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Making the case for "Restless Nativists"

Reported by Ellen - February 6, 2009 -

Guest Editorial by Ana

Fox News has wound itself all up in a tizzy over a recent editorial in the NY Times which argues that there is extremist, nativist racism in the media that has consequences for the immigration debate. The bone of Fox's conniption is that the report named two Fox News stalwarts as racially divisive. The case against Bill O'Reilly the Times pointed to was a May 2007 statement O'Reilly made in an interview with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) where O'Reilly claimed, "But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right. So I say you've got to cap with a number."

While O'Reilly wants you to believe this kind of hegemonic exorcising is not racism, but rather xenophobia regarding Mexico, and an underlying desire by liberal forces to change demographic dynamics in this country to gain power, it's hard to see it as anything more than "Fear of a Brown Hat."

If brown is the new black, and Fox News wants to be seen as tamping down on rhetoric that might be viewed as racism towards the African American community, it now has something to fill the void. This would explain the ramping up of rhetoric against Hispanic immigration and Mexicans in general. And while O'Reilly might be able to make a case that his remarks aren't racist, they are certainly hegemonist. The point of the Times' article, that this kind of fear mongering by the media has consequences, is backed up by facts. Nearly all metrics that measure attacks based on race or ethnicity show a rise in such attacks against Hispanics. They have been growing steadily in lock step with the increasing noise over immigration, both nationally and in media markets where there are concentrated campaigns against Mexican immigration. For instance, a study by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation details an overall rise in hate crimes of 28% from 2006 through 2007, while attacks on Hispanics more than doubled. And nationwide, the FBI has seen a 40% increase in Latino-targeted crimes from 2003 to 2007.

Whether or not O'Reilly has intentionally stoked the fires of racism only he knows, but the case against James Pinkerton, another Fox News personality and former Newsday columnist, highlights a clearer link to outright racism. Pinkerton is a repeating panel member of the Fox weekend media analysis show "Fox News Watch," and while the clearest incident smacking of racism did not occur at Fox News (as did O'Reilly's) it's even more disturbing in its implications. In a December 2006 column for "The American Conservative," Pinkerton first applauds, then qoutes from a widely repudiated racist novel, The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a fantastic article detailing Pinkerton's use of that novel as an analogy for today's immigration issue.

It's hard to separate the argument against Mexican and Latino immigration from racism, dominionism and pique in Pinkerton's case when he uses Raspail's novel to claim the white ruling class in America is "lacking a proper sense of national-racial consciousness, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity's finest." One can't help but think the white supremacist movement has found an eloquent new polemicist to bolster its ranks.

So, is the Times editorial correct? Mostly, yes. Certain O'Reilly comments on race, such as his much derided trip to a Harlem Restaurant, where he stated that others might be shocked that a majority African American patronage is quite civilized, could perhaps be explained as inarticulate musings on the state of race in our time and country. Pinkerton's cannot. And one only has to look back a couple of days to Sean Hannity's recent segment in which he hosted outright racist Jesse Lee Peterson to find a quagmire for Fox, who wants to marginalize the Times commentary as unfair and unbalanced. O'Reilly might just blow harder than his other Fox compatriots, but Pinkerton's magniloquent excoriations require some explanation.