With the impeccable timing that continues to cement Tucson’s reputation as a hotbed of censorship and intellectual freedom violations, the online Tucson Citizen news site just announced that it has pulled the plug on the city’s most popular Latino blogger and activist, The Three Sonorans.
Despite drawing over 1.6 million visits to his take-no-prisoners blog on politics, science and Sonoran hot dogs–including shutting down the Citizen’s server for breaking the tragic Gabby Giffords shooting in Tucson last year–The Three Sonorans blogger David “Abie” Morales is the latest casualty in Tucson’s seemingly relentless crackdown on the city’s deeply rooted Latino community.
In what appears to be more of a personal act of retribution than editorial concern, Citizen editor Mark Evans wrote in an email that The Three Sonorans‘ liability outweighed its benefit when the Tucson Weekly “posted an article last night that included verbatim email communications I had with David over his Patterson post.” Evans added for good measure: “In the end, it’s better for both of us. He won’t have anyone to answer to but himself and his readers and I won’t have to worry about getting angry phone calls from pissed off people at my mother’s funeral.”
In recent days, Morales had been particularly critical of state Rep. Daniel Patterson, a former Tucson Democrat currently embroiled in an ethics violation investigation, who has apparently threatened to sue Evans and the Citizen over Morales’ blogs. According to the Arizona Capitol Times today, “Some lawmakers have begun bringing firearms to the state Capitol, citing a growing fear of Rep. Daniel Patterson, whose alleged hostile outbursts and erratic behavior were detailed in an investigative report on Monday.”
Only two days after the Daily Show skewered inept Tucson school board member Michael Hicks for the dismantling of the city’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program–including the internationally condemned confiscation of classic books and removal of Mexican American literature from the district’s classrooms–and one day after the school district announced that the city’s just nationally honored Mexican American Studies director Sean Arce had been sacked, the Citizen’s move to shut down the muckraking Latino blogger has unleashed a storm of outrage.
“I think it was wrongheaded in the extreme,” said Tucson political insider and blogger Luke Knipe. “If there’s an upshot, it’s a yet another glaring sign of right-wing desperation to control constituencies they fear by controlling access to information. It won’t work, of course. If anything, it’ll make Abie’s voice more powerful than ever. But this certainly amounts to a spectacle of how scared they are.”
To be sure, The Three Sonorans has been an equal opportunity muckraker–the last blogs criticized US Rep. Raul Grijalva and Tucson’s Democrats–since its debut posting in 2010. His site served as a treasure trove of video archives, interviews and opinions, with a special focus on Arizona’s battles over the SB 1070 immigration law, the Ethnic Studies crisis, and political conflicts. As an indefatigable presence with his camera at Tucson’s school board meetings and local political gatherings, Morales broke several news stories over the past year, including the harrowing testimony of bloodshed by a Tea Party activist at a school board meeting last summer that ultimately led to the demotion of TUSD school board president Mark Stegemen.
Morales’ termination places him in good company in Tucson’s history of Latino journalism. Nearly a half century ago, pioneering Chicano author and columnist Mario Suarez drew the wrath of former Arizona governor Howard Pyle for his investigative and biting columns on corruption and discrimination in the Prensa Mexicana newspaper. Faced with reprisals and threats against his family, Suarez had to end his column, “El Gavilan,” but went on to lead community and education efforts in Arizona and California.