Thursday, April 05, 2007

letter to the editor challenging racism - w/ an update!

Update: Below is a copy of a letter to the editor I sent out on March 20, 2007. The magazine's tagline, by the way, is "women and children changing the world." This month's World Pulse update featured the following note from the editor:

Editor's Note: Our March 20 Spotlight edition ran a Reuters article entitled "Hungary's Radical Youths Take to the Streets." Astute comments from one of our readers, Tereza Topferova, led us to further investigate the article, as it seemed to glorify the efforts of the "radical youths" in question. We are currently reaching out to our contacts on the ground to gain a better understanding of the situation. In the meantime, we encourage you to explore what the following sources have to say about this radical group:

Country Report on Human Rights Practices - Hungary, 2006 (U.S. Department of State)

Far Right Tries to Take Control of the Revolt (The Times Online)

Original letter I sent to the editor:

Dear World Pulse editors:

As a former editorial volunteer, I am of course your publication's fan. I do enjoy receiving your e-mail spotlights as well. However, I found one of the news items included in your latest (March 20th, 2007) update, greatly disturbing, its message at odds with World Pulse's mission, which according to your website, is to broadcast the "wellspring of positive solutions. . . essential for solving today's cyclical global problems" while "advancing journalism, reframing global debates, magnifying movements, inspiring investment, and motivating action."

The news item I am referring to vaguely alludes to a movement. However, what kind of a movement, I had to research for myself. And what I learned about this movement and its underlying philosophy, after several hours of internet research, troubles me immensely, and brings me to the conclusion that such movements must not be magnified in any way or sanctioned by publications such as yours, because of their hateful, racist undertones.

The news article in question featured in your latest update, which is usually meant to inspire and highlight positive happenings around the world, was a Reuters story entitled "Hungary: Hungary's Radical Youths Take to the Streets".

At a quick glance, it would seem that the combination of the words radical, youth, and streets, would seem to point to a report on a demonstration staged by social justice oriented anti-globalization activists. I could see how this assumption could be made by your magazine's editors, too in a hurry to investigate the story further. However, in your spotlight underneath the article link, you did include a quote from the news report that raised a flag for me and hopefully for many other of your readers. I doubt, though, that most of them had the full knowledge of the issue at hand or the time to research it further. So, I have compiled some information that I hope exposes the "radicals" in this story the way they need to be exposed in the media. It is important that you circulate this information, because I strongly feel that
your publication's editorial credibility has suffered by your inclusion of this article.

The quote you published as a tease for the story is as follows: 

Soft-spoken, well-educated and armed with a laptop, 29-year-old Gabor Vona leads a radical right-wing group of young Hungarians usually at the forefront of anti-government protests that began late last year.

The words "right-wing" raised a flag for me, because I thought it strange that World Pulse would endorse an action by a group subscribing to radical, right-wing ideas.

After setting the scene by, in my opinion, vaguely and cursorily establishing the conflict between the current Socialist-led government of Hungary and its opponents, the article continues with a description of Vona, which should have been a clue for World Pulse editors: "'Vona, who has a history degree, admires the Hungarian regime which briefly regained lands lost in World War One by allying itself with Nazi Germany. He also considers the Roma minority a source of crime, though he denies being racist."

Vona leads a party called Jobbik, the article states. The Reuters article does a piss-poor job, I'd say, of explaining the platform of this organization. So, here is what I found out about Jobbik:

According to wikipedia, The Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom) is a radical right-wing political party in Hungary, led by Gábor Vona.

It was launched as a circle of friends of right-wing students at ELTE university in November 1999, under the name Jobboldali Ifjúsági Közösség ("Right-wing Youth Community"), in short, Jobbik. It spread over several other universities in the country and became a political movement. Its short name, Jobbik, is not only an acronym but a word on its own, meaning "the better one" (i.e., out of a closed set) as the word for "better" (and "right") is simply jobb in Hungarian.

And guess who endorses the group's activities? None other than the U.S.-based white supremacist organization National Alliance.

Roger Boyes of Times Online describes Jobbik as an extremist grouping, which allies itself with the Hungarian Justice and Life party (MIEP), whose leader István Csurka "is one of the most sinister figures in the nationalist undergrowth of Central Europe. His anti-Semitic rhetoric, denouncing Jews for their collaboration with communists and their role in global finance, is familiar territory. But Mr Csurka takes prejudice to crazy heights: 178 Hungarian estate agencies, he claimed, are in Jewish hands in a secret attempt to buy up the country."

These two groups are apparently "using the anti-government rallies to break free and carve out their own identity."

The U.S. Department of State website states that “In April [of 2006] during elections for the National Assembly, candidates of the nationalistic, far right-wing Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP-Jobbik) espoused xenophobic and anti-Semitic slogans. The party has not been represented in the assembly since 2002.”

Please take better care to research the news items you endorse. Your readership deserves at least that much.

Thank you,
Tereza Topferova

As a follow up, I would like to share a letter I received from the managing editor of World Pulse. In a nutshell, they invited me to become a volunteer regional curator, a person who helps advise their editorial team on the magazine content.

Dearest Tereza,

I apologize that it has taken us so long to respond to your astute letter. Our organization is just this week shifting from a 7-person team to a 15-person team, and we were all in retreat mode last week, figuring out how best to working together as we move forward. Please know that your comments are being taken very seriously and we are preparing a fulller section on the issue for our upcoming newsletter, taking your thoughts into consideration. It is of course of the utmost importance to us that we package and prevent events as responsibly as possible for our audience.

As we go through the process of expanding as an organization, our editorial team will also be expanding to include a volunteer team of regional curators -- people who listen and help advise our team on which voices to highlight across the editorial content for both World Pulse Media (our for-profit media enterprise) and World Pulse Voices (our nonprofit, which houses an online networking tool designed to facilitate social change). The scope of our project is huge and our asipirations high, as you have undoubtely surmised. Nonetheless we remain very seriously dedicated to our overarching mission of empowering the "women and children transforming our world." In order to be sucessfull, will be asking for a great deal of help from savvy, committed individuals such as yourself.

Our global voices director, Ramya, who will be establishing and fostering relations with this group of regional curators, is eager to contact you if you are interested in working together with our group in any way. Just say the word. And if this does not sound like something you are interested in, please know that you have an open invitation to contribute comments, ideas, contacts and stories at any time.

Again, many thanks for your careful reading and for honoring our mission enough to instigate a discussion.

Warmest regards,

Maria Jett
Managing Editor
World Pulse Media


Karin said...

I'd be surprised if you didn't get a job offer out of this. Sounds like they still need you on staff.

Goldie said...

I googled "pulse wire maria jett" and your blog was the first thing to pop up. How did you do that?