The Media

The Billings Gazette Offers Free Recruitment Information for White Supremacists

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On the bright side, it’s good to see some original local reporting in a Montana newspaper. On the downside, I’m not sure that staging dramatic PR photos and offering an entirely uncritical look at a group that advocates a racial war against minorities is entirely appropriate.

This is an astonishing article. In it, Becky Shay, the reporter, allows a self-described member of the Montana Creators Assembly to:

  • claim that his movement is non-violent, despite copious evidence to the contrary.
  • disavow involvement in racially motivated hate crimes.
  • promote his organization’s web sites.
  • pitch his 14 track pro-white CD.

And then the pictures. What could be a nicer gift for a young member of a right wing hate group than professionally produced, propaganda-style photographs? What news value do these photographs serve, other than to sensationalize the story and sell papers?

There’s no context for this story nor justification. The story tries to assert significance by connecting the group to crime in Billings, but the best that Shay musters is some arrests eight years ago and two assaults that “may” be related to skinheads. Call the Pulitzer people!

Do I really think the Gazette article is going to lead to a membership spike in the Montana Creators Assembly? Probably not. It’s not like people who would join are likely to be avid readers, for one thing. But there is a reason they seek publicity like this—to draw naive or confused kids to their web sites—and this article facilitates that, without even a modicum of balance. There’s not one bit of information about the history of violence that characterizes the Creator movement, not one quote from an organization like the Montana Human Rights Network, and not one statement from anyone who’s been the victim of a hate crime or targeted by one of these racist groups.

This story demonstrates either an incredible lack of judgment or an even more astonishing cynicism. Nazis do sell newspapers after all, especially when you’ve got great art.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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