r Letter From Eastie: Ok. Bring on the hate mail.
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Collaged view of Boston, from East Boston

Letter From Eastie

News and other items from East Boston, Massachusetts.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ok. Bring on the hate mail.

It seems that my recent post about the Boston Herald has caused a stir. Ok, for me this is a stir, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s hardly a blip, but I feel I need to address certain issues that have occurred to me reading the comments here, and the posts here and here, and here.

Unfortunately, the nature of blogging often necessitates over simplification, therefore, I want to make it clear exactly what my beef is with the Boston Herald in relation to their recent coverage of gang activity in East Boston and also respond to some comments I’ve read regarding immigration.

Issue #1: My point is not that the Herald should not be covering MS-13 or any other gang for that matter. In fact, I think they should be covering these stories, as gang violence is a problem for the entire city and surrounding towns. However, where my problem with the Herald begins is that I believe that they are deliberately covering this issue in a way that is sensationalistic and in my opinion constitutes immigrant baiting and that is ultimately detrimental to the city of East Boston. They are connecting two groups--immigrants and terrorists--both decidedly outsiders. They are portraying that link in a way that is, if not outright falsehood, is at least suspect. The Herald themselves have reported in a January 7th article by Michelle McPhee that “’The FBI has not established a link between MS-13 and al-qaeda,’ said Joe Parris, supervisory special agent in the FBI national press office. ‘There is no link established.’” (Strangely, this story seems to have become expired from the Herald web site and it is not available in either Lexis-Nexis or Newsbank. You can see that the story once existed, but you can’t read it.) According to the Christian Science Monitor, in one of the stories which Jay Fitzgerald (I can't believe a real journalist gives a crap what I say) cites to back up the Herald's stories:

One of the biggest concerns is that terrorists may [emphasis mine] exploit the current crossing procedures to make their way into the US. One way they might do this - and members of Congress say evidence is mounting that terrorists are trying this - is by paying smuggling networks, especially organized gangs.
The operative word in this paragraph is may. That means it's not a done deal--it's something that has to be watched. Measures have to be put in place to prevent this. I never said that MS-13 was not a homeland security risk. My point was that East Boston is not the new international headquarters of al-Qaeda.

Now let's run through some of the Herald's headlines on this subject in recent months:

March 4: Rep: Terrorist gang could infiltrate border

January 13: Flaherty: Eastie gang poses threat to LNGs in harbor


January 6:
Cops: We nabbed killer terror gangster (My personal favorite)

January 5:

People can chose to believe or not to believe the FBI spokesman quoted above, but the fact remains that given the Herald’s glaring headlines and hyperbolic language the foremost idea being conveyed to the readers of the Herald is that Salvadoran gang member=terrorist and East Boston=battle zone. But this is a false impression. Eastie is more than just a free fire zone between downtown and the airport. It is a diverse neighborhood of hardworking people, with a great history, wonderful restaurants, a vibrant community of artists, great parks and reasonable rents. All of which will suffer if people are too scared to set foot here. If people are too afraid to walk the streets that means they are giving up those streets to the criminals.

Issue #2: I do not live in a bubble. I said there were two murders in Eastie last year. I did not say that there was no crime. We have plenty of assault and battery, domestic violence, breaking and entering, forced prostitution, rape, drug dealing, bookmaking, and yes machete attacks. But, we had all of those things (ok maybe not the machetes) before the Salvadorans arrived and if the Salvadorans move on, I’m sure we’ll still have most of these things (ditto machetes) when they are gone. I remember what East Boston was like in the mid-80s through the early 90s. The city was dead. Houses owned by absentee landlords, stores closed, parks unkempt. This is not the case anymore. There is hardly a storefront that doesn’t have some kind of independent small business in it, new parks have been built and are being maintained, houses are being rehabbed and new condominium units are being built everywhere you turn. All of this started to happen after the Salvadorans, and Colombians, and Brazilians and other Latin American immigrants started to move into East Boston. So clearly, Latin American immigration has not been bad for East Boston’s economy.

Issue #3: My beef with the Herald has nothing to do with the fact that it is a conservative paper. My problem is that I think the Herald is doing some bad journalism in terms of it's coverage of this Eastie issue. Politics on the editorial page should have nothing to do with the quality of the journalism in the news section. Humorous post titles aside, I don’t want to live in a one newspaper town. I don’t think the Globe deserves any prizes, either—at least the Herald seems to have a permanent reporter (Michelle McPhee) on the East Boston beat.

Issue #4: On immigrants and immigration. It may shock some people to know this, but immigrants are people. I know that we use the term “alien,” but in this case, we don’t mean immigrants are from Mars. Latin American immigrants are like everyone else. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, some of them work hard, some are lazy. MS-13 are bad guys. Let me say this again, so nobody is confused, MS-13 are bad guys, but they are not representative of the Salvadoran population as a whole, in the same way that the Mafia is not representative of Italians as a whole. Also, I know that schools don't teach geography anymore, but Latin America is not a country. It's a continent an entire region and Latin American immigrants are not some amorphous blob. Without even counting the small islands of the Caribbean, they come from 26 different countries each with its own history, traditions, and problems.

Issue #5: Why is this guy a hero for crossing the border illegally because he's Cuban? How many non-Cubans who have made this same arduous journey are arrested and sent right back over the border? Won't he be "stealing" an American job? Couldn't people working for al-Qaeda exploit this loophole--maybe even with Castro's blessing? He's a bad guy, too, right?


  • At 9:50 AM, Blogger carpundit said…

    I don't mean to be pedantic, but this minor point itches me: Latin America, whatever else it may be, is not a continent. South and North America are continents.


  • At 10:36 AM, Blogger Marilora said…

    Oops, my bad. Thank you carpundit. I made the correction. That's what happens when I write posts after 11:00 p.m.


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