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  • After Charlottesville terrorism, black voices provide vital perspective on the pervasiveness of racism in America

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    After a white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA, left one person dead and many others injured, black voices in the media conveyed a powerful and unequivocal rebuke of the resurgence of emboldened white nationalism in America.

    Black voices took to Sunday news shows to share the pain felt by them and their community and rebuke the argument that “many sides” were to blame for the white supremacist rally. The “Unite the Right” demonstration on August 12 was designed to be “one of the largest gatherings of white nationalists in recent times, attracting groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis and movement leaders like David Duke and Richard Spencer,” according to The New York Times. The rally prompted counterprotesters to turn out en masse to collectively denounce the hateful demonstrations, and clashes between the sides quickly ensued. One 20-year-old who stood with white nationalists at the rally and has been described as a Nazi sympathizer drove his car through a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and leaving 19 injured. President Donald Trump has received widespread criticism for personally failing to denounce white supremacy or call it out by name following the incident and instead condemning “violence on many sides.”

    On CNN’s State of the Union, Van Jones bluntly noted that “an American citizen was assassinated in broad daylight by a Nazi” who “the day before had been marching with torches down American streets … this is not a time to talk about both sides.” Jones said that it was “almost painful” that he had to point out the distinction, adding that “people watching this show gave their lives to stop Nazism. Dr. King gave his life to stop the Klan.” Jones also admonished the president for sending “a signal to people that this is all right” by decrying “many sides, many sides.” From the August 13 episode:

    Another guest on the panel, Nina Turner, communicated the deep pain felt by African Americans, asking, “Do you understand the pain? My heart is skipping beats right now to think about all that my foreparents went through to get to this point in time in America’s history. … People are in pain, having flashbacks. In the 21st century, we shouldn’t be going through this.” From the episode:

    NBC’s Joy Reid noted that Trump’s response marked an “extraordinary” moment in history, saying, “The idea that a president of the United States cannot unambiguously denounce Nazism is extraordinary, and Donald Trump has placed himself in a history. There is no way that I think the American people could have contemplated that their president could not unequivocally condemn David Duke and Nazis. And he couldn’t, and he didn’t.” From the August 13 edition of Meet the Press:

    And on CBS' Face the Nation, as the panel debated the motives behind Trump's ambiguous condemnation of violence at the rally, Slate's Jamelle Bouie highlighted that "in the context of an event that was held to defend Confederate statues in Charlottesville, VA, to say we need to ‘cherish our history,’ to me, sounds like a dog whistle to the ‘Unite the Right’ demonstrators.” From the August 13 episode:

    Politicians and media figures from across the political spectrum have come together to denounce the racism, anti-Semitism, and outright bigotry exhibited at the rally, despite Trump’s failure to call out the racism by name. But it was black voices that shined through with important perspective and historical context.

  • Lindy West Leaves Twitter: “Get Back To Me When Your Website Isn’t A Roiling Rat-King Of Nazis” 

    Writer Denounces Platform’s Refusal To Protect Users From “Alt-Right” Harassment

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Writer Lindy West, who spent years cultivating a reputation for engaging with (and frequently demolishing) social media trolls, has announced she’s leaving Twitter because of the “global repercussions” of the platform’s “refusal to stop” harassment campaigns launched by the white supremacist, misogynist “alt-right” movement.

    In a January 3 opinion piece at The Guardian, West explained that she had deactivated her Twitter account after “half a decade of troubleshooting” to curb personal harassment and threats from anonymous users trolling her on the social media platform. West, who regularly engaged with her tormentors on Twitter and even confronted a user who harassed her while posing as her dead father, concluded that Twitter was “unusable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators.”

    West explained that her decision to leave Twitter didn’t stem from simply reaching a breaking point when it came to trolls, but rather that it represented her disgust with Twitter’s “refusal” to “intervene and start protecting its users” from coordinated harassment campaigns led by members of the so-called “alt-right.” As West pointed out, “Twitter executives did nothing” for years in which the “alt-right” was “beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities.” This harassment included the deeply racist and misogynist campaign against black actress Leslie Jones last summer, led by “alt-right” Breitbart.com editor and serial harasser Milo Yiannopoulos, and the similarly misogynist Gamergate “hate-storm” in 2014.

