In a press release published on Thursday, the National Council of La Raza announced it would be launching a website and mobile app as part of its effort to get young Latinos to register and vote in the coming election. In order to expand the campaign’s reach, the NCLR partnered with upstart media platform mitú, which the organization described as “the leading tech-media brand emerging as the voice of young Latinos.”
Mitú has assumed this mantle on its own, styling itself as “the voice of young Latinos in the U.S. and worldwide,” “with a deep understanding of the U.S. and global Latino experience.” Furthermore, the folks at mitú claim to be “focused on creating fresh and culturally-relevant content for the next-generation Latino” (as if Latinos were as mass produced as the iPhone).
It’s been a whirlwind couple months for mitú. A few weeks earlier, the group said it had raised $27 million from investors, including Verizon and another digital media company owned by DreamWorks.
Riding high on its newly-acquired prestige, mitú held its first political discussion live streamed over Facebook just a few hours after the NCLR made its announcement. “We Are America,” as the hourlong program was called, featured hosts Alexis Gabrielle and another young lady calling herself “Giggles,” whose first words were to express that she was “nervous as fuck.” It slid further down from there. (FYI: Mi tú has since taken the video down from its Facebook page.)
The first ever #WeAreAmerica Live Cast is LIVE! Watch us do stuff you WILL never see on a political TV show. I dare you to ask whatever you want #WeAreAmericaGet the app NOW! iOS app http://apple.co/1PlysMOAndroid app http://bit.ly/1nJWtWs
Posted by We are mitú on Thursday, February 4, 2016
After plugging the new app, Giggles began the discussion with a drinking game. It’s the same one that’s played during any debate or State of the Union address: whenever a certain word is uttered, players must take a drink. In last night’s rendition, any mention of “tacos,” “caucus” or “Trump’s hair” would require Giggles and Alexis to take a shot, presumably of tequila.
When the discussion begins in earnest, Alexis holds up a series of photos depicting this year’s presidential candidates. Giggles’s job is to inform the audience about each candidate from the information provided to her on a cheat sheet, as she claims to not know who some of the candidates are. First up is Trump — “este pendejo” and “this güey,” as Giggles says. (In fact, Giggles can’t seem to go a couple sentences without saying something vulgar.) Next is Ted Cruz (“I don’t know that fool”), then Marco Rubio, whom Giggles also pretends not to recognize. (I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say “pretends,” though I’m not sure feigning ignorance about the world around you is better than simply not knowing.) The mention of Cruz’s winning of the Iowa caucus forces Giggles to take her first shot.
Then, no more than six minutes in, Alexis holds up a picture of Hillary Clinton — the former first lady, senator from New York, secretary of State, and the current Democratic frontrunner — whom Giggles refers to as “esta puta.” Someone laughs, Giggles’s co-host appears upset for a moment, and the show goes on. But I’ve seen enough.
This is WRONG! Calling Secratary Hillary Clinton a “Puta” goes past the line.MiTu a Latino social media content developer tried to join the political spectrum by hosting a live streaming event to engage young Latinos to register to vote. As a prop, they had side commentary by a “Chola” or female gang affiliate. As they introduced candidates for discussion, they insult all. But the insult against Sec. Hillary Clinton is specially offensive. I have always been critical of her policies and political maneuvering. But I have never disrespected her. MiTu needs to apologize to her and all Latinos. Even if we come from the hood, we can be classy.
Posted by Luis Alvarado on Thursday, February 4, 2016
Still, I wanted to know what mitú was thinking when they thought this little experiment was a good idea. So I reached out to them. I also reached out to the NCLR, wanting to learn their response to last night’s incident. I sent them a list of questions via email, asking whether the NCLR had properly vetted mitú before the partnership, whether they planned to take any action, and whether they were going to implement safeguards ensuring future partners don’t do anything that might diminish the esteem of the organization. I told them they could either email me back with the answer or call me directly, at any time. They chose neither, instead sending along this short statement:
NCLR condemns that kind of name-calling. We support passion and spirited debate about ideas and positions, but this is neither and detracts from real discussion about the challenges facing the country, and from engaging Latinos in our democracy.
Mitú has yet to respond to my request, but they did post this statement to their Facebook page minutes before this article ran:
I’d known of mitú before this incident, of course, though I must admit I don’t follow them on Facebook or Twitter. The first time I heard another Latino mention the site was at a gathering of Latino artists in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood last month. Many were upset to learn that $27 million had been given to a media platform that, according to them, regularly posts memes whose humor rely on misogynistic or homophobic sentiments unfortunately prevalent in many Latino communities.
Nonetheless, if last night’s performance is indicative of the kind of content mitú provides, then I can genuinely say that it doesn’t represent me or most of the other Latino Millennials I know. Yes, there are plenty of people like Giggles within our ranks, but there are just as many young Latinos who are politically informed and socially engaged. I don’t think it’s funny that Giggles doesn’t know who Ted Cruz is; I think it’s sad. I also don’t know why such a person was chosen to lead a political discussion meant to inform and excite young Latinos.
There are many ways in which to describe Hillary Clinton, but “puta” isn’t the word I’d use — and that’s coming from a Honduran American. It was Hillary, as Secretary of State, who orchestrated the U.S. government’s backdoor support of a military coup in Honduras back in June 2009. And it was Hillary who suggested deporting every Central American mother and child who dared escape the mess she helped create in the region. Liar, sellout, hawkish, power-hungry, manipulative, Hispanderer, robotic, DINO — all of these words accurately describe Hillary. “Puta,” on the other hand, is vague, crude and lazy.
As for NCLR, it’s sad to see a once progressive and honorable Latino organization align itself with backward groups claiming to speak for an important segment of the Latino population —its young people— but instead speaks merely for itself.
Benjamin Franklin once quipped, “When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” After last night, the NCLR is in need of a good shampooing.
Hector Luis Alamo is a Chicago-based writer and the deputy editor at Latino Rebels. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.