Race-Baiting at the L.A. Times: Still Race-y After All These Years

I stopped reading the L.A. Times in 2005, as a health precaution. My blood pressure was too high, and coming face to face every morning with the grotesque example of what passes for the “newspaper of record” in the city of my birth was not helping. Prior to going cold turkey, I had penned a good eighteen op-eds for the paper, and I’d made a cottage industry out of hectoring the incompetent writers and editors for their daily errors (for the record, the “incompetent” epithet didn’t apply to everyone, most notably Kim Murphy, a fine journalist, and the late David Shaw, one of the greatest members of his profession in history).

This past Thursday, circumstances were such that I had to sit in a hospital waiting room as a loved one was being treated. With only the L.A. Times and Oprah Winfrey’s magazine on the table in front of me, I chose the Times, which I’m assuming would make Oprah accuse me of racism (as she does in every case in which someone doesn’t do her bidding).

Reading the front page of the Times entertainment section was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. An old, annoying, incurably stupid friend. Staff writer John Horn’s front page piece about Hollywood’s horrible racism breathlessly proclaimed, “For the first time in Academy Awards history, a black man — British filmmaker Steve McQueen — may win the directing Oscar for his heralded, harrowing film 12 Years a Slave.”

Damn racist Hollywood! It took until 2013 for a black man to have a shot at getting the best director Oscar nod.

Except it didn’t. John Singleton was nominated for best director for 1991’s Boyz n the Hood (at 24 years of age, he became the youngest best director nominee in Oscar history). Lee Daniels was also nominated for best director for 2009’s Precious.

I emailed Horn, who steadfastly stood by what he admitted was an error of fact (he fully copped to the existence of black best director nominees before McQueen). Neither he nor his editor would print a correction.

What made this example of Times journalistic shiftiness so familiar to me is that I was picking up exactly where I’d left off. The announcing of phony “firsts” regarding minorities in Hollywood has always been a Times specialty.

In 2001, Times entertainment writer Dana Calvo crowed about John Leguizamo’s “first” network show, in development at CBS. I wrote to Calvo reminding her that Leguizamo had a previous network show, 1995’s House of Buggin’ on Fox. Calvo defended her omission by telling me that it’s okay because “no one remembers House of Buggin’.

In April 2001, Calvo was at it again, hyping PBS’ American Family as “TV’s First Latino Family Drama.” I reminded her of the 2000 series Resurrection Blvd. She told me to leave her alone!

In 2007, entertainment writer Maria Elena Fernandez proudly called George Lopez “the first Latino to lead a television series of his own into syndication.” As I was out of the Times harassment business by then, I never bothered to remind her about Desi Arnaz, who many credit with actually having invented the concept of TV syndication.

In 2001, TV critic Howard Rosenberg extolled the virtues of the Lifetime series Any Day Now for its “daring” and “bold” decision to do an episode centered around the effect on black people of the word “nigger.” Rosenberg is such a wasteland of politically correct detritus that I needed an entire op-ed to debunk his stupidity.

Here’s the op-ed (FULL DISCLOSURE: “Christopher Cole” was a pseudonym I used about four or five times when writing for my town’s “paper of record”).

In trying to whip up racial outrage, Times entertainment writers don’t just invent phony firsts. Race-baiter extraordinaire Greg Braxton would regularly bemoan the lack of “diversity” on prime time TV by running self-compiled statistics showing how non-diverse prime time is. After one such article, I emailed him with a concern that his figure of black actors in prime time didn’t jibe with my own. I’d made my own list, and his seemed to have several glaring omissions.

Braxton replied that he didn’t count “ensemble shows,” meaning that ER, Law and Order, and Homicide: Life on the Street weren’t counted at all. Needless to say, Braxton didn’t inform his readers of his unique tabulating methods. As an ironic footnote, Homicide had one of the highest numbers of black leads in TV history, too many, apparently, because that made it an “ensemble show,” and therefore banned from “Braxton’s List.”

The moral? Don’t employ too many black actors or the Times will ignore your show because it can’t be used to stir “outrage.”

Yet again, it took an entire op-ed to correct some of the statistical inaccuracies (FULL DISCLOSURE: “Marlon Mohammed” was, in reality, a crackhead high school friend of mine. He stole $80 and a camera tripod from me in 1985. I consider my use of his name in several Times op-eds as payment in full for the theft).

So what’s the deal? Why do Times entertainment writers feel so compelled to trumpet nonexistent “firsts” and fudge numbers to decry nonexistent shortfalls?

An answer can be found in the excellent book Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism, by William McGowan. It’s impossible to read this book and not come away with the impression that many editors (and the Times is specifically mentioned in the book) see non-whites in much the same way as the makers of the “Teletubbies” saw babies. The Teletubbies show was launched on the principle that babies enjoy looking at other babies. The attitude at the Times during its “diversity” push in the 1990s was that non-whites enjoy looking at articles trumpeting the achievements of people who may vaguely resemble them, and articles decrying mistreatment of people who vaguely resemble them at the hands of people who may resemble them slightly less.

