Diversity & Discrimination | Media Matters for America

Diversity & Discrimination

Issues ››› Diversity & Discrimination
  • Video: Coverage of #MeToo must include marginalized voices

    Blog ››› ››› SARAH WASKO


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    During a conversation for The Washington Post, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke said, “We are trained as a country to respond to the vulnerability of white women.” Burke’s statement challenges us to look at who we are conditioned to empathize with and who we are leaving behind.

    Burke founded the #MeToo movement to protect vulnerable communities, and she continues to work on their behalf. But much of the mainstream media coverage focuses on the stories of white, cis, straight, able-bodied women. And when our response to white women’s plight is disproportionate to that for the marginalized folks among us, we have a problem.

    Many in the media have focused on the stories of white women despite black women facing harassment and assault at higher rates than white women. The instances are even higher for those who identify as queer, trans, nonbinary, and those with visible and invisible disabilities. Media need not contribute to this burden by siloing the communities the movement was built to protect.

    However, some outlets have gotten it right, and they’re to be celebrated. They’ve given voice to people whose #MeToo stories have been wrongfully overlooked and set an important example for outlets whose coverage has been exclusive to one kind of #MeToo story.

  • NY Times reporter explains how media outlets fall for Trump’s racism

    Maggie Haberman: Trump issues a "mushy edged-statement," "waits for media reaction," "then screams he was taken out of context"

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s defenders are attacking the media, claiming that his recent comments -- in which he called some undocumented immigrants “animals” in response to a question about suspected members of the gang MS-13 -- were taken out of context. But The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman explained that attacking the media for reporting on his vague, often racially coded statements has been a core part of Trump’s playbook since at least 2015.

    During a roundtable discussion on May 16 about California’s so-called sanctuary laws, Trump responded to a vague, hypothetical comment about suspected MS-13 members from a local sheriff by saying, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. But we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”

    His remark was unspecific and made no explicit reference to gang members. Media outlets reported on his ambiguous statement with headlines noting that he had referred to some undocumented immigrants as “animals.” Trump-friendly media outlets responded by accusing the media of taking his remarks out of context, arguing that he was referring explicitly to MS-13 gang members, even though that was not made clear in his statement. Trump echoed the talking point to his millions of Twitter followers on Friday, and as a result, at least one outlet, CNN, caved to right-wing pressure, clarifying its statement and criticizing coverage from other outlets.

    Haberman took to Twitter to explain how Trump’s vague, coded statements have provided him cover from criticism in the past, allowing him to dodge charges of racism, attack the media, and manipulate their coverage of him:

  • Gab's new "groups" feature makes it easier to categorize racists

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Gab, a social media platform created to cater to those who find Twitter’s terms of service oppressive, recently announced the launch of a new “groups” feature. A cursory look at the groups created so far helps confirm that the platform deserves its reputation as a “haven for white nationalists” since it is helping extremists get organized and share hateful rhetoric.

    Alongside harmless groups on Gab related to gardening and “doggos,” anyone can find the following enclaves of extremism:

    • A group for the fans of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi party, known for his blatant racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism.

    • A group for the admirer’s of the literary work of James Mason, an American neo-Nazi. Mason, an admirer of criminal cult leader Charles Manson, started a newsletter by the name of Siege, with which he wanted to spread “Manson’s views as a continuation of [Adolf] Hitler’s philosophy.”

    • A group for the listeners of Radical Agenda, a “live-streamed call-in show” hosted by Christopher Cantwell, also known as “the crying Nazi.” The group is a repository of anti-Semitic content and calls to “downvote” certain YouTube content, a ploy members of the “alt-right” use to game YouTube algorithms and “boost hate videos and bury information they don’t like.” Incidentally, the banner picture for the group currently depicts a scene from the NBC Left Field episode “A mother turns to hate,” which featured white supremacist Jacob Goodwin and his mother, who appear in the picture. Goodwin is currently imprisoned for attacking a counter protester in the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA.

    • The group “Manosphere” for misogynists and other varieties of men’s rights activists. The group especially welcomes those who “loathe feminists.”

