Wednesday, May 30, 2007



Thomas Riggins

CNN likes to call itself "the most trusted name in news." What you call yourself and what you are often turn out to be quite different. Lou Dobbs, a "populist" champion of the angst ridden American middle class is a case in point. But first some comments on fascist disinformation techniques.

An old fascist trick is to rally support for regressive and racist causes by railing against "big government" from a "populist" point of view, pointing out how the middle class is "hurting" and the the interests of ordinary Americans are being ignored, while at the same time scapegoating another class or subgroup in society as being one of the sources of the problems facing "regular" people.

European fascists scapegoated Jews, gypsies, gay people, and foreigners at various times. Today, in the US one of the many groups targeted is likely to be immigrants, legal and/or illegal, (especially those of Mexican descent).

Lou Dobbs of CNN has managed to drive up the ratings of his show ("Lou Dobbs Tonight") by 72% in the last four years by using this tactic. He has even written a book "War on the Middle Class." CBS has gone so far as to hire him as a commentator for its "The Early Show." This means fascist techniques are going main stream.

The New York Times has called Dobbs "arguably this country's foremost populist." "Arguably" is the right word. I would argue no one is a true populist who bases his or her message on lies, slander and racism. This information is available in a Times article by David Leonhardt ("Truth, Fiction And Lou Dodds" in the Business Day section of 5-30-07.)

Here we find out that in 2005 Dobbs supported claims that immigrants had brought diseases to the US. He echoed the charge that there were 7000 cases of leprosy (Hansen's Disease) in the US between 2003 and 2005. This was not true but Dobbs and CNN refuse to retract it. This is in line with his belief that the main enemy of the "middle class" is illegal immigration.

"The invasion of illegal aliens," he said , "is threatening the health of many Americans." The Times reporter checked out the official figures and found out the 7000 cases were the figures for the last 30 not 3 years. This was pointed out to Dobbs. He was, as the Times put it, "flat-out wrong."

The test of a serious commentator or journalist or reporter, as opposed to a racist fear monger using fascist techniques against minority scapegoats, is his or her willingness to admit a mistake and apologize for the misunderstanding.

How did Dobbs do on this test of his integrity? He had presented this false information on his show at least two times. Once in 2005, and again this year when it was challenged. Leonhardt says "he has never acknowledged on the air that his program presented false information twice."

Leonhardt also checked transcripts of his shows and found out that Dobbs "has a somewhat flexible relationship with reality." He claimed "one-third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants." The truth is that its only 6%.

Leonhardt also found out that Dobbs gave airtime "to white supremacy sympathizers." The Times article concludes that Dobbs, with his mixtures of truth and lies, "is the heir to the nativist tradition that has long used fiction and conspiracy theories as weapons against the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Jews and, now, the Mexicans."

Don Imus lost his job for being stupid and insensitive. The racist filth spewed forth by someone like Dobbs is more deadly by far. That CNN and CBS both seek his services should let us know what type of society the corporations are preparing for our future.

Thomas Riggins can be reached at


FSJL said...

Dobbs is certainly promoting the interests of the far right in a manner that looks fascist (mobilising a segment of the middle class to protect itself from a 'threat from below' defined in racial terms -- which is, strictly speaking, more Nazi than fascist).

BTW, Tom, that's Hansen's Disease not Hanson's Disease.

Dimitra said...

but please don't lose sight of the elephant in the room: the middle class *is* hurting. we're either swelling the ranks of "discouraged workers" or working longer and harder to try to hold on. and this is a multi-cultural predicament. hard-working people of all kinds and colors are being pushed into more or less desperate insecurity. I don't condone Dobbs' foisting off blame on "aliens" but let's get our heads out of the sand and look at what's happening to our society.

Thomas Riggins said...

Thanks, I corrected the name of the disease.

Eric said...

I think this blog is nonsense. Mr. Dobbs clearly states and restates "illegal" aliens. The point is we don't need porus borders, and we don't need "illegal" aliens from any country invading our land. Borders is what creates a country and culture, not to mention prevents the import of a Nuke. You can argue all the facts you want, but the underlining fact remains that the border must be controlled.

Thomas Riggins said...

Its the "we" "they" thing we have to overcome. We are all "illegal aliens" from the point of view of Native Americans. We stole half of Mexico and built up the country on slavery of Africans and genocide of the Native Americans. We all evolved from the same glob of slime so we should all help each other and fight against a system controlled by a rich master class that teaches us that some of our brothers and sisters are "illegal aliens." I agree that we should not have porous borders because we should not have borders at all. I understand this is all nonsense to some people but that is because we live in different conceptual universes. One person's truth (say bin Laden's for example) is another person's nonsense. The issue, by the way, was racism and fascism and I hope you don't think that this is the proper way to "protect" what we like to call "our borders." But maybe the only way to do so is to appeal to racism and fascism, you certainly can't appeal to truth, justice and (in the really deeper philosophical sense) the American way.