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Sikh Man’s Shooting Highlights Consequences Of State-Sanctioned Discrimination Spurred By Right-Wing Media Myths
As President Donald Trump releases his new Muslim ban, officials are investigating the shooting of a Sikh man in Washington state as a hate crime. The incident underscores the danger of having a government that legitimizes racial and religious profiling, implicitly validates the hatred of extremist groups, and promotes right-wing media myths to criminalize immigrants and refugees.
Trump signed his revised Muslim ban on March 6, almost six weeks after he put out his original order, which proved indefensible and was blocked by a federal court. According to the Center for American Progress, the policy “not only has nothing to do with preventing terrorism, it also helps the Islamic State, or IS, and makes Americans less safe.” Additionally, leaked Department of Homeland Security memos undercut several administration rationales for the travel ban. Initiatives under Trump’s order, including the recently announced Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, which will allegedly report on so-called "honor killings" by foreign nationals among other violent incidents, also serve no legitimate public safety purpose and appear to be an excuse to promote the persistent and dangerous right-wing media myths that immigrants and refugees are criminals.
Despite the Trump administration’s claims that the order does not discriminate on the basis of religion, experts and advocates agree that the intent behind it is the same, and its legitimization of discrimination against an entire group of people based on their country of origin will undoubtedly fuel hatred from the radical right just the same, too.
Hate groups generally are on the rise in America, a finding that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual census of hate groups attributes in large part to Trump’s presidential candidacy and its validation of far-right extremists. The report found that the most dramatic growth was in hate groups that target Muslims (and those perceived to be Muslim, such as Sikhs), which have increased from 34 in 2015 to 101 in total last year.
According to The Washington Post, the victim, who has been identified as 39-year-old Sikh man, Deep Rai, was working in his driveway in a town outside Seattle on March 3 when he was accosted by an armed white man in a mask who said, “Go back to your own country,” before shooting the victim in the arm. The victim was not a believer of Islam, but of Sikhism, a Indian monotheistic religion of which there are about 25 million adherents worldwide. As the Sikh Coalition, America's largest Sikh civil rights group, explained to CNN, Sikhs are often targeted for hate crimes in part "’due to the Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard, which represent the Sikh religious commitment to justice, tolerance and equality.’" Since the 9/11 terror attacks there have been thousands of reports from the Sikh community about hate crimes, workplace discrimination, school bullying, and racial and religious profiling, but the FBI began including hate crimes against Sikhs in their annual report only in 2016, and many in the Sikh community believe the media is still underreporting hate crimes against Sikhs.
In his first speech to a joint session of Congress on February 28, Trump remarked, “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.” While his apparent commitment to Jewish victims of religious hate is inconsistent and a departure from his previous refusal to denounce anti-Semitism, his failure to denounce xenophobia in his mention of the “Kansas shooting” is a conspicuous omission. Srinivas Kuchibhotla was an Indian immigrant in Kansas who was shot and killed by a white man who, similar to the perpetrator of the Washington shooting, shouted, “Get out of my country" before fatally shooting him and wounding another immigrant, Alok Madasani. The incident, which is being investigated as a hate crime, was largely ignored by broadcast and cable news.
It is crucial that these individual hate crimes not be lost in coverage of Trump's immigration policies, which are inspired by dangerous right-wing media myths and validate extremist views. In the aggregate, these shootings are simply another form of state-supported hate.
Illustration by Dayanita Ramesh.
This post has been updated with additional information about the victims.
On March 4, President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of ordering his phones in Trump Tower to be wiretapped during the 2016 election. Trump’s claim echoed points made by Mark Levin, a right-wing talk radio host with a history of anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ statements, climate denial, and racism. He also attacked Obama throughout his presidency, comparing him to dictators, accusing him of racism and anti-Semitism, and saying he had “planted the seeds of World War III.”
Fox News radio host Todd Starnes is headlining a special “pastors’ briefing” at the Texas Capitol on March 6 and 7 whose sponsors include the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council (FRC). Other speakers at the event include FRC’s president and vice president of church ministries and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are also listed as unconfirmed speakers at the event, whose attendees will also go to a March 7 public hearing on the anti-transgender Senate Bill 6 (SB 6).
Right-wing media outlets mischaracterized and scandalized former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s video on civil rights as a call for violence by twisting her words to say she advocated for “blood and death on the streets.”
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On March 1, Attitude Magazine reported that the upcoming live-action remake of the film Beauty and the Beast would feature Disney’s first LGBTQ character, and the following day, Mashable reported that Disney’s digital cable channel had showed its first same-sex kiss on the children’s cartoon Star vs. the Forces of Evil. Right-wing and white nationalist media organizations responded by blaming the “faggot agenda,” creating a “boycott petition” against the film, and saying Disney is attempting to “indoctrinate American children.”
