No Sanctuary from the Sheriff

April 2018

Sheriff Brown and the California State Sheriffs’ Association appear to be falling in line with Trump’s reductionist thinking on U.S. citizenship.

Unfortunately, this only serves to aggravate the problem of white nationalist violence toward non-Christians and people of color in America.

White supremacists have terrorized communities from Berkley, California to Charlottesville, Virginia, as Americans have looked on in dismay.  A particularly vicious attack occurred at the University of Virginia when hundreds of Klansmen and Neo-Nazis chanting “Jew will not replace us” and  “White lives matter” beat up a small group of student activists ahead of a planned “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

The torch-wielding white nationalists attacked students en route to St. Paul’s Memorial church where civil rights leaders Dr. Cornell West and Traci Blackmon were addressing an interfaith community of Black Lives Matter activists. In an interview for Democracy Now, Dr. West remarked on the  notable lack of police protection for students and clergy that evening.

The next, day when  a Jewish synagogue was menaced by Neo-Nazis, it was similarly denied police protection.  Black Lives Matter  activist De’Andre Harris was beaten unconscious by white supremacists  around the corner from the Charlottesville police station and many journalists reported heavily armed white nationalists attacking counter-demonstrators while  police watched silently.

The violence culminated with  the murder of Heather Heyer, a labor organizer killed when a car driven by a white supremacist from Vanguard America barreled into protesters of the “Unite the Right” rally.

In response to the protests of anti-DAPL and Black Lives Matter activists, conservative politicos in several states have proposed laws to protect drivers who run down protesters.  These “laws” have received unexpected backing by police unions in Texas and Florida.

In July, when President Trump made a speech to the Long Island police department, he encouraged officers to mishandle alleged Latino gang members amid laughter and applause.

What‘s worse, he also pardoned the infamous Sheriff Arpaio whose practice of racially profiling Latino citizens led to a Department of Justice investigation.  The court enjoined Arpaio from further racial profiling but the good sheriff decided to flout the DOJ’s ruling.    He subsequently needed a presidential pardon in order to avoid serving time for contempt of court.  Trumps decision to forgive the xenophobic law officer is in defiance the U.S. Constitution and sends a clear signal to white nationalists everywhere that racism is condoned and rewarded by the President.

In the troubled times since Trump assumed Presidency, it would seem that police public relations are dipping to a nadir.

The country has been thrown into turmoil as his administration seeks to effectively redefine U.S. citizenship.  His call for a  Muslim ban against people of the Islamic faith along with accelerated deportation raids for undocumented workers discriminates against already vulnerable populations.

It is arguable that such policies have made our country any safer.

Trump has said he will cut immigration in half by  restricting future immigrants to those of English speaking ability,  a measure that flies in the face of the linguistic diversity that is America’s lived historical experience.

Needless to say, Trump’s efforts to demarcate U.S. citizenship along religious and ethnic lines have served to stoke the flames of white nationalism.

As a result, state, county, and municipal authorities have struggled to maintain cohesion in the face of the Trump administration’s destabilizing policies. Shortly after he became President, municipalities across the nation declared themselves Sanctuary Cities in response to his orders for accelerated ICE raids on undocumented workers.

Here in California, Senate Bill 54  – also known as the California Values Act (or sometimes the Sanctuary State Bill) – has  countermanded some of the broad powers of federal authorities and returned a modicum of sanity to our state’s immigration laws. Unfortunately, it is now under attack by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

California’s State Sanctuary law prevents state law enforcement agencies from divulging the immigration status of the incarcerated to ICE agents.  It also protects immigrants’ identities in public schools, medical clinics, and courthouses.

However, many police agencies opposed this law over concerns about the threatened loss of federal funding from the Trump administration.

One of them has been the California State Sheriffs’ Association headed up by Sheriff Bill Brown.  As president of the Sheriffs’ Association, Brown has contended that, “this bill, in its current form, provides sanctuary for criminals.

