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CNN Exchange: Commentary

Gilchrist: Don't fall for media's spin about the Minutemen

By Jim Gilchrist
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Jim Gilchrist founded The Minuteman Project in 2004. He is a former newspaper reporter, a retired accountant and a Marine veteran.

ORANGE COUNTY, California (CNN) -- On October 12, Ruben Navarrette Jr. penned a pompous commentary for CNN.com ("Minutemen have a right to be idiotic"). His litany of name-calling and bogus accusations against The Minuteman Project membership places him solidly in the category of propagandist journalists who "spin" their stories to suit their bias -- valid facts and objectivity be damned.

Navarrette is a clever wordsmith. Under the penumbra of supporting free speech, he creates a wholly fictitious connection between The Minuteman Project and the Nazis who wanted to march in Skokie, Illinois, in the late 1970s, leading his uncritical readers to false assumptions and conclusions. Navarrette calls The Minuteman Project viewpoint "offensive speech" and says the project promotes inaccuracy, intolerance and idiocy.

Navarrette insults Minuteman Project volunteers by calling them a posse who "prowl the U.S.-Mexico border chasing Mexicans -- admittedly not an easy thing to do when you're carrying a lawn-chair and a cooler of beer." He claims minutemen and women are "hooligans," "yahoos" and "wannabes who play cop."

In fact, Minuteman volunteers only observe and report; they do not chase or confront and they do not drink on duty. There has never been a violent incident initiated by volunteers. By contrast, in the past 18 months, nonviolent Minuteman volunteers nationwide have been victims of more than 50 acts of violence against their property and persons by deviants opposed to freedom of speech. Much of this violence is encouraged by propagandist journalists like Navarrette, whose words inflame readers and foster hostility.

Navarrette implies racism, but never says exactly which of The Minuteman Project volunteers is racist. Could it be the African-American members? Or the Asians or Hispanics? Perhaps he refers to the Native American Indian members? Maybe Navarrette means the Jewish members of The Minuteman Project?

Of course, there are European-Caucasian members. Ah-hah! In the twisted perception of the propagandist journalist, any organization with at least one white person must be, ipso facto, a racist organization.

In fact, The Minuteman Project is a multiethnic, pro-legal immigration, law enforcement advocacy group. Minuteman volunteers are teachers, college professors, taxi drivers, truckers, construction laborers, lawyers, college students, CPAs, surgeons and physicians, retired police officers, veterans, homemakers, authors, PhDs, politicians, grandparents, and naturalized citizens -- Americans who simply want to help protect their country from the problems of illegal immigration.

One would be hard pressed to find another national fraternity with a more diverse membership of race, color, creed, age, or vocation. Membership is about 25 percent non-whites and 55 percent women. The board of directors includes women and a black American with a master's degree from the University of Southern California.

If Navarrette truly wants to expose obstructionist groups, he should focus on some of what I consider real threats to civility, like Columbia University's Chicano Caucus and the International Socialist Organization, the two extremist elements that conspired in an effort to stamp out freedom of speech at Columbia University during a speech The Minuteman Project was invited to give on October 4, 2006.

The hope and belief of Navarrette and his fellow propagandist journalists, along with anti-American groups like those that disrupted my speech, is that readers are so simple-minded they cannot distinguish between truth and fiction. One can only hope that CNN.com readers are not so easily fooled.

What is your take on this commentary? E-mail us

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer. This article is part of a series of occasional opinion pieces on CNN.com that offer a broad range of perspectives that express a variety of thoughts and points of view.

Your responses

CNN.com asked readers for their thoughts on this commentary. We received a lot of excellent responses. Below you will find a small selection of those e-mails, some of which have been edited for length and spelling.

It is about time victims are allowed to stand up and respond to the leftist journalism spewed about without any responsibility in the media. Hats off to the rare occasion CNN does it. Letting John Gilchrist respond to the dishonesty of Ruben Navarrette is a obligation to the truth. Journalists like Navarrette become the best example of a profession completely impotent to police itself.
Rick Wagner, Stacy, Minnesota

Mr. Gilchrist is right, readers can tell fact from fiction. No matter how many times he mentions the race and gender variation of his organization, it is still obvious that the Minuteman Project is focused on a specific racial group, and determined to vilify any person attempting to improve their life, or the lives of their family. Oh, and I am a European-Caucasian female, does that better validate my response, Mr. Gilchrist?
Gina, Sacramento, California

Although I am not a Minuteman volunteer, and I don't support the organization, it is about time some visibility is given to the popular trend of criminalizing elements not supported by the left. We all have a right to be heard in this country, and audibly interrupting a public speech is an undeniable attempt to stifle another's ability to be heard. There is no excuse for that in this country.
Mark Frost, Austin, Texas

Gilchrist implies that having black, Asian, and Jewish members somehow discredits accusations of racism against the Minuteman Project. That is silly. The accusation of racism, or more correctly nativism, is based on his assertion that Hispanic immigration threatens to change the nature of American culture. That statement implies that the immigrants themselves are somehow a threat to America.
John Korab, Albany, New York

In short, these Minuteman have no business in trying to stop illegal aliens. Leave it to the Border Patrol, that's what they are getting paid for. We do not want any vigilantes. Perhaps using the military to police our borders is the way to go. Perhaps these vigilantes with all that time in their hands can go out and help harvest all the farm crops.
Domingo Hidalgo, Los Angeles, California

I fully agree with the Gilchrist response. Ruben Navarrette's piece was obviously biased and intended to degrade those who have taken risks and their own time and resources to force the U.S. government to enforce the laws which are already on the books. These people are to be praised for resisting the pc urge to avoid any involvement. The people crossing the border illegally are criminals regardless of their needs and should be treated as such. The United States is a country of laws. These laws are intended for justice, not mercy.
Clifford Cantrell, Rogers, Kentucky

I was very surprised that CNN ran this commentary. Pleasantly surprised I should say. It is my opinion that while CNN may do a fine job of reporting the news it does lean slightly to the left. I am pleased that Mr. Gilchrist was given the chance to defend himself and the organization of citizens who try and help protect the borders of our nation. Someone has to do it. Who better then average Americans. I never was concerned that there was a rouge group of drunk vigilantes patrolling the border as Mr. Navarrette implied. Thank you for giving both commentaries.
Louis D'Eugenio, Pleasant, South Carolina

Mr. Gilchrist labels Columbia University's Chicano Caucus "extemists". What does he label the Minutemen? Is the pot calling the kettle black? I'm betting I don't get an answer to my questions.
Linda Garcia, San Pedro, California

Well done, Mr. Gilchrist! I read Ruben Navarrette Jr.'s original article and I was put off by what I felt was an emotionally charged indictment of the Minuteman Project. It's great to see you defend your position with class and dignity. I tend to find that when one resorts to name-calling, disparaging comments and references to hate groups such as the Nazi party, it's usually because one has nothing worthwhile to add to the debate. Kudos to you for standing your ground!
Steven Davidson, Eagan, Minnesota

I don't know what Navarrette did to warrant an "angry email" from you Mr. Gilchrist, but whatever you said in that message obviously stung him. His retaliation in the form of that dirty little Minuteman piece obviously stung you too. Perhaps you boys should shake hands and make up.
Kim Rolland, Widener, Arkansas


Jim Gilchrist

Jim Gilchrist salutes the audience at Columbia University after his speech was interrupted by protesters.

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