Guerrero: Latinophobia in mainstream news fuels radical right
One of the main drivers of the decline of democracy in the United States is Latinophobia – from its central role in the rise of Donald Trump to its influence in the January 6 insurgency.
Any democracy-minded news media company should engage in a concerted and urgent campaign to stop this scourge.
Instead, the news media are superspreaders for Latinophobia. Today, 54% of Americans suffer from the same delusion that motivated the attempted coup and other acts of white terrorism: that the US-Mexico border is overrun. A new NPR/Ipsos poll found that 76% of Republicans and 40% of Democrats think this error is at least “somewhat true”.
Jean Guerrero is the author, most recently, of “Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump and the White Nationalist Agenda”.
Fox News is not alone in spreading the disease. The center-left media is complicit, from NPR letting Trump peddle his big anti-immigrant lie in January after he featured white supremacists open to praise from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Tucker Carlson this month. She called the Fox News host “talented” and likened their rivalry to a “game”.
Now CNN’s new executives are pushing a centrist approach that threatens the work of the network’s democracy advocates.
On Thursday, CNN parted ways with media reporter Brian Stelter months after he publicly criticized John Malone, a billionaire Trump donor and the most powerful investor in CNN’s new owner, Warner Bros. Discovery. Malone said CNN “really needs to have reporters.” He cited Fox News as a model for attempting “news”.
In its February “Reliable Sources” newsletter, Stelter wrote that Malone’s comments had offended many staff members and created fears about censorship “exposing indecency and injustice”. A CNN employee told me that some presenters are now worried about being direct with the audience.
Will the new management silence hard-to-question anchors such as Jim Acosta or Jake Tapper? The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, mentored by Malone, said he wanted CNN to be different from “advocacy networks” and envisioned a place where “everyone can come and be heard; Republicans, Democrats.
For those who cherish the status quo because they are wealthy, white and masculine, “neutrality” is a lofty ideal. Old notions of objectivity and impartiality often end up protecting elite interests.
The network already has many Republicans, including those who have championed Trump’s racist policies. But most of CNN’s right-wing guests are Trump critics. Anyone who repeats their fantastic talking points is wise to avoid an interview in which they might be faced with real questions.
A CNN employee told me that Trump allies often refuse to come.
I contacted CNN for more details on the move to the center, but haven’t received an official response. On whether CEO Chris Licht would prioritize Latino talent for a 9 p.m. Eastern anchor slot vacated by Chris Cuomo or other anchor slots, a CNN spokeswoman responded, ” He hasn’t made a decision on that yet.”
Latino advocacy groups have lobbied Warner Bros. Discovery in meetings for better representation of Latinos on and off screen, but the company largely disappointed, including canceling beloved Latino streaming content.
This year, only 5% of appearances on Sunday news programs were from people who identify as Latino or Hispanic, according to Media Matters for America. “Fox News Sunday” outperformed the others with a 10% rate, thanks to regular appearances by Juan Williams.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) argues that greater voice and visibility for Latinos, 19% of the U.S. population, is crucial. He says CNN trying to appear centrist could hurt democracy. “The danger is that you become an apologist for something like fascism, authoritarianism or undemocratic behavior,” Castro told me. “They have to be careful.”
“Bilateralism” is a risk in journalism in general, compounded on Latin American issues by the dearth of Latinos in the media. We need more Latino media executives, reporters, presenters, guests and sources so they can challenge the negative stereotypes that fuel white extremism. The centre-left media’s framing of immigration is particularly dangerous because it so often portrays people as a ‘push’ or an ‘influx’, as if they were numbers and not humans, like Fox News does.
Talk shows can start to fix this quickly by bringing in more Latino guests. Latino media executives tell me that the relative lack of Latino guests reflects a lack of diversity among segment producers and bookers.
“They say, ‘Oh, I have my two Latino voices,'” said Julio Ricardo Varela, president of Futuro Media and co-host of “In the Thick,” a political podcast centered on journalists of color. “We are still considered a checklist item.”
Under Cesar Conde, president of the NBCUniversal News group since 2020, MSNBC has made progress. For example, MSNBC’s Alicia Menendez is a strong advocate for Latinos, regularly inviting them to speak on her show “American Voices.” And recently, iconic journalist Maria Hinojosa became an MSNBC contributor.
Hinojosa, who founded Futuro Media in 2010 to create space in public media for Latinos and people of color, told me, “If you don’t speak to, with, about, or for Latinos and Latinos when you cover politics, then frankly, you are putting our American democracy at risk.
Roberto Lovato, a journalist and visiting professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told me that the media’s chronic disregard and demonization of Latinos makes it “easier to murder and even mass murder, abuse , the cages, the separations and the silence of Latinos. “He cited the El Paso massacre as an example of the possible consequences.
It reminds him of what he saw in El Salvador before the killings by US-backed right-wing militias. “There was always a media component first that dehumanized people who ended up dying,” he said.
The reflex of media centrism is anything but neutral. If we don’t fix it, Latinophobia will destroy this country.