Against Anti-Semitism: Right, Left, or Media-Induced

By Al Giordano

Anti-Semitism has historically fallen harder on Jewish peoples than against Semitic non-Jews, and its English-language use is commonly understood as anti-Jewish, which is what I mean when I use the term in this essay.

I try very hard to avoid touching what I call the “third rail” of international geo-politics in what I publish – specifically, the debates over Israel-Palestine – precisely because to do so, no matter what one’s position is, no matter how sensitively or not one offers an opinion, the entire matter has become akin to blowing on a gigantic dog whistle that brings out all the haters on all sides and makes rational conversation impossible.

I am also admittedly very sensitive to anti-Jewish slurs and other forms of anti-Semitism. I have high contempt for those like Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who run around denying that the holocaust happened, while violently repressing civil resistance movements against their authoritarian regimes. Even though I am not Jewish, I take such attacks personally, as do many Jews and non-Jews alike.

Perhaps it is because I grew up in New York, where so many of my best and most worthwhile cultural influences were Jewish. Perhaps because when as an early teen the local Catholic Church officials kicked me out of the guitar group for the Sunday “folk mass” after they caught me teaching, ahem, unchristian songs to the other kids there, I was able to convince my mom to let me attend the Temple youth group instead. Perhaps because the director of that youth group, a heroic Jewish-American named Richard Zoffness, went to bat and fought and won his battle that I be allowed in that Temple youth group. That’s when I learned an important lesson in Jewish political concepts of solidarity, an example I strive to adhere to each day.

In that Temple youth group, I received benefits that would not have been available to me as a Catholic kid, including sex education classes at 13. In those formative years I marched down Central Park West in support of Soviet Jewry – the Jewish population in what is now known as Russia and surrounding countries – that, just like our anarchist forbearers, was persecuted so brutally by that government.

I’m a bit older now, but I still carry with me the understanding that the Nazi holocaust was the worst single atrocity upon the greatest number of people among all the horrible things that have happened in the time while anybody alive today was still alive.

And yes I know that capitalism is terrible and destructive, and there have been and continue to be other genocides - to say one was the worst is not to say that the others aren't also evil - and that it’s been no picnic to be Palestinian over the past century, or a member of many other national, ethnic, religious, racial or other groups either. Still, the Nazi holocaust and the systematic extermination of millions of people because they were of a certain faith is, to me, the single worst example of what mobs of people can be whipped up to support when blinded and manipulated by hatred and the ill urges to make scapegoats.

If you try to argue with me against that point, if you try to lecture me that any worse crime was committed over the past century, I will not take you seriously. I will not even apologize for not taking you seriously. My respect for you will probably lessen. Because I believe when something that terrible happens to so many people at the hands of others that, after all, were of the supposedly evolved European continent, that it is vital work to inoculate society against such a mass psychosis ever happening again. And that requires generations of education and of, in sum, rebuilding an entire culture around making sure that history shall not repeat itself, not against anybody, but specifically not against those and the descendents of those to whom it did happen, who bore the brunt of it for all peoples: Jewish peoples.

I know many other native New Yorkers and many from other places, and many Jews and non-Jews, who feel exactly as I do about that holocaust and the importance of two words: “never again.” Interestingly, all of us have very different opinions about Israel-Palestine and how to address that conflict. But we are united in making sure a mass violent psychosis such as that pulled off by the Nazis must never happen again.

And so when real anti-Semites run around saying things like "I believe it should have been fair and valid to let Hitler finish his historic vision,” I don’t care who it comes from – right or left – that guy is asking me to open up a big can of whoop-ass on him, because of the legitimate fear and trauma such statements cause good people, while also riling up other haters like him do do violence against Jews.

And sad to say, although Nazism itself is the pinnacle of right wing ideology, there are some confused and sick people who identify themselves as on the left who make statements like that. One who did make that exact despicable statement last week on Radio Globo in Honduras - a couple days before it was occupied and shut down by coup military troops (for reasons unrelated to Romero's statement, which the regime was not aware of until after it seized the station and its tape archives) - was its managing director, David Romero.

I reject and condemn Romero's words and him for mouthing them. If anybody ever said such a thing via this publication, he’d be fired in a New York minute.

If, as Romero did today in that AP story, that person apologized and said they didn’t mean what they said, I’d still fire them indefinitely while sorting it all out. And I’d tell that employee or freelancer or co-publisher that unless he was willing to now go, alone, to synagogues, temples or other gatherings of Jewish people and apologize face to face, and listen to everything they have to say to inform and educate him and express their legitimate horror over calls to violence like that, he wouldn’t have a chance at getting his job back.

In fact, here’s probably exactly how I would handle it: I’d call up some friends from a local Temple or Jewish organization and say, “It’s your call on whether you think this guy’s apology was sincere or not and whether you feel safe ever having him as part of this media again. Frankly, he creeps me out. But maybe you can educate him. If you're willing to try, I'll tell him he can only have a job back if you tell me he can. Otherwise, he's gone."

Mind you, I’m just saying how I would handle it at my own media organization. But if the owner of Radio Globo does something similar, he’ll get big applause from me, and from his other employees, many of whom have shared with Narco News their outrage and disagreement and embarrassment and feelings of betrayal caused by Romero’s statement. Nothing like that was ever said at Radio Globo before or since Romero did that. And people around the station have been in a state of shock over it, frustrated that he is their immediate superior and has tarnished its cause at the very moment that the station is fighting for its life against jackbooted coup regime censorship.

Thankfully, out of 469 co-publishers of Narco News, out of all of its diverse number of journalists and students and professors, nobody has ever written anything as stupid and hateful at this publication as what Romero said, and I hope that will always be the case.

