Here's a classic example of the way far-right hate groups have been moving into our mainstream discourse, being legitimized by a clueless and culpable mainstream media.
Tucson's NBC News affiliate -- KVOA-TV, Channel 4 -- ran this interesting segment the other day on a new/old technology to catch border crossers. The most interesting thing about it, though, was their chief source for the story: American Border Patrol's Glenn Spencer:
HEREFORD - Most people agree we need to secure the border, right? The issue is, how do we know when the border is secure? How do we measure that? The American Border Patrol, a non-governmental organization that monitors the border, thinks an old technology may hold the new answer.
They're called geophones, basically, a magnet inside of a coil. But they can sense the smallest vibrations, like someone walking across the border. American Border Patrol installed the system on their ranch to test its effectiveness.
"And it works. It's been here for 11 months underground, working. And it counts everybody who crosses," said Glenn Spencer, American Border Patrol.
The sensors pick people up at 600 feet, but can start to analyze it better and tell if it's human from 300 feet.
"Showing in Google Earth where on the border the detection and the alert happened," said Spencer.
Notice anything missing from this story? Well, how about even the slightest mention of the fact that Spencer runs one of the most notorious anti-immigrant hate groups in the country?
Spencer was one of the first well-known anti-immigration activists to more or less openly court white supremacists and anti-Semites. He has attended conferences of American Renaissance magazine, which specializes in racist theories about blacks and others, and interviewed the magazine's editor, Jared Taylor, on his syndicated radio show. Another Spencer radio guest was California State University, Long Beach, Professor Kevin MacDonald, who is the architect of an elaborate anti-Semitic theory dressed up as evolutionary biology. Spencer also promoted on his website a booklet published by Taylor called The Color of Crime that claims to be a "relentlessly factual" study alleging — on the basis of Taylor's mixing up of all interracial crimes and race-motivated hate crimes — that blacks and Latinos are far more likely than whites to be hate criminals.
Moreover, how about a disclaimer pointing out that the video footage of Spencer's that they run in this segment is part of his ongoing project to demonize Latinos?
It's not as though Spencer's involvement in anti-immigrant hate is an unknown matter in Arizona. After all, Shawna Forde was arrested on his property only two years ago.
Moreover, using him as a news source of any kind ought to raise big red flags for any journalist. After all, this is a guy who has spread false rumors that immigrants were carrying the Ebola virus. He's made his living for the past 15 years promoting the "Reconquista" conspiracy theory/hoax. And now he's a legitimate news source? On what planet?
So I called up the newsroom at KVOA to ask. I spoke with an assistant editor, a woman named Lisa, who defended the story by pointing out that it was about the technology Spencer has been using on his ranch -- and which is apparently about to be adopted on a test basis by state authorities -- to detect border crossers. I pointed out to her, however, that the story used Spencer's videos and legitimized his activities by treating him as a benign border-activism group.
She admitted that she was personally unaware that Spencer's American Border Patrol has long been designated a hate group. But she did not indicate whether any clarification would be broadcast for their viewers.
You see, Spencer has been working hard to mainstream himself these days, particularly by taking on a new tea-party guise that lets him reach a much broader audience than his old Minuteman schtick, now that Forde went and messed that up for him.
And thanks to the ignorance and irresponsibility of media mavens like the reporters at KVOA, he's getting there with plenty of help.