    • This anti-Muslim group with a very obvious mission:

    • This group for Nazis and fascists to gather in:

    These group and their content are perfectly normal for Gab where posts on any given day include homophobic statements and defenses of white supremacy. But they contradict the platform’s often-repeated claims -- which it makes via tweets that are routinely deleted -- that it’s “not alt-right” or white supremacist:

  • Conservative media disingenuously demanding context about Trump’s “animals” comment have ignored that same context for years

    Right-wing media have consistently praised Trump’s conflation of immigrants with criminals

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In the past, right-wing media have praised President Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric, even as it conflated all undocumented immigrants with gang members. Now, after Trump pivoted from a vague question about MS-13 yesterday to say some undocumented immigrants “aren’t people, these are animals,” right-wing media are attacking mainstream outlets for reporting on the ambiguity of his remark and insisting he was talking exclusively about MS-13 gang members. But those same right-wing media figures, along with Trump, have helped foster an environment in which a mention of the term “MS-13” evokes undocumented immigrants, and this false association is having negative consequences for immigrants across the country.

    During a roundtable discussion about California’s so-called sanctuary laws on Wednesday, a local sheriff said to Trump, “There could be an MS-13 member I know about. If they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about them.” In response, Trump talked about “people coming into the country” and made no explicit reference to gang members:

    “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. But we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”

    Many in the media reported accurately that Trump had called “some deported immigrants” or “some unauthorized immigrants” animals, and several journalists noted the ambiguity of his comment. But pro-Trump outlets opportunistically attacked mainstream outlets for their coverage, arguing that they had selectively edited his comment or taken him out of context. Infowars described the coverage as a “shocking level of deceit,” and CNN’s Rick Santorum complained that “this is one of the reasons that a big chunk of the country just turn off the media when they start going after the president.”

    Trump’s vague response had made no mention of the gang, and whether he was referring to gang members or undocumented immigrants in general, the dehumanizing effect was the same. As Vox pointed out, Trump’s strategic rhetorical ambiguity allows him to “refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.”

    Right-wing media have boosted this type of rhetoric by praising Trump for erroneously hyping MS-13’s presence in the U.S. as a product of lax immigration policies, and many have conflated MS-13 and immigrants themselves. On any given day, trivial news about MS-13 -- a brutal gang founded in Los Angeles that has been able to grow in strength due to stringent deportation policies and mass incarceration -- will be broadcast in the conservative media sphere, almost always laced with complaints about lax immigration policies.

    The reality is that, while many MS-13 members are undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are not MS-13 members, and the right-wing media campaign to conflate the two is having serious consequences.

    Such rhetoric mirrors actual policies being put in place by the Trump administration. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been using dangerously broad criteria to label undocumented immigrants as gang members, giving the agency cover to carry out hundreds of arrests under the auspices of an “anti-gang operation.” Just this week, a federal judge ruled that ICE outright lied to frame one person as “gang-affiliated.” Nonetheless, right-wing outlets dutifully report on the raids, casting ICE agents as heroes and the non-criminal immigrants as animals.

    Whether or not Trump was referring to MS-13 by calling people who cross the border “animals,” right-wing media and agencies like ICE benefit from his irresponsible and coded language, and non-criminal immigrants will bear the brunt of the fallout.

  • White supremacists praise John Kelly's disparaging of undocumented immigrants

    The hosts of the white supremacist show Fash the Nation also claimed that appointing Kris Kobach as Secretary of Homeland Security "sounds like a good plan"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Following White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's disparaging comments against undocumented immigrants, the white supremacist hosts of the podcast Fash the Nation praised his remarks, and added that Kelly referred to people who give their kids "made up bullshit names."

    During an interview with NPR, Kelly claimed that undocumented immigrants are "not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously, that’s a big thing. ... They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills." On the latest episode of the racist podcast Fash the Nation -- produced by white nationalist podcast hub The Right Stuff -- the hosts (who go by the names Jazzhands McFeels and Marcus Halberstram) agreed with Kelly's remarks and claimed that counterarguments pointing to Kelly's Irish immigrant heritage should be discounted, as "the Irish are European. We're not talking about Europeans. We're talking about third-world primitives who basically are still practicing human sacrifice in many ways."     

