Last night, Kevin from Pundit Review (whose web site and talk show I don’t plug anywhere near enough) was taking an extra shift on WRKO, and had on as a guest host Dan Kennedy, a Boston-based media critic. I thought it would be fun to call in, so I did. I asked Mr. Kennedy what he thought of the Boston Globe’s recent rediscovery of the term “illegal alien,” as opposed to “undocumented worker.” I also griped about their tendency to blur illegal aliens with legal immigrants together, making the travails of the former seem like a wholesale bias against the latter as well.
Well, Mr. Kennedy was well-prepared for that one, and he let me have it with both barrels. He said his successor as media writer at the Boston Phoenix had done an analysis of just that notion (prompted by Boston talk show host/Herald columnist/gadfly Howie Carr), and he had found that the Globe actually used “illegal aliens” far more frequently than other, more PC terms, and directed me to see Mr. Reilly’s piece for myself.
A few commenters point out a few loopholes — Mr. Reilly doesn’t differentiate between wire service stories and Globe original reporting, an observation that matches my own observations — the times I’ve noted the Globe using the more PC language has been in their own reports. But how about the other point I raised — the Globe tends to conflate all immigrants, legal and illegal, so as to cast treatment of one as abuse of all?
Well, the time ran out on that segment before Mr. Kennedy could address it, but I knew there was one source I could turn to that would never let me down — the Boston Globe itself. I knew that if I was patient, they would come through and prove my point for me.
So, what are the complaints of the workers in the story?
Withheld wages, denial of overtime payments, and workplace harassment are alarmingly common, the activists said during a press conference at the offices of the Chinese Progressive Association, an advocacy group in Chinatown.
You know, those are wrong. In fact, they’re also illegal. Those employers deserve to be sanctioned, and sanctioned hard. I wouldn’t mind if some of them even went to jail. All it would take would be a single worker to file a formal complaint (and in Massachusetts, it’s absurdly easy to do so), and the state would be all over those employers like Ted Kennedy at an open bar with a blonde bartender.
So, why isn’t the system working for these people? The answer is simple: the workers are afraid to complain, because they don’t want to draw the attention of authorities. And why? Because the vast majority of those who fear official attention are here illegally to begin with.
The Globe has its answer to the problem right in front of it. They even quoted Governor Romney’s spokesman, who spelled it out to them:
“It’s important to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration,” said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. “The governor is a big believer in legal immigration.”
There it is in black and white, in the Globe itself. The problems being cited are not those of immigrant workers. They are those of ILLEGAL immigrant workers. But if the Globe can make it look like an across-the-board case of prejudice against immigrants, and not a matter of criminals exploiting other lawbreakers, they might confuse some well-meaning people into taking their side.
Thanks again, Mr. Kennedy, for pointing me towards that analysis. And all-too-infrequent thanks to Kevin and Gregg for hosting a great show on WRKO (Sundays 7-10 p.m., also available for streaming online).