El Paso Spam: the Newspaper Tree

Written by: Martin Paredes

Early, in August 2003 it showed up quietly in e-mail boxes across the city, unobtrusive at first but nonetheless it came out of no where, or so it seemed. A new online publication, the Newspaper Tree, which, according to its editor Emanuel Anthony Martinez is modeled after an 1800’s tree that had a board that was used by El Pasoan’s for public notices. Interestingly, the editor, either intentionally or not, nonetheless used a 1940’s; El Paso Times article to explain what his new publication was about.

As if foreshadowing what was to be, Martinez’ referenced an article from the 1860’s that appeared in the El Paso Times. According to the Times’ article, a Mr. Mills posted; “I have just been informed that J.S. Gillett, W.J. Morton and J.R. Sipes stated last night to R. Doane and F. Remy that I was an Abolitionist, for the purpose of injuring my character. As I never cast any other than a Democratic vote or expressed other than Democratic sentiments, I denounce the three above named persons as wilful and malicious lying scoundrels. Sipes and Morton owe me borrowed money for the last two years and I would like to have a settlement. I have never asked anyone to vote for me as surveyor and I now withdraw my name and will not serve if elected.”

Alongside this notice, appeared another posting that said; “A certain contemptible ‘pup’ signing himself A. Mills having published the undersigned as scoundrels we have only to say that he is so notoriously known throughout the entire county as a damned black Republican scoundrel, we deem him unworthy of further notice. However we hereby notify this fellow that his insignificance shall not protect him in the future.”

Clearly an unequivocal challenge from one “gentleman” to another, posted for the world to see, a calling out of one faction by another.

Questions quietly begun to circulate among the community about this new publication, what was it and what was it all about. Among the questions, the most pressing one was, where did they get my e-mail address from? Was this nothing more than spam, unsolicited e-mail, or was it something even more insidious than that?

The Newspaper Tree slowly began to betray itself, while pretending to be a “new progressive publication”, it nonetheless set a clear agenda of attacking the new Wardy Administration from the moment Wardy began to assert his administration’s policies. Progressive publications, by their nature tend to challenge the status-quo of a community and in so doing tend to attack the sitting governmental entities of a community. That is expected and desired in a “progressive” publication; after all, their inception is a voice for those voices that seem to be lost in the wilderness.

Naturally a question began to arise, is this truly a progressive publication or is it nothing more than “an agenda driven journal” intended to discredit the sitting government?

Questions, those pesky little words that always seem to trip up those whose only intent is to manipulate the public’s perception to serve their own nefarious needs are the very questions that this community deserves an answer to. Assumptions and innuendo are drawn by the lack of information therefore it is incumbent upon us to ask the necessary questions in order to make a fair and informed determination as to what the truth really is.

Simple questions, or so I thought, as I typed them and sent them on their way to Anthony Martinez, after all, in my opinion, they were fair and they seem to get to crux of it all.  I expected one of two things to happen, the first was that I would get a polite response, saying thank you but I don’t do interviews with the El Paso Tribune; after all I really haven’t been all that nice to the Newspaper Tree in the past.

The second possibility could have been, sure this is what we believe in and we stand by what we do. Much to my chagrin I got a response I hadn’t really contemplated on but one that on hindsight I should have seen coming, after all, I should have known about the type of zealot I was dealing with. Zealot, you ask?

Almost from the beginning there was always an underlining comment I often heard when the Newspaper Tree was brought up in conversation, that it is driven by zealots still licking their wounds from an unexpected loss in the last mayoral race. At first it was something to grin at, something to digest but ultimately any publication has its zealots in its mix as this is the fuel of “progressive publications.” So what was the gist of the response I received, you ask?

To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that one out, but first I need to set the stage as to why I needed to ask these questions.

