<xmp> <!-- <BODY> --> </xmp> The Written CHORO: The CENSORED Vin's Eye View

By Victor Hernandez

Or why Vin's Eye View is no longer printed on The Daily Aztec.
Illustration from Indigenous Mexican Codex.
Comic strips by Victor Hernandez.

It all started right by the middle of the Fall 1997 semester. I got myself an interview with Jamie Butow, who by that time, and still through the Spring 98 semester, was the editor in chief of the Aztec. The purpose of the interview was to get myself a job as a cartoonist.

Prior to this I had already applied for the position right at beginning of the Spring 97 semester, but a certain Adrian Loudermilk, who interviewed me on that particular time, had told me that the only way I could work there would be illustrating the editorials. According to him the only time I would be allowed to submit Vin's Eye View would be on Fridays and only if there was any space available. Thanks but no thanks. I declined the offer based on my conviction that I didn't apply to illustrate somebody else's work, but to get MY own work printed, just like a cartoonist does.

Anyway, since I knew that the cartoonists from the Aztec get paid --I was told this by one of their former cartoonist who signed his work as Hugo Costwhite-- I told Jamie (I really hope I'm spelling these names correctly), who printed a message asking for contributors, that I would work as a cartoonist under three conditions:

ONE: I would work as a CARTOONIST, not as an illustrator. That meant that I would NOT be a mere illustrator of somebody else's editorial since, first and foremost, I often disagreed with what the editors printed, and second, because I know that a cartoon can be just as powerful an editorial as plain written word.

TWO: I would get paid for my work. If in the past the cartoonist have gotten paid --not much, but paid anyway-- it would only be fair for me to get the proper monetary compensation for my work.

THREE: Finally, but most importantly, I would NOT be censored. I knew that dissent was punished at the Aztec. Just a few years before a worked had been fired because he manifested his disagreement with the Aztec by throwing a stack of Daily Aztecs to the garbage. It was merely a symbolic act meant at expressing disagreement, but nevertheless they censored his actions by firing him. I have no idea if Jamie was involved in this, and she probably wasn't, but the act was there and, as I went on to discover later on, the policy doesn't seem to change with new people on the staff.

Jamie agreed to allow my work to be printed. However, she said that there were not enough funds to pay for my work. She offered me to print the comic strip without pay during the Fall 97 semester, and then, in Spring 98, "probably" pay me if there were enough funds. I was a little bit skeptic on the "probably" part but I accepted anyway. It didn't hurt to be trusting.

What ended up being unclear was the censorship policy. Jamie told me that if there was material that would questionable the decision on it being printed or not would be decided by the editorial staff. Well, I hoped they had good sense, but, as you'll see, this was yet another dissapointment.

In the end I was told to leave the material I wanted to print with the editors so they could give it to the opinion editor, named Greg Paull, so he could put it in the opinion page. The strip was supposed to be printed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but for some reason the first Tuesday it was supposed to be printed it was not. When I asked Greg Paul why the strip was not printed he wrote me a noticeably irked response telling me that if I wanted to print something on "HIS" page (that's how he typed it) he would appreciate it if I could go through him first. Apparently he felt I was stepping on his toes.

I responded to him with an equally irked letter telling him that if I did not go through him the first time it was because the editor in chief NEVER told me anything about it and instructed me to give HER the work. Finally we both agreed to meet to figure things out person to person.

That first meeting with Greg Paul was, of course, apologetic from both sides. Things however, started to go not so well afterwards. The first sign I noticed about Greg Paul being not quite as competent as an opinion editor as I thought he should be happenned because of an editorial regarding the Aztec's "opinion" on who should be depicted on the new one dollar coins. In the editorial there was something which, I'm sure, was a typo, but which, nevertheless, was not exactly what would be considered nice. The editorial said that in the past coins did not depict "REAL PEOPLE", only animals, liberty motiffs and "AMERICAN INDIANS."

Notice the faulty wording: According to the editorials "American Indians" (which is not even the proper term for Native Americans) were not "REAL PEOPLE." This editorial was printed right on the day Doctor Nancy Federman showed us a video on Native Americans on her Minority Studies class. When I pointed out the editorial to her she agreed with me: it sounded offensive.

That same day I asked Greg Paull about the editorial and he said he didn't find anything wrong with it. Then, when I told him Doctor Federman also saw the offense in it, Greg, not very enthusiastically, offered to print a disclaimer about it. My guess is that if I had told this to Greg without the backup of Doctor Federman Greg would have NOT done anything about it.

Then I got into a discussion with Greg about me writing editorials debunking past editorials. He said that if I wanted to write one that would be fine but it would be published only if there was space available (turned out all of the spaces for the next several weeks were already full save for an odd day some days after) with and if I were to attack an issue and not an editorial. According to Greg "we stand behind" what "we" print.

The problem was these people were staying behind very mediocre, and utterly unprofessional material going from hasty generalizations to omission of facts, both flagrant violations of the most simple logic needed in writing editorials. An editorial without logic, and with mere opinion, is no longer an editorial, but propaganda.

