Media bias: New York Times mindlessly regurgitates SPLC hogwash

In a blatant display of media mindlessness, New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis maligned NumbersUSA President Roy Back by using bunk vomited by the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Or perhaps it was in fact mindful media malignment - let the reader decide. 

I've known Roy Beck since the late 1990's. Roy Beck is an honest, concerned, and just plain nice individual. There's not a racist bone in his body. He was a presenter at the national conference The Myth of Sustainable Growth: Population, Immigration, Environmental Degradation - Aspen (1999), organized by CAIRCO's Mike McGarry.

Jerry Kammer of the Center for Immigration Studies has written two insightful blog posts exposing this inbred media bias. They are included in full below, with permission from the author.



A Few Restrained Comments about the NYT on Roy Beck

By Jerry Kammer, December 15, 2014

It is sadly ironic that New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis thought she could illuminate the character of NumbersUSA head Roy Beck by consulting Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose serial efforts to assassinate the character of those who want to limit immigration show the ethics and subtlety of a $100 hit man.

The result was not fit to print, particularly this paragraph, which is fit to be stuffed, mounted, and hung in the newspaper Hall of Shame.

"He's played footsie with extremists all along," said the SPLC's Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which tracks hate groups. Even as she described Mr. Beck as a “completely nice guy,” Ms. Beirich said that “in a way, what Beck does is, he provides cover for the bad guys.”

The inference this invites is clear. Hirschfeld is consulting Beirich. Beirich tracks hate groups. Ipso facto, mirabile dictu, and holy mackerel, Roy Beck must be running a hate group!

As for the concession that he's a nice guy, on the basis of my work tracking the malicious, reckless Beirich and her pals, I'd bet Hirschfeld Davis had to pry that out of her with a crow bar.

Beiricich, who demonstrates her appreciation for the complexity and nuance of the immigration debate with her claim that those who want to limit immigration are racists, is about as likely to volunteer something positive about Roy Beck as Wile E. Coyote is to say something nice about the Road Runner.

The SPLC tracks hate groups the same that way Joe McCarthy tracked officials in the State Department. It is driven by an obsession that takes whatever material is at hand, then twists it, distorts it, and uses it for purposes of character assassination and passing the collection plate to well-intentioned liberals who are expected to respond with righteous anger and $100 bills.

The SPLC stirs fear of hate groups the way Geritol ads once warned about the debilitating effects of iron-poor blood. That's their hustle. That's their shtick. That's how they make their living.

As we have noted here, the SPLC, under the direction of Direct Marketing Hall of Famer Morris Dees has been working the con for years.

"No one has been more assiduous in inflating the profile of [hate] groups than the millionaire huckster, Morris Dees," wrote JoAnn Wypijewski of The Nation magazine in 2001. "Hate sells; poor people don't, which is why readers who go to the SPLC's website will find only a handful of cases on such non-lucrative causes as fair housing, worker safety, or healthcare, many of those from the 1970s and 1980s. Why the organization continues to keep 'Poverty' (or even 'Law') in its name can be ascribed only to nostalgia or a cynical understanding of the marketing possibilities in class guilt."

Hirschfeld Davis's story made scant effort to take the fundamental step of explaining the meaning of the numbers in Beck's NumbersUSA. She failed to note Census Bureau projections that immigration-driven population growth could easily double the nation's population before the end of the century, to more than 600 million.

Hirschfeld Davis begins her story by unfairly tying Beck to a pair of xenophobic rants posted on his website who go unidentified. But later, she notes that Beck, in order disinvite racists, has posted on the NumbersUSA website a photo of Barbara Jordan, a Texas congresswoman and civil rights leader who was the chairwoman of an immigration commission.

But she failed to note the fact about Jordan that is most salient to the story of Roy Beck. The recommendations that Jordan presented to congress in 1994 — a cut in legal immigration and firm action to stop illegal immigration — are close to what Beck is seeking today. This fact would have been inconvenient to Hirschfeld's alarmist thesis. So she leaves it out, and leaves the foul odor of the Beirich quote hanging noxiously in the air.

Hirschfeld Davis observed in passing that Beck, who became interested in immigration as an environmental reporter, has written books. Had she wanted to acknowledge the substance of his work, she might have quoted the review of Beck's The Case Against Immigration that was written by Francis Fukuyama and published in — the New York Times!

