Freedom at Last: So Long, Lou

So Long, LouThese past two weeks have been big weeks for immigration reform: Secretary Napolitano announced that the Administration will push for immigration reform early in 2010, rather than waiting until after the mid-term elections, Rep. Luis Gutierrez held a virtual town hall meeting on reform for more than 60,000 people in house parties around the country, and Lou Dobbs left CNN.

Yesterday was my first airline travel in a post-Lou world – the first time in years when I and thousands of other travelers were not held captive in front of Lou’s nightly rant full of fear-mongering and misinformation masquerading as “news.” I stepped a little lighter as I made my way through the airport, didn’t have to brace myself as I passed the big screen TVs, and I actually paused at one to check out the news. I’ve heard similar comments from friends who no longer have change the channel on the TV at the gym before settling in for a workout, and I hope the woman I saw yelling at the TV in the Minneapolis airport – “Why are we subjected to this? This is supposed to be the news” – is sleeping easier, too.

Free-speech is one thing, a nightly national platform credentialed as journalism despite overwhelming documentation of its regular falsehoods is another. The media watch-dog Media Matters issued 299 corrections to misinformation broadcast by Dobbs just since July of this year. Civil rights organizations have long been concerned about the impact of his commentary – see the Southern Poverty Law Center and We Can Stop the Hate campaign.

The American public deserves an honest, healthy debate about how to create a workable immigration system, and Lou’s departure helps clear the way for that. We deserve media that separates fact from fiction, and CNN has finally given us reason to believe that it is interested in making its way back to being a credible source of news. It may take some time to regain our trust, but it’s a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, in the meantime, years of hate-bating has done real damage to real communities and real people. It will take a lot of work by the rest of us to repair it.

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