But here is the other side of the dog whistle. There are others out there that look to pounce upon and exacerbate such legitimate fears and traumas every chance they get. And they are often over there on the right, trying to divide liberals and Jews, the left and Jews, because Jews have generally been more progressive than right-wing in most countries, and a vital part of most victorious progressive coalitions.

There has been a cottage industry in recent years trying to create fear of movements and individuals that are not, like Romero, harbingers of anti-Semitic thought, and that Jewish and other peoples would not be afraid of or distrustful of based on what they actually say or do. Rather, the cottage industry exists to distort their words, take them out of context, to try and smear them as something they are not: Anti-Semitic.

The dishonest manipulator that got this whole dog whistle blowing regarding Honduras was Miami Herald “journalist” Frances Robles.

In a September 24 story, headlined “They’re Torturing Me, Zelaya Claims,” Robles typed the following lead paragraph:

“It's been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He's sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and ‘Israeli mercenaries’ are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.”

Normal journalistic procedure when lifting a sensationalist quotation like that reference to “Israeli mercenaries” in a first paragraph is to then, in a later paragraph, provide the full quote in its full context so that readers can judge for themselves what really was said.

Robles did not do that, which raised the first red flag about her intentions.

Asked six times by a reader, via email, to provide the full quote in its context, Robles kept replying via email to that reader with lengthy self-important defenses while still refusing to provide the exact quote from which she extracted the words “Israeli mercenaries" and put other words, not quoted, around them.

Narco News has obtained the full email exchange between Robles and that reader, in which Robles seems to confuse the reader’s request for the full quotation with a debate over whether Zelaya said the only two words she quoted from the undisclosed full statement:

“…anyone who thinks this was made up is obviously not with him, because he says it OVER AND OVER again. I can't explain why no one else reported it. I guess it sounded so off the wall other people chose to ignore it.”

She then invokes the name of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - another Latin American leader that the cottage industry keeps trying to portray as somehow anti-Semitic, one that has joined delegations organized by Jewish organizations to concentration camp sites and who has prosecuted invaders of a synagogue in Caracas - and what she says is his support for her article. Robles wrote:

“Yesterday at a press conference in NY someone asked Hugo Chavez what he thought of the article and he said, "I send the Miami Herald reporter a big kiss for finally telling the truth."

And then, either confused or trying to obfuscate, she ignores the request for the full quote and seeks to debate a different issue:

“I have been a journalist for 20 years and did not get where I am by making up quotes. I have nothing to gain from that.”

Except perhaps front page placement of her oft-buried stories in the Miami Herald.

When the reader asked, again, for the full quote, Robles replied:

“I am very busy and not really interested engaging in email debate. I will answer this email but to be honest, I haven't even completely read it because I just do not have time. I am not going to comb through my notes to find quotes for you…

“I have a lot of interviews and work to do and I simply cannot respond to every reader who wants to haggle over lines in my stories.”

Narco News then wrote to Robles to ask for the full quote, which she has refused to disclose. But the question remains: If the Miami Herald reporter had the time to answer the reader in multiple emails about why she didn’t have the time to answer his question, doesn’t that seem a bit too cute by half? In much less time, she could have just answered his question!

What Robles did do, though, panicked after being informed that her simulation would reach these pages that have exposed so many US correspondents for their dishonest dealings in Latin America, and cost more than a few their sinecures, was contact aides to Zelaya asking them to confirm that he had used the term “Israeli mercenaries.”

Narco News has obtained copies of the Zelaya organization's email responses to Robles, telling her that he mentioned “rumors” of “alleged mercenaries” but never said that such “alleged” parties were responsible for the high tech sonic and chemical weapons used on the Brazilian Embassy, which was the untrue claim made in Robles’ September 24 story.

Like disgraced NY Timeswoman Judith Miller before her, Robles made light of a matter of chemical weaponry - in this case, against the Brazilian embassy, now confirmed by the government of Brazil and the United Nations - to try and portray Zelaya as somehow crazy because he was one of the victims of those now-documented chemical attacks.

It was the very next day after Robles blew the dog whistle that David Romero made his anti-semitic statements, barking to the tune blown by Frances Robles. Nobody at Radio Globo or anywhere else expected him to behave that way. But the sonic pitch of that kind of weapon unleashed that demon from him.

The other thing the aforementioned AP story, by Benjamin Fox, neglected to mention was that Zelaya had already condemned Romero’s words on September 29, when he issued a statement that said:

“Many people in society are wrong, including some of my opponents and also some of my supporters, falling victim to anti-Semitism,” said Zelaya in a public statement. “I reject all anti-Semitic postures and attacks and call on the Honduran people to do the same.”

Fox never even asked Zelaya for comment.

Fox was apparently ignorant that Zelaya was the elected Honduran president who appointed a Jewish-Honduran, Yani Benjamin Rosenthal, as his presidential chief of staff, Leo Starkman as his minister of foreign investment, Moises Starkman as his energy minister. And Zelaya put Jacobo Regalado Weitzembluth at the helm of the state owned telephone company, an institution now seized by military troops.

David Romero is a vicious anti-Semite that deserves contempt from you and me, and had been publicly rebuked by President Zelaya days before this matter became a media campaign in this "open letter" he released on September 29.

Mel Zelaya was attacked by such anti-Semites when he appointed so many Jewish-Hondurans to top positions in his government, in representation much larger than in the population at large.

You decide, kind reader, who are the anti-Semites here? And who is blowing the dog whistles to get them riled up and provoking fear and trauma.

