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How to Cover a Mass Movement

Chris Anderson May 18, 2006

Over the past few months, newly energized immigrants-rights protesters have received a lesson in corporate media manipulation. Keeping history in mind, and drawing upon actual media coverage of the immigrant-rights
protests, here are some easy rules on how to cover a mass movement.

1. Play by the rules, and embrace the “reasonable” alternative.

“There needs to be a lot of heavy lifting and delicate consensus building to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. Sleeping giants can, and should, get moving. But they should tread carefully. —New York Times editorial, 4/29/06”

2. Compare the current movement to a supposedly “purer,” earlier one… especially now that it’s no longer controversial.

“[Comparisons to the Civil Rights era] are superficial. Segregation denied the legal rights and full humanity of American citizens. It was a brutal regime that had to be dismantled. By comparison, current and proposed immigration laws – even the most punitive ones – are at worst foolish, impractical and ungenerous. But they are not Jim Crow. To say otherwise is to trivialize evil.” —New York Times editorial, 4/29/06.
3. Focus on movement divisions and strains between “moderates” and “radicals,” and pretend no movement has ever been divided before.
“Some local activists predicted that thousands of Washington area immigrants would participate in a national economic boycott today, but immigrant groups who have spoken out against the boycott said they fear that the immigration reform movement is being commandeered to promote political causes beyond immigration.” —Washington Post, 05/01/2006

“The great upsurge in recent weeks in the Negro movement for equal rights has brought considerable strain among the leading action groups that have been engaged in it.” —”Negroes Are Divided in Battle For Equal Rights,” New York Times, 6/23/1963

4. Give equal time to opponents, even if their numbers are miniscule.
“Compared with the hundreds of thousands who marched urging Congress to consider
legal status for some of the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country, far fewer went to speak for the other side. But advocates for tighter border security and increased enforcement of immigration laws said that their quieter voices were actually more representative of the views of Americans as a whole.” —New York Times, 05/02/2006

5. Predict backlash – over and over and over again.
“Anti-immigration groups warned politicians yesterday that Tuesday’s election in Herndon was the beginning of a voter backlash against local and federal immigration policy,” —Washington Post, 05/04/2006

“Many on the other side predict a backlash.” —New York Times, 05/01/2006