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The American Nightmare of John Petro Forakis - Part 4

History repeats itself in various names and events. Yellow journalism, the likely predecessor of ‘Fake News,’ is no different. Fake news has plenty of precedents in the history of mass media, and particularly, in the history of American journalism. According to this argument's definition of terms found in part 3, Yellow journalism's rivals during this point in time would be the Greek immigrants.

The Greeks were not the type to conquer or perform a hostile takeover of someone else’s country, only to shove the original owners of the land into “reserved” properties. They wanted the same thing that every other immigrant who came before and after them had wanted, the dream to build a house and family to raise future generations. It’s rather amusing to think that the media within the United States used fear-mongering to claim land (which was not originally theirs, to begin with) and call every new immigrant outside of the United States and Northern Europe ‘bubble bursting’ words like foreigners, aliens, and illegals who were removed in an exodus (even if they did have paperwork) when these Americans just happened to forget that they were the original foreigners in the eyes of the “Native Americans.”

Yellow journalism is likely the forefather of fear-mongering in the media. Fear-mongering in America likely gave birth to both racism and ethnic bias. It’s a deadly chain reaction that develops over time. Fear affects our ability to think and act. Persistent fear can also affect our health. Many people are willing to sacrifice their rights, or the rights of others when they are scared. Fear mongering was used already against the slaves that were brought here who wanted their freedom, and it was used against the Native Americans who wanted their land back until the United States government passed the aforementioned amendment. Unfortunately, it was now the Greek immigrants' turn to battle yellow journalism in America.

In February of 1909, Officer Edward Lowery arrested John Masourides, and several other Greek immigrants because they sat with a 17-year-old white girl named Lillian Breese in a café. Breese was teaching Masourides and the rest of the Greek immigrants with him how to speak English. The newspapers were livid and used all types of slanderous words to describe the Greeks as the news grew within the town. Thousands of dollars in damages from the destruction of Greek-owned businesses and even several homes occurred because the newspapers, which did not give the full and honest story, had automatically sided with Officer Edward Lowrey. Lowery had painted a picture for the readers by calling the event he claimed to have seen an inappropriate relationship [Which Lowrey] hinted at prostitution, although [, later in court,] a judge cited no element of guilt wrongdoing on the part of Miss Breeze [sic].

On the other hand, while inside the café, Masourides resisted arrest and fatally shot Lowery in the leg and ran away because he did not feel safe due to Lowrey’s actions towards him and the rest of the Greek immigrants.

Once he was found, he later met a mob of 3,000 people ready to lynch him outside of the jail. He was later sentenced to death in court, but his lawyer was smart enough to appeal at the right moment. His lawyer stated that Masourides did not have a fair trial and therefore avoided death by receiving a 14-year sentence during the second trial.

Credit: The Pappas Post

Unlike Forakis, Masourides had a second chance with another court case even though he knowingly committed a crime by shooting the officer and was sent to jail in a case that is currently unknown if he pleaded self-defense or not. Even though the truth finally did come out, where the Greeks were only looking to get English lessons from Breese, the truth was ignored, and the media stated that the Greeks [were] a menace to the American laboring. Forakis, of course, had his own dealings with yellow journalism and handled it well in his interviews. The media transformed him from just an everyday Rancher to a heinous Indian Slayer in under three months.

Credit: The Ogden Standard-Examiner. “Indian Slayer…” and “Rancher Faces Murder.”; Vernal Express “Ute Indian Killed."

It is likely that Forakis’ wife, Afton, was stressed out because Forakis was about to be incarcerated, and their large family depended on him. Yet, her actions, not her words, showed her desperation for the family’s survival by selling farming equipment, crops, and animals in preparation to fund the new trial requested by Forakis’ legal team.

Credit: Vernal Express “For Sale – 15 30 Tractor Good condition” and “For Sale 50 head young black feed Hampshire ewes”

Greeks and African Americans developed trust when Greek-owned diners became safe places for African Americans. Solidarity between the two groups would grow even more. Eventually, people like George Herriman, who was the cartoonist behind the Krazy Kat cartoon series of the early to mid-twentieth century, revealed that they had been racially passing as another ethnicity because they were getting slightly better treatment. Herriman’s facial features were thought to be of Greek origin. He often kept his hair cut short and under a hat in order to cover the fact that he was indeed an African American. It was not revealed until his passing in the 1940s that Merriman was of Creole origin when someone found his birth certificate. (Photo Credit: New York Times)

The widespread and often violent discrimination against immigrants from Greece is an almost forgotten page of American History. The Pappas Post then continues to state that Very few persons today, Hellenic, or not, are vaguely aware of the massive continental strength of the [Ku Klux Klan], [nor]…how deeply the evil shadows of bigotry, hatred and intolerance cast their malignant darkness over North America. All over America, Ku Klux Klan (KKK) would terrorize anyone that did not look like them. They would light crosses on the front lawns of African Americans as well as the front lawns of Greek immigrants in states like Utah, Washington, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, and more.

In the case of Greeks Americans and Greek immigrants, the KKK would tear down storefronts in a Kristallnacht-like manner and not allow people to enter stores, and if they were already inside, then those customers knew that a beating was coming to them very soon (ibid, Pappas). One interesting fact that is pointed out by The Pappas Post is that the words Ku and Klux are a variation of the Greek [word] kyklos [put together], meaning cycle, or circle, and applied it to their own little circle.

Founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principles that undergirded its fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, AHEPA [the American Hellenic Educational Association] is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe.

According to Leber, World War I had brought all of the forces of xenophobia together and cast over them the aura of patriotic necessity. There was even a literacy test made for all immigrants to take upon entering the United States (which was put into law by Congress that totally ignored the veto by President Wilson) even before these immigrants were able to walk off of the boat, put down their bags, find a job, and think about how to make money to apply for citizenship. As World War I continued, the so-called patriotic Americans [felt] that the best and quickest way to naturalize the foreigner is as soon as possible to make him forget his native speech; this was according to a group of social workers cited within the text itself.

Immigrant Protection Leagues, as Leber, calls them, were and still are necessary for America today. He continues to give an example in this statement The Indianapolis police arrested a Slovak woman for the heinous crime of picking up Cole [sic] on the tracks. On the coldest day of the year she was taken from her home and children and driven to the workhouse, in spite of the fact that she was a new vanced stage of pregnancy the terrible results of this inhuman treatment were of course what might be expected.

In Part 5, we will look at real estate discrimination and bias against Greeks and others found very easily in law books in certain counties across America.

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