I first became aware of the Newspaper Tree from an e-mail I first received that my Outlook had marked as “spam”, yet Outlook wasn’t truly sure it was. It looked unique and it came from a local Internet provider that seemed legit, but what stood out the most was that it was addressed to an e-mail address that I had provided to a local organization with the belief that it was for their use only and no one else’s so this raised the first question for me, where did they get my e-mail address from?

But, I couldn’t help myself, I had to read it, it looked sharp and it seemed to be about local issues that interested me. It seemed like an alternative news media that had another point of view, albeit one that I didn’t seem to agree with but one that would allow me to see another point view of an issue. So, I decided, hey here’s an alternative point of view that seems interesting.

I decided to allow the “publication” through my Spam filters, but ultimately someone at the publication woke up and said to themselves, should we really let that other publication read our own material?

Apparently the answer was no as I was summarily dismissed from the mailing list. Oh well, I could still get it online whenever I had time. Though, the question still remains, who’s database of e-mail addresses is the Newspaper Tree using for sending their publication and are the recipients aware that their e-mail addresses were shared as they appear to be or not? Soon, though more questions arose, especially after KVIA reporter, Miriam Garcia was “outed” for dating Mayor Wardy’s son in the Newspaper Tree.

At first glance, the outing of Miriam Garcia may seem to be a public issue that should be discussed, but what was the real motivation in outing Garcia in the first place? Was it a piece that Garcia did shortly before the election that by some accounts damaged the candidacy of Caballero or was it nothing more than a concerned “progressive publication” intent on keeping the local news media honest?

Considering that Caballero’s staff banned Miriam Garcia from access to former Mayor Caballero in his last days in office and by the reaction of both Caballero and his staff after his loss, it is safe to assume that Garcia was on the target list of those disfranchised zealots looking for individuals to blame in their quest for revenge. Unfortunately for Garcia, she was the first volley in what now appears to be a low-intensity battle being waged by the zealots of the former administration seemingly intent on reclaiming some lost glory of yesteryear.

Nonetheless this first volley raised rumors about the Newspaper Tree. Fortunately for Garcia, the Newspaper Tree seems to have new targets on its radar screen for the time being, including me.

Therefore, invariable the question that will be asked by the reader is what is my own agenda in writing this piece? Simple, as a target, I want to know who and what is targeting me in order to properly prepare for the inevitable battle that is sure to manifest itself sometime soon.

So I thought, why not ask? The seven questions, addressed to the editor, Emanuel Anthony Martinez, were simple, and I thought to the point. Four, should be pretty obvious, why did you start the Newspaper Tree, do you feel you have an agenda, do you derive income from the Newspaper Tree and who writes the articles?

Less than one hour later I received a response from Martinez.

It started out innocently enough, “Thank you for reading the Newspaper Tree.  I will answer you as I make it a point to write everyone who contacts me”, ok good so far. I must be honest the next sentence made me laugh; “To begin with, please take the time to actually read the Newspaper Tree before creating assumptions regarding my character and what motivates me to care so much about our community”, first because I’m being thanked for reading the publication and then I’m being told to read it, oh well I thought, maybe just a typo.

But it soon became quite clear that I wasn’t going to get the answers in an orderly fashion, but rather I would have to dig for them in the response itself.

I like to play chess so this was nothing more than another chess game for me, albeit one on paper with words instead of pieces. So what is the answer to my first question? It was clear, right there in plain Arial font; “what motivates me to care so much about our community”, it couldn’t be plainer than that, a patriot looking to serve his community. Well good, I thought. But then the rest of the sentence hit me like a brick; “before creating assumptions regarding my character”, this from the person that not only has created assumptions about my own character but also from the same individual that allows my own character to be impugned by innuendo? Oh well what else is new, I thought.

