Bigots on the Radio

“They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don’t give you any choice ’cause they think that it’s treason
So you had better do as you are told
You better listen to the radio . . . “ – Elvis Costello “Radio, Radio”

Elvis Costello sang about the commercialization of radio back in the 70’s, but in 2011, I was tuning into my NPR dial and guess what I hear?

Commentators with ties to white nationalism talking about immigration.

Two weeks ago, Diane Rehm invited Dan Stein of FAIR (Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform).   Although the program included other guests, why invite a representative of an organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)?

FAIR portrays itself as a mainstream group, but it is not.  This group’s racist views cloud its credibility, so statistics and estimates by FAIR should be scrutinized closely.   According to the SPLC, “FAIR blames immigrants for crime, poverty, disease, urban sprawl and increasing racial tensions in America . . . “

Although Stein distances himself from the facts, his organization has received money from the Pioneer Fund, whose mission was “to [promote] the genetic stock of those ‘deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states . . .’”   In other words, they want more white people and less people of color.

But it doesn’t stop there.  This week, North Carolina’s public radio (WUNC) invited William Gheen of ALI-PAC (Americans for Legal Immigration) on to one of its programs.    “The State of Things” is a live program hosted by Frank Stasio.  Mr. Gheen warned that “12+ million invaders” were going to “overthrow the American republic.”

ALI-PAC is supported by FAIR and is “allied with various Minuteman factions.” Gheen has even supported a bill “to fund a study of buying buses to deport immigrants in massive numbers.” But he’s invited on the radio for a serious conversation about immigration.

Gheen claims that his organization is not “anti-immigrant.”  However, why would a radio program view him as a credible authority?  For example, although many polls show support for the Dream Act, Gheen claimed that 70% of North Carolinians don’t want “illegal immigrants” in our state going to college.

On the program, Viridiana Martinez of the N.C. Dream Team, one of the students protesting anti-immigrant laws last week in Atlanta, did a great job of responding.  She pointed out that undocumented Americans do pay taxes.  Martinez also explained that there is no realistic way for them to gain citizenship unless we change the law.

Of course, it is important to consider different points of view on immigration.  However, by having Stein and Gheen on the radio, the media is legitimizing these extreme, racist views.  Would NPR invite the KKK to debate civil rights?  I hope not, but that’s the way in which groups tied to white nationalism are gaining credibility on the radio and in newspapers.  As reported last week on Imagine 2050, FAIR is supporting radio hosts around the country who spread anti-immigrant views.

Oh, Elvis, what should we do?

“Some of my friends sit around every evening
And they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference . . . “ – Elvis Costello “Radio, Radio”

Let’s not be indifferent.  Let’s contact our radio stations and newspapers and tell them that these groups (FAIR and ALI-PAC) are racist and extreme.  We shouldn’t trust their statistics.  They are not credible sources:

Diane Rehm Show: http://thedianerehmshow.org/contact

WUNC (North Carolina Public Radio): sot@wunc.org.