Did CNN say “ya basta” to Lou Dobbs?

After several months of a focused internet and social media campaign pressuring CNN to fire Lou Dobbs, the xenophobic pundit announced tonight he is leaving CNN effectively immediately.

BastaDobbs.org–the virtual Latino coalition which led the campaign against CNN–is claiming victory. “We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has this legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate,” said Roberto Lovato. Lovato, who is an accomplished writer, is also the founder of the Latino-advocacy group Presente.org, the lead organization behind the anti-Dobbs campaign.  “The community is newly empowered and energized,” he continued, “and we are ready to fight for a respectful and civil media discourse when it comes to immigration coverage on mainstream news.”

I couldn’t be happier that Lou Dobbs’ uncritical voice of hate is off the air.  I am a firm defender of anyone’s right to free speech, but I am also fiercely opposed to the  notion that we are better as a society if we provide a platform for all speech.  Television news–and cable news in particular–has moved into an era where providing a “safe space” for the voices from the political extreme has come to substitute for critical discourse and constructive debate.  That isn’t the news and it isn’t “fair and balanced.” It’s petty, and it’s lazy, and it needs to evolve.

I am also a big fan of Roberto Lovato and Presente.org, for all practical purposes the brains and muscle behind the campaign.  In many ways, all of the folks at Presente.org who worked hard on this for months have something to celebrate tonight.

But I would also urge people to be cautious about Dobbs’ departure.  It’s not only too early to tell whether or not this was a victory for “the campaign,” the signs may be telling us it is a victory for el otro lado.

I reluctantly never signed on to the BastDobbs crusade.  The historian in me sees too many pitfalls in campaigns that target an individual rather than what that individual represents or advocates.  Lou Dobbs was never the real problem plaguing Latinos in America.  He was a symptom of the larger problem, perhaps at worst a nurturer of it.

That larger problem is a system of entrenched racism that is violent.  It is a lack of humanist compassion and empathy.  Fear, hate, ignorance are its friends, but even they are not its substance.  If Americans everywhere hated Mexican immigrants and did nothing about that hate, there wouldn’t really be a problem.

All that said, we are still better off not having Dobbs on TV.  My primary worry comes from how his departure took place.  CNN chief Jonathan Klein likely either pressured Dobbs into leaving or, in essence, fired him.  By letting Dobbs dictate the public nature of his departure, CNN never has to be publicly accountable for continuing to provide him a platform for the past four years as he grew increasingly hostile toward immigrants and Latinos.

Dobbs also gets to leave CNN as a populist hero for the Right wing.  The inference that CNN pressured him out on the supposed effort of a bunch of radical Latinos helps fashion Dobbs into a martyr for the cause.  Time will tell whether or not this is the case.  Until we see where it is he ends up, we don’t know the measure of the victory.  In fact, we may have given him even greater and more authentic power in the eyes of the small constituency to which he speaks.

Finally, the “teachable moment” that was Lou Dobbs program is now gone from the air.  That doesn’t mean its views are defeated, and it doesn’t mean uncritical analysis of our most pressing problems is gone from CNN.  It does mean CNN gets to put on its best suit and tie and now pretend that what it gives us is the news.  It also forces the anti-Dobbs campaign to have to define the problem anew.

In her legendary work of art Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa reminds us:

“But it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed. . . [it] refutes the dominant culture’s views and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. . . But it is not a way of life.”

Postscript
This week news surfaced that CNN paid Dobbs to go away. This article in the New York Post alleges Dobbs walked away with a check for $8 million from CNN in exchange for his early departure. Dobbs himself is also speaking out, as you can see in his recent visit to FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly.

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11 Responses to Did CNN say “ya basta” to Lou Dobbs?

  1. Tomas, you have once again proven why I am a regular reader of your blog. You have written a nuanced and perceptive insight on Dobbs’ resignation which I am sharing on Facebook and Twitter.