Then Emanuel Anthony Martinez makes his first bold move, seemingly feigning with the pawn while sneaking in for a quick checkmate with the knight. Martinez boldly proclaims how I’m going to write my article as he writes; “I am already reading your article as I read your questions; and you are clearly bolstering your already stated opinion” as he quotes a previous article I had written for the El Paso Tribune; “[a]nother addition to the perception manufacturing media is a new bi-weekly electronic newsletter recently launched by Emanuel Anthony Martinez. Martinez, recently of the Segundo Barrio electronic publication has betrayed himself as nothing more than a Caballero supporter. His two recent issues betray that this publication is nothing more than a public perception manipulation instrument designed to negatively influence the Wardy Administration”.

First, I’m thinking, great Emanuel why not write the article for me and save me the time? But, oh well it wasn’t to be, I still had to write the article and I didn’t even have all the answers, yet, or so I thought.

Martinez then writes; “[t]hese are your words, sir” as if figuratively putting me in check.

Not so fast, Emanuel, my mind reacted, you checked the wrong piece my friend. But, hey, maybe I’m playing an inexperienced player, got to bite my lip and play on, it should be interesting nonetheless. By the way, Anthony, I know you are reading this, I apologize, I neglected to thank you for reading the El Paso Tribune.

Martinez then goes on to tell me how in my “constant and bitter disbelief” I haven’t valued Martinez’ studies of “public administration” or his degree in “Chicano Studies” or his “years of work for the Greater Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic Chamber”, that according to his e-mail response, he says that they “reflect[s] a passion for my city – the city my family help build – and willingness to do something to actually make it better a better place to live.”

As I thought about this I asked myself, is this a question of whose education is more masculine than the other or does this have to do about who is more “macho” in the time spent making this a better community? But I had to bring myself back to the issue at hand, after all, my “machismo” is not at issue, but than again, Emanuel Anthony seems to betray that he may have some unresolved issues to deal with.

Martinez then writes; “[t]his passion and work has little to do with any one individual – certainly not Mr. Caballero and certainly not you – and has everything to do with who I am and where I come from.”, Ok, Emanuel I already knew you were passionate.

Martinez then writes;

“sir, tread softly as you impugn my character and those of others who genuinely care about El Paso. It is a serious endeavor.”

Ooh, I better tread lightly, after all Martinez’ character seems to be worth more than mine. Oh well, and yes, it is a serious endeavor to challenge the integrity of those who publicly attack anyone. Martinez then refers me to two El Paso Inc. articles about the Newspaper Tree and a group that meets “occasionally to discuss El Paso issues and to discuss books.”

Viola, there is the answer to my seventh question “[i]t is my understanding that you have a group consisting of Ms. Byrd, Robert O’Rourke and others that meet on a regular basis.” I couldn’t help but find it interestingly that Martinez seems to have added “and to discuss books” as an after thought, or just maybe I’m letting my conspiracy theories get the better of me.

As a “post script”, Martinez added; “[p]lease make note that we cover a wide range of topics, from the murders in Juarez to local politics to national subjects such as immigration, US-VISIT and land-use policy.” Good for you Emanuel, I too, think those are issues certainly important to the community. But what about my other questions?

Martinez promptly dispensed with the first question; “why did you start the Newspaper Tree” even though he didn’t bother to answer it directly. The second question; “do you have an agenda” certainly merits a response, after all I am constantly accused of the same thing, the only difference is that I’m willing to ask. To me the answer to this question lies somewhere in the editorials written by Martinez on the Newspaper Tree and his response to my e-mail in so much in what he ignored as well as what he wrote.

Each reader can draw his own conclusions, after all that is what “progressive” media is all about. As for income derived from the Newspaper Tree, unfortunately there is no clear answer, as the private exchange of monies is usually something not for public discourse if it doesn’t involve public funds.

The next question dealt specifically with what drives Martinez. Martinez attempted to do a good job of masking his involvement as a “passion” and “a willingness to do something for his community”, or is there more to this?

I asked around if anyone knew who Emanuel Anthony Martinez is, the answer quickly came back to me, you know him, Martín, he’s the guy that used to follow Caballero with a video camera to all the public forums during the election.

