicans added that French has not lined up a vice-presidential running mate or significant financial support. However, according to this person, some conservative donors look favorably on the prospect of French entering the fray.

    At National Review, French has written extensively against LGBT equality and women’s access to abortion. He announced in 2010 that he had changed his mind and decided to oppose marriage equality, later warning that America was “racing off on our own cultural experiment.” He’s written multiple pieces attacking the transgender community, lamented “transgender entitlement,” described a young transgender woman as a “man” who is “on the verge of mutilating himself,” and argued that states should reject federal education funding rather than prohibit discrimination against transgender students.

    French previously served as a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund -- from 2006 to 2010. He also offered legal advice to anti-abortion activist Lila Rose.

    Both before and after French’s tenure there, ADF worked to defend domestic and international anti-sodomy laws that criminalize homosexual behavior. ADF is also the group behind the recent wave of anti-LGBT “religious freedom” laws and anti-transgender “bathroom bills.” The group has a history of fighting to limit access to reproductive healthcare, including testifying against Planned Parenthood and taking part in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case.

  • VIDEO: This Conservative Legal Group Wants To Make Gay Sex Illegal Again

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA, COLEMAN LOWNDES & LEANNE NARAMORE

    News networks frequently invite Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- one of the most powerful right-wing legal groups in the country -- to defend laws like North Carolina’s anti-LGBT bathroom legislation. But media outlets typically identify ADF as merely a “Christian legal organization,” failing to mention the group’s record of defending laws that would put people in prison for being gay.

    ADF is a right-wing legal powerhouse that’s been linked to nearly every recent attack on LGBT equality and women’s reproductive health care. The group has testified against Planned Parenthood and was a major player in the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby case. Legislation like North Carolina’s bathroom law and Indiana’s “religious freedom” law are the products of ADF’s behind-the-scenes legal work. The group shops extreme model legislation to state lawmakers across the country, testifies in favor of those laws, and then defends them in local and national media.

    But news networks that host ADF often identify them as a “Christian” or “conservative” legal organization, failing to mention the group’s history of smearing the LGBT community and working to criminalize homosexuality. ADF has helped defend laws in Belize and Jamaica that would put people in prison for engaging in gay sex. The group opposes anti-bullying efforts, which it believes will indoctrinate “impressionable” children into homosexuality. Alan Sears, the group’s current president, co-wrote a book which claims that homosexuality and pedophilia are “intrinsically linked.” At a recent conference, one ADF attorney claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard had been falsely depicted as an anti-gay hate crime in order to advance the “homosexual legal agenda.”

    News networks that choose to give ADF airtime to defend rolling back LGBT and abortion rights should be honest with their audiences about who ADF is, rather than letting them get away with posing as a reasonable conservative legal group.

  • VIDEO: Stop Calling Donald Trump “Controversial”

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    News networks frequently use the word “controversial” to describe Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican comments, and it’s setting a dangerous precedent for the way the media talks about bigotry in American politics.

    Trump’s candidacy has brought religious and racial bigotry to the forefront of Republican presidential politics. He’s repeatedly demonized Muslims and Mexicans on the campaign trail, scapegoating them as security threats to justify calling for mass deportations, government surveillance, and travel bans.

    That has put news networks in the uncomfortable position of trying to remain “impartial” while covering Trump’s increasingly deplorable rhetoric. Instead of plainly labeling his campaign as “bigoted,” networks have used neutral-sounding terms like “controversial” to avoid making editorial judgments about Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican positions.

    But calling Trump’s comments “controversial” is lazy and dangerous. It treats racial and religious intolerance as just a quirk of Republican politics. It normalizes that intolerance, turning it into an unremarkable and routine partisan disagreement. It lets Trump’s defenders spin his comments as just evidence of his “tough” stance on immigration or border security. And it makes it easier for Trump to reinvent himself as a serious “presidential” candidate as he prepares for the general election.

    Failing to call out Trump’s bigotry also makes it harder for news networks to accurately tell the story of Trump’s rise in Republican politics. As PBS’s Tavis Smiley explained on Democracy Now in January:

    Trump is still, to my mind at least, an unrepentant, irascible religious and racial arsonist. And so, when we talk about how Donald Trump is rising in the poll, you can’t do that absent the kind of campaign he’s running, the issues that he’s raising. And for us to just say, "Donald Trump is rising in the polls," and not connect that to the base message that he’s putting out there, I think, just misses the point.

