Science + Technology

Preliminary report finds extensive use of hate speech on conservative talk radio

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A UCLA preliminary report on a pilot study has found that the hosts of two conservative talk radio programs extensively used four types of hate speech against foreign nationals and racial, ethnic and religious minorities.
 
In addition to showing the prevalence of hate speech on conservative talk radio, the study, conducted by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, aims to establish a sound methodology for future research on the nature and extent of such language in the media. The National Hispanic Media Coalition is the center's partner on the study.
 
Center director Chon Noriega, a UCLA professor of cinema and media studies, and Francisco Javier Iribarren, the center's assistant director, said they chose conservative talk radio because research has shown that it accounts for 91 percent of total weekday talk radio programming.
 
The UCLA researchers documented instances of hate speech on two radio programs — "The Savage Nation," a national show, and "The John and Ken Show," a Los Angeles–based program. The final report, which also will analyze "The Lou Dobbs Show," will be released in May.
 
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has defined hate speech as either "words that threaten to incite 'imminent unlawful action,' which may be criminalized without violating the First Amendment" or "speech that creates a climate of hate or prejudice, which may in turn foster the commission of hate crimes."
 
"Using this definition of hate speech, the study found 334 instances of hate speech in just 80 minutes of programming," Noriega said. "These statements were then separated into four different types of hate speech." 
 
The four types of hate speech are: dehumanizing metaphors, flawed argumentation, divisive language and false statements.
 
Five UCLA undergraduate and graduate students examined transcripts of one 40-minute, uninterrupted segment from each of the two programs, which aired in July 2008.
 
The study found that:
 
  • Dehumanizing metaphors were used in 185 statements. Such metaphors evoked warfare, heroism, enemies, biblical characters, criminality, persecution and other representations.
  • There were 77 instances of flawed argumentation, including ad hominem statements, guilt by association, and hidden assumptions or missing premises.
  • Divisive language was used in 79 instances, in which individuals were presented in an "us versus them" framework as either supporting or opposing the show's worldview.
  • 33 false statements were used to validate the hosts' points and to promote public opinion. A false statement is a simple falsehood, exaggerated statement or decontextualized fact that renders a statement misleading.
 
As an example, "The John and Ken Show" aired this statement concerning the city of San Francisco's "sanctuary policy" for undocumented immigrants: "And this all under the Gavin Newsom policy in San Francisco of letting underage illegal alien criminals loose."
 
Researchers said that the statement used false facts. The sanctuary policy preceded San Francisco Mayor Newsom's tenure and neither Newsom nor the sanctuary policy supports "letting underage illegal alien criminals loose."
 
It also used flawed argumentation. Guilt by association was used to make the hosts' points, researchers noted. Undocumented youth and those who are perceived as their endorsers at the institutional level are stigmatized by being associated with criminality, they said.
 
The statement also used divisive language. Researchers said that undocumented youth and their perceived supporters — Newsom and the sanctuary policy — were depicted as a threat to San Francisco citizens, setting up an "us versus them" opposition.
 
The study was supported in part by a grant from the Social Science Research Council's Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere program, with funds provided by the Ford Foundation.
 
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 323 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
 
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