When Whatcom Watch monthly community news started in May 1992, it was to give a voice to the voiceless: those excluded or demonized by the mainstream news monopoly Bellingham Herald for criticizing its anti-Indian racism and cover-ups of associated corporate crimes. Since then, the volunteer-run publication has had ups and downs, but always stood firm as a venue where the truth could be told. Now, it appears that this noble enterprise might be coming to an ignoble end.
In the October 2013 and January 2014 issues, Whatcom Watch published two ground-breaking articles by investigative journalist Sandra Robson, titled How Property Rights Can Become Property Wrongs, and What Would Corporations Do? Native American Rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal. (Both of these articles linked to articles of mine.) Then, in February, the spokesman for Gateway Pacific Terminal threatened Whatcom Watch with a SLAPP suit, and by the end of March the paper faced mass resignations and chaos.
Out of the chaos, two interim manager/editors emerged, Jennifer Karchmer and Terry Wechsler. Wechsler immediately began blaming the messenger for their troubles. In a hostile email to this author, she said my advice to expose, confront and reject organized racism is “counterproductive.”
As the tribal water rights conflict has consistently been inflamed by the anti-tribal Bellingham Herald, the loss of Whatcom Watch as a critical news source would leave the region vulnerable to the fossil fuel export corporations, racist organizations like Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), and their property rights/Tea Party allies.
The position apparently taken by Wechsler is that exposure of racism — such as that done by Robson and myself — is problematic. Does this mean they should discontinue investigative journalism about the Far Right? Such a position would be particularly troublesome, since Sandra Robson is the only journalist examining violent white supremacy in the region.
Astonishingly, Wechsler actually suggested to me that Skip Richards‘ racist organizing in the 1990s was a thing of the past, because he told her he no longer does that. I pointed out to her that Richards was one of the two people who organized the CERA anti-Indian conference one year ago.
Evidently,Wechsler sees no threat in the “Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country” working alongside the Christian Right with Gateway Pacific Terminal funding, and thinks it is A-OK that Skip Richards played a key role in making that happen. Is she afraid to oppose him, or is she just naive? It’s the cowardly liberal elite versus democracy all over again.