    Religious and racial bigotry deserves to be treated differently than other campaign trail stories, especially by journalists. News networks that shy away from making editorial judgments about Trump’s extremism are setting a dangerous precedent -- one that could last long beyond this election cycle.

  • VIDEO: How The Media Turns Black Rage Into The Enemy

    Media Images Of Violence Distracted From A History Of Disenfranchisement And Structural Racism In Baltimore

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    It’s been a year since the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody. Gray’s death sparked major protests from local residents and activists, but it wasn’t until some of those protests turned violent that Baltimore captured the attention of national news networks.

    In the days that followed, media images of the events in Baltimore fixated on scenes of violence, looting, and property damage, drawing criticism from local residents who rejected what they saw as sensationalized and misleading media coverage.

    One of those residents is Lawrence Grandpre, the Assistant Director of Research and Public Policy at Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle -- a grassroots think tank that advances the public policy interests of Black people in Baltimore. Talking to Media Matters, Grandpre criticized corporate media’s tendency to highlight the most sensational images during events like the Baltimore protests.

    “You have a kind of race-to-the-bottom in terms of corporate media looking for the most spectacular incidences of violence, the biggest names, and what they think will drive the media cycle forward in their favor,” Grandpre explains. “In a corporate media environment, the spectacle drives views, drives retweets, and thus drives profits.”

    That focus on sensationalized images comes at a cost. Images of violence and property damage distracted viewers from understanding the long-term problems in Baltimore that fueled the outrage over Gray’s death, making it difficult for audiences to fully grasp what was motivating protesters.

    “The reality is the frustration you saw in April of 2015 wasn’t just about Freddie Gray,” says Grandpre. “It was about a system that had left a large chunk of Baltimore politically abandoned in terms of people who genuinely represent their interests and structurally in the line-of-fire for systemic poverty, hyper policing, and structural racism.”

    Without understanding the history of inequality and disenfranchisement in Baltimore, news viewers were more likely to see images of violence and property damage and conclude that protesters were acting irrationally.  And that made it easier for commentators on major news networks to dismiss the protesters as “thugs” and “criminals.”

    “An audience that doesn’t know Baltimore will just assume these are irrational young people all over the city who are taking out their anger on the streets,” says Grandpre.  “When you see black folk as an irrational threat, or responding in ways that are irrational, all you need to do to assuage your fear is put them down, either by quelling the riot or taking violence against those people. And that prevents you from actually interrogating the structural conditions which produced that rage.”

    That depiction of black protesters as irrational, dangerous, and out-of-control helped turn public opinion against protesters, making it less likely that audiences would hear protesters’ grievances as legitimate or credible. And Grandpre argues those kinds of images play on deeply ingrained fears about black rage.

    “In this country, there are certain psychological tropes that relate to blackness that the media is going to exploit in these incidences. In reality, there are fears in Baltimore not just of urban revolts going back to the 60s, but really honestly slave revolts going all the way back to Nat Turner in the 19th century. So the idea of black people having these types of uprising produces this deep fear within the collective psyche of many in America, in terms of ‘there’s this black rage that threatens to consume this country that folks have built up, could that black rage be turned on to me and my family?’”

    The media’s focus on sensationalized depictions of violence shaped how audiences imaged a resolution to the crisis in Baltimore. Just as images of violent protests came to define the “problem” in Baltimore, ending that violence became the “solution,” so news networks fixated on whether protesters would disperse rather than asking if the conditions that had brought the protesters onto the streets in the first place had changed.

    “We have this discourse and representations that are strategically designed to make it so that the discussions about changing conditions in society that could actually hurt the material interests of many of the folks who are in power, are not centered in political discourse,” Grandpre explains. “Instead what’s centered is the threat, the spectacle, and can we have a bonding moment with the reestablishing of security. But that reestablishing of security is really just reestablishing the status quo which was never secure when you’re talking about black people in places like Baltimore.”

  • VIDEO: Here's The Truth About The Anti-LGBT "Bathroom Predator" Myth

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    North Carolina is the first state in the country to pass a law aimed at broadly controlling transgender people’s access to public restrooms. Proponents of the law claim it’s needed to prevent sexual predators from sneaking into women’s bathrooms by dressing up as women and pretending to be transgender.

    That “bathroom predator” talking point is a myth. Law enforcement experts and people who work with victims of sexual assault have called it “beyond specious” and “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” There have been zero proven incidents in the more than 17 states and 200 cities where transgender people are currently protected from discrimination and allowed to use public bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

    But the “bathroom predator” myth has dominated news coverage of the fight for transgender equality. Reporters repeat the talking point without debunking it, so viewers are left thinking that LGBT nondiscrimination protections might lead to sexual assault.

    Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized news networks’ uncritical repetition of the “bathroom predator” talking point, telling Media Matters:

    Journalists who talk about this as two co-equal sides are essentially letting proponents of these talking points get away with mythic narratives about trans predators or non-trans predators having access to bathrooms and locker rooms. And that story is incredibly damaging and really undermines efforts to protect trans people and the whole LGBT community.

    […]

    When the media doesn’t point out that the bathroom talking points are complete bullshit, what they’re doing is participating in a falsehood that allows trans people to be associated with intrusions into privacy, with violence, and with harm to other people. The reality is none of these things are true.

    Instead of focusing on mythic stories about bathroom predators, news networks should ask how “bathroom bills” like North Carolina’s will be enforced. As Strangio explained, these laws “would open the door to major intrusions into people’s privacy and people’s medical information, … allow[ing] for policing of people’s gender every time they walk into a restroom.”

    Republican politicians are using imaginary horror stories about bathroom predators to pass creepy, invasive laws policing the gender of anyone who goes to the bathroom in a public place. That’s the story media outlets should be telling when covering “bathroom bills” like North Carolina's.

    Video by Coleman Lowndes and Carlos Maza.

  • How News Networks Should Cover Someone Like Donald Trump

    Ratings-Come-First Journalism Turns News Networks Into Trump Enablers

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Donald Trump is political media's dream candidate. He supplies news networks with a seemingly endless supply of ridiculous sound bites, over-the-top press conferences, and legitimate scandals. As a result, news networks have devolved into 24-hour Trump channels, covering his every speech, press conference, stunt, and tweet. And they've compromised some of their most basic journalistic standards in hopes of earning access to the candidate.

    But Trump isn't just a charismatic performer, and he's not a typical presidential candidate -- he's a racist, bigoted, proto-fascist whose rallies have become hotbeds of violent extremism. He's a serial liar without a consistent or serious policy agenda.

    And he routinely exploits one of the mainstream media's greatest weaknesses -- its addiction to political theatrics -- to keep his campaign front and center in the public's imagination.

    The horse race journalism that's defined the past few election cycles isn't appropriate for covering a figure like Trump. To properly report on Trump's candidacy, news networks will have to adjust their typical, ratings-come-first approach to election coverage.

    1. Stop Airing Entire Trump Events

    Much of Trump's dominance of the news cycle is a result of news networks' willingness to air many of his stump speeches and press conferences live, unedited, and without commercial breaks. Veteran campaign reporter Walter Shapiro called the airing of Trump's speeches by networks unprecedented, adding "No one has ever gotten to have all of their campaign speeches broadcast unedited."

    His speeches make for good television -- he calls Ted Cruz a "pussy," imitates Marco Rubio, botches Bible verses, pulls bizarre supporters on stage. But beyond sheer entertainment value, there's rarely a good journalistic reason to give Trump's speeches so much attention.

    News networks' inability to look away from the Trump circus means Trump can rely on the media to deliver his campaign messages, unfiltered, to millions more voters than would otherwise hear them. And that special treatment means Trump's opponents in both parties are forced to compete in a news environment that gives Trump millions of dollars in free advertising and exposure.

    2. End Trump's Call-In Interview Privileges

    Trump has taken advantage of news networks' willingness to allow him to call in to his television interviews over the phone. It's a privilege he uses frequently -- he conducted 69 phone interviews in the first 69 days of 2016.

    Phone interviews give Trump an obvious advantage over his rivals: he can ignore visual cues and body language, potentially review notes and talking points during the conversation, more easily steamroll over his interviewers' questions, and avoid awkward confrontations. Phone interviews also allow Trump to tightly control his image -- he gets his polished headshot on screen without running the risk of looking bad on camera. And the frequency with which he does phone interviews allows him to flood the airwaves with very little effort.

    3. Start Identifying Hate For What It Is

    Trump is running an aggressively hateful campaign. It's difficult to imagine a major presidential candidate being more explicitly bigoted than one who refers to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals" and proposes banning Muslims from entering the country, to say nothing of his support among white supremacists and increasingly toxic rallies.

    The fact that he's supported by millions of Americans does not somehow make his comments about Mexicans and Muslims less bigoted. The fact that he denies being a bigot does not make it any less objectively true.

