Thursday, December 09, 2004

Here's La Vanguardia's Ombudsman, Josep María Casasús, in last Sunday's La Vanguardia. The title is "No one can escape generalizations".

The Letters to the Editor section of La Vanguardia has sent me, over the last two weeks, the messages of protest they have received against the cover of the Money supplement on November 21, which alluded to the effects of the death of Arafat on the Israeli and international financial world.

They are e-mails that have come to us from various countries and cities. In this aspect, they reflect the international projection of this newspaper, with the largest reach inside and outside Catalonia among those published in Barcelona. From there comes its influence among the wide sector of public opinion with access to texts in Spanish.

Wait a minute, Casasús. You're getting internationally slammed for blatant anti-Semitism and you start off the article by patting yourself on the back?

Reader Daniel Kantor wrote from Rome, reader Enrique Tirado from Mexico, and reader Esperanza Garrote Larra, from Madrid. There are other letters, like that of Manuel Vider, which we do not know the origin of, but I think they come from various places.

It has been an international protest with an unprecedented territorial diversity.

One clarification at the beginning: it states in the Ombudsman's Statute that, in some cases, letters sent to the Letters to the Editor section may be dealt with in this section, which I publish without fail every Sunday of the year.

Those in charge of the Letters to the Editor section and the editors decided in this case that the protest messages could be sent to the newspaper's ombudsman.

In other words, a bunch of Jews wrote from all over the world to complain. See how important La Vanguardia is? Second, notice how legalistic Casasús is about the Ombudsman´s Statute. One wonders exactly what else the Ombudsman's Statue says, since it apparently permits the newspaper's bosses to hide a whole pile of outraged letters to the editor in this buried section rather than printing one or two a day on the editorial page. Third, Casasús has the gall to pat himself on the back again.

What appeared on that cover that caused so many complaints? Reader Eric Judkiewicz describes it in his letter to the editor in this way: "On the cover a blood-red Star of David appears, with an ascendent arrow insinuating that with the death of Arafat the stock market in Israel has gone up. To my knowledge, the Israelies did not kill the leader of the Palestinian Authority, unless the contrary is proven. The most serious thing is the headline of the article: "Jewish money buys the post-Arafat era"." That's how it was.

The headline is the thing that most readers who wrote about this case criticized. The headline has been strongly criticized, but not the text, in contrast. No one who called me by telephone has had anything to object. Reader Simón Emercui admitted this expressly in the conversation we had on November 26. "Regarding the article, I have nothing to object to." I corroborate that.

Oh, great, Casasús. You have a full-page blood-red Star of David and a headline that says "Jewish money buys the post-Arafat era", which your boys attached to an apparently innocuous article of no particular importance that you guys then stuck on the front page of the Money supplement, and your first line of defense is not even the Jew Simón Emercui objects to the article. The article is not the problem, idiot.

The readers, several more of whom are named, said the following things: "Many times this newspaper makes a serious error when it mixes religion and citizenship. There is no 'Jewish money'...ignominious...proof of total anti-Semitism...a headline that attacks the Jewish people in general...You transmit anti-Semitism to the Spanish and Catalan population...Sir, money has no religion nor race, it is insult, as old as Naziism, of identifying the Jewish people with speculation or usury...I would never think of relating all of Christianity to the Vatican finances and even less making fun of its symbols...clearly Judeophobic and anti-Semitic...anti-Jewish...I have rarely seen in your newspaper criticisms of Palestinian terrorism." Casasús has the arrogance to snap back at this gentleman, "There are, of course." No, Casasús, there are not. I read this newspaper every day and it publishes two of the most blatantly anti-Semitic alleged journalists on earth, Tomás Alcoverro and Robert Fisk. I still remember Alcoverro's melodramatic bullshit report from Jenin claiming he could smell the rotting bodies all around.

Casasús, this is a long list of very serious charges that these people are making about your newspaper. Don't you understand that? They are accusing you of behaving like Julius Streicher, spreading anti-Semitic imagery and innuendo.

Well, here's Casasús's response.

I showed this list of grievances to those in charge of the Economy section and the Money supplement, Manel Pérez and José Manuel Garayoa, and I ask them about the case. I sum up the questions I asked as representative of the readers who have made these complaints to me. The journalists reply at the beginning, "In journalism, the use of adjectives that identify a group when allusion is made to money is accepted in a sense that integrates the concept of economic or financial interests: American money, Irish money, Catalan money."

Well, looks like that excuse is good enough for Casasús, but:

In those examples there are only nationalities. The word "Jewish" refers to a religion," I insist, in my role of ombudsman.

Oh, Casasús, this is hard-hitting stuff!

"Yes, but the expression "Jewish lobby" is frequently used as an everyday expression in the financial and political world," assert these journalists, willing to give explanations that will contribute to constructive dialogue with the readers of La Vanguardia.

Yeah, that's a good reason to put an eight-inch blood-red Star of David on the cover with the headline, "Jewish money buys the post-Arafat era." And, actually, the term "Jewish lobby" is not used in the financial world. It is a political term referring specifically to the AIPAC and ADL and similar groups, which are openly registered and regulated United States political organizations that attempt to influence legislation and policy in an aboveboard manner, not some cabal of elders of Zion.

Casasús then mentions that he's also gotten complaints about the identification of Chechens and Irish Protestants and Catholics as terrorists. His Solomonic solution: "No one can escape generalizations." Right, Casasús. The problem is not that, however. The problem is that La Vanguardia should not perpetrate "generalizations", especially when those "generalizations" reek of the spirit of the Nuremberg Laws.

What the hell is this guy good for? What purpose does he serve? My guess is he has no real influence inside the paper at all, because I cannot remember a single change that Casasús has made in the way La Vanguardia has traditionally done things. I think he's a combination of a salve on the conscience of the bosses of the paper, allowing them to think they're running a principled organization because they've got an ombudsman, and a mere fashion statement--since everybody else has an ombudsman, let's us get one too. Come on, La Vanguardia. You ought to be smarter than this. Fire this guy and bring in someone who's actually willing to question your standard procedures, or don't bother pretending to have an ombudsman. And it's very cynical to bury this wave of angered letters you have received in the least-read section of the paper.

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