Three disparate events over the last month have prompted this article. It’s funny how life works – and sometimes doesn’t – and how one’s perspective can impacted. Those of you that are long time readers of the OBRag may have noticed less output from me here as of late, from a guy who in the past has written early and often about whatever crossed my mind.
Which leads me to event #1: finding out that I had cancer. I won’t bore you with the details except to say that my prognosis is extremely positive and that the treatments (chemo/radiation) are debilitating. So I have had lots of time to contemplate life but can’t often summon the energy to write about it.
Event #2: is the real snoozer dominating the news these days—the debt ceiling crisis. Poor Artie Ojeda of at NBC San Diego news got sent out this week to capture some “person on the street” commentary about the clash of the ideologues that may or may not threaten to plunge the country into a massive depression. What Artie got was a collective “huh?” from the one guy he could find willing to go on camera. It’s obvious that people don’t care, understand or believe what they hear coming out of Washington these days. For me, bottom line, it’s not about Obama’s cuts, asking the wealthy to contribute a few dollars more, or the GOP flavor of the moment counter-proposal. This is ultimately one battle about the future of our civilization… (a point that I’ll address further on here)
Event #3: was the decision of the local daily newspaper to constitute a community editorial advisory board, and the subsequent reactions that I’ve seen around the bloggosphere.
(This board includes the OBRag’s Ernie McCray, and I do not deny that my opinions here are influenced by my admiration for his writing talent and the unwavering support for the youth in our community that he demonstrates on a daily basis. Or the guts he’s shown when confronted with the hatemongers of our community.)
Way back in the early days of U-T Editor Jeff Light’s reign, he asked me—a known vociferous critic of the daily fishwrap—out to lunch. I found him to be a reasonable person with an extremely difficult set of tasks before him. To be truthful, I almost felt sorry for the guy. We talked about many of these challenges, but mostly we talked history. I laid out my perspective on the history of the alternative press in San Diego; how we viewed the paper; and my view that the local dead-tree press spoke to an ever-narrowing audience.
So, when I read about the plan to include more voices in the paper’s printed perspectives I was (and am) skeptical. As I read down the list of names, the thing that most impressed me was the obvious bias towards highly educated and/or articulate individuals. Then I saw that our own Ernie McCray was the first out of the gate with a perspective—and, hey, they even admitted that he contributes to the OB Rag. So, while I have no illusions that the overall thrust of the Union-Tribune will be changing, I have to give Mr. Light credit. In one fell swoop, he’s taken a step towards giving new voices and viewpoints ink and made the move look like a thoughtful step towards building bridges with a community that has largely written the paper off for decades.
Still, this move didn’t inspire me enough to want write about it. After all, who wants to admit that their longtime adversary might have done something r-r-r-r….r-right?
Then I saw a bit of commentary over at SDRostra whining about how all these folks are leeches. The actual wording was: social activists, government bureaucrats and other tax-takers. But I think that was just them being polite. I think that they probably were remembering about all the money Carl DeMaio’s made off the public trough, and decided softer language was needed. Here’s more of their beefing:
Of course any group that represents the local community is going to include the left. It will include those active in labor, education and the environment. What’s wrong is what it doesn’t include. This group has no openly identified conservative Christians, Tea Party activists, libertarians or defenders of the Second Amendment. And there’s no one who actually produces jobs and profits in the private sector without government largesse.
For as long as anybody can remember the Union-Tribune has been a welcoming place for this town’s elite, effete Republicans. Hell, that paper was so right wing that they wouldn’t even print obituary notices for people of color until a few decades ago. The UT was so interconnected with the local power-structure that, back in Col. Victor Krulak’s days at the helm, he personally facilitated intelligence data between agencies interested in local dissenters. When “Mr. San Diego’s”—oligarch C. Arnold Smith—bank collapsed into insolvency, the UT heralded the event as a “sale” to Crocker National Bank. And, hell, it often appears that the comments section of the paper is owned by the groups that SDRostra finds in such short supply on the newly constituted board.
So now the paper has thrown a few column inches to an as yet unfinished group, whose only common denominator that I can discern is that they’re kinda smart. In this age when the Huffington Post and AOL are attempting to turn unpaid blogger’s passions into corporate profits, it’s easy to be cynical about what the Union-Tribune is doing. As one Voice of San Diego commenter –pretending to explain Editor Light’s thinking– put it:
“Since our editorial board was so lame anyway, we thought we’d put them out of their misery. Then I was clicking around on my Facebook account, and noticed that I’ve got some friends who would probably write for free.”
“Frankly, chimpanzees writing editorials would be fine with me,” said Light. “So long as it fills up that white space between the advertising, I’m good.”
I must admit that this overlapping of the blogger and the professional bothers me. But, as I have been saying to folks at OB Rag editorial meetings (and even, so I was recently told, at a lecture I gave to the OB Free School back in 1972), if we, as alternative journalists, citizen bloggers or whatever you want to call us, aren’t producing and developing our craft, there is exactly no chance we’ll have a seat at the table come the revolution (what I said then) or the collapse of dead tree journalism (what I say now).
Getting back to the whinings of SDRostra, I realized that there are bigger issues at play here, ones that encompass a much broader perspective that is simply conservative vs liberal, taxpayer vs leech, spendthrift vs social democrat.
In my mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that what this “debate” ultimately is about much greater things. It’s about whether Socrates, Cato, Hobbes and Franklin (to name a few) are going to survive as part of our culture. It’s about understanding the accomplishments and failures of non-western civilizations as well. It’s about the high road for civilization versus the low road of the most banal acts of a few greedy people. It’s about making sure that our children understand that Beethoven is just as important as Snoop Dogg.
So, putting the UT’s community editorial in this context, I see it as a small victory for a “smarter” world. To SDRostra, I offer some cheese to go with that whine.