Representation Of Economists Remained High In Fourth Quarter As Surprising Election Result Forced Outlets To Scramble For Explanations
The final quarter of 2016 saw an increase in cable and broadcast news coverage of the economy from the prior three-month period. Yet the proportion of economic coverage that focused on economic inequality decreased sharply as attacks on progressive economic policies rose. Fox News led the charge in attacking progressive policies and health care reform throughout the fourth quarter of the year, while the leading defender of progressive initiatives, MSNBC, aired most of its economic coverage after Election Day. The relative proportion of economists booked as guests during economic news segments remained higher than in years past but dropped as a percentage from the third to fourth quarters of 2016. The proportional representation of women in cable and broadcast evening news discussions of the economy reached a record, but dispiriting, high in the fourth quarter at a mere 30 percent of all guests.
“Alt-Right” Outlets Infowars and Breitbart Regularly Cite Its Content
The U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail is mounting a crusade against refugees and immigrants in Europe. The tabloid’s fearmongering, xenophobic claims of immigrant criminality -- which are often completely false and unsourced -- have positioned the outlet as a favorite among American conspiracy theorists and white nationalists.
The Daily Mail, which is the U.K.’s most popular online and print newspaper, is known for peddling junk science, led the latest right-wing assault on climate change science, and has been accused of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Even the open-sourced encyclopedia Wikipedia has banned its editors from using articles from the Mail to source its pages, calling the publication “generally unreliable.”
The Daily Mail’s Katie Hopkins is one of the paper's writers pushing xenophobic misinformation. Hopkins, who is currently being sued for libel, has called migrants “cockroaches” and falsely accused Muslim travelers of being terrorists. In a recent report from Sweden, she claimed without evidence that the country’s news is filled with reports of rape and assault of young women, discussed an unsourced alleged rape of a 12-year-old by an unaccompanied minor immigrant, and told the impossible-to-substantiate story of a girl “terrified of going out alone” because she lives “near a busy shopping centre which draws migrants from no-go zones,” which do not exist in Sweden. Hopkins went on to discuss an “unexploded hand grenade [found] in a bin outside the police station of a no-go area of town, near a mosque.” But Swedish police would not confirm whether the object found was a bomb, and they described the location where it was found as a town square, not as near a mosque.
After the Mail published Hopkins’ piece, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars reprinted her report with the title “KATIE HOPKINS REPORTS FROM HELLACIOUS SWEDEN, ‘WHERE FEMALES FEAR TO TREAD.’” The anti-immigration hate website VDare.com also amplified her report. In the past week, Infowars has reprinted at least two Daily Mail articles -- the Hopkins piece, along with one about a Swedish policeman who allegedly blamed immigrants for the majority of the country’s rapes and shootings.
Breitbart.com’s London bureau, which regularly traffics in anti-immigrant sentiment, has similarly found a kindred spirit in the Mail’s xenophobic bent. On March 1, Breitbart London cited the Daily Mail in an article about a “Muslim convert” who allegedly “planned to buy a nine-year-old virgin slave girl after he joined [the] Islamic State.” According to The Guardian, the U.K. citizen the article mentions, Patrick Kabele, was in fact arrested in August 2016 for attempting to travel to Syria, but the Daily Mail 's claim that he wrote in his diary that he “wanted to buy a nine-year-old slave girl” can be found only on other tabloid news sites and the blog Jihad Watch, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “Muslim-bashing.” It has not been confirmed by mainstream outlets.
Duncan Gardham, who wrote the piece about Kabele, is another of the Daily Mail authors creating xenophobic content, along with contributor Julian Robinson. The paper's website also has a dedicated tag for news related to the “European Migrant And Refugee Crisis,” which boasts headlines like:
The Mail’s unsourced, misleading, and sometimes completely fabricated claims about supposed immigrant criminality in Sweden do not exist in a vacuum. After President Donald Trump on February 18 mentioned “what’s happening last night in Sweden” before listing cities hit by terrorist attacks, his media cronies defended him by perpetuating the myth of “no-go zones” in Sweden. While no-go zones in Europe are a discredited construct frequently used for anti-immigrant fearmongering, the Daily Mail “reports” on them regularly. Further, Trump’s claims that the United States’ current immigration system threatens jobs and lowers wages, drains government benefits, and makes communities less safe come straight from nativist groups and fringe right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and Infowars, the same outlets that regularly cite anti-immigrant content from the Daily Mail.
These false stories are damaging not only to immigrant communities, which are then unfairly viewed with suspicion, but also to actual victims of sexual assault who are seeking justice -- and to members of the general public on both sides of the Atlantic, who often remember only the first headlines they see, even if they’re not true.
