Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trib Columnist Just Doesn’t Get It

By Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 11:12 AM

In a page one opinion piece today, Oakland Tribune columnist Tammerlin Drummond displays both a surprising arrogance toward gays and lesbians in their struggle for marriage equality and a worldview that fosters bigotry. Drummond was responding to blowback she received for her ill-thought-out column on Sunday, in which she claimed that East Bay gay activists were “intolerant to opposing views” because they had mounted a political campaign to stop the reappointment of Lorenzo Hoopes, a major financial backer of last year’s Proposition 8, to the publicly owned Paramount Theatre board of directors.

Drummond begins today’s piece by name-calling, referring to those who objected to her previous column as “the thought police.” Later, she refers to her critics as the “rainbow mafia” and “the local weekly.” One can only assume that the “local weekly” to which she refers is the East Bay Express, you know, the scrappy little paper that routinely scoops the Trib on important stories despite publishing just once a week on a shoestring budget.

But Drummond’s true arrogance is her contention that because she’s a supporter of gay marriage, then she knows best about how gay activists can achieve equality and that it can’t be done by calling out bigots by name. In fact, in neither of her columns does she dare criticize Hoopes, even though he spent $26,000 on an ugly campaign, convincing other Californians to strip gays and lesbians of a basic human right. For those of you that have forgotten, a key component of the Prop. 8 campaign was instilling fear in parents that their kids were going to be harmed if same-sex marriage remained legal.

Instead, Drummond chose to go after gay activists who strongly objected to what had happened to them, and chose to criticize them for allegedly trampling on Hoopes’ First Amendment rights, while ignoring their free speech right to speak out against him. Somehow they’re “mean spirited,” but he’s just a private citizen whose political activities should be respected.

In that way, Drummond, fellow Trib columnist Byron Williams, and Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson are shining examples of a serious problem in mainstream journalism, in which the concept of “balance and objectivity” has run amok. In this skewed world, discriminatory and bigoted ideas, no matter how objectionable, are perfectly legitimate “opposing viewpoints.” It’s become a game where right and wrong and truth and falsehoods don’t matter anymore, and the only thing that does is “he said/she said.” As long as you get “both sides of the story,” you can sleep peacefully, knowing that you’ve done your job. Never mind the fact that this sort of ethical bankruptcy emboldens bigots to cling to ugly and factually wrong beliefs that gays are “immoral” or are more likely to “molest children.” After all, they can rest assured that the mainstream media won’t call out such lies in the morning paper. In fact, it will scold those who do for being "intolerant."

It also should be noted that Hoopes’ defenders fail to point out that serving on the public Paramount board is a privilege, not a right. Hoopes has no more of a claim on that board than any other Oakland taxpayer. It’s also a political appointment by the mayor and the city council. And political appointments are just that — political. People often oppose nominees for their views or for the actions they have taken, regardless of whether they’re directly related to the job at hand. And if Ron Dellums and the council decide that Hoopes — who, after all, will be representing them on the board, and by extension, all Oakland citizens — does not represent their beliefs, then they have every right to select another candidate.

Finally, Drummond ends her piece today saying that she agrees with Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan that the controversy over Hoopes has obscured questions of whether he may not be qualified to serve on the Paramount board. But of course, Drummond doesn’t mention that it was the “local weekly” that published doubts last week about Hoopes’ tenure and the role it has played in the Paramount’s less than stellar financial track record — and not the Tribune. I guess Drummond is just too afraid to mention us by name.

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