While the Los Angeles Times dances a Politically Correct waltz with Antonio Villaraigosa, careful to not step on his toes with tough questions about his views on race, culture and illegal immigration, MARK CROMER has a few things he’d like to ask
If what remains of the fabled Fourth Estate holds anything sacred today, if they are zealous about preserving even a flimsy façade of their rich heritage, it is their cherished role as gatekeepers.
The proliferation of alternate news sources made available by the web not withstanding, the storied newsrooms and editorial boards of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and a handful of other national newspapers still decide (or so they tell themselves) when a story is, in fact, a story.
This epic arrogance is the sticky blossom of decades of access to and entitlement from the very government they are supposed to be keeping honest and open.
As the beltway frolicking of New York Times’ Judith Miller so blatantly demonstrated, access and entitlement sometimes leads to complicity. Miller rather suddenly went from a journalistic hero who chose jail time over ratting out her sources to looking a whole lot more like a cheap date the Bush Administration plied with the elixir of being part of the in-crowd.
When it came to making their case for Iraq’s mystical weapons of mass destruction, Judy proved to be a ‘good time girl’ that Karl Rove and the boys could count on to get the word out, more like a gossip columnist for Beltway Confidential! than a scribe for the venerable Times.
Far from being the proverbial fair-minded watchdog for the public (no matter how openly biased in any direction), these old gray ladies of print frequently wield their newsrooms now to set the agenda and influence policy (and public opinion) through detailed management of the news and how it is reported.
Who is questioned and how they are quoted have long been tools that reporters have used to shape stories, tailored both to their own liking and the prevailing views that power the newspaper’s editorial kingmakers.
It’s hard to imagine that a better example of this could be found of late than the “interview” with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that the Los Angeles Times published on April 15.
Apparently conducted by veteran staff writer Jim Newton, the Times posed a series of questions to Villaraigosa on illegal immigration and surrounding issues that were so pathetically thin, generic and superficial that it bordered on the ‘advertorial’ that the newspaper once served up for the Staples Center.
Newton had little if any follow-up—at least that was published—to a series of campaign stump generalities that Villaraigosa peddled off as answers.
It wasn’t so much a friendly interview as it was a make-out session, with Newton giving the mayor lots of tongue. In return, we can assume that Jimmy will be persona muy gratis at Antonio’s next poker game or piñata party.
Of course, this is nothing new for the Los Angeles Times, a truly great newspaper with a checkered past of gleefully putting out for virtually any Republican candidate that GOP powerbrokers pimped the broadsheet to, before becoming a switch-hitter and spreading wide for the Liberal agenda.
But since I love the Times as much as I despise its shortcomings, I want to help. I want to be as constructive as possible in my critique of their shameful bending of the news to benefit Villaraigosa.
So I have a few questions I am faxing over to the mayor’s office in the hope Antonio will enlighten us with greater detail about his position on the critical issues of race, culture and illegal immigration, as well as his philosophies on which he bases his positions.
- Mayor, you were a member of the student group MEChA at UCLA during the 1970s. What specific issues in your life led you to join MEChA and how did those issues jibe with what MEChA was offering as a group?
- MEChA was founded in part on the manifesto El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, which declares bluntly“Por La Raza, todo! Fuera de La Raza, nada!” In English the translation is clear: “For the race, everything. For those outside of the race, nothing.” Do you believe in this slogan? If you are opposed to it now, were you opposed to it while you ran the UCLA chapter of MEChA?
- Do you consider the Minute Men group, which many Latinos and Mexican nationals have derided as “racists,” to be a group based on bigotry and hatred of Mexicans? If so, what actions or statements by the Minute Men are you basing that perspective on? If the Federal government fails or refuses to protect the border, should not citizens peacefully take action?
- There has been widespread use of highly inflammatory and even violent rhetoric by Latino and Mexican nationalists in Los Angeles, including those who claim Los Angeles as a Mexican pueblo and vow it shall return to Mexico, along with the rest of California and the American Southwest. How do you feel about these sentiments? Is Los Angeles now and forever an American city?
- During the civil unrest and racial tension that marked much of the 1960s and 1970s, Anglo officials were repeatedly called up to renounce and denounce those whites who pushed ethnic-based and ethnically-laced agendas. Should the same criteria be used when considering Latino government officials today? How should white and black Americans feel when you or your contemporaries, such as Fabian Nunez, speak directly to “your people,” La Raza?
- As you know, many American citizens of all ethnic backgrounds who have supported more stringent enforcement of this nation’s immigration laws, from the border to the workplace, have be ridiculed, derided and smeared as “racists.” Do you feel that most of the people supporting a crackdown and even deportation of illegal immigrants are racists? If not, do you understand the frustration that many Americans and particularly Anglos feel at being smeared with such an accusation? The Orwellian irony is that a lot of the people who scream “racist!” then turn around and lecture whites to not be “divisive.”
- Considering MEChA, the Black Student Union and a host of other ethnically-based student unions, associations and support groups, do you feel the Anglo minority should be able to organize Anglo Student Unions at LAUSD campuses and university’s like Cal State LA, UCLA and USC?
- In many of your speeches on the subject of immigration and immigration reform, several constants are obvious. One is that you are reluctant to differentiate between legal and illegal immigration, instead intent on referring only to “immigrants.” If a nation has the right to create and enforce its immigration policies and laws, and if a group of people breaks those laws, then are you not doing a disservice to the millions of immigrants who played by the rules and came to this country legally by lumping them in with millions of other law-breakers?
- Another frequent aspect of your comments on this matter is your fondness for reflecting on America’s “rich history of immigration.” Critics believe you and others are cynically evoking America’s tradition of welcoming immigrants from all over the world to justify continued mass waves of economic refugees from Mexico—a human migratory wave unparalleled in it scope in the history of this nation. Why should America be expected to continue welcoming such massive numbers of refugees illegally entering the country? Even applying your analogy of America’s past, does that mean, given the tightness of resources, that America must continue to accept such epic numbers of people?
- You clearly identify yourself as a political Progressive, a determination that carries with it as a priority the protection the environment. Today, the United Nations estimates there are more than 250 million people migrating across the globe, numbers never before seen in human history. Fueling this mass migration are not only wars, poverty and famine, but also collapsing environments that can no longer support even basic human life much above a misery level. Yet mass migration simply moves the problem across a swath to a new area, particularly urban population centers where the majority of humans on the planet now live—another first in human history. Even the most committed optimist must accept the staggering weight the planet is now sagging under as a result of unchecked human population growth against dwindling and ever more polluted resources. Los Angeles and California has seen a massive spike in its overall population, urban densities and suburban sprawl. What is you position on the population issue? Do you feel LA, California, the nation and indeed the planet is facing a catastrophe? Can mayors address this issue locally, as Irvine Mayor Larry Agran would argue ‘Think Globally, Act Locally,’ and if so what are you prepared to do? Finally, should Latino leaders—politically, culturally and spiritually—forcefully take on the cultural elements that continue to propagate large numbers of teenage pregnancies and extremely high population growth rates in the Latino community? Or is this topic verboten, period?