Image by Sarah Wasko.
Trump Has Praised Katie Hopkins’ Columns
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted UK Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins who wrote a column allegedly detailing the many women in Sweden who fear being assaulted by immigrants. Hopkins’ writing and tweets exemplify hate-mongering anti-Muslim bigotry and in the past she has called for the murder of refugees and referred to them as “cockroaches.”
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Fox News Continues To Lie About Sweden And Refugees
Fox News’ Fox & Friends falsely claimed that Sweden’s reintroduction of the draft was due to violence in the country precipitated by refugees, when in fact the draft is being reintroduced to counter Russian aggression in the region.
Despite Fox’s assertion, Sweden’s government is reintroducing the draft for men and women in the country “because of what its defense minister called a deteriorating security environment in Europe and around Sweden” according to a March 2 report from the Washington Post. Sweden ended the draft in 2010, but is reactivating conscription due to “increasing pressure” by Russia on the Baltic region. From the Washington Post:
Sweden’s left-leaning government instituted a military draft for both men and women Thursday because of what its defense minister called a deteriorating security environment in Europe and around Sweden.
In September, non-NATO-member Sweden stationed permanent troops on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist described the move as sending a signal after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its “increasing pressure” on the neighboring Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
There have also been reports of airspace violations by Russia’s military aircraft in the Baltics and a military buildup in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which sits across the Baltic Sea from Sweden.
Fox News, which has demonized and criticized western countries accepting Muslims, reported the Swedish draft was a response to the violence in the country allegedly perpetrated by refugees. During a March 3 segment on Fox & Friends, anchor Heather Nauert said the draft was a “sign that President Trump may be right about Sweden,” claiming that the move is “to combat the brewing terrorism problem in Europe”:
Since Trump’s statement claiming Muslim refugees have sparked violence in Sweden, Fox News has attempted to cover for his false claim by launching a campaign of misinformation which has included defending Trump by pushing anti-Muslim myths and using deceptive practices to fabricate claims that the Swedish government is downplaying refugee violence in the country. Host Bill O’Reilly was forced to admit on his show that he lied about a guest he claimed to be a “Swedish Defense advisor,” when in fact the man had no affiliation with the Swedish government, and didn’t even live in the country.
Carlson Has Frequently Defended The Attorney General From Charges Of Racism -- As Recently As Last Night
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to tamp down the scandal surrounding his contacts with Russia through an interview with Tucker Carlson. Sessions surely expects an easy time from the Fox News host, who has repeatedly used his program to defend the attorney general, including on last night’s broadcast.
Sessions announced today that he will recuse himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States” in the wake of the revelation that he failed to acknowledge during his confirmation hearing that he met with Russia’s ambassador during the 2016 presidential campaign season, when he was a Donald Trump surrogate.
He will reportedly appear on Tucker Carlson Tonight in an effort to defuse a firestorm that includes calls for his resignation from numerous Democratic lawmakers, including Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
It’s unusual for Carlson to host a newsmaking interview with an administration official, as Rosie Gray noted. And helping Republicans find their footing in the midst of scandals is usually Sean Hannity’s job. But Sessions has good reason to expect the kid gloves treatment from Carlson.
Sessions’ racism was a key point of contention during the fight for his confirmation as attorney general. Roll Call’s Jonathan Allen described him as “unfit for the Cabinet” and a “partially reconstructed baiter of minorities” in a November 15 column.
As Allen noted, Sessions’ nomination for the federal bench was rejected by the Senate in 1986 amid allegations that he “had called major civil rights organizations ‘un-American,’ used racially insensitive language with associates and even said pot-smoking was the only reason he no longer thought the KKK was OK.” Allen reviewed Sessions’ shameful legislative record on civil rights issues and noted his support from white nationalists.
Carlson went to the mat for Sessions, bringing Allen on to his November 18 broadcast to accuse him of “smearing” Sessions by producing “almost like a pure download from the DNC website.” Carlson suggested that Allen had been unfair to suggest Sessions was racist because Sessions had represented Alabama, which has a large African-American community, for decades. He accused Allen of “carrying water for the Democratic Party” by impugning Sessions with “slur[s]” and “pure talking points.”
Last night Carlson hosted attorney Eric Guster, who pointed out that Sessions recently gave a speech “where he was saying that they're going to stop suing police departments” over civil rights violations. Carlson responded by blaming President Obama’s Justice Department for racial bias in policing.
Like Sessions, Carlson is beloved by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, in no small part for the way he “has crushed professional mud-slinging Heebs like Jonathan Allen” on his show.
Carlson is also extremely skeptical of the U.S. intelligence community's conclusions that Russia played a role in the 2016 presidential election, denigrating those claims in numerous segments over months.
The attorney general is in good hands tonight.