In May, I was asked to address a local chapter of the National Federation of Republican Women. My topic was the implications of 10 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. in a post-9/11 environment.
When I segued into the portion of my speech that analyzed how the media deals with illegal immigration, the audience— without any prompting - hooted and hissed at the mere mention of the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle et al.
I wondered how their publishers and editors would have reacted if they had heard this professional, well-informed audience laughing so derisively.
A recent Harris Poll ranked journalists with a dismally low 13% approval rating. Only lawyers scored lower.
Let me suggest one reason for journalists' pathetic showing: how they cover immigration.
And let me suggest an outstanding example of prostituted professional standards: the September 29-October 7 Los Angeles Times saga, "Enrique's Journey".
In a six-"chapter" story - offered to readers in both English and Spanish - reporter Sonia Nazario told the tale of a 16 year-old Honduran boy, Enrique, and his trek to the U.S. in search of his mother, Lourdes. She had left Enrique over a decade earlier when she set off for a "better life" as an illegal alien in the U.S. The special skills Lourdes brought to the U.S.: experienced street vendor of gum and cigarettes. Eleven years later, her son is fully qualified as a dropout and drug-abuser.
"Enrique's Journey" is tendentious journalism at its apex. In case you wonder about the story's drift, look no further than the Chapter subtitles: "A Boy Seeks Mercy," "Inspired by Faith," "Mother's Day," "Puffs of Clouds ," and so on. "Enrique's Journey" can only be tolerated if you assume, as Nazario and Vicente Fox do, that illegal immigrants are heroes.
But "Enrique's Journey" does offer inadvertent insights (never developed) into how Mexico treats its illegal immigrants. When Enrique reaches Chiapas, he is advised not to take buses. Since buses pass through nine permanent immigration checkpoints, illegals will be discovered, summarily kicked off the bus and thrown back over the southern border. During that process, writes Nazario, the alien may be beaten, robbed or raped.
If you notice dramatic differences between Mexico's treatment of illegal aliens and the U.S.'s welcome mat, you are more perceptive than Nazario.
Nazario can hardly contain her delight at the final outcome of Enrique's trip north. Through "God's help and guidance," and spurred on by the reminder that "Jesus was an immigrant," and, most importantly through the services of a coyote demanding $1,700 Enrique is reunited in North Carolina with his mother.
In no time, Enrique will be doing a job Americans refuse to do—paint houses.
The sappiest moment is, however, at the end. During a phone call back to Honduras, Enrique learns that his girl friend, Maria Isabel, has just given birth to his daughter, Katherine Jasmine!
Enrique and Maria Isabel immediately map out their plans - which hinge on further violations of U. S. law. Maria Isabel will hire a coyote to bring her to the U.S. The child, like Enrique before her, will be left behind.
Even though the Times offers "Notes on Sources" at the end of the series, you must take on good faith all that Nazario writes. That's because the Times has stretched the definition of a source beyond your wildest imagination. As sources, the Times offers you Lourdes confirming what she herself said, Enrique verifying his own words and actions, Enrique's grandmother Maria reiterating what Enrique said and did after Lourdes left town.
Conspicuously missing from "Enrique's Journey" are sources that would result in a fair and balanced story about an illegal alien's adventures— NumbersUSA.com, Center for Immigration Studies or American Patrol.
I have no doubt that the Los Angeles Times and Nazario had the Pulitzer Prize in mind when they crafted this tedious, predictable pap.
But maybe they should take note of what happened to the New York Times in June 1999.
An eerily similar June 28 1999 New York Times story, entitled "Seeking Father, a Boy Makes a 3,200 Mile Odyssey," dominated newspapers and TV network news. According to the Times, a 13 year-old Honduran boy, Edwin Sabillon, left his village after his mother and sister died in a hurricane. He had $24, three cookies and some clothes when he set out to meet his father at La Guardia Airport.
Passed along by the same cast of "helpful strangers" and "coyotes," Edwin successfully crossed three borders and was joyously reunited with his father.
The heart-warming story turned out to be a greater fiction than "Little Red Riding Hood." Edwin's mother was still alive. But his father had died - of AIDS. Before arriving in New York, Edwin had flown to Miami to spend time with relatives. The New York Times sheepishly revealed the truth on June 30 in a story titled "A Boy's Tale Mostly Fiction" by Susan Sachs.
Nevertheless, amazingly, the New York Times pressed on with dopey follow-ups: on July 1st, "Hard Hearts Softened by a Boy's Tale" by John Tierney and again on July 5th, "Fanciful Tale Wins over Hard-Hearted City" by Felicity Barringer.
Its headline writers somehow preferred the euphemism "tale" to "pack of lies."
Anyone with an ounce of sense would have been highly skeptical of Edwin's "tale" from the get-go. But the New York Times has an agenda. Hence it persisted - because the story reflected, according to the Times, "the plucky virtues of immigrants."
New York Times editor Joyce Purnick said: "I don't see this as a black eye for the media." And Arthur Browne, Purnick's cross-town counterpart at the New York Daily News—which had also hyped Edwin's fabrication—said,
"In the end, this was not an error that causes any harm. If anything it is a misdemeanor of the heart."
For a complete account of how the foolish, gullible and willful New York Times and the Daily News handled the controversy, read William McGowan's incisive book "Coloring the News."
Purnick's protestations aside, the incident was obviously an enormous black eye for the Establishment Media.
And, despite Browne's protestations, these sob sagas do cause profound harm.
We Americans have "plucky virtues," too. We believe in the rule of law, in protecting our heritage and language, in providing good jobs at decent wages for our fellow Americans. We further believe in a decent public education for American kids and medical care for our American needy. And we believe in protecting our American wide-open spaces. All these values and aspirations have been undermined by the relentless flow of illegal aliens - and by Big Media's glorification of them.
My advice to the reporters and editors of the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and similar propaganda machines: Kindly use proper channels for your advocacy of open borders. Go to Washington, D.C. and lobby there.
Please do not use news stories as a bully pulpit to forward your own misguided agenda. Confine that advocacy - revolting though it is - to your editorial pages.
Last week, New York Times reporter Nick Madigan's October 29 story, "Police Investigate Killings of Illegal Immigrants in Arizona Desert" claimed that "armed vigilantes, self appointed guardians of the border with Mexico" were under investigation by the police for their possible involvement in the shooting death of two illegal immigrants.
Named in the story, written with the most sinister possible overtones, were American Patrol's Glenn Spencer and Ranch Rescue's Roger Barnett. (For Spencer's comments on this absurd, agenda-driven account, click here.)
While the Times had no hesitation to point the finger at Spencer and Barnett —without a shred of evidence— it could not bring itself to report any of the facts in the shooting death of 28-year-old National Park Service Ranger Kris Eggle, killed by one of three Mexican national criminals he was pursuing in southern Arizona.
Obviously, the senseless murder of Eggle—a decent, all-around good guy, loved and admired by his friends and family—by Mexican drug dealers and smugglers does not fit the Times' definition of "All the News That's Fit To Print."
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.