January 15, 2003
Arts and Entertainment
I was delighted to hear about Sup. Matt Gonzalez's ascension as Board of Supervisors president. City Treasurer Susan Leal's comment in the next day's press, however, left a different, less positive impression. Ms. Leal remarked that the S.F. Green Party now needs to "show what they can do with leadership instead of just being the protest party." Susan, where have you been?!?
Since Gonzalez's election in 2000 (as the only elected Green on the board), he has advocated for instant runoff voting (an obvious boon to democracy), public power (which would save S.F. residents 30 percent on energy bills), pedestrian safety (less traffic in Golden Gate Park), and many other issues, always coming down on the side of the public interest.
Green Party member and Board of Education commissioner Mark Sanchez has led fights against high stakes testing, for a better (and less dangerous) location for Phoenix High School, for prekindergarten services for all children, for a living wage for teachers, and for many other issues, again, always coming down on the side of the public interest. Recently sworn-in Green Party member Sarah Lipson has pledged to do the same, and will, as long as she sticks to the Green Party platform. Also, don't forget Peter Camejo, Green Party member, who among S.F. voters defeated Bill Simon in the governor's race.
More and more people are actually taking the time to get informed on the issues, more and more are reading the 10 key values of the Green Party (www.sfgreenparty.org/aboutthegreenparty/tenkeyvalues.html) and realizing that they are not represented by the modern Democratic Party, and, as a result, more and more are registering Green.
'Jerry Springer' campaigns
I agree with the editors of the Bay Guardian when they say that instant runoff voting needs to be implemented by November, thus fulfilling a promise to the electorate and better serving mayoral hopefuls Angela Alioto and Tom Ammiano [Editorial, 12/25/02].
However, I could not disagree more when the editors say that mudslinging is "what political campaigns are all about" and that "it would be silly to ask Ammiano and Alioto to avoid criticizing each other's positions or record."
With this kind of cynical thinking we could assume that television programs like Jerry Springer is what entertainment is all about because we get to see a good bitch-slapping.
Political campaigns should not be about character assassination, rather, they should be about an in-depth debate of the issues. To assume otherwise is to explain why so many people don't vote.
'Chronicle' promotes fear culture
Why has media coverage of murder increased 600 percent while the homicide rate itself has decreased 20 percent? In his movie Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore suggests that the corporate-owned media benefit from a culture of fear and the consumption it generates. I'm sure he's wrong, but I am troubled by Oakland's experience with the San Francisco Chronicle last year:
• In 2002 the Chronicle and the local news media correctly identified a rise in homicide in Oakland (up 30 percent from 2001). An interest in portraying Oakland as a "killing zone" prevented them from placing this increase in any kind of context (perhaps by comparing it to San Francisco's 23.9 percent increase).
• At about midyear, the local media began to feature homicide in Oakland. The Chronicle went further, making it a major theme and gracing it with routine front-page coverage that intensified at the end of the year. Again, there was very little context, and it's a wonder that anyone crossed the Bay Bridge into Oakland, where violent crime has not touched the overwhelming majority of residents. In fact, most only know it from the news media.
• The Chronicle then began a running count of Oakland's murders, numbering each one and faithfully chasing each ambulance to deliver the details to its concerned readers. Providing a public service, I suppose, rather like reporting the winning Lotto numbers. But is this a public service? What do they want us to do with the information? Are there private dimensions to that public service as well, like selling more newspapers and advertising space?
• Finally, as the year drew to a close, the Chronicle then became obsessed with Oakland's murders. I realized this Jan. 4, 2003, when large block letters and half of the front page of the Chronicle were devoted to a story about a murder in Oakland that had occurred the previous week.
I don't know if Michael Moore is right about the media delivering a culture of fear to increase consumption, but if so, the Chronicle surely did its part.