    But too many journalists and news outlets have shied away from using terms like "bigot" and "racist" to describe Trump's campaign, choosing neutral terms like "controversial" instead. That avoidance is irresponsible and dishonest -- it obscures the real ugliness of his campaign and downplays gross bigotry to the level of a routine policy disagreement. It tacitly mainstreams that hate by treating it as little more than a partisan policy disagreement. To talk about Trump's rise without acknowledging the anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim animus fueling it is to not tell the full story -- neutrality at the expense of accuracy. Good journalism demands that media outlets can distinguish between partisan disagreements and blatant, indefensible bigotry and scapegoating.

    4. Accept That Trump Doesn't Care About Fact-Checking

    Trump isn't concerned with appearing honest or consistent. He's the master of deflecting tough questions by going on long, rambling tangents. He's quick to backpedal from or completely reverse his positions under scrutiny. He's an unrepentant, serial liar who shows no concern about how frequently his public statements turn out to be completely wrong.

    Trying to hold Trump accountable for every lie he tells is like bailing water out of the Titanic -- it may feel good and right, but it ignores the bigger problem.

    What's missing is the willingness to treat Trump's lies as more than isolated events, to tie his statements to a broader narrative about Trump's trustworthiness. The controversies around Hillary Clinton's email servers and Benghazi were just the latest iterations of a media narrative that suggests Hillary Clinton can't be trusted. But Trump's repeated, bald-faced lying hasn't similarly tarnished his reputation as a straight-talker. Nine months into Trump's campaign, news networks should be comfortable holding him to the same standards of honesty and consistency they hold other candidates.

    5. Don't Take The Bait

    It's unfair to call the media's treatment of Donald Trump "fawning". Many journalists and commentators have correctly and repeatedly documented Trump's racism, misogyny, and dishonesty. The real problem is that news networks are incapable of distinguishing between meaningful Trump stories and the bullshit political theater Trump puts on daily.

    In a typical news cycle, networks can treat any gaffe or off-color remark as newsworthy -- politicians are trained to stick to their prepared talking points and choose their words wisely, so public missteps, like Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comment or Howard Dean's infamous scream, get a lot of media attention, and can seriously derail a campaign.

    But Trump's unfiltered campaign style throws a monkey wrench into that dynamic, saturating the news cycle with more sound bites, press conferences, stunts, and pseudo-controversies than networks can keep up with. As former CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg told Media Matters, "Trump is smart enough to know that if he gets out in front of the media with some outrageous statement, he backs up their ability to follow up the outrageous statement he made yesterday." 

    That kind of frenetic, breakneck Trump coverage makes for great television, but it's a terrible way of vetting a candidate. It makes it difficult for voters to figure out what actually matters on the campaign trail. The significance of Trump's bigotry and absurd policy ideas gets diluted - "flattened and folded into a 'there he goes again' outrage-a-thon." Networks are so busy keeping their viewers entertained by Trump's theatrics that they end up treating Trump like an entertainer -- someone who's held to different standards than the rest of the presidential candidates.

    Asking news networks to stop focusing on Trump is misguided -- Trump's campaign and rise in GOP politics is tremendously significant and newsworthy. But the classic, horse race approach to campaign coverage isn't appropriate anymore. Trump has figured out how to game that system, and networks that continue treating his campaign like a harmless ratings spectacle risk becoming de facto Trump-enablers.  

    The responsibility of the media in an election cycle is to cut through the noise and bluster and help voters make informed decisions about which candidate is most qualified to run the country. That means resisting the urge to chase every shiny new Trump story. It means refusing to let Trump constantly phone in for interviews in the quest for more access to the candidate. And it means having the courage to look beyond the Trump spectacle and identify his campaign as what it is - a billionaire carnival barker's racist, hateful, and deeply dishonest effort to become the most powerful person in the country.

    Video by John Kerr, Carlos Maza, and Leanne Naramore. Top image by Sarah Wasko.

  • The Question Every Reporter Should Be Asking About Transgender Bathroom Bans

    "How Is The Government Supposed To Figure Out A Person's Biological Sex?"

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Media outlets covering the debate over transgender equality have helped amplify right-wing myths about privacy and women's safety in public restrooms. But they haven't asked Republican politicians to explain how they'll enforce laws that would require people to prove their "biological sex" at the bathroom door.

    On March 23, North Carolina became the first state in the country to pass a law broadly banning transgender people from using certain bathrooms in publicly run facilities and schools. The law -- House Bill 2 -- came in response to an ordinance passed in Charlotte, which would have protected LGBT people from discrimination in housing and public accommodations.