Fukuyama said the book "fosters serious debate rather than name-calling" and that Beck's arguments "are presented carefully and dispassionately and deserve serious answers."

Yes, that review actually appeared in the New York Times. But, of course, Francis Fukuyama is not a reporter for the Times. Neither was the reviewer for Foreign Affairs, who wrote that "as persuasively as anyone he states the case and marshals the evidence for restricting the high levels of legal immigration."

Hirschfeld Davis ignored substance like this, while allowing Beirich to say Beck gives aid and comfort to bad guys, and not allowing Beck the chance to respond.

But the holidays approach, so I'll close with this. God forgive Julie Hirschfeld Davis's reporting on Roy Beck and NumbersUSA. She knows not what they do. And she knows not what she does.



More on Roy Beck and What Was Not Reported in the NYT

By Jerry Kammer,December 16, 2014

Yesterday I expressed dismay at the New York Times story that used the Southern Poverty Law Center's Heidi Beirich to cast a moral shadow on Roy Beck, the head of NunmbersUSA. Now, writing as a former reporter, I need to flesh out the journalistic indictment.

Heidi Beirich is not a credible source on Roy Beck. To understand why, just do a word search here for "Beck" or "Beirich". Much of what she has said about those who want to limit immigration is intellectually bankrupt, morally negligent, and ethically reckless. When it is invoked by an important newspaper like the New York Times, it has a chilling effect on a national discussion that should be civil, well informed, and intellectually vibrant. That discussion should not be strangled by the SPLC's McCarthyite tactics of smear and character assassination.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis's story in the Times illustrates a problem described by Daniel Okrent in 2004, when he was public editor at the paper. Okrent wrote that when it comes to coverage of social issues, "if you think the Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you've been reading the paper with your eyes closed." He castigated the paper's reporting for its tendency to "tell only the side of the story your co-religionists wish to hear."

The problem I want to describe today concerns something Hirschfeld Davis apparently did not want her readers to know. Having noted Beck's invocation of the late Barbara Jordan to disinvite racists from his website, she failed to report what is most important about Jordan for a profile of Beck.

As head of the presidential Commission on Immigration Reform during the Clinton administration, Jordan recommended that legal immigration be reduced and that laws against illegal immigration be enforced. With those recommendations, Jordan, a civil rights leader and a towering moral authority in American culture and politics, exerted a powerful influence on Roy Beck.

As a matter of fact, as Beck told me when I asked him about the article — and as he said he told Hirschfeld Davis — he formed NumbersUSA shortly after Jordan died in 1996 because he wanted to be an advocate for her policies.

That is a fact that should leap from any profile of Roy Beck. Unfortunately, the hole in Hirschfeld Beck's story has plenty of journalistic company. To paraphrase a line from Waiting for Godot, there has been no lack of journalistic void.

Beck said he explains Barbara Jordan's influence every time he has a substantial conversation with a reporter. The full context of his remarks is important, so here is a transcript:

I explain to them that I started NumbersUSA specifically to carry out the recommendations of the Jordan Commission, that I formed the organization a few months after she died. I always explain that the Jordan Commission is central to what NumbersUSA is, that what we are advocating is not on some ideological fringe.

I don't believe any reporter has ever reported that. I've thought about it. I've wondered: Why is that? It's not as if the reporters are part of a conspiracy, where they meet and decide what not to report. But I think it's interesting. As a former reporter, I think it's interesting that a group that is primarily working with conservative Republicans started off with someone like Barbara Jordan. And I've wondered why it doesn't get reported.

I came to the conclusion that it creates a cognitive disconnect and that most reporters, almost regardless of their own ideology, want to compartmentalize everything. They see immigration as a story of liberals who want more immigration and conservatives who want less. So when you see an organization like ours, you think it's a conservative organization. And when you hear that a black civil rights leader had a tremendous influence on us, there is some kind of disconnect, especially when you compare that with what comes out of the SPLC. Maybe it's some unconscious thing in reporters' minds where they just don't hear it, or they slough it off. I think that's unfortunate.

Here's a thought I will add to Beck's: Maybe the reporters were talking to Roy Beck with their minds closed. Why go for complexity and nuance when you can quote Heidi Beirich, the Church Lady of the SPLC, about evil and hatred.


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