Brown has conflated immigrant status with criminality in order to divert attention from the numbers arrested for non-violent drug and alcohol use. It is worth remembering that a few years ago, he similarly opposed proposition 47, a measure to reduce prison overcrowding by freeing non-violent drug offenders. While Brown insisted on  the problem of “prison overcrowding”, the fact remains that the vast majority were incarcerated simply because they could not afford to post bail.

Despite Brown’s stance against Proposition 47, it passed with overwhelming support from the people of the state of California.

Prior to that, Sheriff Brown used the same tactic in order to push for the construction of a new jail in Santa Maria even as cost over-runs and community opposition ran high against it.

It would seem that Sheriff Brown is often on the wrong side of public opinion.

Generalizing immigrants with criminality employs the kind of reductionist thinking that is in keeping with Trump’s own irresponsible racist rhetoric. Such “thinking” serves to stereotype people according to their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, or religion, thereby dehumanizing the people so labeled and needlessly dividing our communities.

Unfortunately, as events in Virginia, Arizona, and Long Island seem to demonstrate, many in law enforcement would appear to be falling in line with Trump’s bellicose bigotry.

But Sheriff Brown holds a public office that requires him to be responsible to his diverse constituency.

With his re-election looming, he would do well to remember his oath of office and respect Santa Barbara’s inherent multiculturalism.



Troll Politics at UCSB

June 2016

Women have control over which men get sex and which men don’t, thus having control over which men breed and which men don’t. Feminism gave women the power over the future of the human species. Feminism is evil.

So concluded Elliot Rodger in a post at BodySpace before his deadly rampage in Isla Vista on May 23rd, 2014. (

Two years later, the Isla Vista community still struggles to understand the violence of a disturbed young man who had vowed “to destroy the entirety of Isla Vista, and kill every single person in it” because he believed that women “must be punished for their crimes of rejecting” him (My Twisted World, pgs. 124, 118). The aftermath of his murderous rage left six students dead and 14 more injured.

Rodger was obsessed with sex, race, class, and status symbols.   Though he was bi-racial, he had a hard time accepting interracial couples. He recounts in his manifesto: “I always felt as if white girls thought less of me because I was half-Asian, but then I see this white girl at the party talking to a full-blooded Asian. How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them? I thought with rage.“ (My Twisted World, pg. 121).

From conversations he had with other sexually frustrated men at websites like PUAHate, Rodger developed the ideology “that women are flawed. There is something mentally wrong with the way their brains are wired, as if they haven’t evolved from animal-like thinking. They are incapable of reason or thinking rationally…if their wickedness is not contained, the whole of humanity will be held back from advancement to a more civilized state… women are like a plague that must be quarantined” (My Twisted World, pg. 117).

Fast-forward to the Feminism is Cancer forum put on by UCSB Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) May 26th and the continuing conundrum posed by femininity for many young men.

Having dubbed himself “chemo” for feminism, Milo Yanniopoulos made his entrance to Corwin Pavilion on a throne carried by his acolytes. They wore Trump’s signature red baseball cap (“Make America Great Again!”) while the theme for Team America World Police thundered in the background (

Once on stage, Milo immediately introduced the next POTUS, a life-sized cardboard cutout of Donald Trump that drew wild applause and spirited cries of “USA! USA! USA!” from the predominately white male audience.

For the duration of the rest of his performance, Milo affectionately referred to Trump as “daddy” and quipped with self-congratulatory smugness about the fun of doing his “dangerous faggot tour.” As Dominick DiCesare of Young Americans for Liberty put it, Milo danced “the line between entertainer and academic” and in the process kindled a bromance with his audience.

Interestingly, despite the fact that Milo openly celebrated his own homosexuality, he repeatedly denounced lesbians to the point of even denying their existence: “There aren’t really any lesbians….This is something that people don’t really understand about sexuality. You know men have been exclusively sleeping with men for the majority of their lives, since 2000 BC – Juvenal and Tacitus are very clear on this. Female sexuality as we know from all studies that have ever been conducted on this subject is much more malleable, its much more flexible. Women who sleep with women tend to have had relationships with men as well. So the old jokes about just needing a good dicking or she’s just come out of bad relationship do tend to be broadly accurate.”