    The North Carolina law is just the beginning of a nationwide push to make it illegal for transgender people to use the public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

    Proponents of these anti-transgender laws claim they're needed to protect women's privacy and to stop men from sneaking into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender. As North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory stated after signing HB 2 into law (emphasis added):

    The basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room, for each gender was violated by government overreach and intrusion by the mayor and city council of Charlotte. This radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access not only impacts the citizens of Charlotte but people who come to Charlotte to work, visit or play. This new government regulation defies common sense and basic community norms by allowing, for example, a man to use a woman's bathroom, shower or locker room.

    The idea that men will pretend to be transgender to sneak into women's restrooms has been debunked by law enforcement experts, government officials, and women's safety advocates in cities and states across the country.

    But media coverage of the debate around transgender bathroom access has been dominated by anti-LGBT talking points about "privacy" and "safety." In Charlotte, local news coverage of the LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance was largely defined by baseless fears about men entering women's restrooms.

    Instead of fixating on bogus right-wing "bathroom predator" horror stories, journalists should be asking a basic but tremendously important question about Republicans' efforts to regulate public restrooms: how is the government supposed to figure out a person's biological sex?

    Transgender people don't walk around with labels on their foreheads. It's impossible to prove whether someone is transgender just by looking at them. Anyone who uses public bathrooms has likely shared a bathroom with a transgender person without noticing.

    But laws like North Carolina's invite politicians, business owners, and even other bathroom goers to make snap judgments about who does and doesn't belong in a restroom. North Carolina's law states that people are allowed to use only certain bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex, "which is stated on a person's birth certificate." Most human beings don't walk around carrying copies of their birth certificates, and they certainly don't bring their birth certificates with them every time they need to use a public bathroom. But under HB 2, North Carolinians will need to be ready to prove their biological sex anytime they need to use a bathroom in a public facility or school.

    Other states across the country are considering "bathroom bills" that could award thousands of dollars in damages to anyone who shared a bathroom with a transgender person, creating a perverse incentive to try to seek out and accuse people who might be transgender in the bathroom.

    Those kinds of laws could encourage seriously gross violations of privacy, and not just for transgender people. As Scott Skinner-Thompson, acting assistant professor of lawyering at NYU School of Law recently wrote on Slate:

    If to be enforced the bills require individuals to somehow prove that their so-called "biological sex" matches the gender of the bathroom, they will be forced to disclose sensitive information about their sex and medical history. Indeed, all people--not just transgender people--could ostensibly be asked to prove their "biological sex" before using a restroom, meaning that the invasive privacy violation is not only a transgender problem.

    Last March, a Louisiana woman who underwent chemotherapy and a bi-lateral mastectomy after a stage 2 cancer diagnosis was accused of being a man while standing in line to use a Walmart restroom. Last January, a lesbian in Michigan was kicked out of a restaurant bathroom because she was mistaken for a man. On March 18, a Republican politician in Fayetteville, AR, questioned a cisgender restaurant employee and asked her to prove that she was a biological woman. Under HB 2, those kinds of mix-ups could potentially become awkward and invasive legal battles.

    "Bathroom bills" like North Carolina's give government officials an excuse to repeatedly police the gender of anyone who needs to use a public bathroom, even if that means forcing them to turn over sensitive personal documents or medical information at the bathroom door.

    In the effort to protect women from an imaginary "bathroom predator" boogeyman, state legislatures across the country are introducing bills that will allow the government to demand proof of people's biological sex. Journalists interested in the debate over privacy in restrooms should be asking Republican politicians and their LGBT supporters how they plan to enforce laws like HB 2.

  • The Whiteness Of The Media Is A Slow-Motion Train Wreck

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    MSNBC has canceled its weekend morning editorial program Melissa Harris-Perry. The cancellation deals a significant blow to diversity on cable news, as Harris-Perry consistently hosted the most diverse guests of any of the Sunday morning news shows.

    But the lack of diversity on Sunday morning shows is just part of a much broader media diversity problem. People of color are widely underrepresented in both print and radio newsrooms, and the percentage of non-white journalists in traditional newsrooms has remained largely stagnant over the past 20 years.

    That's not just a workplace problem -- it's an accuracy problem. The absence of people of color in newsrooms and on television allows the biases of white journalists and commentators to go unchecked, resulting in reporting that often overlooks important angles, privileges one side of a story, and fails to provide necessary context to understand news events.  

    Media diversity isn't a luxury good that can be jettisoned for the sake of convenience. White newsrooms are broken newsrooms.

    Video by John Kerr, Carlos Maza, and Leanne Naramore.