By Antonio Castro
Within the current protest movement, the myth of ‘unbiased journalism’ has spawned one of its most ludicrous and dangerous adherents in Hiram Gilberto Garcia, a self-promoting livestreamer based in Austin, Texas. Hiram has been a fixture at many protests since the start of the uprisings, embedding himself in the crowd and falsely claiming he is as an ‘objective’ journalist. In truth he is little more than an extra eye on the ground for the police so they might monitor, track, and repress protests. Hiram also provides a platform for reactionaries who welcome his ‘both sides’ mantra, because it protects them and allows them to remain ideologically and physically unchallenged.
Hiram is not interested in the truth. The truth is revolutionary and only leads to the conclusion that this system is dying and must be overthrown. The truth is what we can all see before us, that the people here and around the world are rising up in righteous rebellion, willing to shed blood and set fire to this old world in order to create a new one. Fools like Hiram choose not to see this. His view of the world is limited to what he perceives through the tiny lens of his smartphone camera and what he hears from the empty praise of his comment section echo chamber.
Hiram has done some service to the people which can not be denied. Mainly by sheer luck – he has captured moments of police brutality that exposed Austin police’s disgusting treatment of protesters. But he negates any of this good by refusing to acknowledge that the brutality in front of his camera is inherent to the police and this system. As a journalist, he could support this objective fact and voice support for the people, not the police. Instead, he rationalizes interviewing police officers, or joining Blue Lives Matter demonstrators as they prepare to clash with anti-police brutality protesters.
He presents police apologists and their brutal means of repressing the people as simply the other side of a debate. He declares in his livestream commentary, “I love all Trump Supporters!” and “I think both sides are just doing their best.” According to Hiram, Daniel Perry, who killed Garrett Foster, and Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen shooter from Kenosha were, ‘doing their best.’ Hiram says that there’s ‘bad people’ on both sides, showing that he’ll compare reactionary killers to the very people rising up against reaction. He illustrates clearly how liberals allow fascism to flourish by equating oppression to the resistance against oppression.
Hiram thinks the cops are just ‘doing their best’ as well. Barely a single livestream feed goes by where Hiram doesn’t seek a chance to talk to a cop on the frontlines so he can have a friendly chat and try to humanize them. They announce his name over police car speakers, and he gives them high-fives (yes, this happened). Never mind that those same police will brutalize and arrest protesters in an instant when ordered to attack, no matter how amiable they were minutes before.
Revolutionaries understand the police—they are arms of the ruling class to protect property and repress the working class. Revolutionaries understand fascists—they are the foot soldiers of imperialism who wish to subjugate and eradicate the people in the interests of the ruling class. Hiram’s ramblings offer no insight or better understanding of these facts—by invoking ‘neutrality,’ he remains biased towards keeping the world as it is.
Even though Hiram was present as Garrett Foster was gunned down by a murderous reactionary in the streets of Austin, he will not condemn his killer, Daniel Perry, and still insists he doesn’t know all the facts, and subsequently won’t take a position. The fact is that Garrett Foster died a hero, protecting many, including Hiram’s ungrateful hide. Hiram fears alienating his reactionary comments section more than expressing gratitude and solidarity for Garrett and his sacrifice.
Hiram has used the people’s rebellion in support of Black Lives to build his brand, yet never expresses his solidarity with Black people and their struggle. He has produced a series of corny t-shirts with slogans like ‘Hiram Fam’ and ‘It’s a Hiram Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand.’ He is correct; Austin protesters can’t understand why he refuses to openly side with the people against the ruling class and its police lapdogs, even after he himself was unjustly arrested. Tribune’s own supporters spoke out in solidarity for Hiram that night, more than Hiram is willing to do for anti-racist, anti-police protesters. While local activists donated money to Hiram to help with damaged equipment, he has never once promoted fundraisers for those arrested during protests. Additionally, while hundreds of protesters in Austin, and thousands across the country have not had their charges dropped, the charges against Hiram were quickly withdrawn by Austin police mere days after his arrest.
The circumstances of arrest were no different from thousands of others at protests. He was ruthlessly targeted for simply being within the police’s reach. Others in similar situations continue to face bogus charges, but Hiram got speedy and special attention from APD who realized their miscalculation of arresting a popular, so-called ‘objective’ livestreamer, and wanted to keep him friendly. APD openly praises his livestreaming on-camera, greeting Hiram constantly and answering his asinine interview questions.
According to Hiram himself, Police Union president, Ken Casaday, has said he ‘finds [Hiram’s] videos useful.” Hiram happily gives a platform and provides a service to the very police that brutalized him and others, aiding the police in their PR campaign to distract us while they repress the protesters who aren’t looking to chat it up with brutal cops.