    Recent “alt-right” manipulation of Twitter represents a dangerous escalation of the sort of Twitter harassment, abuse, and disinformation West has fought for years. A combination of trolls (e.g., anonymous users goaded and led by the ideologically hateful “alt-right”), robots (bot and spam accounts created specifically, often by the trolls, to amplify the abuse or disinformation), and dictators (or at least leaders with authoritarian tendencies) are using the platform to rile users with fake news stories and general misinformation, confirming and encouraging harmful views that justify the abuse of others. It’s created an ecosystem that’s “feeding into the worst instincts of humanity,” and Twitter’s inaction has amounted to a stamp of approval that West said she can longer accept.

    From West’s January 3 op-ed (emphasis added):

    I hate to disappoint anyone, but the breaking point for me wasn’t the trolls themselves (if I have learned anything from the dark side of Twitter, it is how to feel nothing when a frog calls you a cunt) – it was the global repercussions of Twitter’s refusal to stop them. The white supremacist, anti-feminist, isolationist, transphobic “alt-right” movement has been beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities for years now – how much hate speech will bystanders ignore? When will Twitter intervene and start protecting its users? – and discovered, to its leering delight, that the limit did not exist. No one cared. Twitter abuse was a grand-scale normalisation project, disseminating libel and disinformation, muddying long-held cultural givens such as “racism is bad” and “sexual assault is bad” and “lying is bad” and “authoritarianism is bad”, and ultimately greasing the wheels for Donald Trump’s ascendance to the US presidency. Twitter executives did nothing.

    On 29 December, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “What’s the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017?” One user responded: “Comprehensive plan for getting rid of the Nazis.”

    “We’ve been working on our policies and controls,” Dorsey replied. “What’s the next most critical thing?” Oh, what’s our second-highest priority after Nazis? I’d say No 2 is also Nazis. And No 3. In fact, you can just go ahead and slide “Nazis” into the top 100 spots. Get back to me when your website isn’t a roiling rat-king of Nazis. Nazis are bad, you see?

    Trump uses his Twitter account to set hate mobs on private citizens, attempt to silence journalists who write unfavourably about him, lie to the American people and bulldoze complex diplomatic relationships with other world powers. I quit Twitter because it feels unconscionable to be a part of it – to generate revenue for it, participate in its profoundly broken culture and lend my name to its legitimacy.

  • How The Media Elevated Anti-Immigrant Nativist Groups

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Throughout 2016, media outlets were complicit in mainstreaming the “nativist lobby,” made up of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA, groups with ties to white supremacists whose mission is to drastically limit both legal and illegal immigration. Even though these groups have a record of producing shoddy research and pushing misinformation about immigrants, their agenda has now inspired many of President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Many mainstream media outlets contributed to the normalization of these nativist groups by repeatedly referencing them under the pretense of balance while failing to acknowledge their insidious anti-immigrant agenda or provide context about their nativist origins.

  • Fox News’ Fox & Friends Was The Only Cable News Morning Show To Ignore The Dylann Roof Verdict

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    While every other major cable news morning show acknowledged the guilty verdict of Charleston, SC, gunman Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black parishioners in a racially motivated shooting, Fox News’ Fox & Friends made no mention of it during the December 16 broadcast.

    On June 17, 2015, Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and murdered nine black parishioners, having been influenced by white supremacists and white nationalists. On December 15, Roof was found guilty on all 33 charges brought against him, including “hate crimes that resulted in death,” after only two hours of deliberation by the jury.

    While cable morning shows on CNN and MSNBC both reported on the verdict and discussed the implications for race relations, Fox & Friends failed to mention it, even in a brief headlines segment. Instead, the show found time to host a Fox News doctor to attack the Affordable Care Act, give a Fox News contributor who is under consideration for a position in the incoming administration an opportunity to pitch himself, and test out “As Seen on TV” products.

    The omission is not the first time Fox News has played down the issues surrounding the Charleston murders. When the shooting was first reported, Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy claimed it was “extraordinary” that it was considered a hate crime, Fox guest Rudy Giuliani claimed that Roof potentially “hat[ed] Christian churches” -- a point that was echoed by Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade on his radio show -- and one Fox guest blamed the shooting on “the left wing” and “their education system.”

  • Twitter Restores Accounts Of White Supremacists

    "Alt-Right" Leader Richard Spencer Resumes Tweeting From Verified Account

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Some Twitter accounts belonging to white supremacists that were suspended earlier this year have been reinstated and have since gone back to sending out bigoted tweets. Some of the accounts have also been verified again by Twitter.

