Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When "more" is less

The Trayvon Martin case has had one effect that probably has gone over the heads of anyone who is not Hispanic: George Zimmerman—as a “white” Hispanic—has garnered enough “attention” by the news media for people of his “ethnicity” all by himself to last at least five years. Of course what make this so much worse is that virtually all of that attention demonizes this “white” Hispanic—thus perpetuating the current scapegoating and stereotyping. Hand-in-fist with this is a report sponsored by the Pew Foundation in 2009 and reported on the Journalism.org website, telling a tale of both media indifference to Hispanic concerns and perpetuating negative perceptions—when not ignoring the Hispanic community generally.

With a population fast approaching 50 million—most of whom are U.S. citizens and the vast majority who are otherwise in the country legally—the Hispanic community has been ill-served by the mainstream media. In regard to what the public learned about Hispanics, the report found that “From Feb. 9 to Aug. 9, 2009, only a fraction of all news stories studied contained substantial references to Hispanics -- just 645 out of 34,452. And only a tiny number, 57 stories, focused directly on the lives of Hispanics in the U.S.”

During the period of study, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor represented nearly 40 percent of all the reporting that had something to do with Hispanics—which of course only highlights the tiny amount of press coverage Hispanics receive during “normal” news periods. Together with the H1N1 flu outbreak, which was blamed on Mexico—and turned out to be a dud event du jour—more than 50 percent of all news stories in that time frame that mentioned Hispanics dealt with these two transient stories alone. Although immigration accounted for less than 10 percent of “Hispanic” news stories (where Hispanics were mentioned 10 times more often than other groups), this merely signified a “drop-off” in reporting of the subject immediately after Barack Obama’s election; it would reemerge with a fury during the 2010 election campaign. Also, more than 15 percent of “Hispanic” news stories during this period were concerned with the Mexican drug war. Much of the rest of the media coverage concerned affairs in Latin America; one may note that most people probably couldn’t place Colombia on a map even with the current sex scandal involving Secret Service agents and Colombian prostitutes.

But what about average people just trying to get by as best they can?

“In the small portion of coverage that dealt with the experiences of Hispanics living in the U.S., the most common storyline was the effect of the recession. Next was the immigrant experience, after that was population growth and changing demographics, and then the question of fair treatment and discrimination.”

Somehow the news media managed to fit all of that in 57 measly stories. One can well imagine how little effect they had on the public consciousness. The report concludes that “One of the central findings about the portrayal of Hispanics in the press is that it mostly comes as bits and pieces inside coverage of other news events. There is little coverage directly about the lives of Hispanics and their experiences in the U.S.”

Since nearly all stories concerning Hispanics were “event-driven”—meaning that unless there was an “excuse” to mention Hispanics in a news story (especially to scapegoat them for various national ills), the corporate-controlled media felt little or no compulsion to report on Hispanic concerns at all. A rare exception was an Associated Press study that exposed the frequent incidence of “accidental” arrests and deportations of legal residents who were not carrying their “papers”—which will become more frequent if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds arbitrary detentions by police of “suspected” illegal immigrants, which is nothing more or less than targeted racial profiling; one-in-nine Asians in this country are illegal immigrants, yet no one should be fooled into thinking that they will be treated in the same fascist-state way as Hispanics are and will be.

One factor that prevents Hispanic concerns from getting a proper airing is that the Hispanic community remains deeply divided, not just between Republican-leaning Euro-Cubans and the more “ethnic” Hispanics who generally support Democrats, but between native-born citizens of Hispanic descent and the foreign-born. There is no one who is a nationally-recognized spokesperson. There are no Jesse Jacksons or Al Sharptons who—at the first whiff of a publicity opportunity—ride into town to whip-up the masses. There are currently three Hispanics who are governors of states, but all are Republican and all are viewed as puppets of the white establishment by a majority of Hispanics, even in their own states. Hispanic news media personalities are few are far behind. Those who actually speak-out against anti-Hispanic bigotry on a national level in this country like Geraldo Rivera—whose spunk in opposing his Fox News’ “colleagues” anti-Hispanic propaganda should be admired—are targeted for derision, or like CNN’s Rick Sanchez, tend to find themselves out of a job. There are few soldiers—and many strumpets.

It is clear that little has changed since 2009—save that instead of Sotomayor and H1N1, we have George Zimmerman. The Seattle Times “minority concerns” reporter (who I have talked about here once or twice) either knows nothing of Hispanic concerns or doesn’t care—focusing almost exclusively on illegal immigration, stories that tend to successfully draw out the Nazis amongst the populi on the comments’ section of the Times’ website. It is difficult to imagine how this situation will change. One possibility—and it may be the most likely—is that the U.S. Supreme Court will indeed sanction a fascist state just for Hispanics, with no rights a white person (or black person) is bound to respect. It may be just the sort of thing that Hispanics must awake from their stupor for, and form some sort of mass movement that can’t be ignored by the media or politicians any more.

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