Making the rounds today of media watch blogs today is a story by a journalist about why he was fired from his job as editor of a suburban Southern California AOL Patch news website was fired a year ago. Dennis Wilen said he lost his job with Brentwood Patch last spring after he posted a cartoon satire of the Cinco de Mayo attitudes of the affluent residents in his community.
The cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz, a nationally syndicated Latino cartoonist. “I was thrilled to score a cartoon from a cartoonist of Lalo’s stature at Patch’s standard rate of $50,” writes Willen, who now works for Alcaraz at the news and satire website Pocho. Wilen gives an account of his firing on the Pocho website.
The cartoon was part of a Cinco de Mayo package. Wilen says he thought the cartoon “perfectly expressed Brentwood’s reality.” The cartoon, he says, still makes me laugh.
But he said someone in Patch’s New York headquarters deemed the cartoon offensive for its “blatantly racist stereotypes.”
Yes, the cartoon contains racist stereotypes, but the cartoon, to me, satirizes people who hold those sterotypes. Presumably, such people include white residents of communities like Brentwood.
Could it also include white residents of communities like Walnut Creek, Lamorinda, the San Ramon Valley?
This story attracted my attention because 1) it involves my former employer — and I’m familiar with the decision making processes that went into Wilen being fired; and 2) it raises questions about the nature of satire to deal with difficult social issues.