    The Washington Post reported on November 16 that Twitter accounts of prominent so-called “alt-right” white supremacists were suspended following the July barring of Breitbart.com editor Milo Yiannopoulos from Twitter for his harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones. Included among the suspended accounts, reported the Post, “was the verified account of Richard Spencer,” who the paper previously described “as a leader of the alt-right and ‘one of the most media-savvy thinkers in the movement.’” Twitter had also suspended the accounts of the National Policy Institute, which the Post described as “an alt-right white nationalist think tank of which Spencer is the president,” and that of the Radix Journal, “a magazine run by Spencer.” Other white supremacists accounts such as “Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers also had their accounts suspended.”

    Spencer’s account was reactivated on December 10. BuzzFeed News reported that Spencer had run afoul of Twitter’s policy against “creating multiple accounts with overlapping use,” and after Spencer selected one account to reactivate, it was turned back on. His account has also been verified. BuzzFeed also noted that Spencer was already “back to form” on Twitter:

    Twitter’s hateful conduct policy supposedly does not allow “promot[ing] violence against or directly attack[ing] or threaten[ing] other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”

    In addition to Spencer, Paul Town’s Twitter account has also been reinstated, but he has blocked tweets from public view. Ricky Vaughn, who has spoken of his support for creating all-white communities and the shunning of interracial marriages “to maintain our unique culture and racial heritage,” has been actively tweeting again for weeks. Most of his tweets have simply been in support of President-elect Donald Trump, but his account includes several retweets that push fear of Muslim refugees and immigrants, or are supportive of Trump’s lie that thousands of American Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey.

    The accounts for the National Policy Institute, Radix Journal, Yiannopoulos, and Dickinson remain suspended.

    Update:

    As noted by Twitter user Liam Hogan, Twitter has also verified Matthew Heimbach, who the Southern Poverty Law Center described as "the face of a new generation of white nationalists."

  • NY Times Cites Anti-Immigrant Groups, Doesn't Mention Their Ties To White Supremacists

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A New York Times article cited anti-immigrant groups Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and ignored their ties to nativists while reporting on sanctuary cities’ efforts to combat costly federal immigration proposals.

    The November 27 Times report cited FAIR president Dan Stein and Center for Immigration Studies director of policy Jessica Vaughan. Both took the opportunity to advocate for President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities unless they enforce immigration policy, a role that historically falls under the responsibility of the federal government. The article identified FAIR as a group that “opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants” and said the Center for Immigration Studies “supports reduced immigration.”

    FAIR, which has already influenced Trump’s immigration proposals, has ties to white supremacists and was labeled an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The founder of FAIR also helped launch the Center for Immigration Studies, which, like FAIR, uses the veneer of impartiality to inject lies about immigration into mainstream media. By including commentary from nativist groups while failing to properly identify them, the Times is recycling misinformation and robbing its audience of essential context. From the November 27 New York Times report:

    Across the nation, officials in sanctuary cities are gearing up to oppose President-elect Donald J. Trump if he follows through on a campaign promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants. They are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents.

    [...]

    Supporters of tougher immigration policies, however, expect a swift response. Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants, predicted “a very aggressive, no-holds-barred support for using the full power of the federal government to discourage this kind of interference.”

    “These local politicians take it upon themselves to allow people who have been here for a long time to stay here and receive services,” Mr. Stein said. “The Trump administration is basically saying, ‘If you want to accommodate, don’t expect the rest of us to pay for your services.’”

    Some believe Mr. Trump could go further than simply pulling federal funding, perhaps fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders.

    “This is uncharted territory in some ways, to see if they’re just playing chicken, or see if they will relent,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports reduced immigration.

    Cities have “gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down on them,” Ms. Vaughan said. [The New York Times, 11/27/16]

  • Media Should Not Sanitize Trump Immigration Adviser Kris Kobach’s Extremism, Ties To White Supremacists

    Kobach “Wrote The Book” On Muslim Registry And Was Behind Anti-Immigrant SB 1070

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    A reported architect behind President-elect Donald Trump’s extreme immigration proposals, radio host and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has received significant media attention following the announcement that he was joining Trump’s transition team. However, media outlets are failing to note his ties to hate groups and nativist organizations and his attacks on immigrants and LGBTQ people.