Grass Valley, CA — The Union of Grass Valley has taken a page out of its 150 year legacy with a recent advertisement. Unfortunately for the local paper, that page appears to be from sometime in 1952. On page A10 of the October 29th edition, the Swift Communications darling published a ridiculous, inaccurate and racist “advertorial” from a local man who maintains that President Obama is “a Muslim born in Iran, but a paid lackey of George Soros.” And that’s just the beginning of the bigoted, mentally unstable rant that goes on to include several reactionary dog whistle conspiracies about the Black Panthers, Obamacare, the Weathermen, undocumented workers and the real reason gasoline is so cheap. However the most troubling of these is the racist “patriotically correct” and resoundingly disproven “birther” claim that President Obama is a Muslim.
It is unclear why the Union of Grass Valley chose to run this obviously false, bigoted dog-whistle racist diatribe, but it seems that the publisher and the editor have little regard for decency and decorum in a small community where everyone knows each other. More troubling, by giving such knuckle-dragging hatred a platform to spew inappropriate racist doggerel, it disgracefully questions the paper’s status of “the newspaper of record” for this area. It is unclear where the gross lack of judgment happened by the Union’s management, although they were kind enough to wrap this advertorial in a red banner with an “all caps” PAID POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT.
There’s no question that what’s on trial this election season is decency; basic human decency. And frankly no paper or its editorial policy is immune from bias, errors in judgment, or just plain laziness. A critical and reasonable person would and does forgive such transgressions. But the publication of this racist and fabricated screed by one of the oldest newspapers in the United States is beyond the pale and sows the seeds of hatred from what most people thought was a bygone era.
It’s hard to imagine what the Union’s defense will be. But there could be a few they might try. This is about the 1st Amendment. We marked it appropriately as an advertisement, what’s the big deal? We needed the money. Maybe they find the word “deplorable” endearing? However the community does not care at this point as this is a gross violation of the basic modern publishing standards by enabling and being a partner to this puerile tantrum by a local racist.
Publishing this kind of reactionary “patriotically correct” speech lacks a sense of decorum, as it also damages community’s social fabric by normalizing divisive and destructive speech. An immediate retraction, apology and explanation regarding this screed is probably in order, but the Union doesn’t seem to care else they would not have run it. Don’t beg forgiveness when you clearly could have consulted common decency first. It may be free speech, but it doesn’t mean it’s not false and inaccurate, and it is certainly not becoming of the community’s newspaper of record.