Milo launched into his discussion on the perils of feminism by deriding such feminist lies as the wage gap and rape culture. He disputed the number of rapes reported at UCSB in 2014 compared to national statistics and implied that most rape victims were hoaxers seeking media attention and money. He maintained that the frequently cited 1 in 4 rape statistic was not true – that “reality is a very long way away by what is claimed by feminism” – and rattled off a few numbers apparently taken from the Department of Justice in support of his view.

He discounted the wage gap as a failure of women to work as hard as men, or to do the difficult dangerous jobs that men do, or to choose challenging college subjects. “If women want to improve the wage gap… they should change their majors to engineering from feminist dance therapy” he declared. Deriding the “simple kind of babyish arithmetic” of feminists, he questioned their cognitive capabilities. He stated that feminists were “illiterate liars” and postulated that, “feminists suffer from the conspiracy theory of patriarchy.”

Openly derisive of the “intersectional lunacy” of “third wave feminism,” Milo enumerated feminism’s flaws: “misandry, lesbianism, facial piercings, blue hair, and many, many extra pounds” (the latter depicted graphically for the snorting audience). He quoted Rush Limbaugh who said that, “feminism is the way that ugly women get an entrance into public life” and he disparaged Gender Studies professors as “dour lesbianic harpies” and “disgusting man-hating harridans”. Ever responsive to the laughter and groans of his audience, Milo alternately smirked, sneered, and pouted, along with hand-flapping protestations of “just kidding! I don’t mean it!” whenever he seemed to cross too far over the line into hate and misogyny.

Despite his avowed intent to provide a critique of feminism, Milo’s apparent issues with women’s weight came to dominate much of his discussion. With eye-rolling acerbity, he expressed disapproval for feminist styles in clothing, hair color, and body positivity. According to Milo, the “hideous, sociopathic monsters” in Gender Studies departments have made him very angry by telling “young girls that they can be as fat as they want to; they can burp and fart and shit and turn themselves into Lena Dunham lookalikes.” Railing against body positivity for promoting “the idea that women can be healthy at any size”, Milo mocked the obvious emotional consequences for women “not looking their best.” He lamented that, “if only feminists dedicated the same amount of time to losing weight as lying they might have happier lives.”

He also mocked, “social justice in general [as] a movement populated by miserable people trying to make everyone else as unhappy as they are.” Apart from his many quips about his “equal opportunism” with regard to sexual relations with black and brown men, Milo dismissed Black Lives Matter activists as unhappy with their “station in life.” He averred that, “it’s very clear that a lot of social justice – whether it’s feminism, or progressivism in general or, yes, Black Lives Matter – comes from people who are very unhappy and miserable with their own circumstances…” He ended with the ringing declaration that “My dangerous faggot tour is the first wave of a fight back against [the social justice] movement!”

His audience responded with fist pumping yells of “Build the Wall! Build the Wall!”

During the Q and A session afterward, someone asked Milo why he focused more on women’s fitness than on feminism and wanted to know the sources for his statistics. Milo’s apparent hostility to this prompted his followers to shout down the questioner who was told to go stand back in line.

From this it might be gathered that YAL believes that some forms of free speech are freer than others.

In fact, these and other instances of YAL’s apparent selectivity about who gets to speak about what and when would suggest a less than principled stance on the issue of freedom of expression. It may even be argued that YAL’s claim to protect such constitutional liberties as free speech gives it the rhetorical cover to advance a hidden agenda of homophobia, misogyny, racism, and classism.

So how did YAL arrive at this sad offering to UCSB’s intellectual community?

Amid the controversy following the failed attempt to establish a White Student Union on campus (itself a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement), the Young Americans for Liberty was formed with the stated goal to protect free speech and openness to ideas. But with such edifying contributions as “How the Left Exploits Transgender Laws” and “Feminism is Cancer”- not to mention a giant “free speech” beach ball periodically rolled through campus – YAL has succeeded in creating a circus-like atmosphere that allows it to badger anyone who falls outside its circle of elite, white, and male heteronormativity.