What professional simulators like Frances Robles do to blow those dog whistles and rile up real anti-Semites like David Romero is beneath contempt, does not serve the eternal and just cause against anti-Semitism, and is intended to accomplish quite the opposite.

After all, the manipulation of mobs and generation of mass psychosis attempted by Robles was not something she invented, but, rather, the trademark of a certain evil holocaust and its propagandists not very long ago. When the dogs start barking, deal with the dogs, of course, but also look for the ones blowing the dog whistles.

 

Comments

Don't tell my husband this

... but I love you for writing this particular post. I only wish more of the folks at the top could take note of your work.

Charges of Zelaya's anti-semitism make it to Huffpost

It would be good, Al, if you could use your palanca to refute the charges which have been picked up by huffpost here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/04/antijewish-statements-rai_n_309...

 

They've been censoring some of my posts for no good reason, but if you respond I don't think that will happen.

Kudos

Thank you Al for wading through the muck of the mainstream media to give us the real truth on this matter. I had read the Miami Herald report just minutes before finding your commentary and was rather concerned. Keep up the good work and stay "authentic!"

WTF? What did Romero say?

You start with what actually happened, then you discuss it. It is infuriating to read a giant tract with no actual content.

If his words are too despicable to repeat, describe them clearly. "He used an epithet to say that Jews were responsible for X" or whatever.

@ homunq

Homunq - Isn't what I quoted above, which is the excerpt that appeared in the AP story - ""I believe it should have been fair and valid to let Hitler finish his historic vision” - bad enough?

You're right that I found Romero's entire statement so incendiary and potentially inciting of violence that I didn't think it needed to be elaborated beyond its central point above. But since you asked, here you go, David Romero on September 25 in the afternoon, live on the radio:

"There are times that I ask myself if Hitler wasn't right to terminate that race with the famous Holocaust. Yes, there are people who do damage in this country who are Jews, the Israelis. I would like this afternoon here on Radio Globo to say the first and last names of the two officials of the Jewish Army who are working with the Armed Forces of our country and are in charge of all the activities of conspiracy and undercover actions everything that is happening to the President of the Republic...

"After learning this I asked myself 'why didn't we just let Hitler comply with his historic mission?' Excuse my sudden grotesque expression. But I ask myself after what I've learned about this and many other things. I believe it should have been fair and valid to let Hitler finish his historic vision."

There. You have the "hate porn" you requested, laid out in full. I feel dirty having translated and typed it. The part that I did quote summarizes the whole without as many expletives.
But if you really think the rest of what I wrote about it was "without content" - the disclosure of the statement by President Zelaya expressly condemning anti-Semitism before this became the media scandal du jour, or the first time release of a Miami Herald reporters email texts to a reader, not to mention my own perspective on it all - you're really not reading very carefully, nor taking its lessons to heart.

 

Thank you for your prompt

Thank you for your prompt and full reply. Honestly, in skimming the article the first time, I did miss the "Hitler" comment - perhaps because it's a bit buried in a sub-clause well into the article, not a block quote, and does not have the word "Jews" in it at all. Obviously, that is beyond despicable; I am a member of the ACLU who would ardently defend the free-speech rights of run-of-the-mill "bell curve"/Glenn Beck racists, or Buchananite anti-semites, but I would have no problem with somebody spending a few nights in an actual jail over "Hitler should have finished".

Also, I do apologize for the "without content" statement. I didn't mean to say it was an empty article, just to express my frustration at such a long lead-in that assumes the reader is familiar with the context. For instance, "That was just a delaying tactic." is 0 sentences of content, while "Micheletti said he'd restore rights. That was just a delaying tactic." is 2 sentences of content.

Keep up the good work, and in the future, try not to bury the who-what-where-when-how. Thanks again.

Romeros comment

is disgusting and nauseating. I would not have thought such a cold-blooded advocacy for genocide possible. I for one could well have done without the exact citation.

In addition he seems to be paranoic. Two Israeli agents controlling the whole coup regime. Yeah, sure... These conspiracy buffs always ascribe nearly mythical powers to the conspirators they suspect as underlying causes.

Robles' article follows a formula we'd all do well to learn.

We should print it out and tape it over our desks because it models the main elements, the favorite tactics, used to discredit progressive leaders.  These were used on Howard Dean by the DLC and on Hugo Chavez by the Bush White House.   Maybe it should be referred to as the Miami Herald School of Journalism.  Dog whiistles, innuendo unsourced quotations, half truths, all strung around the story of interest like a noose.

Thanks Al, for taking the time to deconstruct not only the article but also the strategy.  I couldn't agree with you more, on all points.

why?

Romero's outburst isn't just extreme - it is oddly extreme. Why now, when nothing could deep six Zelaya better than to paint his supporters this way? This is insanely impolitic - either the guy is having a mental breakdown or he was asked to do this by money or threat.  Very weird. Any thoughts?

romero quote

Actually, I think the first sentence of the blockquote from Romero you give above in the comments, Al, is a great deal more specific and therefore worse than the last sentence, which is the one you actually quoted in your article.  Hitler's "historic vision" could refer to something other than the Holocaust--though granted, all of his vision was horrible.

@ Michael

Michael - My repudiation of Romero's statement would be as strong for the weaker version as it would be for the worse parts. None of it is acceptable. And I wrestle with repeating violent language so hurtful that it only causes more pain, fear and trauma in many.

It's similar to a matter of when one, say, reports a bad car accident, and has to choose between the simply disgusting photo and the bloodier more nauseating one. I'm not really a fan of the axiom "if it bleeds, it leads."

But, because a reader requested it, I figured I could neither not answer the question (like a certain Miami Herald reporter).

