Saturday, October 2, 2010

R.I.P., Rick Sanchez

Yeah, I know—the goober's not dead, just fired. Though to him, it may feel a little like death.

Sanchez made some pretty stupid comments in an interview with Sirius Satellite Radio's Pete Dominick a few days ago, provoked by years of ridicule from one of the best, Jon Stewart. After calling Stewart a "bigot" with a "white, liberal establishment point of view" who "can’t relate to somebody who grew up poor," Dominick protested that Stewart, as a Jew, has experienced racism himself. Sanchez laughed—"He's such a minority. ... What, are you kidding?"—then uttered the words that are no doubt reverberating in his head now, and for some time to come, whenever he tries to sleep. "I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they—the people in this country who are Jewish—are an oppressed minority? Yeah."

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Sanchez is not a particularly good journalist. He's a dumber version of Broadcast News' Tom Grunick (Aaron Altman would never have permitted himself to be tased on camera—Grunick may have done it, but would've carried it off more stylishly). He represents much of what is lacking in modern American journalism, being a guy without a lot of smarts, or instincts, or intellectual curiosity, but possessed of a certain sellable look, and a certain schtick, with a fuckload more ambition than talent.

On the other hand, there's a certain justice to what he says about the rather arbitrary nature of Stewart's relentless targeting of him—as an attempt to balance out his criticism of Fox "News", by finding some poor bastard at CNN to make fun of. Sanchez believes the ridicule is rooted in racism, because of his Cuban origin, and he believes that CNN demoted him from the prime-time anchor chair for the same reason. He is unable to see what most others see, which is not his Cubanness, but his mediocrity, and more to the point, the sometimes ludicrous persona he projects. He is not taken seriously in spite of his origin, not because of it.

It should also be said that although what Sanchez said was wrong-headed and repellent, it is whispered among millions every day, most of whom are perceived to be rational, socially integrated contributors to society. While his summary execution by CNN is understandable, it is hardly helpful to the perceptions held by these individuals, who are clucking their tongues and commiserating their bigotries secretly, believing them to have been affirmed. Perhaps mercy would've been the better course here—mercy, and some dialogue confronting what he said, and why he said it.

As you may know, Sanchez was born in Cuba, and came to America with his parents as a toddler. Reading his bio at wikipedia, I was moved by the way he characterized his childhood. "I grew up not speaking English, dealing with real prejudice every day as a kid; watching my dad work in a factory, wash dishes, drive a truck, get spit on. I’ve been told that I can’t do certain things in life simply because I was a Hispanic." I was also struck by the reason he stated on-air for using the name "Rick Sanchez", instead of his birth-name, Ricardo de Reinaldo: "I want to be respectful of this wonderful country, he said, "that allowed us as Hispanics to come here, and I think it’s easier if someone’s able to understand me by Anglicizing my name." I think all of us, if we look deeply enough at ourselves, can sympathize with that kind of insecurity, and yearning.

So, yeah, there's a human cost to this. And I think it's pretty sad. Here's hoping we haven't heard the last of Ricardo de Reinaldo...

And in tribute, here's Rick Sanchez being tazed, for about the millionth time.

No comments:

Post a Comment