Russell Pearce Is On the Ropes, Even if the Horizon Brain Trust Can't See It

Some political theorists have referred to it as "manufacturing consent." I like to call it the propaganda of the status quo.

And then there's another, even more damning label: downright laziness.

Whatever you call it, it's often on full display on KAET Channel 8's Horizon, hosted by the genial and admittedly likable talking head Ted Simons.

Simons chairs the PBS show's weekly "Journalists Roundtable" segment, in which local members of the Fourth Estate don suits and hold forth on current events. Local hacks, news junkies, and politicians frequently tune in for the segment and the show, in general.

Interestingly, Horizon reveals the collective, lemming-like mindset so common to the media "elite" — such as it is — locally.

I'm sure those who regularly appear on Simons' show would proclaim their neutrality, if asked. In reality, they represent the political establishment and have inculcated its dictates so thoroughly that their response to anything outside the veil of their experience is practically Pavlovian.

Like the recall of state Senate President Russell Pearce by the group Citizens for a Better Arizona, which recently submitted more than 18,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State in support of its effort to remove this right-wing ogre from office.

On a recent edition of the roundtable, four white guys in ties pooh-poohed the recall's historic achievement with outright misinformation.

The Arizona Guardian's Dennis Welch seemed to sum up his fellow journos' dismissive views of those citizens who gathered signatures.

"Eighteen-thousand signatures? Big deal," Welch scoffed. "You got paid petition gatherers out there . . . getting signatures. That's a lot different than getting people to go out to the polls and vote against somebody who has held that office for a very long time and who is really well known and popular in that area."

Who knew scoring 18,000 signatures was so dang easy? Wonder why it doesn't happen all the freaking time?

Did the recall group use paid petition gatherers? Yes, CBA contracted with the company Sign Here Petitions, but the majority of those gathering signatures were volunteers.

How do I know? I went out with them and watched as they knocked on doors, which I described in a recent column ("Russell Pearce Is His Own Worse Enemy," April 14).

There also are the declarations of recall organizer Randy Parraz and Sign Here Petition owner Bonita Burks, who estimate that about one-third of the signatures were gathered by SHP employees.

So it's a slur on the committed activists who did most of the hard work going door-to-door and making phone calls to assert that the recall scored just because paid petition gatherers were involved.

"Part of the story is that the majority of the [pro-recall] people are white people over 50 who have been doing the work," Parraz told me. "That's not getting [talked about]."

Parraz chided the nattering knights of Simons' clown table, who insisted the recall effort was fueled by anger over Pearce's breathing-while-brown law, Senate Bill 1070. Parraz correctly pointed out that though he personally was opposed to 1070, the recall effort purposefully did not press the immigration issue.

This is borne out by the text on CBA's website, which does not mention 1070 or immigration. And by the wording of the petition itself, which I reproduce here in case Welch or the other clown-tablers wish to read it:

"We, Citizens for a Better Arizona and residents of District 18, submit this petition to recall State Senator Russell Pearce for his failure to focus on issues and concerns that affect all Arizonans.

"Mesa and Arizona need a leader who will pass laws to create jobs, protect public education, and ensure access to healthcare for our children and those most in need. We deserve a representative who reflects our values, beliefs, and vision for Mesa and all of Arizona.

"By signing this petition, we publicly withdraw our support for Russell Pearce and what he represents."

Welch is correct that Pearce has represented LD18 for many years. What's changed? His ascension to the state Senate presidency, making him the most powerful politician in Arizona.

This — along with his hostility to education and to those reliant on AHCCCS (Arizona's Medicaid system), his dictatorial style, his corruption and ethical lapses, and his self-evident bigotry — makes him the perfect recall target.

Did the residents of LD18 vote for this aggro racist to be King of Sand Land? Um, no. Nor did anyone other than the hoodwinked members of the GOP caucus in the Senate, who believed Pearce's oath that he would be putting the issue of immigration on the legislative backburner.

You can be in complete agreement with Pearce on 1070 and otherwise be disgusted by the following: his support for state Senator Scott Bundgaard, his prevarications concerning his involvement in the Fiesta Bowl scandal, his heavy-handed "banning" of citizens from the state Senate on threat of arrest, his illegal effort to undermine the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons