When it launched in June of 2014, the Facebook page “Battle of New Orleans: The Bicentennial Documentary” appeared to be an earnest, apolitical effort to raise money for a movie produced by Jeffrey Pipes Guice, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, is the senior sales executive for the company Nola Restaurant Marketing, LLC. According to the Louisiana Secretary of State, however, Guice is the company’s only officer, listing himself as both manager and member and the business’s location at a small residential condominium he leases on Pyrtania Street.
There was an affiliated Kickstarter campaign, which, thus far, has raised more than $12,000, and a series of video clips uploaded onto YouTube that ostensibly were teasers for the yet-to-be-completed documentary film.
The movie has yet to materialize, but, after building up a sizable following (currently, there are more than 31,000 followers), the Facebook page turned into an online hate group. (Guice has never acknowledged or denied his authorship, but he is the only person publicly and directly affiliated with the film project and its associated online promotions. For the purposes of this article, therefore, we do not assume he wrote any of the offensive commentary, only that he is ultimately responsible for the opinions expressed on behalf of his film project).
During the last year, Guice’s page has allegedly encouraged death threats against members of Take Em Down NOLA, an organization that seeks to remove monuments honoring white supremacy from the public square; it has shared the names of police officers and city contractors assigned to oversee the removal of at least one Confederate monument; it has referred to African-Americans as “negroes” and “animals;” and it has falsely reported that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu was booed and accosted at two local restaurants (claims that were taken as fact by the conservative blog The Hayride before the owners of both restaurants categorically denied them).
Perhaps most troubling, only two months ago, Guice’s page called for the lynching and murder of City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell. “PURE BLACK RACIST MOVE! LaToya should be hung (sic),” the page’s author declared.
On a daily- indeed, almost hourly- basis, Jeffrey Pipes Guice’s Facebook page is a virulently racist cesspool, the toxic underbelly of the Internet.
In recent days, the page has become singularly fixated on Cantrell, who, along with five of her colleagues on the City Council, voted in favor of removing four monuments associated with white supremacy and the Confederacy. “NEVER FORGET! LaToya Cantrell was the final vote of the New Orleans City Council to tear down and discard our beautiful and artistic historical monument,” the page’s author declared late Monday night, conveniently ignoring the fact that the ordinance authorizing removal passed 6 to 1; there was no single “final vote;” there were six.
A Facebook page with more than 31,000 followers is not insignificant; it’s only slightly under 10% of the population of New Orleans (though, undoubtedly, the vast majority of its audience lives outside of the city itself).
Regardless, it should be concerning to any voter in New Orleans that the Battle of New Orleans page isn’t merely smearing LaToya Cantrell; it is now actively and aggressively promoting the campaign of Desiree Charbonnet. Most alarmingly, the page appears to be spending money to promote Charbonnet through paid “boosts” of Facebook posts.
According to a member of the Charbonnet campaign, they are aware that Guice’s page is now investing in paid sponsorships of commentary and stories promoting the former judge’s candidacy, but they contend they have no control over the page. That is undoubtedly true, and there is no question whatsoever that Charbonnet, an African-American woman, must be repulsed by the page. But she and her campaign can do something: They can unequivocally denounce Guice’s page and publicly repudiate the page’s endorsement.
Thus far, they have remained silent. It is time to stand up, immediately, because Guice’s page is now pretending to serve as some sort of conservative surrogate.
It is also curious that a Facebook page ostensibly created to fundraise for a documentary presumably does not have the resources yet to make the film, but it can spend money on social media in support of a mayoral candidate, which could potentially qualify as campaign-related activities or electioneering activities and would therefore be subject to public disclosure (notice the first post was “sponsored”).
Chabonnet, a Democrat, has previously boasted of the endorsement she received from the Louisiana Republican Party, even sending out a mailer that prominently advertises the GOP’s support.
Her campaign’s embrace of the Louisiana Republican Party was strategic and targeted, but it was a calculated risk, tacitly giving permission to fringe groups like the Battle of New Orleans to frame her as one of their own and as simpatico to their cause: The veneration of Confederate and white supremacist monuments under the pretense of preserving history. That is unfortunate, and it needs to be denounced as soon as possible.
Publisher’s Note: Although The Bayou Brief will not endorse any candidates in this year’s election, I have personally contributed $100 to the campaign of LaToya Cantrell as part of a young professional’s event hosted by her campaign. Neither the candidate nor her campaign were aware I had been researching this story for publication. I strongly believe both Charbonnet and Cantrell are exceptional, immensely qualified candidates. However, I also strongly believe in our responsibility to denounce bigotry and hatefulness whenever we encounter it, particularly if it is exercised in a concerted attempt to influence an election. – Lamar White, Jr.
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