Milo taunted Mexicans, Blacks, leftists, and the LGBTQ community in almost equal measure and with a wink and nod to the Men’s Rights Movement that Rodger subscribed to, Milo also normalized continued attacks on feminists.

At the end of the day, the Feminism is Cancer talk hosted by YAL and the self-styled “most fabulous supervillian on the internet”, Milo Yanniopoulos, has brought bare-knuckled troll politics to the University of California in Santa Barbara.

So on May 23rd, while we commemorate the six students slain by a madman suffering from ideational hatred for women and non-whites, YAL has succeeded in legitimating the eerie ghost of Elliot Rodger.

On May 26th, he could almost be seen hovering at the fringes of the crowd in UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion.


Sheriff Brown’s Bogus Boondoggle: The Fraud and the Force

August 2015

Last Christmas, the Milpas Community Association (MCA) sponsored the Eastside Christmas Parade as part of its Eastside Business Improvement District (EBID) campaign to promote and beautify this predominately Latino Santa Barbara neighborhood.

One of the notable features of the parade was an old-fashioned paddy wagon driven by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff. An effigy of the Grinch languished in the back of the wagon as the Sheriff waved and smiled at the throngs of mostly Mexican parade-goers lining Milpas Street. When you consider that the greater portion of the county’s prison population is Latino, one has little to wonder at the Sheriff’s ear-to-ear grin for his future constituents at the parade.

But this little bit of Keystone Kops slapstick speaks volumes to Santa Barbara’s plutocracy which does not disguise its social engineering efforts in the city’s Latino communities on the Eastside and the Westside. When you recall that the defeated gang injunction was a racial profiling scam promoted by the MCA and its cronies in city hall, it is clear that these wanna-be oligarchs continue to take great interest in Mexican-owned real estate. Deceptive measures designed to produce the same results as the injunction are obviously at play in the MCA’s latest campaign to make the Eastside “clean” and “secure” under the terms of the EBID (fraud) coupled with Sheriff Brown’s relentless drive to build more jails and detention centers (force).

For this reason, it is worth taking a closer look at Sheriff Brown’s proposed North County jail.

Of all the Sheriff’s many arguments for the new jail, his most egregious is his insistence that the current county jail is overcrowded. Sheriff Brown has maintained that prison “infrastructure has not kept pace with the increasing population in our county….” (

But a closer look at the Sheriff’s prison population in March reveals that 74% of them were pretrial detainees. (

In fact, Santa Barbara County has one of the highest rates of pretrial detainment in California, with about 3 in 4 inmates imprisoned pretrial.   They have been unconstitutionally detained for no other reason than THEY COULD NOT AFFORD TO POST BAIL. That means that pretrial detainees can sit awaiting trial for months even though the majority are held for petty offenses that in earlier times would have seen their release under their own recognizance.

By holding so many unconvicted, low-risk defendants in County lockup, Sheriff Brown has artificially inflated his prison population with pretrial detainees in order to lend credence to his bogus arguments for another jail.

How exactly are these pretrial defendants suffering from the violation of their constitutional rights by the good Sheriff’s practices? Keep in mind that the 8th amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” in prison.

Not too long ago, moderate bail for minor infractions was the norm because the idea of preventing “the infliction of punishment prior to conviction” ( made good common sense. The only reason to detain anyone pretrial was if they posed an imminent threat to someone else or seemed likely to skip their court date. Such were the halcyon days of innocent until proven guilty.

But that was before the modern bail bond boom, a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry with an army of bondsmen and surety agents charging usurious interest rates to the incarcerated. Taken along with its affiliated franchises in penal labor, indefinite probation, for-profit prisons, and privatized correctional services, the prison industrial complex has achieved such gargantuan proportions that the United States now incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.

Unsurprisingly, many are low-income Black- and Brown-skinned Americans. According to the NAACP, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008 even though they make up about one quarter of the U.S. population.

