Dialogue of Slurs

Rhetoric has no taste. Once you’re down with the great cause, assailing malfeasant demons, in or out of public office, why hold back? Why throttle your invective short of what libel rulings allow?

What‘s newly remarkable about this abusive verbal assault, however, isn’t so much how thoughtless and extreme it gets, but how suddenly it can rise, and to what heights. As the Clinton presidency has amply shown.

Locally, protests against the ouster of Los Angeles schools Superintendent Ruben Zacarias were angry but decorous. On the Net, however, decorum is dead. By October 25, e-mail was circulating that described the entire school contretemps as nothing less than a Jewish plot. But this notion had first appeared the day before in the Los Angeles Times, of all places, toward the end of a front-page ”analysis.“ Writers Ted Rohrlich and Antonio Olivo, after a summary of adverse community comment on the Ruben Zacarias ouster, recorded the same slur, minus attribution. Zacarias replacement Howard Miller 1s Jewish, environmental-safety attorney Barry Groveman is Jewish, Dick Riordan‘s loyal subordinate Steve Soboroff was Jewish. Three of the school-board members are Jewish, though only one voted to appoint Miller: This, the Times said, ”uncorked some private expressions of anti-Jewish feelings by some Latino leaders.“

Two odd words are found in that phrase. First, uncorked. Which connotes feelings that have been bottled up for years, until this outrage released them. Now, there’s a powerful assertion to pass over in silence.

The second is private. Does this mean that our newspaper of record, so recently innovative in such matters as sharing profits with certain advertisers, now also feels free to allow people to make ethnic slurs anonymously?

What are the limits to the journalistic ritual of protecting sources? I first wondered about this years ago, when a reporter claimed that someone had confessed to him about murdering a teenage girl. Since that admission was in professional confidence, he said, he couldn‘t tell the authorities. Now certainly, piping anti-Jewish propaganda into a major newspaper isn’t homicide. But neither does it appear to be an act whose perpetrator -- if you are going to repeat it -- deserves the protection of journalistic anonymity.

Not everyone marketing this anti-Semitic nonsense expressed it so shyly. Impacto 2000, a Whittier-based Web site with ethno-political pretensions, is ”dedicated to the political and economic empowerment of La Raza through the effective use of the World Wide Web“: The site at first blush merely appears to offer opinions and links with some fascinating Chicano Web resources, such as the University of Montana‘s Nahuatl (Aztec) language page. Impacto 2000 claims to be operated by one Hector Carreon of Whittier, whose telephone number is unlisted.

Okay so far. Now comes, in the wake of the Times piece, this October 25 Impacto 2000 e-mail bulletin: ”The $7 billion LAUSD Scandal!“ Which purports: ”It appears that nobody wants to talk about the money and racial interests propelling the ’coup‘ to control the district at the expense of over 500,000 Latino students.“

Guess what? ”The attempted ouster of popular Superintendent Ruben Zacarias by the Mayor Richard Riordan’s school board ‘junta’ is only an attempt by him to gain tighter control of the $7 billion budget for the benefit of his west side [sic] Jewish supporters and friends. The fact that his top aide Steve Soboroff and Barry Groveman, an attorney for the district‘s environmental safety team, brought in Howard Miller for the Chief Executive Officer position and that all three are Jewish is no coincidence. Multi-billion dollars in contracts, supplies, real estate deals and services are big stakes for Riordan’s Jewish business friends.“

The e-mail further charges that the trio are conspiring to scrap Belmont, via the ”environmental [hazards] scam,“ then to sell it back (it doesn‘t say to whom) with ”huge profits for Riordan’s crooked friends.“ Thus, at the expense of Latino children, the ”scam . . . will eventually generate huge profits . . . for the Jewish Cabal and their shameful greed at the expense of our students.“

Now, historically speaking, if any ethnic movement has eschewed anti-Semitism, it‘s the movimiento for Latino civil rights. According to scholar Raphael Sonnenshein, similarly disenfranchised Jewish and Mexican immigrants first shared the barrio experience of Boyle Heights. They came of age together politically in the 1940s, and cooperated to elect Ed Roybal as the first Latino city councilman of the century, then as the region’s first Latino congressman.

So out of what foul pit wafts this new stench? Perhaps, I thought, some ringer mailed this outrage under Impacto 2000‘s name. The net is tricky: Maybe the October 25 slur ought not to be blamed on the unavailable Carreon, who hadn’t posted it on his own site. But elsewhere on his page, you find stuff just as intolerant; for instance, this under his name, with reference to gay involvement in Chicano studies:

”We believe that the large majority of our Mexican-American community would be appalled if they knew what is occurring in academia. Our community is predominately Catholic and as Christians we believe that ‘homosexuality’ is an abnormality and should not be promoted in our tax supported institutions of higher learning.

“Chicano Studies, if it is to survive, must address the above issues immediately before our enemies gather their forces to destroy [it]. If left unresolved, we believe that not even our community will come to their rescue. The cancer must be removed before it spreads and kills the patient.”

More primo hate mongering. There‘s yet another piece, which -- enough of this stuff, already -- I won’t quote; it absurdly compares the experience of Latino children in U.S. school systems with the fate of Europe‘s Jews in WWII death camps. Strangely, it assigns blame for the latter’s fate not to the Nazis, but to Jews who allegedly cooperated with their persecutors.

Carreon writes like a nickel-plated wing nut, a classic crank. (His site also flaunts the urban legend about the Tijuana clinics that cut up babies to provide transplant organs for rich gringos. Leaving aside such questions as what use a 10-pound newborn‘s tiny heart is going to be to a sclerotic 230-pound Orange County stockbroker . . .) He’s a guy who, before the e-revolution, would have kept to his basement mimeograph, venting his outrage to an ever-shrinking mailing list. Now, of course, he can reach millions if he chooses to. There are many thousands like him out there, many of whom, naturally, are spewing anti-Latino bigotry to white racists.

So why bother mentioning him? Well, unlike whoever the Times piece was alluding to when it alleged that “The fact that Miller, Groveman and Soboroff are all Jewish has uncorked some private expressions of anti-Jewish feelings by some Latino leaders,” Carreon corks up neither his feelings nor his identity. And much as you might deplore his ignorance and prejudices, you have to admire the straightforwardness of this Raza Rev. Farrakhan. At least in comparison to the cowardice of whoever it was who told the Times the same thing, and whose identity Rohrlich and Olivo chose to shroud.

The last word on this entire mess really belongs to the man whose treatment inspired the community outcry. Superintendent Ruben Zacarias himself denied, during what could have been his last news conference as the LAUSD‘s top officer, all such allegations. As quoted by the Associated Press, Zacarias said:

“This is not about race or ethnicity. I would do everything possible to shut down anyone that makes an ethnic or religious or cultural or racial issue out of what’s happened.” I hope that he has Carreon‘s phone number.

Getting It First

Ten years since it died, I still miss the old Herald Examiner. Particularly earlier this month, because it wasn’t there to give the regnant Times an advance, front-page tweak for the outrageous Staples Center “marketing partnership” behind the cash-cow, door-stopper October 10 Sunday magazine.

Absent a second metro daily, reportage on this controversy was thorough, if generally slow. New Times‘ critique ran in its October 21 issue, followed by extensive reporting in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. But the Her-Ex memorial trophy for getting it first goes to Dan Turner of the weekly L.A. Business Journal. His analysis of the deal and its ramifications ran the day after the journalistic disgrace appeared. Later news reports failed to credit him.


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