The Usual Suspects

By Michelle Chen Apr 09, 2009

From the department of easy scapegoats: Media Matters has released a round-up of the mainstream media’s various potshots against immigrants, ACORN, and generally, people often demonized by the political establishment when they’re not neglected by it. Not a real shocker, but Media Matters did a nice job of laying out the corporate noise-machine’s greatest hits from the last few months: According to articles compiled by Media Matters about the recent expansion of SCHIP, the public children’s healthcare program, politicians and media outlets aired weak claims that undocumented immigrants would receive benefits—reinforcing the view that “illegals” are not deserving of basic health care as well as the perception that public services to the poor are rife with abuse. “In fact,” reports Media Matters, “the legislation includes a citizenship verification process and explicitly states that ‘[n]othing in this Act allows Federal payment for individuals who are not lawfully residing in the United States.’ ” ACORN—best known for its gratuitously hyped role in the 2008 “voter fraud” controversy—continues to serve as the conservative punditocracy’s favored whipping post, complete with racial undertones. Even the banal task of aiding with the census takes on the air of left-wing conspiracy:

Reporting on the 2010 U.S. Census, many in the conservative media have focused on ACORN’s reported role as a national partner with the Census Bureau in its effort to recruit more than 1 million temporary workers and baselessly suggested that the group will fraudulently influence the count in favor of Democrats or that the Obama administration is politicizing the process. Media figures have done this despite the fact that ACORN is reportedly only one of ‘more than 250’ groups that are partnering with the Census Bureau to recruit workers.

And sometimes, immigrants and ACORN join forces in an evil axis of… victims of the recession:

In their coverage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, many in the media falsely asserted or uncritically reported accusations that the legislation would provide tax credits to undocumented immigrants. In fact, the bill limited the Making Work Pay tax credit to individuals with Social Security numbers, thereby excluding undocumented immigrants. Numerous media figures have also claimed that ACORN would benefit from the legislation — to the tune of $4.19 billion. In fact, the act does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding; ACORN itself has said that it is ineligible for the funds. The false claim was based on a misrepresentation of a provision in the House version of the bill that would have appropriated $4.19 billion ‘for neighborhood stabilization activities related to emergency assistance for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes authorized under division B, title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.’

Funny how such distortions seem to intensify just when officials and corporations are nervously fighting off charges of their own abuses of power. One silver lining of the economic crisis could be that the public is becoming harder to distract, while the real fraud is becoming harder to ignore.