Unfortunately, Santa Barbara County is rapidly becoming like the most oppressive areas of the country where police target low-income minorities for discriminatory tickets such as in Ferguson, Missouri. Local police have gained notoriety for engaging in the selective vehicle impoundments of low-income Latino residents. According to the Santa Barbara Independent, from June 2011 through June 2012, the police department issued over 1,000 unlicensed driver citations in what was rumored to be racially motivated ticketing on the Westside. (

And in these times of greater job precarity, almost any bail is excessively cruel for the working poor. They suffer the most in such a harsh system for upon release they may discover that they have lost their jobs, their homes, and in some cases even their families.

Studies show that pretrial defendants are disproportionately more likely to be sentenced to prison than inmates out on bail, with rates three times higher than the average (

This is due largely to their inability to defend themselves from behind bars and the fact that they more often take plea bargains, another court scam that targets the poor with inadequate public defense in the name of reducing caseloads. Adding insult to injury, pretrial detainees are subject to pay-to-stay prison scams that further penalize them by charging them for necessities like food, bedding, toiletries, medical, and communications.

There can be little doubt that the working poor suffer disproportionately under a system of false imprisonment that is euphemistically called pretrial detention. Though Santa Barbarans voted twice against the Sheriffs prison expansion proposal, the Sheriff successfully garnered state grants to go ahead with his project.

More recently, California voters passed Proposition 47 in order to decrease the numbers of prisoners by reducing non-violent offenses to misdemeanors. The hope was to reduce prison overcrowding and pass the savings on to social services like education and mental health care. Obviously there is a prison reform movement afoot that seeks to turn back the trend toward allowing prisons to become the social service providers of last resort.

Sheriff Brown should heed this hope.




Santa Barbara’s landed gentry plans to gentrify the Eastside

May 2015

Once again the city and its business partners have Santa Barbara’s Eastside in their crosshairs.

Plans for an Eastside Business Improvement District (EBID) were submitted by the Milpas Community Association (MCA) to the city council this past November calling for the taxation of businesses along the Milpas corridor and the lower Eastside based on an assessment of their business category in order to fund improvements in the area. The amount paid would determine the proportion of each business owner’s voice in the decision making process for the plan, with hotels paying a bigger tax and enjoying a greater voice while retail businesses would pay a smaller tax and have a lesser voice.

If that sounds suspiciously like the whole “money is speech” style of democracy of the oligarchs who happen to have a lot of it here in sunny Santa Barbara, it gets better: The MCA seeks to appoint itself the administrator of the taxes it would impose on Milpas.

When you consider that the MCA supported the gang injunction, a measure whose supporters frequently referred to the alleged Mexican mafia’s taxation of Eastside businesses, you have to ask yourself – who’s zooming who?

The MCA aggressively backed the injunction even to the point of misrepresenting information presented by the activists who opposed it. Arguing that the injunction would curtail the activities of “problem youth” in predominately Latino neighborhoods, the MCA characterized the Eastside as a “gang war zone” though this never stopped it from pursuing its business interests there.

So given the fact that the MCA has had a less than sterling record with its Latino neighbors on the Eastside, it is worth examining the motives of the MCA for its proposed “improvements” to the neighborhood.

It might be asked; what else do the defeated gang injunction and the proposed EBID share in common?

For starters, they both demarcate largely Latino communities for “improvements” that include increased police presence and greater cleanliness. Rather significantly, backers of both measures made next to no effort to engage in dialog with the local Latino community prior to making their proposals, an oversight that in the case of the gang injunction, cost it dearly.

But maybe most importantly, both measures problematize a working-class community of color in a way that raises questions about the race and class subtext that lies at the heart of the MCA’s plans for the Eastside.

According to the agenda report of the city council on November 11, the MCA “contacted the city to express an interest in the possibility of creating a business improvement district that would formalize the identity of the Milpas/Eastside area.”

Formalize the identity of the Eastside? Is the MCA suggesting that the Eastside lacks an identity? If the MCA thinks so, then it is disregarding the fact that this neighborhood has its own well-established identity in the Mexican community that provide the rich historical heritage and cultural traditions of Santa Barbara.

