While reporting on the sponsored hashtag #BuildTheWall that trended on Twitter on April 19, Refinery29 got right what many mainstream outlets get wrong: it properly labeled the group behind the promotion, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), as an anti-immigrant hate group and showed evidence of the group’s white supremacist origins and nativist ties.
FAIR paid to promote the #BuildTheWall hashtag on Twitter as part of its agenda to push President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies -- many of which have been lifted straight from the group’s wishlist and that of its sister organizations, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA. When covering Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, mainstream media outlets often mischaracterize or outright fail to disclose these groups’ nativist intent of “limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country,” thus helping hate groups sanitize their image. Media present these organizations merely as favoring “stricter control on immigration” or as calling “for added immigration restrictions” while giving them a platform to push their message. Trump has now tapped members of these groups for his administration and granted them a seat at the table, adding further legitimization to what started with media’s failure to properly identify “the nativist lobby” as hate groups.
Refinery29 broke from this pattern, noting that FAIR has been labeled “an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League” and pointing out that the group is “very close to promoting a 'white-America only' point of view, under the guise of limiting illegal immigration.” From the April 19 article:
On Wednesday, #BuildTheWall was the top trend on the social network, thanks to an ad sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
On its Twitter account, the organization says it “fights for a stronger America with controlled borders, reduced immigration and better enforcement. #NoAmnesty” . The #BuildTheWall hashtag in itself isn't really a problem. Neither is the text below, which reads: “Help FAIR Push To Get President Trump's Wall Built.” After all, people have the right to support the president's immigration policies, and Twitter has had political advertisements for a long time.
The main issue for some social media users is that FAIR, the organization behind the trend, is considered an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League.
“FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements,” the SPCL's description of the organization reads. “Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country.”
It adds, “One of the group’s main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans. FAIR President Dan Stein has called the Act a 'mistake.'”
In other words, FAIR is very close to promoting a “white-America only” point of view, under the guise of limiting illegal immigration.
According to the SPCL, Stein is the current executive director of FAIR. He has not disavowed the statements made by Tanton, who was one step away from calling himself a white nationalist and who wanted the U.S. to have “a European-American majority.” In fact, Stein said in 2009 that his predecessor was “a Renaissance man.”
Stein seems to have a particular disdain for Latin American immigrants, as shown in a 1997 interview with Tucker Carlson for The Wall Street Journal. “Immigrants don't come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing… Many of them hate America; hate everything that the United States stands for,” he said. “Talk to some of these Central Americans.”
The #BuildTheWall hashtag was not welcomed by many users, who felt Twitter should have stayed away from promoting ads tied to a hate group.
However, a Twitter spokesperson told Refinery29 that even though FAIR holds certain views, the promoted hashtag itself doesn't violate the platform's advertising policies. Therefore, the group is able to advertise with the social media giant.