Wow, Local Newspapers Can Suck

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Bill Johnson, the candidate for superior court judge in Los Angeles with the white supremacist past. He tried to hitch a ride on the Ron Paul blimp but was wisely given the heave -ho.

My hometown weekly rag — which I grew up reading, and for which I wrote as a high school student — has decided to cover Johnson. Will it be incisive reporting? Will the La Canada Valley Sun blow the lid off of this scandal, or reach some profound conclusions about how a man's evil past can come back to haunt him 25 years later?

Not quite.

La Canada Valley Sun reporter Charles Cooper wrote an article including this:

The lawyer did not return several calls from the Valley Sun, but he told the League of Women Voters he was running at the urging of several fellow supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul. He said, “About 50 fellow supporters urged me to run for office. I felt that Superior Court judge was the office I was most qualified for.” He said his best attribute in running for office is “I am fair and honest in all my dealings.”

Johnson listed as his top priorities if elected as “follow the constitution and promote fairness.” The candidate has in the past promoted more stringent immigration policies and supported the Pace Amendment to limit rights of illegal immigrants.

That's the only mention of Johnson's past in the article.

Just to refresh your memory, let's look at the actual text of the Pace Amendment, which Charles Cooper of the Valley Sun describes as an amendment "to limit the rights of illegal immigrants."

No person shall be a citizen of the United States unless he is a non-Hispanic white of the European race, in whom there is no ascertainable trace of Negro blood, nor more than one-eighth Mongolian, Asian, Asia Minor, Middle Eastern, Semitic, Near Eastern, American Indian, Malay or other non-European or non-white blood, provided that Hispanic whites, defined as anyone with an Hispanic ancestor, may be citizens if, in addition to meeting the aforesaid ascertainable trace and percentage tests, they are in appearance indistinguishable from Americans whose ancestral home is in the British Isles or Northwestern Europe. Only citizens shall have the right and privilege to reside permanently in the United States.

So Cooper's description is accurate, so long as you believe that "illegal immigrant" means "anyone who isn't a white of Northwestern European descent."

I don't expect much from my local rag. It's good to see what the school board is up to or when the harvest festival will be or where I can find someone to fix a fence. I don't expect Woodward and Bernstein. But when they dip their toe into political waters, I don't expect such abject suckitude.

Let's be clear — Charles Cooper, and by extension the Valley Sun, is either lazy, incompetent, or dishonest. By May 22, when this ran, Johnson's background was all over the internet. The most casual Google search would have produced hits that would have revealed his background and the true nature of the Pace Amendment. If Cooper didn't research it, he's lazy. If he researched it and didn't find the text of the Pace Amendment or Johnson's background, or if he found it and honestly thought that was a fair summary of it, he's incompetent. I only hope that one of those explanations fits. I really hope that a reporter for my hometown paper — to which I submitted badly-written summaries of high school football games 25 years ago — didn't deliberately whitewash the background of a white supremacist to assist in his judicial campaign.

Perhaps Cooper or the Valley Sun feel that Johnson's a neighbor and a decent bloke now and that the past is past. I'm willing to hear out arguments about redemption (though I doubt I'd find them persuasive in this instance). But as I said before, such political redemption would necessarily involve full disclosure and apology. Johnson hasn't given it. This Valley Sun article doesn't move the ball in that direction. The notion that it's irrelevant that a judicial candidate advocated explicitly racist measures — even 25 years ago — is indefensible.

If Charles Cooper and the La Canada Valley Sun imagine themselves anything more than purveyors of a weekly accumulation of want ads, they ought to be ashamed.


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