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October 14, 2007

More on the Ernesto Priego Affair

Marc Singer, the 2007 Chair of the International Comic Arts Forum, asked for a chance to present a response to my article that scholar Ernesto Priego claims he was not denied entry into the USA to present at ICAF. His response in full:
I'd like to offer a few clarifications in response to your latest article about Ernesto Priego. First of all, the person "claiming to be comics scholar Ernesto Priego" is indeed Ernesto Priego; no need to cast doubts about his identity.

Second, I have to disagree with Ernesto's distinction (repeated in Chris Mautner's article and yours) between being denied entry and not having his
visa renewed; they're one and the same. Whether he's turned back at the airport or his visa application is rejected, he's still not allowed to come into the
country and present his scholarship.

A September 23, 2007 broadcast of the program Global Journalist might provide some useful context. The moderator and guests, including an international affairs reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, make no distinctions between scholars who are turned away at the airport and scholars who are told ahead of time (usually just days ahead of the conference, as was the case with Ernesto) that they will be denied visas. That broadcast also inventories the factors that complicate attempts to challenge refusals of entry, including the lack of transparency behind these decisions and scholars' reluctance to speak out when it happens to them.

In your latest article, you write, "I find a lot of things confusing here, actually, including the chasm between the ICAF's take and Priego's, the seeming disconnect between the two just in terms of being in contact, that Priego waited two days to reply to anyone's questions and that now he doesn't want to make comments on a story he says doesn't exist. Although for all I know there's layers and layers of story here yet to be uncovered."

There are plenty of reasons for anybody to find this story confusing. One way to account for the discrepancies between the different public
interpretations of events is to remember that Ernesto Priego is counting on getting visas approved for future conference visits to the United States, whereas I don't have to worry about that. I stand behind every statement I have made on this story.
First of all, of course I stand behind my take on it, too. In the first article I reported Singer and ICAF's claims. In the second I reported Priego's claim that this was not true. I only expressed regret that I did not wait to run the story, which I had done because I had assumed that Singer and ICAF and Priego were in agreement on the version of the story that they were going to take public, not that I had run either story. Both stories were true. Singer and ICAF claimed the one thing; Priego claimed the other. I simply would have liked to have run both concepts in the original piece.

As for where I might come down in all this, well, that's more difficult.

This is going to be a long sentence, but here goes: I'm not convinced enough by my personal e-mail conversations with Singer and Priego, or by the article to which we've been directed here, which seem to me to be cases of a wholly different level of severity and do not include a different version by the actual person involved which must be negotiated around by implying the person might be protecting their professional self-interest, to endorse Singer's take on things as such obvious truth I don't regret not having Priego's take in the original story, too.

I don't doubt that these things happen, and I believe they're shameful. At the same time, it's awful enough that if someone close to the event denies that's what happened, we can't automatically dismiss that and mix them in with reportage on such events where no such denial has apparently been made. I also don't doubt that situations where the direct result is the same as the result of stupid, non-directed instances of policy are also unfortunate, but I believe the distinction is important and you have to make them clear.

ICAF's take could be true -- indeed, the truth could be far worse than we imagine! -- but I don't think there's enough there for me to endorse it over Priego's now repeated insistence to the contrary based solely on the suggestion that Priego might be understandably less than truthful. I'm happy to give Marc Singer a chance to stand behind his version of events, and I don't have any problems with his advocacy for a take on events he obviously believes in, but my interest here is not whether Singer can make a case for Singer as much as the best and most responsible way to present the story given all the contributing elements, and what we know up to this time.
posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

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