So how exactly does the MCA propose to “formalize the identity of the Milpas/Eastside area?” A clue may be found in its enumeration of a plan that outlines 1) Beautification, Cleanliness and Safety, 2) Government Relations, 3) Promotion, and 4) Special Events.

Words like “beautification, cleanliness, and safety” get bandied about with great frequency in discussions of minority communities and should be decoded for their meaning, for at their heart lies an attitude of sniffing disapproval that views these neighborhoods as less than beautiful, sanitary, safe, or law-abiding.

So-called improvements to the Eastside, whether in the form of the gang injunction or the EBID, focus a great deal of attention on graffiti abatement and increased police patrols opening the door for the control and surveillancing that is the precursor to gentrification.

The not-so gentle oligarchs who stand to profit from the misery of those less-moneyed unfortunates pushed out of their homes by gentrification is an accomplishment of fraud over force that does not mitigate its depredations in the least.

Again, you might ask yourself – who’s zooming who here?

Santa Barbara News Suppress v. PODER

March 2015

The newest wrinkle in the dispute between PODER and the Santa Barbara News Press over the paper’s non-compliance with AP standards for reporting on Latino affairs takes the form of a legal threat. News-Press city editor Scott Steepleton recently emailed PODER  “to cease and desist all copyright and trademark infringement immediately”. This is due to the appearance of the newspaper’s masthead in the background of PODER’s call to boycott the paper posted on its Facebook page.

The dispute between PODER and the SBNP began in January when PODER and other civil rights advocates requested the paper to stop using the word “illegal” to describe Latino immigrants. The newspaper has responded that this language is perfectly acceptable and that any request to change it is an attack on its free speech. To illustrate that point, News-Press co-owner Arthur Von Wiesenberger encouraged local Minutemen and Tea Partiers to put on a counterdemonstration to PODER’s planned civil rights activities for MLK day. Though Wiesenberger has apparently denied inviting the Minutemen to De La Guerra Plaza, PODER has discovered evidence of his correspondence with renown anti-immigrant vigilante James Gilchrist at the Minutemen’s own website. (

Given the newspaper’s waffling stance on the issue of free speech, it would seem that the owners of the SBNP view the line between acceptable and unacceptable speech as one tied to the race/class standing of the speakers. According to a Supreme Court decision reached in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, speech is better represented by money than votes. This means the more money you have, the more free speech you get. After a federal judge awarded News-Press co-owner Wendy McCaw the right to use the newspaper as a mouthpiece for her right-wing political ideologies based on her ownership of the paper, it is clear that those who don’t have a lot of cash to purchase their own newspapers and radio stations have fewer options to similarly express their opinions.

This is in keeping with the age of the oligarch and a zeitgeist that increasingly views “the little people” as a public nuisance.

PODER represents a constituency of oppressed and marginalized people the dominant Santa Barbara establishment has grown used to bullying and intimidating. The SB News-Press has frequently manipulated information, stories, and headlines to create negative narratives about people of color and those of little means and has thus been responsible for perpetuating racism, discrimination, and stereotypes in this city. Under the banner of the first amendment, the SBNP has insisted on its freedom to misrepresent an entire race and class of people by routinely depicting them as “domestic terrorists” and “thugs.” The newspaper’s tactic of ridiculing and misrepresenting black and brown cultures effectively silences them in the media and erases them from relevant participation in their communities.

The consequences of this can be found most recently at San Marcos High School, Goleta, where Latino students have been derided as “illegals” by classmates lacking any greater racial awareness than what they read in the News-Press.

When McCaw first purchased the Santa Barbara News Press in 2000, it lead to the mass resignations and firings of reporters and staff who resisted the imposition of her political bias on the newspaper. Other employees who have attempted to unionize at the News-Press have been harshly repressed and though the newspaper frequently features headlines decrying the presence of undocumented Latinos in Santa Barbara this has not stopped it from employing them: much of the delivery of the SBNP falls to undocumented workers.

