California Legislators Condemn Hate Media

Well, radio personality Rush Limbaugh just outdid himself with the racist venom this week. The insults on the airwaves have gone on so long, I sometimes wonder when Limbaugh and his fellow blowhards are just gonna drop all decorum and start screaming nothing but epithets. But one California legislator has decided enough is enough. State Sen. Gil Cedillo introduced a resolution last year denouncing hate speech in the media, and it just passed the state Assembly last month. See text below:

Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 58—Relative to hate speech.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

SCR 58, Cedillo. Freedom of speech: hate speech. This measure would condemn the increase of hate speech in the media, particularly against Latinos, and urge for accurate and fair reporting to counter hate speech on television, radio, cable, and

the Internet.

WHEREAS, The media plays a critical role in how the United States Latino community is portrayed, including how Latinos are presented and portrayed to Latino children and to the broader society; and

WHEREAS, Hate speech has been defined as speech which threatens imminent unlawful action, but also, as speech which creates a climate of hate and prejudice, which in turn may foster the commission of hate crimes; and

WHEREAS, There has been an increase in hate speech in the media, and in particular, hate speech on television, radio, cable, and on the Internet; and

WHEREAS, The increase of hate speech in the media, in addition to lack of diversity in the media, media consolidation, and media concentration, are having a profoundly negative impact on the civil rights of Latinos and on society as a whole; and

WHEREAS, Studies indicate that there is a correlation between hate speech in the media and hate crimes against Latinos; and

WHEREAS, Unsubstantiated, inflammatory, and inaccurate information is disseminated and promoted in the public sphere about undocumented immigrants and Latinos in general, causing an escalating life-threatening movement against all Latinos; and

WHEREAS, A recently released FBI report documents that Hispanics comprise 62.8 percent of victims of crimes motivated by a bias toward the victims’ ethnicity or national origin, an increase of 35 percent from 2003 to 2006. During that same period, more than 300 anti-immigration groups formed, with half labeled as “nativist extremists.” Moreover, the violence is directed at all

Latinos, whether undocumented or not, because of the indistinguishable characteristics of Latino subgroups; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the Legislature condemns the increase of hate speech in the media and demands accurate and fair reporting as well as equal access to counter one-sided hate speech in the media, and in particular, hate speech on television, radio, cable, and the Internet; and be it further

Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.

Undocumented immigrants are currently the favorite scapegoats for America’s economic woes, and it’s not too hard to see the anti-immigrant frenzy whipped up on talk radio resulting in bad public policy like the “papers please” law in Arizona. However, at least one newspaper commentator thinks Cedillo’s resolution is a waste of time and an affront to free speech. I’m all in favor of people being able to speak their minds, even when that’s offensive. But with freedom of speech comes responsibility when that speech is carried over the public’s airwaves. And the airwaves these days seem to be tilted heavily toward a point of view that tolerates and celebrates disrespecting certain groups of people. The public has a right to demand programming that rebuts those views. Rather than being a waste of time, it’s good to see public officials taking this problem seriously.