During the past couple of months several normally intelligent people have insisted that immigrants, legal and illegal, as well as the poor and minority populations are to blame for the subprime mortgage mess. Where the Fandango did they get this idea? From the media and the Internet, of course.
One always expects a whole lot of finger pointing when things go wrong, but this assertion is just ridiculous. I cannot imagine any member of these minority groups having the clout to force the banks into lending anyone money. Nevertheless, the claim has continued to circulate through the media and the Internet like wildfire.
When I decided to research the issue. I turned to a source I respect—The Southern Poverty Law Center— [http://www.splcenter.org/index.jsp].
Founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm, this group describes its activities on its home page as: “Today, SPLC is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups.”
Having spent a great deal of time exploring the SPLC site, I find it is a great resource for anyone interested in equal justice.
In the SPLC’s Intelligence Report: Spring 2009, Minority Meltdown by Larry Keller, [http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=1011] Mr. Keller carefully describes and annotates a series of events that elevated a falsehood into indisputable fact:
“On Oct. 9, the conservative online news site Drudge Report included a link to a story on the website of conservative talk radio KFYI-AM in Phoenix that said HUD had reported that 5 million illegal immigrants held bad mortgages. That same day, the Phoenix Business Journal posted an article stating that a HUD spokesman said there was “no basis” for the 5 million figure, and that the agency had no data reflecting the number of bad mortgages held by illegal immigrants.
“But a few hours later on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” — a primary venue for the airing of false allegations about undocumented immigrants — San Diego radio show host Roger Hedgecock cited the bogus HUD statistic as a hard fact. By the following day, others were engaging in the journalistic equivalent of fabricating a “big fish” tale, embellishing the falsehood with their own extravagant claims. Rush Limbaugh stated on his radio program that HUD was “admitting 5 million illegal aliens were given mortgages … with fake Social Security numbers and so forth to go out and purchase homes that they didn’t have to pay back.” Over at Clear Channel’s “The War Room with Quinn & Rose,” Jim Quinn claimed that while there were some excesses on Wall Street, the bigger problem was the issuance of “5 million mortgages to illegal aliens who didn’t even have to come up with an ID.”
“Quinn neglected to cite a source for that claim about identification, which turned out to be just as bogus as the 5 million figure.”
That the lie jumped so easily from the rabid, right fringe to the mainstream media is absolutely frightening. No one stopped to question the facts, leading me to worry and wonder; what other falsehoods is the public being fed in the guise of prime time hard news? Is it now possible that we can no longer trust the fourth estate to do its job?
The public now knows that greedy bankers and mortgage lenders, who saw a fast way to make easy money, created the mortgage mess. But the damage has been done. Innocent groups of people have been singled out as scapegoats.
In my most humble opinion this is a hate crime and the public aided and abetted, watching without complaint as television news has wandered too far into the realm of entertainment.
Too many of us get our news from commentators who do not let facts stop them from shooting off their mouths. Isn’t it time that we demand from the media the professionalism and integrity they once had?