Public Comment

Taking the Chronicle to Task

By Gray Brechin
Friday November 09, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle.  


For decades since a twin political assassination made Dianne Fein-stein mayor, the San Francisco Chronicle has covered for her and those of the wealthy and mighty whose interests—which are her family’s own—she represents. Your reporters have repeatedly used such descriptives as “California’s respected centrist Demo-crat” to hoodwink readers into believing what her voting record, like that of Joe Lieberman’s, plainly contradicts. Above all, you have failed to investigate or reveal Feinstein’s extraordinarily lucrative public-private partnership with her financier husband Richard Blum, now the chair of the UC Board of Regents, despite the wealth he has garnered from government contracts while his wife sat at the federal spigot.  

I never expected, however, that you would go so far as to take literal dictation from Dianne Feinstein’s office. Your opening description of Feinstein as a “stalwart Democrat” was enough to provoke my gag reflex, but your defense—even commendation—of her vote to confirm Michael Mukasey was taken almost verbatim from her ludicrous attempt on Tuesday to justify an indefensible action. In doing so, both she and you have virtually endorsed one of the most horrific forms of torture as well as this nation’s drift under the Bush-Cheney autocracy towards an outright, undisguised, brutal police state.  

I have news for you: Controlled drowning is already both domestically and internationally illegal and needs no further Congressional action to make it so. Furthermore, as Sen. Kennedy said, it does not need to be illegal to be at all times and everywhere reprehensible. No qualifications, no temporizing, no triangulating need apply unless one is on the side of barbarism, which Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday and you this morning revealed yourselves to be.  

Despite its steady decline in quality, I recently renewed my subscription to the Chronicle. Even though the Hearst Corporation has performed the miraculous—making the de Young ownership of that newspaper appear a golden age, as Caligula did that of the reign of Augustus—I felt a citizen’s duty to support a vestigial news-gathering institution like the floundering charity it has become. I did so even after learning that Hearst has entered a cross-ownership with Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group which will enable both megacorporations to jointly control virtually all of the Bay Area’s newspapers, to further strip their newsrooms, censure criticism, and to bring us yet more celebrity tittle-tattle, carbon-enhancing consumerism, and other traditional Hearst fare.  

Over half a century ago, on June 9, 1954, attorney Joseph Welch famously stopped Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his hairy-knuckled tracks by asking twice, “Have you no sense of decency?” Americans responded positively at that time, but after decades of indoctrination by Reagan “conservatism,” Clinton neoliberalism and other “stalwart Democrats,” I’m not sure that most would now understand the ethical import of that question.  

After reading your editorial, I ask the same of you. I do not need to pay to receive boomeranged press releases from torture-equivocator and dictator-enabler Dianne Feinstein’s office when I can get them from her website. She and Sen. Schumer should be shunned in polite company, and your paper boycotted by those who still have the decency required to understand Welch’s query, even in Caligulan times like our own.  

I no longer want your paper to land daily like a steaming dog turd on my doorstep. I’m canceling my subscription and calling on everyone else to do the same until editor Phil Bronstein, like former Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin, submits to voluntary controlled drowning and then reconsiders from experience what he published this morning. Better yet, Dianne Feinstein—or whoever in her office faxed you that editorial.  


Gray Brechin is a local historian and author.