Toward anti-racism

"If, as Romero did today in that AP story, that person apologized and said they didn’t mean what they said, I’d still fire them indefinitely while sorting it all out. And I’d tell that employee or freelancer or co-publisher that unless he was willing to now go, alone, to synagogues, temples or other gatherings of Jewish people and apologize face to face, and listen to everything they have to say to inform and educate him and express their legitimate horror over calls to violence like that, he wouldn’t have a chance at getting his job back."

This is what should happen if ANY racist slurs are said to ANY race or religion. Truth is, when Black US americans and Raza in the US are targets of racism in the media it is covered as "alleged remarks" and they try and turn the tables around on the victims. We need to move toward labeling these folx ANTI-Black, Ant-Raza, etc. Al, i respect your viewpoint and i can feel your passion for justice because i feel it everyday when some racist b.s. pops up; however, i feel that saying one oppression and genocide is worse than another is wrong. I put the holocaust, Native American genocide, and US slavery all in the same boat because they are all dehumanizing and desensitizing. so when you say that you would lose respect for me if i chose Native American genocide or US slavery as "top" oppression over the holocaust, its a bit disappointing because an oppressed person feels it and doesnt use it to try and "one-up" another oppressed peoples. And for the record, i feel all genocides are fucked up and not one is greater than the other.

@ el lechuguero

El Lechuguero - A comment like yours is exactly why I hate writing about this "third rail." You didn't read my words carefully, that's clear. But that's on you, not me.

I don't think that "any slur" should be dealt with the same as an implied threat of violence in a historic context. i.e. A slur against African-Americans is not the same as saying on the radio "I think the lynchings were correct and should have been allowed to continue." Do you see the difference?

People have all kinds of "bad words" for each other. I don't care if they use them or not. It goes all ways. The suppression of "bad words" give them greater power.

What bothers me is words meant to incite others to do violence and provoke fear, pain and trauma in people who have been victimized by them before.

In my words above I referred to the Holocaust as the worst atrocity that happened in the lifetimes of anybody that is alive today. In response you bring up slavery - banned in the 1860s - and the extermination of Native Americans, that while it continues today, the sheer quantity of it was done in a time when nobody alive today was alive.

That says to me that you didn't read carefully, that you don't really care what I have to say, that you arrived with your pre-written script and covered your ears and eyes while "reading" these words shouting "I won't listen. I won't look...."

And yes, that does lose respect in my book.

@ Bart Fargo

"Bart Fargo" (or should I say "anonymous coward") - Your comments aren't published here because I told you long ago they wouldn't be. Period. End of story. Go find another blog to piss on.

Thanks For Sharing Some Common Sense

Thanks Al for this much-needed dose of common sense. Over the years I've been having to confront some outrageous comments whenever the issue of Israeli involvement in certain events comes up. Sadly, some people even in our side of the struggle, tend to equate actions by the Israeli state with Jewish people in general. Israel right now has a right-wing regime, it has always been aligned as a state with the US and acts accordingly (as do countries like Egypt, Colombia etc.), but I get very tired of people automatically translating just criticism of such policies into outright hatred for Jewish people, as if they all support the Honduras coup, or the blockade of Gaza. It gets tiresome and it also hurts the cause, I'm happy to see that you took on the issue and shared some truths.

anti-racism

After i posted i re-read that you stated 19th century which i agree and as a self-critical person i waited for you to post so i can call out my intellectual mistake.

But let me point out that i never have a Pre-written script as you suggest and i see your point about inciting violence, but what im trying to say is that whenever anything (inciting violence or not) said negatively about Jewish folx it is labeled "anti-semetic". When it is Black or Raza, the media suggests that it might not have been "racism"; therefore we should satrt labeling ANY racists as ANTI-_______. Its not just media. For example hommunq posted

" am a member of the ACLU who would ardently defend the free-speech rights of run-of-the-mill "bell curve"/Glenn Beck racists, or Buchananite anti-semites, but I would have no problem with somebody spending a few nights in an actual jail over "Hitler should have finished". this is why i disagree with you on how to deal with racist slurs. The fact that nothing happens to people when they say words filled with hatred is a big reason it continues. Now it is under the guise of this myth of  a "color-blind" society. ALL racism should be treated the same and no preference should be given because in the end they are ALL victims. Just because slavery (de jure) ended in 1860 does not mean it vanished because it still going on today in different forms (de facto). This is my main point that racism should be dealt with zero tolerance  no matter who the victims are.

Tight Screen

Hey All - I've been running a tighter than usual screen on these comments today because of the sector of some tendencies to not get the point. They want to argue about Israel-Palestine and everything but the matters of anti-Semitism and its consequences.

One asked a rhetorical "yes" or "no" question - one that can be answered by simply reading the last week of content on this blog - and ended by saying "I'll take your not publishing my comment as a 'no.'"

Well, how infantile is that? There are other reasons I didn't publish his comment. But none of them was that the answer to his leading question was "no."

But, boy, I'll be so glad to move on to my next post, which will surely be far from this "third rail" that brings out all the crazies.

