In early January 2013, Puerto Rican chat show SuperXclusivo (featuring puppet character La Comay) was cancelled after a sustained boycott campaign. Spark writer Ian Anderson interviews Carlos Rivera, who co-founded the Facebook group and played a leading role in the campaign.
The Spark: What were the initial problems with La Comay, and SuperXclusivo, that triggered this campaign?
CR: For more than a decade, the show had had issues with hate speech and hate “humour”. In 2010 this came to head with extreme homophobic comments. The TV station was forced by a huge LGBTT campaign to create a public promise to change. A few months later the format re-emerged.
It also had moved from being a celebrity gossip and crime sensationalism show and into politics – supporting right wing politicians, draconian law-and-order “solutions to crime” and so on. The latest of this effort had been the unsuccessful attempt to eliminate bail rights earlier in 2012. When we won that referendum, we celebrated the fact we won not against the political establishment, but against La Comay. It was there I was drawn to the issue in a definitive manner.
The immediate trigger was the disappearance of a young man in the middle of a robbery. This kidnapping and eventual murder generated incredible social media attention and sympathy.
Then the show made hateful comments towards the victim, to the extreme of implying he had it coming for frequenting a red light district. The sympathy for the victim was high, so the comments fell on sensitive ears.
The Spark: Who benefits from this bigotry? What are the consequences?
CR: Basically the right wing and conservative hate mongers – and the colonialist project benefit.
The fundamental consequence was the agenda being set from the right and from the reactionary perspective – even on unpopular issues. For example, the majority of Puerto Ricans are opposed to the death penalty, and the colonial constitution prohibits it. Yet this show made it seem as it was an open question, and had an effect of putting the anti-death penalty forces in the defensive. The loss of this voice has already had an explosive effect – a visible one – in how the debates happen at the street level. There is a sense that the silent majority is progressive – which it is – but there was not this sense before.
The Spark: Your “Boicot a La Comay” Facebook page has over 75,000 likes, can you talk about this growth?
CR: About half of it happened in the first 24 hours. It was entirely grassroots. [Read more...]