Hiram is a self-serving careerist and profiteer – a product of his petty bourgeois class, and a useful asset to the police and their imperialist masters. Despite principled criticisms, including from Austin’s Tribune Support Committee, delivered to him face-to-face from people who have patiently tried to make him understand how his false objectivity hurts the protest movement, he has stubbornly refused to state his support for the people fighting for Black lives, or for any people struggling for that matter, and instead makes the laughable claim that he is ‘neutral.’ While he rejects unity with the protesters to whom he owes his livestream’s existence, he retreats more and more to his reactionary comments section to boost his ego when it is wounded by recent confrontations at protests.
In San Antonio, one Chicana at the vigil for Garrett Foster told the crowd that cops watched Hiram’s feed, and another protester called him a “clown.” He was frustrated that no one would provide an interview after that. At a day of action on September 1 for protesters arrested in the uprisings, two Black women organizers and a young Latina woman told him they did not want him there because of his refusal to condemn the very police who target protesters, and because his footage and presence endangers protesters. Hiram became belligerent when told to leave, and arrogantly told a Black woman organizer, “I single-handedly have done more for these protests than all of y’all put together.”
Hiram has generally gone under the radar at protests because unlike bourgeois journalists, he mingles among the protesters. His youthful appearance also means he can appear as a protester, but Hiram will tell you himself he isn’t there to protest or ‘take sides.’ If that’s the case, then he shouldn’t be treated as a comrade, but instead as the invasive, parasitic presence that he is.
Hiram will even take rides from protesters but do nothing to defend them. On the night of August 1, during a demonstration to honor Garret Foster and condemn his killer, Daniel Perry, Hiram got a ride from organizers with Family for Justice. Soon after Hiram was out of the car, Austin police swarmed the car with guns drawn, detaining the organizers, and claiming they were carrying materials for Molotov cocktails in the vehicle with no basis. Police illegally searched the vehicle, and then released the organizers back to their fellow protesters without any charges. Hiram watched all this without making any statement that he had just been in the vehicle, that he had footage proving their innocence, and said nothing to defend the comrades. This is cowardly and anti-people behavior, showing Hiram has no regard for anyone but himself, that he wouldn’t even speak up in defense of the revolutionary Black men who had just given him a ride.
Hiram may claim to be neutral, but it’s very simple to trace his political background which gave rise to his aggressive tendency towards serving the ruling class. He was in the Austin Young Professionals, part of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC). LULAC, while claiming to be socially progressive on behalf of people of Mexican descent in the US, is in fact a conservative element among the Chicano community which pushes assimilation into US imperialism. In 2018 LULAC’s president sent a letter in support of Trump’s immigration reform plans. One of the local chapters in Austin that Hiram associates with is led by Gavino Fernandez Jr., who was investigated for human trafficking. Fernandez was a major supporter of another prominent LULAC member, Juan Sanchez, the CEO of child detention center non-profit Southwest Key.
As the head of the Longhorn LULAC chapter at University of Texas at Austin, Hiram once spoke to bourgeois media to express his enthusiastic support for failed presidential candidate and fellow El Paso native, Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke. Now he’ll try and dance around ever stating his political preferences to his livestream audience, which is full of Trump-loving reactionaries, but Hiram’s liberal background and support for the imperialist state is clear as day and inform all of his commentary and approach.
The people are fed the bourgeois lie of journalistic objectivity by the ruling-class’s monopoly media on a daily basis, and most of the people, particularly from the working class, see through it, even as it is forced down their throats.
But some people, like Hiram, not only swallow bourgeois ‘objectivity’ willingly, they propagate the lie of ‘unbiased journalism’ to cater to people who are interested in maintaining things as they are. ‘Unbiased journalism’ is an illusion, and adopting it only makes you a servant of the monopoly imperialists who exploit us and control the corrupt press which Hiram draws guidance from.
Hiram has worn out his welcome among protesters in Austin for his refusal to side with the people or take their concerns about his ‘journalistic’ practice seriously. The police, in contrast, are more than welcoming of Hiram and his use to them, and Hiram returns the favor, greeting them back like good buddies. Protesters should not tolerate this friendliness with the ruling class and their repressive agents who are trying to end protests and harm people in the streets. As long as Hiram refuses to stand with the people, he should be kept away from the protests that he is only using as content to build his own career.
While all bourgeois journalists are a threat to the people, Hiram poses a special menace for his attempt to be welcomed among the people while being firmly in the service of the ruling class. It is possible to be a journalist and cover protests objectively while being a servant of the people, Tribune of the People does this with a fierce commitment, but Hiram willingly chooses to serve the police and the imperialist state, refusing to condemn these oppressors of the people. If he will not state clearly that he stands for Black lives, that he is against the repression against protesters, then confronting him and expelling him from protests is the only correct means of dealing with his false objectivity. It must be shown to him with action that the revolutionary people are more than capable of telling the stories of their struggles themselves without vultures like himself hovering around.
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