Such double-standards in employment and free speech might be termed hypocrisy but too many of Santa Barbara’s elites seem to suffer the permanent impairment of their sense of irony. The affliction of affluenza might contribute to this problem since it is a mental health disability preventing the uber-class from making fine moral distinctions due to the stultifying effects of their wealth. For those who may not have heard of this condition, it was argued successfully in the case of a wealthy 16-year-old boy who killed four pedestrians while driving drunk in Texas. Attorney’s successfully pleaded that Ethan Couch was not responsible for his actions due to his innate sense of entitlement and privilege stemming from his social position in life. The judge concurred and Couch received a ten-year probation sentence.

PODER understands that taking on the News-Press for its racist depiction of Latinos put it in the position of the proverbial David versus Goliath. Everyone is  well aware of the fact that News-Press co-owner Wendy McCaw has a long history of suing people she disagrees with in order to censor them. She has threatened or brought lawsuits against employees attempting to unionize at the News-Press, as well as local businesses showing support for them by displaying signs in their storefront windows. This is in addition to countless more lawsuits she has brought against other newspapers, journalists, websites, and former employees who have had the temerity to speak out against the lack of journalistic integrity and public accountability of the News-Press.  The censorship of SBNP staff over issues of best journalistic practices at the newspaper is probably why the SBNP continues to view as problematic the right of others to speak out and be heard.

Yet PODER remains committed to speaking truth to power and has refused to be censored by Santa Barbara News-Press owners Wendy McCaw and Arthur von Wiesenberger.

For this reason, PODER calls for a general boycott of the Santa Barbara News-Press and urges businesses and community organizations to pull their advertising from its pages until the paper complies with accepted AP reporting standards on the issue of immigration and Latino affairs.  PODER believes that fair and ethical standards of journalism should prevail in the news media and will continue  to work for the just representation of Santa Barbara’s diverse multi-cultural community.

Calls to boycott the Santa Barbara News Press

February 2015

On a day commemorating slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the Santa Barbara News-Press responded to The People Organized for the Defense of Equal Rights (PODER) in Santa Barbara’s request to retract the word “illegal” from its paper by instead encouraging anti-immigrant hate groups to lead a counter demonstration against PODER’s planned day of civil-rights action.

A coalition of community organizers voiced concerns about the state of civil rights fifty years after Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and called for a boycott of the Santa Barbara News-Press (SBNP) until it adheres to accepted AP standards for representing Latino immigrants. For their part, the Minutemen and other anti-immigrant hate groups exercised their first amendment rights by hurling racial epithets at PODER activists.

The News-Press has tried to paint itself the victim in this dispute by comparing itself to Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine where twelve journalists were killed last month in retaliation for derogatory cartoons of Muhammad. The SBNP has compared the spray painting of pro-immigrant language on the front of its building as comparable to the murder of journalists at Charlie Hebdo and argues that its free speech is under attack.

Worldwide outrage over the Charlie Hebdo murders prompted much debate on the importance of free speech. But that didn’t stop French authorities from arresting controversial comedian Dieudonne for making remarks sympathetic to the killers the day after nation-wide demonstrations for the protection of civil liberties.

It turns out the line between free speech and hate speech depends on the race/class standing of the speakers.

Vive la France.

So what exactly is meant by “free speech” in the age of oligarchs?

According to media critic Bagdikian in The New Media Monopoly, five giant media conglomerates – Disney, Viacom, Bertelsmann, News Corporation, and TimeWarner – now own almost all of the world’s communication outlets. These include everything from radio, television, movies, and Internet, to books, magazines, and newspapers.

News Corporation owner Rupert Murdoch is notorious for using Fox News to advance his right-wing political agenda. The latest instance of Fox’s overt racism came shortly after the Charlie Hebdo killings in which Fox commentator Shanon Bream wondered aloud how police would be able to identify “bad guys” if they had ski masks and “couldn’t even know what color,” or what “the tone of their skin was?” (click here).

Unsurprisingly, a recent study by Politifact found that Fox misinformed its viewing audience 38% of the time (click here).

As might be expected in the age of oligarchs and the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, “free speech” is one favoring moneyed elites.