An example of the lack of logic in the editorials came from a certain James Holter, who, without citing statistics or sources of any kind, was bold enough to say that "most of us" have smoked marihuana in his editorial, you guessed it, defending the drug (a very cliche subject but, apparently, one to wich most recur when inspiration lacks.) Needless to say I was a tad irked when I read this hasty generalization, and wondered about the kind of ethics the editors of the Aztec followed--unless they were ready to admit that what it was meant by "most of us" was most of the people working at the Aztec. I was irked not because of the marihuana (which in itself it's such a cliche that it eludes seriousness), but because it meant that, apparently, they didn't require logic to be applied to the editorials, and thus their supposed professionalism was thereby rendered incompetent.

Then there was an editorial stating that Prop.209, which banned affirmative action in California was "a will of the people." Too bad they didn't mention that in order to convince the voters to pass the measure the propaganda they got bombarded with omitted most of the facts. In the passing of Prop.209, therfore, there was nothing democratic about it. If anything Prop.209 was the manipulated will of the people--worse yet: manipulated by racially motivated antagonism.

But what really took the cake, what really made me protest against the Aztec's negligence (well, the editors', who were supposed to make sure all of the above didn't happen), was an editorial in which illegal immigrants were called "criminals."

This sharply bothered me for two reasons. One: Illigal immigrants are, in California, mostly Mexicans, and when people talk about illegal aliens in California they do NOT picture Russians, nor people from the Netherlands. No, they picture MEXICANS. As a Mexican I felt that, being a part of the staff of the Aztec I was being a part of this offense against my own people. Plus! I have known a few illegal immigrants myself and they are among the most decent, hard working people I have met in this country, whose only desire is to have a decent living. Not even the lavish "American Dream" full of materialistic posessions, but merely a stable job, and the chance to live peacefully. Some of these people even have to work two 8 hour, back-breaking shifts a week in order to provide for themselves and their families.

But was this considered by the person who wrote the editorial? No. Even worse: was this considered by Greg Paull who was supposed to keep an eye on things? Again NO. What Greg Paull DID keep an eye on was on what I did about all this stupidity the Aztec displayed.

I felt I had to do something. I didn't want to be an accomplice in the lack of professionalism the Aztec was displaying, so I made two installments of Vin's Eye View dealing with the subject of editorial writing. Here are the strips I'm talking about:

Rejected Vin's Eye View strip
Other Rected Vin's Eye View strip

Guess what happenned next? I got this letter from Greg Paull. Notice my comments in brackets so you can see what's going on:

From: paull@rohan.sdsu.edu
Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 13:26:20 -0800
To: toliro@usa.net
Subject: Recent Vin's Eye View
Cc: butow@rohan.sdsu.edu


I read your recent submissions of Vin's Eye View and I find them unacceptable.

[Notice he said "I." According to Jamie Butow, and by Greg's own admission during the time I talked with with about the "American Indians" matter only the editorial board could decide if a strip should be censored or not. Was that policy being enforced in here?]

Before we agreed to print your strip, we told you not to run strips that attack the editorial content of The Daily Aztec. Both of these strips do this.

[First of all this is false. I explicitly told Jamie that I would NOT be censored, and the only response she could come up with was that the editorial board would decide when material should be censored or not. I was NEVER told not to attack the Aztec. In fact, I was told by Greg himself that if I wanted to take a different position than the one taken by an editorial I could do so, just not on the same day. As idiotic as this may be that's what he said and I simply did it.]

[And besides, the strips hardly said anything that could be considered other than a logic criticism based on the available data (something the Aztec's editorials often didn't even bother to do.) Greg's statement, therefore, was simply uncalled for.]

Neither of these strips will be published.

[This, in case you are wondering, is known as CENSORSHIP.]

If you want a strip published in Tuesday's paper, submit it by 5 p.m. Monday. It is now 1:30 p.m. This allows 3 1/2 hours. I realize it is a tight deadline and I hope you receive this message in time.

[What this means is that he will only accept what he wants. Still, he had already told me in the past that often he himslef didn't agree with some of the editorials other writers submitted, but that he printed them nevertheless. Why was my honest criticism not deserving of the same treatment?]

For Thursday's strip, please submit another one by the close of business on Tuesday.

[I told him to go to hell, of course. Well, not with those words, but with the similar idea in mind.]

Greg Paull
Daily Aztec Opinion Editor

Jamie Butow, Daily Aztec Editor in Chief

[This means Jamie, the editor in chief was aware of this because a copy of the e-mail was sent to her at the same time it was sent to me. If this is true then she was part of the censorship because she did nothing about it. Not only she contradicted her own words about the "editorial board" being the ones responsible for decisions on censorship, but she contradicted the Aztec's statements about the United States being "based on freedom" and justifying the Aztec's printing of adult-oriented ads on the basis of freedom of speech. What a sham!]

Anyway, this was too offensive for my intelligence, so I stopped sending them my strips. I'd rather not have anything to do with these people after they displayed their utter lack of ethics in regards to freedom of expression. Just imagine: defending an illegal drug GOOD, harmless criticism about the Aztec editorials BAD. Being this the situation, quite frankly, I decided this was NOT what I would like my work te be involved with.

Now, why is this relevant to you: I'm very sure that sooner or later the Aztec will be printing another of those very patriotic statements about "America being based on freedom" (they always do this when the readers start telling them the truth about the crap they print.) If you are a student at SDSU and you happen to catch one of these corny notes, keep this CHORO in mind. NOW you know who you'll be dealing with.

Back to the main CHORO


TOLIRO and VIN'S EYE VIEW Copyright 1997-1998 by Victor Hernandez. All rights reserved. Free space for TOLIRO provided by PROHOSTING.