ANTI-SEMITISMO Y LA IZQUIERDA LATINOAMERICANA

al, gracias por escribir este artículo. as a guatemalan-leftist-jew, recent times have made it perhaps even more challenging to hold a rational conversation about anti-semitism in politics (i agree with you that it is always nearly impossible, regardless). so i acknowledge your contribution for two main reasons:

1) because on the left ("my side"), i often hear anti-semitic slurs disguised (or confused) as anti-israeli critiques, and it's always important to educate compañer@ s who see not the difference. there is also an astounding generalized ignorance about what really happened in europe in the 1930s-40s, not to mention jewish persecution through the ages. on top of that, it's quite easy to find spanish-language copies of henry ford's "the international jew", as well as "the protocols of the elders of zion" in small-town bookstores in the region. talk about friggin' scary. and,

2) because there is a tendency among latin american jewish communities (which, in contrast to their counterparts up north, tend to be conservative and NOT progressive, i must point out), to draw a direct connection between left-leaning governments and political leaders, on the one hand, and proven anti-semites (anti-jews), on the other. there is almost a consensus around here that chávez had something to do with the attack on the caracas synagoge this past february, for instance. his frequent visits to iran are used as evidence of his 'obvious' denial of the holocaust (via ahmadinejad) and of his disdain for the historic jewish plight. so i'm used to the hate-filled mail/phone calls that i get when i defend the resistance in honduras (zelaya would be an anti-semite by association of two degrees, of course, via chávez-ahmadinejad), or when i raise questions about the israeli state and its often-repressive policies (gaza is a case in point)... things like, "you're a self-hating jew", "your grandfather would be ashamed of you", etc.

i'll stop there, but i'll thank you again for your careful, intellectually honest, compassionate, critical, and balanced approach to an incredibly muddy "thrid rail" issue. salú!

Miami Herald

I think that Frances Robles knew exactly what she was doing when she wrote this article; she just wasn't counting on anyone to really pay attention enough to call her out on it. It kind of reminds me of the story arc of the last season of The Wire, which deals with a reporter at the Baltimore Sun who makes up details in order to enhance his stories. Without firmly accusing Frances Robles of making things up on purpose, I do find it highly suspicious that not only did she have the most outrageous quote from Zelaya (that he is actively being tortured with radiation by Israeli mercenaries) but also that she had the time to write back numerous times to the reader requesting the full quotation, she had the time to frantically email Zelaya's staff asking for a confirmation but she didn't "have the time" to supply the full quote.

She's the only one who credited President Zelaya as saying that he was being tortured with radiation ... so, she got the "best quote" out of all the other newspapers. The "radiation" could have referred to the sonic weapon, the use of which was confirmed by numerous pictures and eyewitness accounts.

So, amazingly, in a quote that she can't produce, Frances Robles had President Zelaya claiming that he was being "tortured with radiation weapons" -- a sentence that makes it sound like he should be on his way to a mental ward and, like clockwork, tons of right-wing blogs linked to Ms. Robles' story and stated exactly that (Zelaya should be wearing a tin-foil hat, etc etc).

The motivation is probably, as Al says, just to have the most outrageous story about President Zelaya. "They're torturing me with radiation guns!!" Just a little too outrageous ... just a little too spectacular ... and, as it turns out, probably just a little too much of Ms. Robles' imagination. But, it got the attention that she was after. In fact, this questionable "fact" has become history in that it is now a part of Wikipedia's page on President Zelaya -- see footnote #68:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Zelaya

When this article came out, it still wasn't confirmed that sonic weapons were actually being used (even though the very day it came out, every major media outlet was showing video of the same type of weapon being used against G20 protesters in Pittsburgh). It still wasn't confirmed that toxic gases had been released. Brazil and the UN still hadn't confirmed the attacks and lodged formal complaints against the coup regime.

So, unfortunately, the Miami Herald was able to present President Zelaya as a madman. You can be sure that Ms. Robles' next story wasn't something like "Zelaya's claims confirmed, sonic weapons and use of chemical weapons used in attacks on Brazilian Embassy" -- in fact, her very next article was "Time running out for Honduras' Zelaya, experts say" (and, as we all know, anyone can find an expert who will say anything you want them to say).

The frustrating thing about retractions is that the damage is already done, even if a retraction is printed. At a critical time in the Honduran crisis, Ms. Robles came out with two stories that did a number on President Zelaya. The only thing we can hope for is that this information about Ms. Robles has a high ranking on Google, for those who are looking to find out information about her credibility.

Googling Al's story

You are correct Ryan, Ms Robles story has been so damaging.  There ought to be some real career consequences for this kind of dishonest "journalism".  I googled "Zelaya anti-semitism" (without the quotes) just now 9:59 p.m. Pacific time.  Al's story was # 8 of 11 stories Google pulled up on page 1 but, unfortunately, the listing is garbled.

The headline is: "Narco News: Open letter from President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales....

Oct 5, 2009 ... Open Letter from President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales in Relation to the Jewish Community in Honduras. “I reject all anti-Semitic postures ...
www.narconews.com/Issue60/article3855.html - 13 hours ago - Similar"

The Google headline for # 9 right underneath is "Jewish leaders outraged over Obama's Pal Zelaya's Anti-Semitic...." I noticed a few other stories along the lines of Obama's anti-Semitic pal.

I checked the story on Huffington Post and found several commenters had pushed back with links to Al's story.

 

wikipedia

I just fixed the wikipedia article.  Maybe some of you good folks here can help make sure it stays fixed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Zelaya#cite_ref-robles_zel_torture_67-0

Michael's Wikipedia fix

This is Michael Lubin's fix on the Wikipedia article.

A Miami Herald journalist alleged that on 24 September, Zelaya claimed that "Israeli mercenaries" were torturing him with high-frequency radiation and mind-altering gas[68] and that Israeli mercenaries had installed a mobile phone jammer.[69] However, this journalist, Frances Robles, has been unable to back up her claim with a longer, contextualized quotation.[1]

Thanks, Michael.

Edit removed on Wikipedia

The edit that Michael Lubin made has been removed (or "reverted", as they say there, to the previous version)...