When Wendy McCaw first purchased the Santa Barbara News Press in 2000, it led to the resignations and firings of reporters and staff who disputed the imposition of her political bias on the newspaper’s content. The irony of the current SBNP position in support of free speech cannot be lost on those journalists fired for not aligning with McCaw’s conservative political views. Attempts to unionize at the News-Press were brutally squelched and with a nod from a federal judge, the newspaper has since become a mouthpiece for its right-wing, multi-millionaire owners.

This early dispute over the lack of journalistic integrity and public accountability of the newspaper is probably why the SBNP is incapable of distinguishing between hate speech and free speech. Under the banner of the first amendment, the SBNP has insisted on its freedom to misrepresent an entire race and class of people in Santa Barbara by routinely depicting them as “domestic terrorists” and “thugs”. Its tactic of ridiculing, dismissing, and misrepresenting black and brown culture effectively silences them in the media and erases them from relevant participation in society, a fact that cannot be lost on the owners of the SBNP.

Most recently, the SBNP has demanded the email exchanges between PODER and council member Cathy Murillo. Since the newspaper did not offer a reason for its public-records request, this is an obvious intimidation tactic meant to silence PODER for having the temerity to ask the SBNP to retract the word “illegal.”

The newspaper’s desire to censor PODER’s right to dialog with publicly elected officials is a thinly veiled attempt to hamper its effectiveness as community organizers by limiting its speech. The fact that the SBNP would seek to censor legitimate public dialog between a Latina representative of the city and a Latino advocacy group is worrisome given the paper’s open alliance with anti-immigrant hate groups like the Minutemen. The Minutemen themselves are a violent extremist group responsible for the murder of a Mexican-American family in Arizona in 2011 and a spate of shootings on the border.

We realize that many oligarchs suffer from a crippled sense of irony. The Santa Barbara News-Press has a long history of suing people it disagrees with in order to shut them up. An article published by the paper on January 27th mentions its lawsuit against Murillo’s husband David Pritchett when he served on the city’s Transportation and Circulation Committee in a dispute instigated by the News-Press to prevent De La Guerra plaza from being turned into a pedestrian thoroughfare. The pedestrian thoroughfare would have been disadvantageous to the newspaper’s customer parking privileges in the plaza so it sued the city at a cost of thousands of dollars to taxpayers.

What is more, McCaw brought lawsuits against employees who attempted to unionize at the News-Press, as well as local businesses who showed support for them by displaying signs in their storefront windows. This is in addition to countless more lawsuits she has brought against other newspapers, journalists, websites, and former employees who have had the temerity to speak out against her biased and unethical journalistic practices.

PODER remains committed to speaking truth to power and has refused to be silenced by Santa Barbara News-Press owners Wendy McCaw and Arthur von Weisenberger.

For these reasons, PODER has issued its own public-records request for all email exchanges between SBNP, its vigilante allies among the Minutemen, and council members Frank Hotchkiss and Dale Francisco who joined anti-immigrant counter-demonstrators at De La Guerra plaza on MLK Day.

We feel that the presence of these council members on the side of the SBNP and its anti-immigrant allies points up their long history of discriminatory policies and practices towards Santa Barbara’s Latino community. Both Hotchkiss and Francisco have supported racial profiling in Santa Barbara and have been openly dismissive of Latino concerns during city council meetings.

Those who support the SBNP’s use of hate speech for undocumented Latino workers are acting with a complete lack of regard for the people of Santa Barbara, a city that prides itself on its rich Mexican heritage and seeks to capitalize on its ethnic diversity for its tourism industry.  PODER feels that the race-baiting tactics of the Santa Barbara News-Press are divisive, irresponsible, and ultimately unacceptable.

For these reasons, PODER is calling for a general boycott of the Santa Barbara News-Press and has urged businesses and community organizations to pull their advertising from its pages until the paper complies with accepted AP-reporting standards on the issue of immigration and Latino affairs.

PODER believes that hate speech masquerading as free speech must be accountable to the citizens and that fair and ethical standards of journalism should prevail in the news media.