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Thursday, 20 May 2010 09:32

Arizona, Immigration, and a FOX Problem with Race

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by Jeffrey Joseph

The incredibly controversial Arizona immigration bill has caused a stir across the nation and reawakened tensions over race and states’ rights. In turn, the blatantly biased coverage FOX has provided of the issue and ancillary issues has only further illustrated the network’s agenda-driven “news” and pointed to an underlying problem with race that continues to confront the network and its contributors.

As the anti-immigration legislation garners more controversy, decried by many as saliently racist and inspiring protests from inside and outside of Arizona, politicians within the state have further inflamed the issue by trying to circumvent ethnic studies within their educational system. Hardly restraining her personal opinions on the topic despite her position as a “straight-news” anchor, Martha MacCullum proceeded to ask Arizona Superintendent of Education Tom Horne about the issue in a transparently biased fashion.

To start, MacCullum prefaced her interview by stating critics of the ethnic studies programs derided it “because they say that the textbooks that are being taught in these classes are trying to fire up these young students and telling them to take back the southwest and reconnect it to Mexico.” To support that stance, she quoted a part of textbook Aztlan, the Lost Land saying, “To Chicanos, the southwest is more than just their place of residence, it is their homeland. Their lost homeland, to be precise, the conquered northern half of the Mexican nation.”

Without giving the quote any real context or explaining whether said textbook actually calls for a call to reclaim American land, nor how that would differentiate from something Tea Partiers frequently mention wanting to do, MacCullum proceeded to ask Horne’s opinion on the subject. Horne immediately cloaked himself in the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., saying Horne held as a personal philosophy all his life MLK’s statement that we should be measured by “the content of our character and not the color of our skin,” then he tried to portray the students’ study of their respective ethnic backgrounds as a means to “foment ethnic chauvinism among them.” MacCullum encouraged Horne, telling him that in her reading of the text, she gathered that it suggested students should “maintain your Mexican identity more than your American identity,” though she offered no evidence to support her claim. MacCullum then showed part of a statement from the UN in favor of the ethnic studies, though Horne immediately wrote them off as “narrow minded” in their support of students learning about their ethnic background.

Soon enough, Horne revealed the real reason why he opposed the ethnic studies. Apparently, he feared teachers were “anti-western culture, they’re anti-capitalist, they’re anti-free enterprise and they use ethnic solidarity as a means to convey these left-leaning philosophies.” Intentionally or not, Horne revealed his real concern as a purely political one. A Republican running for higher office, Horne hoped to score long-term conservative credibility by impressing his political principles on students. FOX, of course, has shown that it generally fears education but will be a champion for it when it pushes a conservative agenda. Horne, and apparently FOX, had decided limiting the education students received would better situate them to fall into FOX’s favored world view.

Attempts from FOX to eliminate ethnic identity as support of the racist Arizona legislation should come as little surprise from the network. Megyn Kelly made a parallel push to garner support for the bill from the Miss USA runner up, Morgan Woollard, by suggesting Woollard’s response on the topic lost her the pageant. At the time of the pageant, Woollard expressed support for states’ rights but opposed racial profiling. Kelly — despite her position, like MacCullum’s, as a news anchor rather than opinion pundit — kept pushing for Woollard to insist that the issue cost her the crown and that Rima Fakih, a Lebanese-American immigrant, did not deserve to win. Woollard, to her credit, disagreed with Kelly’s repeated prodding, one very much in line with the FOX position on the pageant as voiced by Bill O’Reilly. Kelly has also made clear in the past her own stance in favor of the racist legislation, and considering how eerily similar Kelly’s interview was with another one she did with a white contestant that Kelly attempted to provoke into denigrating a nonwhite contest winner, she only further destroys any veneer of objectivity or racial tolerance she and FOX may have hoped to maintain.

Fallout from the Arizona legislation will almost certainly harm Arizonans if it goes unchecked. While the legislation transitions from passage to implementation, though, supporters of the bill and the further xenophobic actions it has inspired may more fully reveal themselves for their underlying views and motives and thus help reformers more fully grasp the breadth of the problem. Viewers should demand that FOX quit encouraging the racist sentiments motivating the bill and other actions like it if it ever wants to be taken seriously as a news organization — and in the meantime, choose to Turn Off FOX.

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Originally posted at Turn Off FOX.