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Coalition Launches National Campaign Against CNN’s Lou Dobbs

El Semanario de Nuevo México, Interview, Luis F. Sarmiento, Translated by Elena Shore, New America Media Posted: Oct 17, 2009

Editor's Note: The national campaign "Basta Dobbs" is calling for CNN to remove anchor Lou Dobbs from the air. Campaign cordinator Roberto Lovato traveled to Albuquerque, N.M., to increase awareness about the campaign among Latinos. He was interviewed by Spanish-language newspaper El Seminario de Nuevo México.

Albuquerque, N.M. -- One of the most powerful English-language television networks in the country, CNN, has as one of its star anchors Lou Dobbs, a Harvard graduate in economics, who has a considerable number of viewers among the Anglo community. So far, there would be nothing extraordinary about the personality of the host of "Tonight with Lou Dobbs,” who has received numerous awards for his journalistic work.

What has tried the patience of members of the newly created campaign, “Basta Dobbs,” is the content of much of the information propagated in this program, which is anti-immigrant, racist and promotes hatred toward people of Hispanic origin in the United States.

Dobbs has openly endorsed the activities of extremist groups like the “Minuteman Project,” and the actions of figures like Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He even recently participated in the annual convention of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant group founded by an Anglo nationalist.

The campaign "Basta Dobbs" has emerged as an initiative bringing together the efforts of multiple community organizations in more than 25 cities to demand that CNN remove the controversial journalist from the air.

Thanks to the New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP), a local organization that seeks to educate disadvantaged populations about the use and benefits of mass media, El Seminario de Nuevo México spoke in Albuquerque with Roberto Lovato, a founding member of the organization presente.org and one of the main project coordinators. Over a fragrant cup of coffee, we talked with this New York City-based writer and activist. Here is what he had to say.

El Seminario: Mr. Lou Dobbs has called you “one of my fleas … one of these delusional left- wing activists who doesn’t care a whit about the truth.” How have you responded?

Lovato: I’ve told him directly that what he is doing is using a diversionary tactic. The debate shouldn’t be taken to a personal level, but should focus on the subject, which is his defamation of and total and permanent damage to the community of Hispanic immigrants in the United States. What kind of respect can be earned based on the lies and distorted information he is presenting to his audience?

When this man tells his viewers that one-third of the nation's prison population is illegal immigrants, that Mexico is our enemy, that the immigrant population has contributed to the spreading of highly contagious infectious diseases and endemics like leprosy, the platform used by Dobbs -- his program on the channel he works for -- must be removed from the air. That's why we are saying “Basta!” (Enough!) through our campaign.

El Seminario: A lot of members of the Hispanic community don’t even know who Lou Dobbs is. His program is not translated into Spanish and his audience is primarily white, i.e., Anglo. Don’t you think the central objective of the campaign might be somewhat lacking in context?

Lovato: I have a two-part answer: The first phase of the campaign is education and agitation. Through this, the Hispanic community will become familiar with the dirty work that Lou Dobbs does every night for an hour, and after making their own assessments, they may -- if they want -– reject him. Secondly, the other thing that we must do is go to the English-speaking audience, since that’s precisely where the road has been so smooth for people like Dobbs to infest their programs with distorted information and contaminate the environment with anti-Latino ideas. It’s to them that we must raise our voices and demand respect.

El Seminario: Considering CNN’s enormous economic power, the battle seems fairly uneven, something like David versus Goliath. Not to be pessimistic, but what do you think are the real chances that the campaign will succeed, given that Lou Dobbs is a highly profitable product for the TV network?

Lovato: We’re aware of that, but since CNN’s morals are at issue -- because on the one hand they defame the Hispanic community and on the other hand they’re looking to profit from our consumption -- we aren’t going to allow such hypocrisy. CNN en Español is the only channel on the station that, like CNN News, broadcasts 24 hours a day. So they’re either going to make money reporting on us in Spanish, or continue programming that is filled with hate speech; but they won’t be able to do both simultaneously anymore. We’ve had feedback from some Latin American organizations that have asked us if they should boycott CNN en Español, which we haven’t yet answered affirmatively. However, this message must be carefully considered by your president. (Reporter’s Note: At this point in the conversation, Andrea Quijada, executive director of NMMLP, spoke.)

I’d like to add to that last point that there will be campaign objectives that are measurable and there will be aspects that can’t be quantified. But in general, the challenge to CNN as a corporation is to let them know that we are a powerful movement, that we have decided to respond to their policies of hatred, and that we will not tolerate seeing them continue to get rich off the money their advertisers pay during those programs.

El Seminario: If Lou Dobbs were removed from the air, in the eyes of the community in Washington, could this be used as an example of mobilization that could be a lobbying tool for obtaining immigration reform?

Lovato: Let me start by highlighting the great power of mobilization that the leaders of our new generations of activists have achieved. The ability to integrate the processes of change and the power of current technology will play a major role in this campaign, and I can guarantee you that CNN will have face a struggle that it has never seen. Sending text messages from cell phones, along with emails and the use of social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, will be our best weapons. Of course, we won’t leave behind our advocacy work in the streets, but we’re going to march as much with our fingers as with our feet. Let us remember that Barack Obama took office thanks in large part to strategies of this nature.

Of course, immigration reform is not the final objective of our campaign, but I'm sure it would set an important precedent.

Note from El Seminario: After the interview, Lovato stressed the solidarity required of organizations and individuals who want to contribute, even in a small way, to the clean and transparent financing of the campaign against Lou Dobbs. Participate from any cell phone by sending the word "BASTA" to 30644, or by visiting the Web site www.bastadobbs.com to join this movement that champions our rights as a human collective.

Related Articles:

Lou Dobbs Confronts Latino Activists Seeking to Dislodge Him from CNN

Hispanic Groups to CNN: Drop Lou Dobbs

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