It’s a paternalistic, downright insulting stereotype. To assume that every Times reader with a Spanish surname reads the paper sitting on a burro with a serape and sombrero while cheering “Ay Chihuahua, one of La Raza has achieved a first! I shall buy 50 copies of this edition!” is racism personified.

These phony “firsts” are all about a dying paper trying to up its sales with the belief that non-white readers are so childlike that ginned-up victories and outrage will lead to massive sales and subscription increases.

And although I’ve concentrated on the Times’ entertainment writers in this piece, they are not the only offenders. Times “hard news” writers and editors also play fast-and-loose with race and facts in order to up sales. During its coverage of a 2002 story involving allegations that two Inglewood police officers beat up a 16-year-old black teen during an arrest, the Times continually – as in every time the story was mentioned – referred to one of the cops, Bijan Darvish, as “white.” Times editors and their resident “ombudswoman” Jamie Gold admitted to me privately (Gold doing so on-record, in an email) that this violated Times policy, as Darvish is Persian, and Times policy in police matters is to refer to a cop’s race in the same manner as it’s listed in his police file (in Darvish’s case, “Persian”).

But, Gold admitted, a “white on black” beating was a much better story than “Persian on black.”

In 2002, the Times ran a piece of surreally beautiful hysteria proclaiming an epidemic of pedestrian deaths among Latinos and blacks (“Inequities in Pedestrian Deaths,” August 19, 2002). “Latinos and African Americans make up 55% of the county’s population, but they represent 59% of the victims of fatal pedestrian accidents”…wow, it’s a veritable genocide. But the thing about the Times is, much like with jazz, you have to listen to the notes they’re not playing. Staff writers Hugo Martin and Maloy Moore presented data for black pedestrian deaths, and Latino pedestrian deaths, and then a figure of white and Asian pedestrian deaths lumped together. Knowing how the Times manipulates facts and figures in stories like this, I emailed the authors requesting a broken-down figure for the “lump sum” white and Asian fatalities.

Turns out, white pedestrian deaths are not that far removed from the percentage of whites in the county’s population, but Asians, on the other hand, are rarely hit by cars. Hence, by lumping the white and Asian figures together, the disproportion in the Asian statistics, when joined together with the statistics of whites, gives the impression that both groups are at low risk (and, therefore, Latinos and blacks are at high risk…probably ‘cuz of racism!).

Another con job, geared toward attracting minority readers.

Perhaps the Times’ most notorious instance of manipulating race and ethnicity statistics was the insanely inaccurate poll the paper released prior to the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election. An August 2003 poll claimed that Latino Democrat Cruz Bustamante had a commanding lead over Arnold Schwarzenegger. This data flew in the face of most other polls, and, of course, the actual election results.

In an odd display of integrity, other “mainstream” news and polling organizations criticized the Times poll. It was impossible to not get the feeling that something was off – way off – about it. But what? It took seven emails and one phone call to Susan Pinkus, the Times pollmaster, to get the answer (this was a record for me, as I can usually get a Times hack to fold after only three emails). Of course, I knew the answer already, but I needed to get her to admit it.

The poll results were achieved by manipulating racial and ethnic classifications. Pinkus had previously claimed that “all racial and ethnic groups are proportionally represented in this survey” to “conform with census figures.” Ah, there we go. You see, in the 2000 census, one could be “white Hispanic” or “black Hispanic.” Hispanic was counted as an ethnicity, not a race. What Pinkus finally admitted to me was that Hispanics were counted as “Hispanics,” but Hispanics were also counted as “white” and “black.” So yes, the poll did have a proportional breakdown of white, black, and Hispanic, but – and this is the big “but” – the whites were not limited to non-Hispanic whites, and the blacks were not limited to non-Hispanic blacks. As a result, Hispanics were greatly overrepresented in the poll, hence the astoundingly inaccurate numbers for Bustamante.

This bit of engineering was done not just to sell papers, but also to influence an election.

So back to me sitting in the hospital waiting room a few days ago reading John Horn’s factually inaccurate claim that “For the first time in Academy Awards history, a black man may win the directing Oscar.”

For the Times, this is par for the course. Frankly, I’d have been disappointed if I’d have picked up my first copy of that rag in years and not seen race-baiting and phony statistics.

In the last year of his life, my cat Simon, his eyes failing, would habitually miss his litter box. As a result, I would line the floor of his litter box room with newspapers. I’d use the Wall Street Journal, the only paper to which I subscribe these days. About five months ago, a friend offered me a stack of L.A. Times editions for use in Simon’s room. I declined. Simon’s waste deserved better.

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Comments
3 Responses to “Race-Baiting at the L.A. Times: Still Race-y After All These Years”
  1. EricP says:

    >>the first Latino to lead a television series of his own into syndication>>

    Sure, Desi was absolutely the first (and a syndication pioneer), but please don’t forget Chico & The Man’s Freddie Prinze, Sr. Then again, maybe Jack Albertson hogged enough screen-time to make that show an ensemble. My mistake.

  2. Barbara says:

    You think this stuff makes you angry?

  3. Jean Bush says:

    Racism and forced immigration are the Zionists way of decimating the white (Gentile) race. Oprah is one of their paid shills.

    Keep up the good work, David.

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