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Manuel_Zelaya&diff=318274213&o...

by the user "Rsheptak", who said in the edit summary that he heard Zelaya repeat that claim in a phone call to Radio Globo. What a giant rumor mill Wikipedia is.

On the general Effed-Upness of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is all about which gang is more aggressive and persistent on any particular story. Someone else can go in and remove the offending passage altogether and then fight it out in the Wikipedia process pages.

I saw a comment on that page in question that claimed that Wikipedia won't link to "blog" posts and therefore this story can't be linked to. I don't know if that's true or not (Wikipedia has linked plenty to The Field) but if so it's ridiculous, given that these stories here are more reported than most commercial news stories, and longer, too.

That would be an artificial distinction (one that Google News, for example, doesn't make) and a false one. This is what happens when bureaucracy hits any project. It becomes incoherent and error-filled, subject to whomever shouts the loudest and most frequently.

Wikipedia

Was it this page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:RS

Wikipedia does not allow blogs to be used as "reliable sources", but I think they mean the type of blog that one can create with Blogger (blogspot.com). Indymedia is not counted as a "Reliable Source", but I believe that this site would be accepted as "reliable" by their definition. Wikipedia is, overall, unreliable and cannot be trusted. You make a good point in regards to the factionalism that is present there as well

Here's an end run play for Wiki

Every entry here at The Field about Latin America is translated to Spanish as a Narco News story, which is clearly not a blog. The link to the Spanish version appears on Narco News page one.

A Wiki editor could therefore link to the Spanish version as the "authoritative" news source and simply use the "translation" from here to describe what it says.

LRAD use noted before Robles article

Ryan Vaquero: When [Robles'] article came out, it still wasn't confirmed that sonic weapons were actually being used

The Wired article and Al's post highlighting the LRAD didn't appear until Friday the 25th, a day after Robles' story, but there were press photographs on the web as early as the evening of Tuesday Sept. 22 of the sonic weapon on a police truck in front of the embassy Tuesday afternoon (when only the regime's forces were on that street), along with reports from those inside the embassy that extremely loud music and a high-pitched sound had been directed at them. 

The device may have been identified as quickly as it was by some U.S. activists because it had recently been in the news (as a result of the uproar caused by the San Diego sheriff's office having brought it to two town hall meetings held by Republican members of Congress), and because it had also been on hand when the police rounded up protestors during the Republican national convention in New York in 2004.

The use of the sonic weapon didn't get as much attention as it would have if it had been the main form of attack against the Brazilian embassy on Tuesday. It got overlooked in most coverage amid the cutoff of water, electricity, and phones, the tear gas that filled the street in front of the embassy and filtered inside, the complete militarization of the area, and the regime's threats of actual physical invasion of the embassy. 

But there were people who mentioned and understood the sonic assault right away as part of the regime's overall violation of diplomatic immunity -- some because of the way it echoed the U.S. military's use of high-decibel music among their similar violations of diplomatic immunity against the Vatican embassy when it sheltered Noriega in Panama twenty years ago.  My comments pushing back against the Robles story on the 24th, the day it appeared, were based on those press photos re-published by coup opponents calling attention to the LRAD sometime on the 22nd or 23rd.  I'll find and post here the original links.

In addition, on the same day the Robles story appeared, the golpista paper La Tribuna reported proudly that the sonic weapon was supplied to them by the Israeli government, along with a photo of the device in use on the 22nd.  The claim about the Israeli government is probably a lie*, like so much else they print, but I don't see Robles or anyone else shrieking about the coup press' dragging the Israelis into the discussion or treating their assertion as a sign of mental instability.

*[The device photographed in use by the Honduran military on Sept. 22 and 25 seems identical to the one manufactured by the U.S. American Technology Corp., which sells directly to Latin American businesses and governments through a regional sales office.  It's been put into use by the U.S. military since 2003 at sea and since early 2004 in Iraq.

The Israelis have developed their own sonic weapon, which they began developing in 2001 and first deployed against Palestinian protesters in June 2005.  Its operation is similar to the LRAD, and like the LRAD its maximum output is 150dB.  There are no images of the Israeli device on the web that I could find, so I have no idea whether it could be easily confused with the LRAD. Nor have I been able to document that the company that developed it or the Israeli government have supplied it to anyone outside Israel.]

Ryan's correct that Robles' story did a significant amount of damage.  The Herald editors cited it in one of their typically anti-Zelaya editorials a day or two later. A young Newsweek reporter (whose stint in Buenos Aires apparently didn't involve learning enough Spanish to keep her from describing Zelaya as "bolero-toting" [?!]) did a whole post based on it, specifically criticizing the president for introducing the issue of Israeli involvement while completely overlooking the La Tribuna story. And Robles' smears were taken at face value not only by right-wing bloggers but some anti-coup and "liberal" commenters who should have known better. 

We owe a debt Ryan, whose civil and persistent questions to Robles exposed her failure to produce evidence to back up her sensational charges.

Tireless and reliable source

@Jonas Rand and Al:

I'm not going to defend Wikipedia processes in general, or get into the weeds of the particular edit being discussed.

But I have to speak up for RSheptak, who is a patient, reliable, and extremely knowledgeable source on Honduran issues.  He maintains that reputation by being scrupulous about documenting facts that might be inconvenient or uncomfortable for resistance supporters as well as those many, many more that expose the coup-makers' assertions as lies.

