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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Conservative Word Games Manipulate Immigration Debate

Gabriel Thompson’s “How the Right Made Racism Sound Fair–and Changed Immigration Politics” at Colorlines.com goes long and deep into the psychology of conservative lingo and terminology used by the MSM in the immigration debate. A teaser:

…Colorlines.com reviewed the archives of the nation’s largest-circulation newspapers to compare how often their articles describe people as “illegal” or “alien” versus describing them as “undocumented” or “unauthorized.” We found a striking and growing imbalance, particularly at key moments in the immigration reform debate. In 2006 and 2007, for example, years in which Congress engaged a pitched battle over immigration reform, the New York Times published 1,483 articles in which people were labeled as “illegal” or “alien;” just 171 articles used the adjectives “undocumented” or “unauthorized.”
That imbalance isn’t coincidental. In the wake of 9/11, as immigration politics have grown more heated and media organizations have worked to codify language they deem neutral, pollsters in both parties have pushed their leaders toward a punitive framework for discussing immigration. Conservatives have done this unabashedly to rally their base; Democrats have shifted rhetoric with the hopes that it will make their reform proposals more palatable to centrists. But to date, the result has only been to move the political center ever rightward–and to turn the conversation about immigrants violently ugly.

Thompson, author of “Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do,” has written an excellent analysis which merits a close read — especially by Dem candidates and staffers who are involved in immigration politics.

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