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PT "Geezer" Epithet: Beneath LB

(August 24, 2000) We are tempted to do what some people already do with Press-Telegram "Editorials": ignore them.

However, we think the paper's August 21 piece requires comment.

This particular PT "Editorial" struck us as mainly as another turgid defense of the status quo, using the low-brow technique of invoking LB's balmy weather, ocean breezes and other pleasantries to paint an overall rosy picture (as if City Hall were responsible for weather and location.) In fairness, it also acknowledged LB's crime-scarred neighborhoods and a city government that "our readers keep reminding us, is out of touch with some folks."

Then it added the following:

"And we'd give anything if the geezers who read from scripts at the start of City Council meetings would find something better to do on Tuesday evenings. But that's part of the charm of the city."

We won't mince words about this. In our view, newspapers that make ad hominem attacks on anyone show they have contempt for everyone. They show they have little on the merits, only bullying, in trying to persuade.

The PT 's name calling was more specific than Mayor O'Neill's infamous "CAVE People" address four years ago (a transcript of which we coincidentally posted a week ago as a News Retrospective). After her oratory drew criticism, the Mayor apologized and indicated basically that she did not address the comment to any specific individual. In contrast, we presume the PT must have had someone specific in mind.

It took guts for the PT's conscience, Tom Hennessy, to use part of his column today (August 24) to opine that he found the "G" word offensive. That's fine, but we'll go further.

We think ad hominem attacks and dehumanizing unnamed people laced with identifying innuendo show contempt for the public. We think this is so for public officials. We think this is so for newspapers.

Calling someone a name is what a child does. What would you do as a parent if your child pridefully demonstrated he considered name-calling an appropriate way to disagree?

A "CAVE People" attitude is beneath LB. Objectifying the target of the insult as an example of urban charm only adds insult to injury.

We believe the cure for bad speech is more speech. In the coming weeks, we plan to show this.

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