    From the May 12 edition of The Right Stuff's Fash the Nation:

    MARCUS HALBERSTRAM (HOST): Reading ahead a little bit, I see this article: "John Kelly says undocumented immigrants don't have skills to assimilate into U.S. society." Now this is obviously true and should be [a] completely uncontroversial statement but -- I'm surprised I didn't hear about this, some screeching about this on like Raw Story or whatever.  

    JAZZHANDS MCFEELS (HOST): Oh, well, this has been at least all of Friday and possibly part of Thursday. This and the White House staffer saying that, "well, McCain is dying anyway," have been like -- have been the premier stories on cable news. MSNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, everything has been wall to wall John Kelly. And of course, they're doing the usual bit of "well, John Kelly's Irish immigrant ancestors weren't welcome here either" and all that, the usual nonsense. And of course, The Washington Post tried to roll out this story. Of course, the headline was "John Kelly disparages rural people in America, Trump's base." That's not who he was talking about, at all. But of course, they run with that to make it seem like, you know -- low info voters will buy into that and think that Kelly's turning his back on white ruralites but that's just not the case, he's talking about --

    HALBERSTRAM: Dude, if anyone ever busts out the "mah Irish" argument, you just respond by saying, "yeah and if the Irish still -- didn't speak the correct language and wore garish, outlandish clothing, and gave made up bullshit names to their children, and bastardized the language completely when they did learn it, everybody would still hate them.”

    MCFEELS: Yeah.

    HALBERSTRAM: End of story.

    MCFEELS: Yeah. and the Irish are European. So, we're not talking about Europeans. We're talking about third-world primitives who basically are still practicing human sacrifice in many ways, heads on spikes on the border and stuff like that.

    HALBERSTRAM: People who never achieved any sort of civilization. It's the most like -- if society weren't all so like Jew-deized, this is just common sense, like people who can't form the basis of civilization on their own, it's like yeah, sure, they can come here, perform some sort of function and perhaps even flourish in the system that we have built, but you can't have too many of these people here because then their civilizational inability starts to manifest itself.

    MCFEELS: Yeah and with the way that the judicial system has been set up and the legal system, and the laws and legislation, you can't have any of them here because you get one in here and then that's like the anchor to get like all the rest of them with chain migration and everything else. And it's just a terrible thing, and of course, the other thing is and the argument we've made many times and others have made this argument as well, is that not only are these people not compatible with modern society, is that they're about to be made obsolete by automation. So the last thing, and this is looking far down the road but, 20 years from now when a lot of this stuff, farming and everything else becoming automated ... These people are gonna be -- what is their purpose here?

    HALBERSTRAM: One more scheme to get a little cheap labor and then you end up with this seething underclass of like, alien peoples. Gee, why does this sound so familiar?

    MCFEELs: Yeah, obsolete farm equipment is not what we need. Now, this is the quote from John Kelly. Now, he sounds "cucky" at first but you'll see what he really means here. … [reads quote of John Kelly] ... I mean, you can't really argue with that, and actually, a high number of them are criminals. Even if they're not in MS13, they're stealing identities, they're doing all manners of things before they even get to the United States. And by virtue of the fact that they're not sending their best, we're getting the worst people. So the ones that Mexico wants to keep are the ones that work hard and that pay their taxes and that don't commit crimes, so most of those people, whatever number there are of them, are staying in Mexico. The worst ones are coming here.

    [...]

    HALBERSTRAM: Yeah, I'm not on Twitter right now, otherwise I'd track that dude [Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post] down and have juxtaposed like, a normal looking guy in a plaid shirt and a trucker hat versus some like squat Indian, like, this is what we're talking about bro, and you know it as well as I do.

    During the show, the white supremacist hosts floated making Secretary of State of Kansas Kris Kobach Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Kobach, an anti-immigration activist who is also a Breitbart columnist, has a history of criminalizing immigrants and has ties to white supremacy.