Thursday, May 11, 2006

"Shoot him" - Nashville radio cited in rise of violent rhetoric (updated)

This WorkingForChange article cites comments made on Nashville's SuperTalk 99.7 WTN radio as part of a nationwide trend toward violent rhetoric about illegal immigrants.

"Those in attendance [at a so-called 'De-Magnetize Tennessee' meeting] heard Nashville radio talk show host Phil Valentine say that he thought that U.S. Border Patrol Agents should consider shooting undocumented immigrants as they come across the border."

"According to the news story posted at the Web site of the Center for New Community's Building Democracy Initiative (here), Susan Tully, the national field director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- present at the event -- 'chuckled at the idea, while the large crowd erupted into applause'."

"The meeting was hosted by Valentine and broadcast over SuperTalk 99.7 WTN radio."

The WorkingForChange article further reports that "two civil rights organizations, the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)" have recently documented a "rise in both violence and the threat of violence against undocumented immigrants." According to this Newsweek article, the same sentiment has given birth to a videogame called Border Patrol, in which the player is armed and encouraged to "kill targets such as a 'Mexican nationalist,' 'drug smuggler' and 'breeder' (a pregnant woman with two small children) 'at any cost.'"

The Building Democracy Initiative story describes Valentine's shooting comment in context and also contains a link to an audio excerpt (here). Valentine says, "Shoot him" in response to a description of what a border agent can and can't do when apprehending an illegal immigrant. The resulting chuckles and applause indicate that the comment was Valentine's attempt at humor and that it was well received by the audience.

The Nashville City Paper's report of the event is here and contains no mention of the remark.

Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper warned against negative rhetoric in 2005 (story here), and Apprentice candidate and former Bush administration member Leslie Sanchez warned that despite a stated intent to target only illegal immigrants, negativism about immigration will accomplish alienation far beyond illegal immigrants (story here (this same story quotes another WTN talk show host in November 2005 as calling immigration a "vibrant issue" to be used as a political weapon in 2006)).

The violent rhetoric has the potential to further isolate and divide immigrants in America, in the opinion of this Newsweek editorial: "Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration—perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there's a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies. ... Beyond the purely economic issue, however, there is the much deeper one that defines America—to itself, to its immigrants and to the world. How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us? How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcomed and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America."

Immigrants have so far been non-violent in their protests in the U.S. No one knows whether an increasing atmosphere of violence from U.S. citizens will incite the kind of backlash experienced in Europe, or whether some immigrants will simply leave, as minorities have done in Boston in reaction to an unwelcome climate (story here), or whether they will continue to live among us in a society that looks for ways to exclude them.

Valentine's efforts to de-magnetize or to polarize, or to simply make Music City or the Volunteer State unattractive, have put Nashville in a negative light nationally once again (the last time was the still-pending taco ban plan - story here). This comes at a time when Kiplinger's magazine has named Nashville as the #1 city in its national list of "Smart Cities," citing our Southern hospitality as one of the various reasons "Nashville keeps attracting people from across the nation" (story here) and Expansion Management gave Nashville the #1 spot in its "America's 50 Hottest Cities" rankings for two straight years (story here) - as a measure of "which cities their clients find most attractive when it comes to selecting an expansion or relocation site out of the nation's more than 360 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs)." These rankings may be at risk if Nashville and Tennessee embrace a violent climate. After Nissan North America announced the move of its national headquarters to Middle Tennessee in 2005, a source inside the company said that the number one concern of employees about the region was diversity. Early speculation is that Nissan is going to suffer a "significant loss" and retain less than half of its workforce in the move (story here).

As Reginald Stuart said in Nashville, an American Self-Portrait, "Nashville is at a crucial juncture in its history. We are not yet a truly diverse city, but we are about to become one, and the real question is, Can we do it right?"

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