By Tim Redmond
I just read Ron Russell’s big story in the SF Weekly about former Police Chief Earl Sanders, and I’m a bit dumfounded.
The gist of the story is that Sanders – the city’s first black police chief and the author of a a new book on the Zebra killings – trumped up his record as a civil-rights leader in the department and glossed over some real problems in his tenure as a homicide cop. That may be true; I haven’t read the book, although I know that Sanders was involved in a frame-up that sent two innocent young men to prison. (I know that because A.C. Thompson, who now writes for the Weekly, wrote about it for the Guardian – a fact conveniently left out of Russell’s story.)
But what left me reeling was Russell’s use of a source named Louis Calabro.
In the story, Calabro is portrayed as an entirely credible former cop whose comments about Sanders are worth legitimate consideration. He’s quoted numerous times. High up in the piece, he’s described as the emcee of a memorial for victims of the notorious Zebra killings and as “one of Earl Sanders' staunchest critics [who] heads the European American Issues Forum, a group whose proclaimed mission is to promote the rights of persons of "European American" heritage."
Actually, there's a bit more to the story.
It’s not hard to learn about Calabro’s organization and his background. You can Google him and it comes up pretty quickly. This is a guy whose website eaif.org, has headlines like"Why the World Hates Jews Part 1" and "Why Do So Many People Hate Jews? He tried to trademark the term "white pride country wide" (the government demurred).
He has gone off on a tear, over and over again, against groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which provide anti-hate-speech materials to schools.
Calabro came by the Guardian office once to complain that I wouldn’t run his letters, and he tried to convince us that the real story about World War Two was the internment of German-Americans.
Calabro insists that his group is not racist and that it doesn't condone negative comments about any racial group. And while the white-nationalist people at Stormfront post his stuff, some of the denizens there don't particularly like him. In fact, he (properly) calls the hard-core white power people out for being racists.
Still, this is not a man who has any credibility whatsoever when it comes to criticizing the conduct of an African American cop in a complex racially charged murder case.
When I asked Russell about it, he emailed me and said: "Of course I know who he is. The story makes it abundantly clear where Mr. Calabro is coming from. I fail to see why you think quoting him was inappropriate."
Well: I don't think I've ever seen another credible media outlet refer to Calabro as anything other than someone whose opinions on race are well outside the mainstream of acceptability in a multicultural society.
Oops. I suspect that over at the Weekly, they're having what we call the Big Cringe.