WDET- 101.9 FM, the Detroit public radio station owned and operated by Wayne State University, announced an important issue-oriented collaboration focusing on right wing extremism with four of the region’s most-read independent newspapers, The Jewish News, The Arab American News, The Michigan Chronicle and Latino Press. The five media entities have established a partnership to raise awareness of the growth of radical right movements in Michigan and the country at large. The Michigan media entities have collaborated with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization and one of the authoritative research institutions in the areas of hate groups, discrimination and exploitation.
Mikel Ellcessor, WDET general manager, said, “The explosive growth of three distinct groups, the Tea Party movement, the Patriot movement, with the militias as their paramilitary arms, and the nativist anti-immigration movement has been under way for the past year. While these are distinct movements with their own animus, there is a well documented, and rising, level of extreme rhetoric coming from all three groups. This rhetoric has contributed to an environment that is fostering violence from the extreme right and multiple instances of domestic terrorism.”
“This editorial project is designed to raise awareness of this issue and to challenge the people of Michigan to ask hard questions of their politicians and media,” Ellcessor continued. “Because of Michigan’s unique relationship with the militia movement, we encourage every citizen to understand the ways extreme rhetoric laced with violent imagery has permeated our society and contributed to a climate where six law enforcement officers have been murdered by far right extremists in the last year.”
The partners in the project commissioned a special report by the SPLC that noted “after more than a decade out of the spotlight the militias have come roaring back to life across the country. Michigan, once again, is a hotbed of militia activity.” The SPLC documented 34 militia groups in Michigan — a staggering number when one considers that a year earlier the SPLC found only 42 militias in the entire country. As of 2009, there were 127 militias in the United States — an increase of more than 200 percent.
Arthur Horwitz, publisher of The Jewish News, one of the collaboration partners, said, “As America and Michigan navigate a difficult economic and social landscape, it is our right and duty to engage in robust discussion about the issues of the day and to hold our elected officials accountable at the ballot box. However, when people of responsibility and power in government and the media incite others to express their displeasure through violence, slander and intimidation, they have to be called out. As representatives of Michigan ethnic media outlets, we appreciate and cherish the freedom and opportunity our country provides and the responsibilities that come with them. We have also felt the sting of bias, defamation and discrimination and are united in speaking out against hate mongers and those who enable them.”
Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News reiterates this position when he said, “We must stand together against messages of hate and identify their messengers.”
The partnership is presenting its work through the weeks of March 29 and April 5. The partnership will publish original editorials, share the reports of the SPLC report, host interviews and call-in segments on WDET (101.9FM), encourage related media, both ethnic and mainstream, to host conversations and engage the audience through a variety of social media.
Ellcessor summarizes the ultimate goals of the partnership this way: “We are undertaking this work because we want to contribute to a climate that says hate and extremism are not values that will move Michigan into the future, where average citizens assert the basic fact that we are a nation of laws and that violence is never an appropriate response to the lawful democratic process and where they can expect their media to provide full, accurate and incisive reporting on destabilizing influences like right wing extremism.”