Dennis Wilen says today that he lost his job as the editor of the AOL Patch site for Brentwood last spring after posting this Lalo Alcaraz cartoon satire of Cinco de Mayo attitudes in the 90049 zip code. "I was thrilled to score a cartoon from a cartoonist of Lalo’s stature at Patch’s standard rate of $50," Wilen writes. "I thought the cartoon — marked as opinion — perfectly expressed Brentwood’s reality and it still makes me laugh.' The cartoon was part of a Cinco de Mayo package that included the Patch mainstay of an, ahem, "story" on bars where readers could enjoy beer and nachos for the holiday. But he was told the that someone at Patch headquarters in New York deemed the cartoon offensive for its “blatantly racist stereotypes.”
“Wait!” I said. ”Lalo IS a Latino. He is the country’s first nationally-syndicated Latino cartoonist (La Cucaracha.) He has written books and won awards! Are you calling Lalo a racist?”
“New York finds it objectionable, ” was the reply.
Then next morning my boss, and her uber-boss, the West Coast editor, called me up to tell me I was fired for violating my employment agreement with AOL by posting “racist” material.
Wilen said he kept quiet about why he was no longer employed at Patch so he could look for other work, after having been unemployed for two years. Now — he works for Alcaraz at their website Pocho, where his account appears. Wilen says he wrote his post after the topic came up today at Jim Romenesko's website.
I'll make the link that Wilen never does in his post: Brentwood is the home of AOL Patch ultimate editor Arianna Huffington. Maybe she didn't like seeing her hometown enclave's cultural attitudes skewered? Or perhaps more likely, some underling in New York overreacted thinking Huffington might be offended by the cartoon. Or who knows, maybe somebody truly thought it was a racist cartoon.
Cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, click it to enlarge