Really, I asked, the one with a camcorder glued to his eyeball? Yes, that’s him came the reply. Seems that Martinez was interested in more than filming former Mayor Caballero as he seems to have followed female reporters around filming them as well, as evidenced by Miriam Garcia having her own little video clip in Martinez’ website.

I know, I know, but I just have to ask, is this one of Emanuel’s little games for picking up women reporters, pretending to be a “photog” with a little camcorder in his face?

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, now back to the issue at hand, what drives Martinez? Could the fact that Emanuel Anthony Martinez was Raymond Caballero’s Deputy Campaign Manager in the last election be part, or all of the reason? Only the Anthony can say, but it does force us to question motivation.

The next two questions were prompted by postings on the El Paso Forum, a website that interestingly is much more inline with the premise of the old “newspaper tree” then the self-proclaimed Newspaper Tree under the direction of Martinez. Unlike the current Newspaper Tree, which appears to call out individuals in the community, the El Paso Forum allows anyone to call anyone else out while allowing the other to respond without the threat of censorship, unlike recent allegations levied against Martinez’ Newspaper Tree.

In a recent posting to the El Paso Forum, it seems that the Newspaper Tree likes to edit letters to the editor, not for the obvious reason of the limitations of space because the Internet doesn’t have space limitations per se, but rather it seems that there are questions that are better left unanswered by the Newspaper Tree.

And, this still surprises me after the response I got from Martinez? In an e-mail exchange that Lance Ruck recently posted on his website, it appears that the Newspaper Tree doesn’t really believe in giving equal access to those asking important questions, especially if those questions might seem to embarrass the quality of work that the Newspaper Tree purports to deliver. But most importantly this led me to my next question, who is “Sydney Hall Maven”?

Apparently I’m not the only one wondering who “Sydney Hall Maven” is, as City Representative John Cook asked me at City Hall if I was “Sydney Hall Maven”. No, I’m not, for the record.

So who is this person who spends hours watching and writing about City Hall? As to whether “Mr. Maven” is a real person or not, the answer is “no” as revealed by Martinez in one of his answers to Ruck, where he clearly states; “I find it amusing that you tried to find ‘Sidney Hall Maven’ in the phone book. You obviously did not get the play on words that the name represents.”

Now we’re getting somewhere, it seems Maven is “a city hall maven”, strike one up for the ingenuity of the Newspaper Tree. But who really writes the review of City Hall? The answers invariably include; Martinez, Raymond Caballero or Susannah Byrd.

Personally, the list has been narrowed to Byrd or Martinez as Raymond Caballero is rumored to be taking photographs somewhere in New Mexico. Of course, nothing should surprise me anymore. For those of you not familiar with Susannah Byrd, Ms. Byrd is a former Assistant to the Mayor under the Caballero regime. No doubt some of you remember when Ms. Byrd answered that she had “proudly served” the former Mayor under direct questioning by City Representative Anthony Cobos in one of Mayor Wardy’s first City Council Meetings.

But if Ms. Byrd is writing the weekly City Council review, then who is writing the “Paseño Chronicles” that purport to give us the nitty-gritty of who really runs the city. Could Ms. Byrd by writing both? Or is someone else in the mix? Or just maybe, the zealots number more than three?

In the end, all we really do know is that we don’t know who writes what and therefore we can’t really rely on unsubstantiated writings that purport to tell us the truth as well as, we really don’t know what expertise the author has.

So much for questions five and six. The final question dealt with a rumor floating about that three individuals, possibly others, are meeting to discuss the political state of the city. Emanuel Martinez’ e-mail response leaves no doubt in my mind that Robert O’Rourke, coincidently recently appointed to the presidency of the Community Scholars and current principal of Stanton Street Group which provides technical support to the Newspaper Tree, Ms. Susannah Byrd and Emanuel Martinez meet to ponder the city’s future, or so it seems.

One thing for sure, Byrd and Martinez seem to fit the profile of embittered former Caballero cronies looking for revenge,  lost glory or maybe both as they meet to ponder the future or plot revenge as the case may be.

