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How Arizona is seen across the nation

How Arizona is seen across the nation
New law giving state a pop-culture buzz cut
by Casey Newton - May. 9, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Although there has been some vocal support, Arizona has taken a beating in the media over its new immigration law. Here's a look at how the debate has played out across different media throughout the country.

Danny Glover thinks Arizona's controversial immigration law is "misguided."

Steve Nash, in his "Los Suns" jersey, says it represents Arizona poorly around the world.

That's nothing compared with Jon Stewart, who called Arizona "the meth lab of democracy," or his Comedy Central cohort Stephen Colbert, who warned that the economic effect of the law could make Phoenix "like a very dry Detroit."

Many people support the law. Many others oppose it. But there's no denying it has exploded in popular culture like few other political stories in Arizona history.

"It impacts our brand," said Lawrence Moore, a Phoenix public-relations and marketing consultant. "And unfortunately, we have far too little on the positive side in that arena to balance it out."

To date, there is little question that Arizona is losing the public-relations war. But questions remain over how long Arizona will feel the effects - or whether, in the grand scheme of things, it matters at all.

"Unfortunately, it reinforces a part of our brand that has a history," said Moore, who resigned from the Governor's Film and Television Commission on April 23 in protest of the law's signing. He said the law had damaged the state's reputation, much as the elimination of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday did in the 1980s.

Other Page Ranking professionals say the controversy will have a limited impact on the state's image.

"Despite the rash of negative headlines, Arizona's 'brand' will pretty much stay the same: sunshine, spring training, the Grand Canyon, fast-break hoops and populist politics," Chip Scutari, a political consultant with Scutari and Cieslak Public Relations, said in an e-mail. "It's our reputation that's at stake."

Broad debate

The snark, the vitriol, the swastikas scrawled on the Capitol - it's all a result of Gov. Jan Brewer signing Senate Bill 1070, which will make it a state crime to be in the country illegally and will require anyone whom police suspect of being in the country illegally to produce legal identification.

Debate over the measure has led to heated discussion across all media - newspapers, television, radio, blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Will the attention tarnish Arizona's image globally? As with so much of the immigration debate, it depends on whom you ask.

Plenty of people support the new law - a majority of Arizona voters, in fact, according to several recent polls.

Conservative talkers Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have taken to the airwaves to defend the law, often in strident terms.

"The law in Arizona is the law, so shut up, those of you who don't like it," Limbaugh told his radio listeners. "The debate's over."

Still, it's hard to deny that the law's opponents have the edge when it comes to celebrity.

There's Shakira at Phoenix City Hall, enduring a kiss from Mayor Phil Gordon, saying she's "worried about the impact that implementation of this law will have on hard-working Latinos."

And Ricky Martin, at the great gathering of political pundits that is the Billboard Latin Music Awards, made sure to say the law "makes no sense."

Trending topic

Even at the office drone's classic lunch-hour escape, social media, you can't escape talk about the law.

Facebook lit up with debate, as people on both sides of the issue posted articles and status updates on the subject, leading to pages of spirited comment.

Cities from San Francisco to Boston have banned city employees from traveling to Arizona at taxpayer expense, and conventions are canceling trips here by the day. Such moves only served to add fuel to the fire.

Folk art criticizing the legislation popped up across the Web, from a Lalo Alcaraz cartoon that replaces the word "Arizona" with "Police" in a map of Southwestern states to a photograph of a Mexican flag cut into a star of David.

Meanwhile, a supporter of the law made an illustration of Brewer as Rosie the Riveter. "Arizona," the cartoon reads. "Doing the job the feds won't do!" The illustration was posted on a website for Glenn Beck supporters, and it quickly began to ricochet around social media.

On Twitter, Eva Longoria Parker of "Desperate Housewives" railed against what she called "anti-Mexican hysteria." "Stop the HATE," she tweeted.

On the same site, comedian George Lopez took a lighter approach.

"Went to buy a ARIZONA Iced Tea," he said. "They asked me for my documentation. So I bought HORCHATA instead!"

Lopez's joke got re-posted so many times that the makers of AriZona Iced Tea had to issue a news release to assure everyone that their product is made in New York and has nothing to do with its namesake.

There's a lot of that going around.

Scutari said Arizona is being depicted as "a land of caricatures." It will be up to Arizonans to show the world that there's more to us than our immigration policies, he said.

"Unfortunately, most of America does not see the real Arizona: The vast majority who live here are good, hard-working people (parents, teachers and blue-collar folks) who make the state an amazing place to live," Scutari said.

Push for reform

If there's a silver lining to the dark cloud of controversy, it's this: The law could give both sides what they say they want: immigration reform.

Judith Gans, who manages the Immigration Policy Program at the University of Arizona, believes the law could prove to be a turning point in the debate.

"It may be something that shifts the national playing field in a good way - in a way that says we've got to get off the dime and fix this problem," Gans said.

That could be what it takes for Shakira and Limbaugh and the rest to turn their attention elsewhere.

Time will tell. In any case, Page Ranking professionals say we can expect the media circus to leave town shortly.

After all, there are other stories to cover - and 10 other states considering immigration legislation like Arizona's.

How Arizona is seen across the nation
No Asterisks in this life, it's all about scoreboard - Ari Gold
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