Monday, July 29, 2013

Boston Bulletin’s Editorials and Op-Eds lock up the grumpy old man market

I don’t know why I do it exactly, but I try to read the free Boston weeklies when I can. Some of the reporting is solid, and they cover things that are sometimes overlooked by the dailies. Wow, though. The editorials and op-eds usually sound like they gave a page to my grandfather and asked him to write about things he was no longer comfortable saying out loud.

The Bulletin. Keeping a finger
on the pulse of the nearly pulseless.
See, for example, the July 25, 2013 edition of the Boston Bulletin[i] (I’d love to link to the actual stories, but the Bulletin, a free paper, doesn’t post their stories online unless you buy a subscription, and then it’s just a PDF. All this despite the fact that there’s an ad in the paper that reads “What drives the internet? CONTENT. Read the Bulletin online at In it, among a lot of advertising for things you won’t use, ten actual stories, some event listings, one editorial and two op-eds. We’ll start with the op-eds.

In “If I Had A Son,” Frank Sullivan (regular writer of the “Frank Reflections” column) nails the tone-deaf white Irish-American attitude, implying that President Obama is a racist because the latter had the temerity to suggest that if he had a son, that son would resemble Trayvon Martin. Frank, who totally recognizes that America’s racial history is “disgusting,” argues “I thought we are not supposed to use phrases that suggest ‘They all look the same,’ [sic] when describing a black teenager.” His whole follow-up, where he pretends that if he had a son he’d explain to them that they should respect Rosa Parks and MLK, but that any present-day racial struggles are fabricated race baiting, is based on this idea, which is to say “Obama thinks all black kids look alike.” Except that’s not what Obama is saying. He’s saying if he had a son, that son would look black and black teenagers, in his experience, are profiled and in the instance of Trayvon Martin, stalked and ultimately killed for being black. His point is not that all black kids look the same. It’s that all black kids look the same to white people. 

Frank goes on to say if he had a son “if he is lucky, he will look like his mother and his sisters [nice self-effacing family plug here, Frank]. He won’t look like any random white teen who dies in the midst of pounding a victim’s head on the pavement.” The implication here, of course, is that any kid, white or black, who is defending himself against somebody who he perceives (and in the case of George Zimmerman, clearly is) a threat, they deserve what’s coming to them. Note that George Zimmerman, in Frank's eyes, is the victim here. But let’s not do hypotheticals about imaginary sons here, Frank. Let’s talk about one of those daughters you mentioned. If your daughter was being stalked by a middle aged man with a gun, decided she was in a position where she was threatened enough to have to try to defend herself, and was shot in the process, what would your opinion be then? This might seem like a harsh question, but since it’s all right to ask a presidential candidate a similar question, I think it’s fair to ask a columnist who’s saying someone else’s kid got what they deserved.

And if your daughter died in an instance like this, Frank, and the guy who shot her wasn’t even detained for 24 hours, as Zimmerman wasn’t, what then? Would this be a clear “justice has been served” situation?

Frank also calls race baiting on black Boston leaders, who he says are making a bigger deal out of the Martin case than of a triple murder on Intervale St. in Roxbury, which he said is getting no attention because there is no race element. Now, assuming these two cases are even sort of similar, which they aren’t, the outrage about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case was entirely about George Zimmerman going free. Since there isn’t even a suspect in this triple murder, these crimes are totally incomparable. A better (though still not good or parallel) comparison would be of the Amy Lord murder in South Boston, for which there have been plenty of community meetings and much organization and press. Is Frank Sullivan equally outraged that the Amy Lord case is getting this much media and community attention while the Roxbury murders remain on the back burner?

A few pages away, next to a temper tantrum column by Joe Galeota (My Kind of Town, p. 4) about how the terrorists have won because it’s harder to park near the esplanade on the 4th of July (I’m not exaggerating. The column is actually called “Another victory for the brothers Tsarnaev,” where he calls parking on Storrow Drive for the Pops a “short but meaningful Boston tradition” that “bites the dust.” Apparently nobody’s told Mr. Galeota about the Green Line), an unsigned editorial, which actually takes a pretty reasonable position on student debt (something needs to be done about student debt, author is open to legislation bringing down student interest rates and proposes an Obamacare-like policy on schools where they are required to spend 80 percent of their spending on education), shows the author’s total lack of understanding of all things under forty in an arbitrary (not to mention incredibly dated) dig on Occupy Wall Street.

This is Farhad Ebrahimi. He might look
like a hippy to the Bulletin, but he's
actually worth more than their entire
company. Also, if you think he looks
like a hippy, you don't know what
hippies are. Look into it.
In bringing up Occupy, the author writes “Frankly, many of those protestors were dumbfounded that a degree in art history doesn’t make you rich, and that forces of supply and demand won’t allow you to pay a mortgage by selling hemp-made hacky sacks.” The economic falsehood of the second half of that statement notwithstanding, this nonsense talk shows both a total lack of understanding about what Occupy was about (most people there didn’t want to be rich, they just didn’t like that other people were getting rich exploiting the labors of people who were poor) and who was supporting it. I, for example, have a real job (totally hemp-free, I might add), as did and do many of the people I know who were involved with Occupy. There were college professors, retail workers, office drones, managers, and even millionaires involved and/or supporting the Occupy Wall Street protests. Perpetuating this myth that there was nothing but a bunch of hippies and slackers at Occupy is a baseless lie, and the language the Bulletin chose to use really reflects hostility toward what happened in the 1960s more than the modern day.

Were there deadbeats at Occupy? Sure there were, but saying it’s the norm for those protests, or even particularly common, is a statement from a person who couldn’t even have been bothered to go down to Dewey Square and talk to some of the folks he decided to write about. If the editors of the Boston Bulletin had bothered to read a single edition of The Occupied Wall Street Journal (which I’d bet gets a hell of a lot more readers than that Boston Bulletin site) as closely as I read the Bulletin, they’d be hard-pressed to find a word about anyone trying to get rich, nor a single pitch for a hemp cooperative start-up.

There are a lot of reasons why local newspapers are dying. The internet is a huge part of it, as are budget cuts[ii] and willingness by writers to trade their writing for “experience.” But more than anything, newspapers like the Bulletin are losing readership because they’re catering to a population that is going extinct. The target market of the Boston Bulletin’s editorial pages is older, white, reactionary, and resistant to change – all things that a modern Boston (and a modern America) is not conducive to. I’m not saying these columns and columnists should all be booted to the curb – quite the contrary, I think their opinions are very valuable in characterizing what stupidity looks like in print – but what I am saying is that these papers need the voices of younger people who aren’t ready to scream “get off my lawn” every time a stranger comes by next to those of the old guard if they want to continue past 2020. 

Boston is changing, and if small weeklies like the Bulletin don’t change with it, they’ll be as gone as the days of Whitey, Yaz, and Honey Fitz.

[i] I am using the West Roxbury – Roslindale edition of the Bulletin for this story, though their columns are usually syndicated in all editions.
[ii] I’ve written for the Bulletin in the past. They pay $20-25 for an article. Hardly enough for a writer to live on.

1 comment:

RCB said...

Galeota's column has always been a joke.

When he wrote for the Parkway Transcript years ago, his column often consisted, literally, of a list of 30-40 of his friends in West Roxbury. Nothing more.