I must admit that I had to respond to Martinez’ e-mail, I just couldn’t help pointing out the hypocrisy he displayed by writing that I may impugn his character, as if writing the truth impugns anyone’s character, especially in light of his allowing my character to be impugned in his publication by allowing pieces to be published that are clearly intended to create a false illusion about me with his publication of events that leave out important facts that favor his position about me.

I may have gone a little overboard as I had to point out his obvious contradictions in his first two sentences, first thanking me for reading his publication and then immediately demanding that I read it before drawing conclusions about him. The response?

Martinez starts out; “[y]ou are truly brilliant.”.

Well, I must say, thank you Emanuel. The response continues; “[y]ou have a wonderful way of manipulating language without any concern for its actual meaning.” Again, thank you Emanuel Anthony, considering that English is a second language to me and the fact that your Chicano Studies degree probably meant you wrote plenty of reports, it means a lot to me that you think I am capable of manipulating language without concern to its meaning.

Maybe, I should spend more time reading between the lines of your response then playing this mental chess game with you. Martinez goes on; “Martin, write what you want.” Ok, Emanuel, I’ll write what I want, after all that is what I do anyway. But then again, it shouldn’t surprise me that Martinez missed the whole point of my original e-mail, which is that I was asking questions so that I could get his input before drawing conclusions.

Martinez then goes on to state the obvious, that I will write a piece anyway and adding; “proving the point that you libel and base your writings on rumor and innuendo.”

Oh, now this is rich, I base my writings on innuendo yet when I ask questions, the questions are returned unanswered, all this, in light of the apparent omission and censoring of Ruck’s letter by the Newspaper Tree to correct an apparent omission of fact. And it gets better as Martinez admonishes me;

“[i]n my opinion, you do much to damage this community for which you claim to have concern.”

Oh, I’m humbled that Martinez thinks I have so much power in this community that I can really damage it. Emanuel, just for the record, I write a little commentary that addresses what I see in this community, I’m not arrogant enough to think that anyone really cares what I have to write, much less have the power to damage a community of close to a million people!

Sorry, I don’t live in a fantasy that has people living in an imaginary utopia.  I wish I did, but alas, I live in the real world where there are real problems and real issues facing us.

And finally, in an apparently moment of lucidness, Martinez writes something we can both agree on; “[i]n the end, the public will decide who is right and I have much faith in the people of El Paso.” At least we can agree on something, good job Emanuel.

He ends his e-mail; “[n]ow, please do me a favor and leave me alone. Go back to your hate. Punto.”

Not so quick Emanuel we still have a little mental chess game to finish screams my mind.

But alas, it’s not to be as it seems like Martinez didn’t much want to play after all and instead picked up his pieces and went home to put together another week of a Newspaper Tree that will invariably find itself clogging the Internet once again.

As for me, well I have to first apologize to the readers that made it this far, I know it was long but the ammunition delivered to my inbox, well, it’s a nice little tap dance that leaves more questions than it answers.

I must admit though, I read the Newspaper Tree, if nothing else but for the satisfaction of knowing how off-base they truly are, but also I must be honest in that it is very interesting for me to peer into the mind of a zealot, as it is a completely alien concept for my mind to comprehend. But even a zealot has some sense, in the case of Martinez when he alludes that El Pasoans will rise to the challenge and determine who is right, oops, I just realized it, they did that in the last election when they summarily dismissed the Caballero administration and elected “anyone but Caballero”.

In closing, I’m challenged by my better half, a person much more intelligent than myself to ask myself, if this article hateful? I must be honest and admit that it is, maybe Martinez’ hypocrisy got the better of me.

That is something, you the reader must decide, but I must leave you with this. Unlike the Newspaper Tree that has the audacity and arrogance to hide behind the pseudonyms “Common Sense” or “A City Hall Maven”, I use my real name when writing about the issues that I discuss on the El Paso Tribune, hateful or not.

Advertisements