Sunday, September 21, 2003

Ombudsman Josep Maria Casasus lets fly in this week's episode of his Ombudsman column in La Vanguardia. If you've been keeping up with Trevor's Kaleboel, several Vanguardia writers are under fire from, well, us, for various journalistic crimes ranging from lying to plagiarism to editorializing in a news article. Trevor is taking this straight to them and his complaints have been either dismissed or ignored. Check out his blog for further information.

Ombudsmen cannot influence, nor should they try, to influence the editorial line of the newspaper, or the opinions of the commentators and critics, or the interpretations made by analysts and correspondents, or in the selection of the letters destined for publication in which readers expose their own ideas.

So what the hell are you good for, then, Mr. Casasus? I'll take your job for half the salary and do it twice as well--oops, forgot, can't multiply zero.

...It is legitimate and healthy, of course, that readers freely express their opinions to the ombudsman about the line which each thinks the newspaper should follow. disinterested and sincere opinions are welcome, though they be intuitive or biased.

Gee, thanks, Mr. Ombudsman, sir. You're so generous.

It is a different thing, however, an unfair practice, that we ombudsmen find in electoral campaigns and in other types of campaigns, or regarding international ideological and strategic confrontations, like that underway now deriving from the Iraq war.

We have vehement suspicions, however, that the various political parties' propaganda services, and also those of various governments and embassies, mobilize agents dedicated to sending letters to the editor and to the ombudsman. They are letters or telephone calls, anonymous or covered-up, which appear to be spontaneous but rather obey a plan in order to pressure the newspaper or to influence its contents.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Is he talking about Trevor? Franco Aleman? Me? Maybe even our correspondant Angie Schultz who spotted the Marius Serra plagiarism. We're conspirators working for the CIA! And we use our real names, by the way. At least I do.

What a nut. Every time somebody stands up and opposes a damn fool here in this country, said damn fool immediately comes out with a conspiracy theory to explain the hidden powerful forces operating behind what is apparent.

Several people have been bombarding the Vanguardia with correspondence relating to lies, plagiarism, editorializing in news pieces, and bias resulting from not researching the facts in the editorial section. And, gee, it's fascinating that all these lies, plagiarisms, editorializing, and biases are always anti-free-market, anti-capitalist, anti-Israeli, and anti-American.

I have been one of these correspondents. It is nice to see how seriously Mr. Casasus is taking our complaints. If some goddamn guiris are trying to tell Us, The High and Mighty Lords of the Vanguardia, how to run our business, they must be Yankee agents obeying their sinister overlords. I just wish I were an American agent. Hey, Casasus, I once passed the State Department exam but blew it in the interview. Think you can draw a connection there that will prove my vile corruption?

I'd like to hear Mr. Casasus say clearly, "John Chappell is an agent of the American government. He is part of a malicious plan to pressure the newspaper and to influence its contents." That is, if he's saying what I think he's saying. If you believe there's an American-backed conspiracy operating against the Vanguardia, Mr. Casasus, please name those you consider to be conspirators. If my name's on the list, I'll more than happily hire Rodriguez Menendez to represent me in a suit for libel and we'll turn this into the circus of the century with your newspaper starring as the laughingstock.

And as for pressuring you guys to alter the content of the newspaper, yes, Mr. Casasus, that's exactly what we're trying to do. We're trying to get you to stop printing made-up stolen biased articles written from ignorance without bothering to do any research.

The defense of all the readers forces us to neutralize these operations, perhaps legitimate in politics, but distorting of the principle of balance that should guide the press. It is a delicate job of separating the wheat from the chaff, but it is our responsibility to perform it in defense of the reader who addresses us without following orders.

Well, Trevor, looks like this is going to be Mr. Casasus's reason for ignoring you yet again. You're working for the American embassy! So am I! So is Angie Schultz! And Cinderella Bloggerfeller, too--the Yanks are bribing him to make fun of Baltasar Porcel!

Mr. Casasus then segues neatly into the next part of his column, which is about the bonehead Vangua reporters who think they see a strange shadow on one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers. (We reported on this a couple weeks ago.) He refers to four readers whose letters applauded the Vangua for doing such fine investigative journalism.

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