  2. profe says:

    Thanks for the consistent support and kind words, Raul.

  3. lovebug35 says:

    wow

  4. GuateRamo says:

    You are no better. Just more racism.

    “The real problem plaguing Latinos in America.”

    is the illegal Latino immigrant. They continue to ruin it for all who have worked so hard and given up so much to come here the legal way. Yet while paying so much and receiving so little, we then watch those from abroad enter illegally in a van and then come to sign up for all sorts of benefits and pay nada while others work just as hard. That is what we all (no matter where we are from) should work to end. It hurts the 90% who live by the law and leads to negative views of a whole lot of people that didn’t deserve it.

  5. profe says:

    You have flawed information backing your thinking but, more importantly, flawed thinking. When you make this about “illegality” then you have already bought into the anti-human assumption of the anti-immigration camps. Blaming racism on the receivers of it rather than on those who maintain it is suggestive of this kind of process on your part.

    If you visit PewHispanic.org or the US Government Accountability Office or the Dept. of Homeland Security and do some reading you will discover a surprising level of agreement that the nature of unauthorized labor is such that most people are not paid under the tale but with false documents. This means, MOST so-called “illegals” not only pay taxes (including social security and payroll, as well as local and sales) but that they actually help fund a safety cushion for entitlement programs which they can not draw from (SocSec) and for sales tax revenue states (like CA) which find spenind less flexible than collections.

    But that doesn’t mater because NO PERSON deserves to be treated like a machine for your safety and comfort, whether you are white or brown.

  6. Pingback: Did CNN say “ya basta” to Lou Dobbs? | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  7. mary Kay says:

    Ba-Bye, Luis!

  8. ROSA ALICEA says:

    I now feel somewhat vindicated. A man with access to such a large mass of people can no longer infuse his fears and hatred, upon those susceptible citizens in our society. My son was murdered in a small town in Florida. The local police department and city officials, declared the murderer a hero. My son’s last name : Gonzalez.. His killer, a Caucasian male. It is blatantly obvious that is was racism playing a part, given the fact there was evidence that my son stayed in his home, they took the killers word as gospel. They accused my son to be an intruder. They recited the Florida Gun Law as an excuse. Sadly my son was portrait as a homeless, illegal alien. The shooter is now serving in the navy. Do I Believe the likes of Dobb are responsible for my first born (Fort Myers Florida’s his birth place) is responsible? Yes. There is now one less individual with access to masses of people, that infect and create such racist measures. My son was not an illegal alien. He was born to U.S. citizens. His parents born in Puerto Rico (an U.S. territory.) Should he had been an illegal alien, the universal law still applies. The death of an innocent man, is the death of Humanity. I pray this is the first of many good things to come, to create a real and uniform UNITED States Of America.

    Rosa Alicea
    Deltona Florida

  9. profe says:

    Thank you so much for your comments.

  10. I’ve been active in taxations for longer then I care to admit, both on the individualized side (all my working life!!) and from a legal stand since satisfying the bar and following tax law. I’ve put up a lot of advice and righted a lot of wrongs, and I must say that what you’ve put up makes utter sense. Please persist in the good work – the more people know the better they’ll be outfitted to comprehend with the tax man, and that’s what it’s all about.

  11. Greg says:

    Television news–and cable news in particular–has moved into an era where providing a “safe space” for the voices from the political extreme has come to substitute for critical discourse and constructive debate. That isn’t the news and it isn’t “fair and balanced.” It’s petty, and it’s lazy, and it needs to evolve.

    True. As entertainment and sensationalism, it also attracts viewers, and advertisers, and more money. As far as needing to evolve, I agree completely, but my guess would be that the progression over the years has actually been a devolution. I don’t recall the news being nearly as sensationalist when I was a high schooler and I expect that before then it had been even more tame. This isn’t to say that news of the past always framed things fairly, but I can imagine a time when it wasn’t seen as a real profit-turner for corporations in the entertainment industry.

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