From Selma to Long Island: NYT Denounces Outside Agitators

There was an Editorial Observer piece in the New York Times today (12/4/08) that really read like a piece from the segregated South of the 1950s, taking the side of the Jim Crow-enforcing sheriff against the outside agitators.

The piece described an event at a church in Patchogue, N.Y., that encouraged immigrants to talk about hidden hate crimes in a community where a gang had allegedly targeted immigrants for a string of assaults that went unreported until the crimes escalated into the murder of Ecuadorean Marcelo Lucero. The church’s pastor, working with an activist group, got immigrant crime victims to record their stories and tried to hook them up with lawyers. Then they held a press conference.

By the New York Times‘ account, that’s pretty much all that happened. But in the Times‘ telling, it was headlined as “A Hate-Crime Circus.” Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes described it as a “guilt fiesta,” bizarrely equating it in his lead with the stabbing that it was a response to–both were “crimes against immigrants.”

In the role of the put-upon sheriff trying to keep the Freedom Riders from stirring up the local colored folk, Downes has the Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, Jr., who “kept a rueful watch from the edge of the circus ring”:

Mr. Pontieri has spent a lot of time getting to know his Latino neighbors better and insists that they are not angry. There is confusion and sadness, he said, but the anger–like the teens accused of killing Mr. Lucero–comes from outside.

(Actually, the accused teens didn’t come from very far outside Patchogue; some of them came from East Patchogue, while the others came from Medford, which is close enough to have the same high school.)

Downes thinks of himself as an advocate for immigrants. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.