Friday, May 1, 2009

Of swine and flu

It was inevitable I suppose.

As soon as the media started barraging us with information about the swine flu pandemic, anti-immigrant commentators and talk radio hosts started in on their favorite targets.

And I don't mean pigs.

Neal Boortz, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, ALI PAC's William Gheen, CCIR's Barbara Coe have all weighed in on the airwaves or through mass e-mails. There is no doubt in their minds who is to blame for the flu -- Mexican immigrants.

But wait, there's another.

You might want to think of what follows as stage 5 in the anti-immigrant epidemic of the past few days:

Boston talk radio host Jay Severin was suspended indefinitely from his afternoon drive-time show on WTKK-FM radio for, as The Boston Globe reported, 'calling Mexican immigrants "criminaliens," "primitives," "leeches, and exporters of "women with mustaches and VD," among other incendiary comments.'

Here are those comments, in full context:

“So now, in addition to venereal disease and the other leading exports of Mexico — women with mustaches and VD — now we have swine flu.”

“We are the magnet for primitives around the world — and it’s not the primitives’ fault by the way, I’m not blaming them for being primitives — I’m merely observing they’re primitive.”

“It’s millions of leeches from a primitive country come here to leech off you and, with it, they are ruining the schools, the hospitals, and a lot of life in America.”

“We should be, if anything, surprised that Mexico has not visited upon us poxes of more various and serious types already, considering the number of criminaliens already here.”

(Thanks to El Diario/La Prensa for alerting me to the story in the first place and to the Southern Poverty Law Center blog for including the unexpurgated comments in their post.)

We've all gotten plenty of advice from broadcast news, both local and national; the CDC; the NIH; WHO; President Obama; even the U.S. Catholic Bishops, on how to best protect ourselves from the swine flu -- wash our hands often, cover our coughs and sneezes, stay home if we're sick.

But how do we protect ourselves, our nation, from the outbreak of virulent anti-immigrant flu?

I don't have the answers but I know it's not by washing our hands.

A few possibilities:

  • Advocate. If you live in Pennsylvania, join your voice to those of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. They will be gathering at the State Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday, May 5, from 10:30 p.m. until 5 lobby lawmakers to ensure that immigrants' rights are protected and their dignity respected in the Commonwealth. (For more information, call 215-459-2456.)
  • Stand up and be counted. Join the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Stand Strong Against Hate" campaign (
  • Unite in community. Download NCLR's tool kit for community engagement (
  • Vote with your dial. When the hatemongers take to the airwaves, turn them off.

(Pig photo is from Wikimedia Commons' public domain images.)


  1. Don't underestimate the power of good that odious people such as Jay Severin can enable.

    I believe the biggest boon for the gay rights movement has been Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and other lunatic rightwing fringe wackjobs.

    I don't believe the American people will stand by and let people just denigrate and demean and dehumanize other people. These flash-in-the-pan shock jocks will find their time up much quicker than they expected - because the vast overwhelming majority of people DO NOT feel the way they do...if even they do.

  2. As I'm sure you know, pig farmer associations in various countries (as well as the Israeli government) have been lobbying the World Health Organization to officially change the name of the flu to something that doesn't de-value their product.
    The suggested new name? Mexican flu. I guess they think it's okay to de-value Mexicans.

  3. For most of us, washing our hands with soap may be enough to protect ourselves, while others clearly also need their MOUTHS washed out with soap....but I'm afraid it won't do much for incredulous stupidity and ignorance that seems to be frightingly contagious....


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