In this next article in the series, who speaks for El Paso? we continue exploring how the community is manipulated into accepting the status quo using Chucopedia and Debbie Nathan’s reporting as the example.
As we outlined in the previous articles there is a concerted effort to censor El Paso Politics. Although it may seem like a simple case of one Facebook group – Chucopedia – censoring our content, it goes deeper than that. Chucopedia demonstrates how censorship in El Paso works. In this article we will provide more examples and show the reader why Debbie Nathan is central to the issue.
As we previously reported Debbie Nathan is no stranger to controversial news reporting. In her own words, Debbie Nathan has written that her “freelance work was appreciated outside of El Paso, but defined me as a crank within it.”
Unfortunately, it is more than that.
In addition to having a hand in censoring El Paso Politics on Chucopedia and this author since 2016, Nathan has actively used her news reporting to manipulate the community’s perception to protect a political powerbase.
Ray Caballero In Who Runs The City?
In 2003, El Bridge, formerly published by the Bridge Center for Contemporary Art published Who Runs This City? Ray Caballero and El Paso Political Culture in its Spring 2003 edition. As previously reported by us, the 2002-2003 Winter edition of El Bridge published a profile on Debbie Nathan authored by Richard Barron.
The over 6,000-word Ray Caballero article was authored by Debbie Nathan. She originally wrote it for the Texas Observer, who published it on April 11, 2003, under the title, El Mayor vs. Los Good Old Boys. El Bridge republished it. Caballero is a one-term controversial attorney who was elected mayor in 2001. His term ended in 2003. Although elected as a reformer, Caballero’s term in office was punctuated by several controversies including an almost 12% tax hike and the attempted gentrification of a poor Latino neighborhood to make way for the Border Health Institute (BHI) next to the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC). Caballero wanted to use eminent domain to force the predominantly poor Latinos in the targeted community out of their homes. The BHI is now known as the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation (MCA). Caballero also launched the downtown redevelopment efforts that resulted in the implosion of the city hall building to make way for the ballpark and the resulting downtown controversies that led to the Glass Beach Study and the controversies over Duranguito and Segundo Barrio.
The BHI TIFF Districts were the first time in modern history that a poor Latino community in El Paso organized to save their homes from eminent domain.
Caballero faced extreme criticism during his reelection campaign against Joe Wardy.
Nathan’s article, first published in the Texas Observer and republished in El Bridge, spent considerable ink explaining how Caballero was misunderstood.
In defending her lack of interviewing individuals opposed to Caballero for her article, Nathan wrote in a March 31, 2003, email provided to the author, that “there seemed to be such a united front of anger and opposition (to Caballero) that I figured there was little use in pursuing more interviews with more people”. Nathan added that instead of interviews, she “gathered information about them (Caballero opposition) by going to public events they were attending, and to the public record.”
In the email, Nathan wrote that “having been in El Paso in the 1980s and 1990s, I know people who know” Ray Caballero “very well — and not just as a political or public figure.”
In the 2003 article, Debbie Nathan wrote this about Ray Caballero:
“with his brown skin, silvering hair, Roman nose and rimless eye-glasses, 61-year-old Caballero looks more like a Latino intellectual than a politician.” Nathan added, “like a Biblical prophet, Caballero shook his finger at generations of ‘good old boy’ elitism.”
Because Caballero was facing significant opposition to his reelection campaign, many labeled Nathan’s article as fluff piece designed to help Caballero win reelection.
Debbie Nathan wrote this about the opposition to Caballero, the “viejitos, the Hispanic grandmas and grandpas whose entire savings often are sunk into tiny homes they’ve owned for years,” were hurting Caballero’s reelection. The viejitos were the targets of imminent domain to make way for the BHI, now the MCA.
Nathan quoted Veronica Escobar, then Caballero’s press secretary, about the organized neighborhood opposition to Caballero’s threat of eminent domain, “it was the worst nightmare we could have ever imagined.”
In her article, Nathan goes on to lament how when she worked at the El Paso Times in the mid-1980’s she “often had to churn out two stories a day,” and “often produced cotton candy.” Nathan goes on to write that since the 1990’s the “fluff may be spun with ideology.”
In another email from April 7, 2003, provided to the El Paso Politics, Debbie Nathan wrote that the Texas Observer assigned her the article and paid for her to write it as a freelancer. Nathan, who had moved away from El Paso during this time, wrote that El Bridge paid her travel expenses to come to El Paso for the article. El Bridge had been criticized for publishing supportive pieces about Caballero’s political ambitions.
Having Debbie Nathan help Ray Caballero’s political ambitions was discussed by several political operatives as far back as 2001. In a March 19, 2001, email to the author discussing Beto O’Rourke’s recent launch of the online magazine the Stanton Street, Roberto Camp, the former chairperson of the City of El Paso Commission on Border Relations and the founding chair of the City of El Paso International Bridge Commission wrote this about the future of politics in El Paso, “immediately repatriate Debbie Nathan to crank out good ole Bordertown fleshy probing commentary and lift us up” from El Paso’s stagnated politics.
Ray Caballero lost his reelection 36% to 58% to Joe Wardy on May 3, 2003.
The Chucopedia Censoring For Bob Moore
In 2020, this publication began submitting our articles to the Chucopedia Facebook group.
At first our articles were being accepted without incident. By August of 2020, our articles suddenly began to be declined by one of more of the moderators. At about that time our coverage of the malpractice lawsuits against the El Paso Children’s Hospital began to garner attention as readers outside of El Paso began to take notice and our readership increased exponentially.
On August 26, 2020, after some comments on censorship were turned off by Chucopedia, Monica Krausse, one of the moderators, shared our article about children’s hospital on the page and wrote to the author, “I hope you’ll continue to post on Chucopedia.”
In reply, we thanked Krausse for the invitation, adding that we would “continue to contribute to Chucopedia,” however we added that we try to limit our posts because we’ve noted that “some of the moderators” are “uncomfortable with our content.”
To keep within the rules, we asked Monica Krausse via Facebook Messenger on October 2, 2020, whether it was within the group’s rules to post an announcement about our upcoming series on the children’s hospital. As we believed it to be advertising in nature, we wanted to make sure that we were not violating the group’s rules.
Krausse wrote back, “sure — go ahead and share the announcement.”
By late 2020, our content was being denied on Chucopedia without explanation.
We attributed the censorship to bias by one or more of the moderators. As it became apparent that our posts were summarily being denied we stopped submitting altogether. Michael Scanlon has opined to individuals that this author is a “political operative,” “paid to write” articles by some company “in Georgia.” El Paso Politics has no financial interests in Georgia and the publication is self-funded by the author. Nathan has strong opinions about social media news and this author going as far back as 2000.
According to Monica Krausse in a Facebook Messenger exchange, Chucopedia accepted 63 of our articles over the last ten months, making us “one of the most prolific members,” according to Krausse. However, very few of our article were approved after November and we had made the decision to stop submitting our content to the group, except for one or two to test whether we were being censored.
One of the articles we submitted was UTEP Presidents, Latinos/as, and Colonialism by Oscar Martinez published on April 23, 2021. That article, by the guest writer, was immediately approved. Other articles authored by this author were summarily rejected without explanation.
On June 6, 2021, we became aware that Miguel Juárez had submitted our article on herd immunity to Chucopedia. After the article was not approved, Juárez inquired as to what the process was for approving content on Chucopedia.
On June 10, 2021, after being made aware that Debbie Nathan had written that our data was incorrect, we provided her a link to our source data, the State of Texas. Not receiving a response from her after sending her the source for our data, we contacted the Chucopedia moderators asking to explain the process for approving content.
We sent Debbie Nathan and Michael Scanlon emails and we asked the same questions of Maria Esquinca through her personal webpage. We contacted Monica Krausse via Facebook. Esquinca and Scanlon never responded to our queries.
As previously reported by us, Debbie Nathan responded to our queries with information about her work on “Satanic childcare sex abuse panic.” But she added that she was “confining” her responses to us to her work on that topic, refusing to answer questions about their approval processes, other than to send us a link to the group’s public rules page.
Krausse provided us with a more thorough response to our questions.
On June 10, 2021, Krausse wrote that she doesn’t think we are being “actively censored.” Krausse added that she has only disallowed “one or two” of our posts and “approved lots of them.” Krausse went on to write that she agrees “that several posts” of ours “have been disallowed recently”. Krausse explained that if a moderator “sees a story that seems to have some fundamental flaw — a problem with the premise or methodology, for instance — we ask the other mods to also read it, and then there’s a vote” on whether to accept it or not.
About the herd immunity article, Krausse wrote that our “numbers didn’t match the ones available on the Texas HHS dashboard at the time” and that was the prime reason the article was rejected. However, Miguel Juárez had written to Nathan that the county commissioners “verified the numbers” in their special meeting. We also provided the link to the Texas HHS dashboard to Nathan. As such, we do not understand how our numbers were not accurate.
We also noted to Krausse that ABC News nationally had just reported herd immunity in El Paso – like we had in our article days before. Krausse shared the ABC News report on Chucopedia. The ABC News report further supported the premise of our article.
After we wrote to Monica Krausse that we felt that Debbie Nathan and/or Michael Scanlon were “actively censoring” us, she responded by writing that our “conclusions were wrong about Debbie and Michael,” adding that she is “aware of tension between” us.
Krausse closed by writing that when most of the moderators believe the data is wrong, they will not allow it. Considering that there are three administrators and one moderator, it only takes two members to reject any content.
In tomorrow’s article we will close out the series by detailing how government officials use taxpayer funds to buy “news” to bolster their agenda. We will also demonstrate how censoring us on Chucopedia is not only an example of how the news is manipulated in the city, but how it helps Bob Moore keep unpleasant news out of the public realm.
Author’s note: As of yesterday, June 15, 2021, I have been blocked from viewing the Chucopedia group.