There is absolutely no question about his opposition to the coup and support for real democracy in Honduras.  He is the co-proprietor of Honduras Coup 2009, an invaluable source of English translations of legal and scholar documents related to the coup, along with reports and analyses of developments in the crisis.

re: Wikipedia

I made that comment about the blog not being linked to. You have to gauge the responses and work from there (it's like game theory with these people). Al says Wikipedia is all about whose loudest and most aggressive. All of this should sound familiar.

I made an additional comment earlier that this news will probably need to spread before it will be taken "seriously" by the loud and obnoxious. That's how Wikipedia works, and it tends towards the status quo. Yes, the Miami Herald and everyone who's picking up on that story have the advantage, until such a time as this story makes its way around the web.

The best that can be done now is to edit the article to present both sides. The false but verifiable cannot be replaced by the truth until the truth overtakes the lies.

Wikipedia

Ugh, Wikipedia ... what a ridiculous reason for removing the correction added about Robles' story: "Zelaya made the claim in a phone call to Radio Globo, I heard it." And this quote comes from an academic, a historical anthropologist -- since Radio Globo's equipment is now seized by the coup regime, this guy has a better chance of unearthing news from the 16th century than he does from a broadcast that happened a few weeks ago.

The exact quote on the Wikipedia talk page is: "Were Giordano (Narco News) not publishing that on a blog, I'd consider it usable. Oh well. 99.149.173.108" ... unfortunately, what Wikipedia considers a blog or not is pretty subjective. Narco News is not considered a blog by Google News but it is *occasionally* classified as such on Wikipedia.

I don't have an active Wikipedia account exactly because the few times I've tried to make changes on there, I ended up in a frustrating situation. There are plenty of self-important Wikipedia volunteers who use their knowledge of Wikipedia rules (most of which are vaguely defined) as a bludgeon against anyone who doesn't know them backwards and forwards.

But, I do think Al's suggestion about using the Spanish version of the story along with a defense of why Narco News is not a blog is worth a try, if it is easy for someone to do.

This website has an interesting concept - http://fairspin.org/welcome

Some kind of website which provides access to a database of journalists, along with the ability to lodge instances of factual inaccuracies. The hard part is working out how you would separate out what are factual inaccuracies and what aren't. I don't know if it's possible.

Romero is at least part-Jewish himself.

If we are to believe this AP report from today by Freddy Cuevas, US slams Honduran radioman's anti-Semitic remarks David Romero is at least partly Jewish himself:

 

Romero later apologized for the remarks in an interview with The Associated Press, saying that they were "stupid" statements made in the heat of the moment and that don't reflect his real views. <B>He said his grandfather was a Jewish immigrant from Czechoslovakia who came to Honduras to escape persecution in Europe.

 

If that is true, isn't it strong reason for thinkiing that Romero was just blowing off steam and didn't really mean what he said?

@ Nell

Nell - I don't know anything about the Wikipedia editor you're defending (and I'm not among the commenters who offered an opinion on him at all). But I will say this:

Saying "I heard it on the radio" is mere hearsay, and unless he took notes and can furnish the quotation he claims was made, his claim is no more credible than that of Frances Robles of the Miami Herald.

I've listened to most of Zelaya's interventions on Radio Globo over the past 101 days and have never heard him say any such thing.

And just because somebody is "anti-coup" doesn't mean they don't have other axes to grind - perhaps against other anti-coup media that they wrongly consider to be in competition with their own (a common trait in lefty media, no?). Frankly, because Narco News has a wider readership than any other prominent media in exposing events in Latin America, there is no shortage of "allies" who resent us for it. We don't care. And we don't snipe at them. We just keep doing this work, day after day, night after night, no matter where the incoming fire is coming in from.

The point is the same: If Frances Robles looks stupid and silly and dishonest for not furnishing her full quote, why should we take seriously the hearsay of others - friend, foe or other - who simply say "I heard it on the radio" if they are not willing or able to furnish the exact quotation?

@ Lysias

Lysias - Whether one's ancestors included or not the group upon whom one is calling for extermination and violence against them, whether such calls come from Romero or from Ahmadinejad (whom people are debating whether he was born Jewish), whether they were "blowing off steam" or "didn't mean what they said" does not really change my own response to it.

In law, there is a difference between murder and manslaughter, the first being intentional, the second accidental, but both result in the same harm, and both are punished under any civilized country's laws.

It may be that the punishment should fit the crime, but I would still fire someone like Romero from my own organization no matter which, while sorting out whether he would then make the amends necessary to demonstrate that he didn't really mean it and, more importantly, that it will never happen again.

I was listening to Radio Globo

when this incident happened and I was stunned! I could not believe what he was saying. Surely it was a myopic and outrageous comment. He should leave Radio Globo. This radio in particular has played a big part in the resistance to the coup and with this, he has clearly set Radio Globo and its influence way back. It has tarnished its credibility.

Al, I would have liked for you to have also included the US politicians or other US figures comparing Obama to Hitler and his current policies or hopes for the future akin to those of the nazis. By doing this, they are bringing the holocaust to a mere human rights abuse that happened to a few. I'm with you that the holocaust is one of the worst incidents that has happened during the lifetime of many of us. It's very dangerous when people move to a path to lessen its abhorrent history.

Como siempre, ¡muchas gracias por tus reportes!

@Al

Completely agree that anyone citing a radio broadcast as a reference needs to give date and time, and as accurate a quote as s/he can manage based on notes (or, ideally, preserved sound clip available online).

It's very doubtful that RSheptak views self on Wikipedia or his and his wife's excellent blog as 'lefty media', or that he resents NarcoNews (which he's commented on appreciatively more than once).

