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The Angry Economist

Immigration Protests and Media, Old and New
Posted by William P. McGowan, Ph. D. on Apr 2, 2006 - 7:44:00 PM

UNITED STATES If there was ever evidence of a disconnect between the old and the new media, it is in the coverage of the immigrant protests over legislation before Congress designed as immigration reform. While the old media covers the protest marches and speeches with adoration, the new media of radio and Internet seems to think that the immigrant protests will end up backfiring.

Like it or not, history supports the new media’s interpretation. Even in their reportage of the protest marches and speeches, the old media has consistently reminded us that these are largest immigrant protest marches weve seen since Proposition 187 was on the ballot in the 1990s. 


Then as now, students left their classrooms, wrapped themselves in Mexican flags, and marched with activists on the streets demanding the defeat of Proposition 187.  There were a lot of people, and there was a lot of rage.


It made for great television, but it was really stupid politically.


People tend to forget that after all these protests and demands, Proposition 187 passed.  In retrospect, even proponents admitted that the anti-Proposition 187 marches were a mistake, and that they created a backlash among the folks that Richard Nixon once referred to as the silent majority.


People who go to work so that they can pay their mortgage and taxes did not take too kindly to people demanding their rights to break the law and not suffer any consequences. And when given a chance to vent their rage in the voting booth, they voted for Proposition 187 in large numbers.


The old media has always made fun of Nixon’s silent majority, and their continued ridicule shows why they STILL dont get it. As an industry comprised of people who went to the same schools, live in the same neighborhoods, and go to the same cocktail parties together, the old media never liked Nixon or conservatism in any form, hence their inability to rationally explain why perfectly normal people oppose illegal immigration.  Living in their own little, hermetically sealed world, our nations self-appointed intelligentsia does not interact with people who live in what politicians call fly over country.


Thats where the new media comes in.  Centered on independent web sites and regionally powerful radio stations, folks who work in the new media have more interaction with the flyover folks.  These folks dont like the problems being created by immigrants, and in a post-9-11 world, they feel increasingly threatened by a population that demands rights and services from a country they entered illegally.  The new media reports these sentiments as news worthy; the old media dismisses them as the rantings of Nativist racists.


And so, while the old media covers immigration protests with the lusty anticipation of another sixties social movement, I believe the new media’s prediction of a second, perhaps more virulent voter backlash is the more likely outcome.  Historically, when these two groups are pitted against each other, especially in tough economic times, the outcome is all but predictable because of an obvious advantage one group has over the other.  You see, one group is fully registered and legally able to vote here, and thus shape policy. The other group isnt. 


The old media wont tell you that; the new media already did.












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