The recent attention paid to a notorious Long Island hate crime in which a group of young whites went in search of Latinos to harm has raised serious questions about the relationship between immigrant-bashing rhetoric and the surge of anti-Latino bias crimes nationally.
And the mainstream purveyors of this rhetoric -- particularly pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs -- are denying their culpability in the only means available to them: By distorting the reality of hate crimes themselves.
In O'Reilly's case, this entailed conflating hate crimes with ordinary (and completely unrelated) crimes.
And in Dobbs', as we saw on his Monday program, it entails distorting statistics and pretending that he's never bashed or demonized Latinos on his CNN show:
DOBBS: Advocates of open borders and amnesty accusing border security advocates of fostering a wave of hate, but as usual, those groups led by La Raza and MALDEF were long on rhetoric and absolutely, absolutely devoid of facts or respect for them. Bill Tucker has our report.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Being tough on illegal immigration is a bad thing in the eyes of La Raza, a Hispanic special interest group which says it represents the civil rights of all Latino immigrants. The group blames the murder of Marcello Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant on Long Island, New York, on a wave of immigrant hate sparked by local politicians who have called for enforcement of immigration law.
JANET MURGUIA, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: Steve Levy has taken a notably hard line against immigrants in his county and has been lauded by cable hosts like Lou Dobbs as a folk hero.
TUCKER: The community has shown no tolerance for the crime. Seven teenagers were quickly arrested and charged with hate crimes ranging from assault to manslaughter in connection with that murder, the leader of the gang being held without bail. Lucero's murder though is being used by special interest groups like La Raza and MALDEF to call attention to what they call "a wave of hate crime in America."
However, just last month the FBI reported a slight decline in hate crimes nationally last year. The FBI saying there were just over 7,600 hate crimes versus just over 7,700 the year before. Groups calling for the enforcement of immigration law are furious that La Raza and MALDEF and others equate their position with hate.
DAN STEIN, F.A.I.R.: Their true agenda is to try to stop public discussion about the need to control the borders. And they are using isolated incidents, tragic incidents, to be sure, but isolated ones, and distorting statistics to try to muzzle important free-speech rights in this country.
TUCKER: Not once in the news conference was the phrase "illegal immigration" used or heard, instead the phrase "immigrant bashing" and "anti-immigrant" were the word choices of the day.
Dobbs and Tucker essentially lie by omission here: Even though hate crimes have in fact declined overall in the past couple of years, anti-Latino bias crimes have actually increased significantly. In other words, the statistics actually speak strongly to the fact that Latino-bashing bias crimes are on the rise because those figures run counter to the larger trend of declines in such crimes generally.
[Heidi Beirich at SPLC's Hatewatch has more on this point.]
Even more bizarre is Dobbs' shock and horror of being accused of culpability. Actually, this can't be a surprise for Dobbs: He has been called out on this score before, and he has similarly been unable to offer any kind of adequate defense, so he has blustered, snarled, and distorted. Yet on Monday, he was once again seemingly baffled by the criticism.
As for the claim that the Latino-bashing is something else -- the neutral and completely benign criticism of illegal immigration generally -- we've known this is nonsense for some time, especially Lou Dobbs' case. If Dobbs and cohorts like FAIR (an SPLC-designated hate group) really were only concerned about only illegal immigration, then Dobbs needs to explain:
* Why he makes up phony statistics connecting immigration generically with a supposed increase in diseases like leprosy.
* Why he broadcasts white-supremacist mythology about a Hispanic “Aztlan” conspiracy to return the Southwest to Mexico.
* Why he continually claims that Latino immigration is responsible for an increase in crime.
* Why he once said that this wave of immigration is turning America into “a third world cesspool” (a remark that has since been removed from the CNN website).
* Why he constantly promotes the notion of making English the official U.S. language.
* Why he regularly refers to this wave of immigration as an “invasion.”
* Why he regularly hosts anti-immigrant voices from white-supremacist groups and vigilante scam artists like the Minutemen and yet neglects to explain his guests' troubling backgrounds.
You also had to love Tucker's attempt to use the election of Barack Obama as a shield against accusations of racism. Evidently, because Obama won the presidency, racism and hate crimes no longer are serious problems:
TUCKER: And today's news conference was not without irony. While trying to make the argument that a new wave of hate is rising in America, the participants had to admit and acknowledge that the president-elect is a black man who was elected by a majority of Americans, Lou.
So apparently Obama's election has now absolved America's racists and their enablers -- people who manifestly did their damnedest to prevent that outcome -- of all their past sins. I'll bet Dobbs never thought Obama's victory would give him yet another reason to feel all smug and warm.
And that's obviously how he absolves himself from feeling any responsibility for the Latino victims of the crimes he helps inspire.