Arizona Fallout: Hispanic Group To Press FCC, Hill, NTIA For Hate Speech Inquiries

Wants to update almost two-decades old report on effects of hate speech, press Congress for money to do so
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Prompted by the
shootings in Arizona over the weekend and ensuing national conversation about
the role of violent rhetoric in politics and the media, the National Hispanic
Media Coalition plans to press the FCC to act on its longstanding petition on
hate speech.

That is
according to NHMC President Alex Nogales, who said the group would also
push the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NITA) to
update an almost two-decades old report on the effects of hate speech, and
would press Congress to make sure NTIA got the money to do so.

The FCC has not
yet acted on the petition, according to an aide to one of the commissioners.

He said the
group would immediately ask the FCC to act on its inquiry petition and for
Congress to fund the NTIA study update. "I hate for things to come to
this before people move, but if this is the only way, then we have to push
this," Nogales said.

NHMC has
been urging the FCC to investigate what it sees as the link between extreme
rhetoric and hate speech on radio and cable TV and real world violence and hate
crimes. Nogales sees the Arizona shootings as an outgrowth of that hateful
speech. "We can't stand there with our arms crossed and make like there
isn't a reason why this is happening," he told B&C in an interview.

"We
started this dialog in the last immigration debate four years ago. We could see
that it was just out of control. It started with just an issue of
immigration, then every pundit on radio and TV who wanted an audience started talking
about it and started using the worst of language, and now it has spilled out
into mainstream," he said.

Following the
shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the killing of a federal judge, a young
girl and four others, and the wounding of a dozen more, Giffords' supporters
pointed to Sarah Palin's Web site and its posting of cross-hairs
on Giffords' district after she voted for healthcare, and the use of
gun-related imagery. That was part of a dialog that has sprung up in Washington
and elsewhere about the harsh and violent tone of political debate and media
comment and its possible consequences.

"Just saying
we have to be civil isn't enough anymore. We have to scientifically prove that
hate speech leads to hate crimes."

Nogales said
the group would first issue a press release, then push the FCC to conduct the
inquiry and Congress to fund an update of the NTIA's 1993 report on the
role of telecommunications on hate crimes. Language like "crosshairs
and trigger and reload" have gone too far, he said, "and that was
just one politician. But if you hear the whole range of people who talk this
way, you see the link between hate speech and hate crimes. But you have to prove
the link."

Prompted in
part by the rhetoric surrounding the heated immigration debate--Arizona's tough
laws have been something of a flashpoint on that issue of late--NHMC was the
lead name on a petition for FCC inquiry filed in January 2009 and renewed that
request in May 2010. Joining the petition was a host of groups including Free
Press, Common Cause, Rainbow PUSH, United Church of Christ and many others.
Nogales said he would reach out to them for support in this latest push.

As recently as
September, Nogales was seeking support from FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
for the petition. She had joined with NHMC to call for dialing down the
heated rhetoric that surrounded the network neutrality debate.

They were not
asking for content regulation, and Nogales reiterated that to B&C Monday, but instead for
"non-regulatory" means, saying if the FCC would investigate, it would
use the information for "educational, informational and research
purposes."

"We're not
looking for regulations," said Nogales. "We're about bringing this to
the consciousness of the American people to the point where we as a nation and
a population say to each other: 'We can't continue like this.' We want to put
the pressure on those individuals who continue to use that kind of rhetoric so
that they stop it or mitigate it."

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