HC2009 is a labor of concern by two people with long-standing experience in and connections to Honduras.  Through the blog, they've made significant contributions to helping North Americans understand some of the legal and political background to the coup and the political crisis.  Particulalrly useful have been RAJ's thorough, careful demolitions of the legal arguments of coup supporters, and the English translations of articles by members of the Zelaya administration such as Edmundo Orellana, Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, and others. There is also an occasional sharp focus on the economic crimes of the coup.  And they follow along and comment on the news like the rest of us; the blog was one of the more prolific contributors of updates during the hectic first days of Zelaya's return.

Just a hunch, but I bet that RNS' Oh well was a resigned but unhappy reaction to Wikipedia's policy about citing blogs, not a putdown of NarcoNews, and that the high quality and volume of original material on his and RAJ's blog makes his attitude toward the policy particularly wry. 

@ Nell

Nell - Whatever. Like I said, I don't spend any time worrying about what others think or don't think. I just couldn't see any alternate path to understand why anyone would mistake this aggregation of all my reports on one page as somehow separate from Narco News' status as a newspaper, well accepted as such by Wikipedia (which also accepts opinion columns in these newspapers).

I also use the word "blog" here but The Field is not identified as such up top. To the contrary, it is billed as "Al Giordano Reports..."

Truth is, there are many many Wikipedia pages that link to specific content on The Field. This is the first time it has ever been disparaged as not meeting its criteria. But, again, we don't do our work here to be accepted by Wikipedia or anyone else. We've watched over nine years how so many publications that once dismissed us now depend on us and it's only a matter of time before we drag Wikipedia into the same column.

@Al

>> I just couldn't see any alternate path to understand why anyone would mistake this aggregation of all my reports on one page as somehow separate from Narco News' status as a newspaper

I made the comment on the article's discussion page. It was, as Nell said, some frustration at WP; more importantly, it was testing the waters. You speak often of an oligarch diaspora. They're around Wikipedia, of course. Some folks go to an article's discussion page and complain and do nothing aside from revert edits that don't fit into their point-of-view; others - and this is what I was afraid of - are more active. You've spoken about the need for tactical agility. The person who edits the article with a source while simultaneously disparaging it (wasn't my intention) has much greater initiative than the person who edits in a source and gets it reverted by someone who will themselves disparage it so they can later claim a "consensus" against inclusion.

Wikipedia is a playground for organizers. It could be used as a kind of training grounds, fer cryin' out loud. On top of all that, it's the most-viewed reference site in the world, reliability be damned. Talk about under-utilizing!

Anyway, I'm sorry I disparaged this site. It wasn't my desire, and I can always remove the deed.

 

Those darn capitalists -

Those darn capitalists - should be throwing picnics for Palestinians but at least they're not spreading falsehoods against specific religious or ethnic groups to gain support for bloody illegal murderous campaigns...

"I have high contempt for those like Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who run around denying that the holocaust happened."

Odd that Giordano would engage in the same dog whistle journalism that riled him enough to write an article condemning the practice.

 

@ Diane

Diane - You mean you don't squirm in your seat when Ahmadinejad says, as he did in December 2005, ""Today, they have created a myth in the name of Holocaust and consider it to be above God, religion and the prophets"?

Or how about the Mahmoud defenders who translate his statement this way: "They have created a myth today that they call the massacre of Jews and they consider it a principle above God, religions and the prophets." Is that really any better?

Does that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about him?

How is it a "dog whistle" if the quotation is accurate and in context. Even when, the following year, he went on NBC for a long interview, he didn't qualify his remarks. He defended them arrogantly. If that guy doesn't give you the creeps - along with his vicious attacks on gays, on women and violently on peaceful protesters in his own country - I don't think you're on any moral high ground to play "leftier than thou," which is the stench wafting from your comment, an odor I learned to recognize long ago and dismiss.

Enemy of my enemy...

I have to agree with Daniel that there is an uncomfortable amount of hidden and/or outspoken anti-Semitism among the Latin American left, and it ranges from the bile published by sites like Aporrea.org to ranting and raving against the Jewish community in Panama which is, similar to what Daniel describes for Guatemala, mostly politically conservative.

A lot of it is "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" type of "thinking" - which is the only explanation I can come up with for Chavez' admiration for Mr. Sabourjian for example - which however doesn't offer any real strategic advantages but on the contrary serves as ammo for spin doctors like Mrs. Robles.

Anyway, I was very happy to read Al's thoughtful piece on this issue.

Zelaya Condemns Romero Remarks

From Bloomberg:

Zelaya Condemns Radio Host's Comments on Holocaust

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya said he was appalled by comments made by his supporter David Romero, a journalist at the country’s shuttered Radio Globo, that Hitler should have been allowed to finish his “historic mission” of exterminating the Jews.

“I condemn that kind of racism and discrimination,” Zelaya said in a phone interview late yesterday from the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. “I don’t share that point of view.”

Read the whole thing.

 

LRAD attack documented on 23rd

I promised in a comment above to provide links documenting that use of the LRAD was known before Robles smear article appeared.

On the 22nd, as the siege began, Adrienne Pine was among several bloggers providing reports from Radio Globo inside the embassy and from eyewitnesses near the embassy; both noted the extremely loud music and high-pitched sound soldiers were directing at the building.

On Sept. 23 Charles at Mercury Rising reported on Channel 36's coverage of the device.  They showed footage, identified it as the U.S.-made LRAD, and mentioned that the U.S. has been using the weapon in Iraq.

The Robles smear continues to do damage: Tim Padgett, who has been above that kind of thing for the most part, cited it uncritically in an article yesterday focused on evidence that the State Dept. is considering support and recognition for the Honduran elections in November even if Zelaya is not restored to office.

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About Al Giordano

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Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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