I am tired of the malicious lies and deception being hurled by those who are out to destroy the Berkeley Daily Planet.
The motives of this self-selected group of militant Zionists seem obvious.
This newspaper publishes a wide range of letters to the editor and commentaries, a small percentage of which focus on relations between the Israeli government and Palestinians, an incendiary issue for folks like Jim Sinkinson and John Gertz, the two men with the highest profiles in the effort to shut down the paper.
While Gertz, author of a website devoted to “reforming” the “probably” anti-Semitic Daily Planet, comes across as a somewhat genial if naive man of wealth—he owns Zorro, after all—Sinkinson is cut from a rougher cloth.
While Gertz, a self-described “left-wing Zionist,” resorts to the kind of red-baiting that once deprived this country of some of its finest filmmakers, singers and actors (many of them Jewish, it should be noted), Sinkinson comes across as a more sinister character, willing to resort to outright lies and deception in his drive to intimidate the paper’s advertisers.
The author of several letters sent to each of the Daily Planet’s advertisers warning them that their continued presence in the paper threatens to bring down the wrath of the East Bay Jewish community, Sinkinson has proved himself in his latest letter willing to twist even the words of the 40 Jewish leaders who constitute the East Bay Council of Rabbis.
In a July 19 letter to advertisers—which featured a prepaid cancellation notice for them to send to the paper’s ad department—he declares, “Please know that we are taking this action because it is a critical concern for many members of the Jewish community.”
And then he offers, by way of an endorsement, a letter to the editor from rabbinical council president Andrea Berlin, published unedited in this newspaper’s June 25 edition.
Her letter, which includes a ringing acclimation of freedom of the speech and press, nonetheless states that one letter published in the Planet “some years ago ... crossed over into clearly anti-Semitic expression.”
While she cautioned the paper against publishing “hate speech,” the only instance she cited was that 2006 letter to the editor, which I discussed in detail in my lengthy June 4 article “The Campaign Against the Daily Planet” (see http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2009-06-04).
While Rabbi Berlin’s letter was reprinted in full in the Daily Planet, Sinkinson omitted two sentences from the version he included in his letter to advertisers.
A quick reading of the missing text makes clear why he conveniently excised them. The simple truth is, they provide an explicit criticism of the very publicist’s campaign he’s conducting:
“The Jewish community does not censor criticism of Israel and neither its leadership nor its designated representatives are engaged in a campaign against the Daily Planet. We decry any efforts by anyone who would stifle the flow of information.” (see http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2009-06-25/article/33213 )
Sinkinson intends just that, the stifling of the flow of information.
Now let’s look at a couple of his other lies, included in the mailings he’s sent to advertisers warning him that the paper is filled with “hate speech” which will drive Jews away from businesses that advertise in it.
First, in a June 11 letter to advertisers, he declares that I wrongly called him a publicist, adding that never “have I ever practiced any form of public relations.”
Jim Sinkinson most emphatically IS a publicist. Let’s look at a definition from Yourdictionary.com: “a person whose business is to publicize persons, organizations, etc.”
By that definition, Sinkinson is clearly a publicist for FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East), an organization with a website that features harsh comments about Islam and boasts the virulently anti-Islamic Daniel Pipes as a director.
He sends out e-mails on behalf of the group—the very essence of the publicist’s job—and he also publicizes a mysterious group called East Bay Citizens for Journalistic Responsibility, the purported sponsor of his letters to advertisers.
And speaking of that group—which has no paper trail, no legal filings and no other name associated with it than his—Sinkinson told another lie in his June letter to our advertisers, declaring that in my June 4 articles I had “neglected (mysteriously!) to provide the name of the local organization I head up. . .”
But, just to be charitable, maybe he wasn’t lying. Maybe he simply can’t read. One thing is certain, I did name the organization. Let me quote my own article:
“In his campaign against the Daily Planet, Sinkinson employs a classic corporate PR strategy, claiming he writes as a representative of a previously unknown group, ‘East Bay Citizens for Journalistic Responsibility.’”
Lets’ take another lie in the same letter: “Mr. Brenneman implies that my organization receives some $70,000 annually for providing website services” to FLAME.
Lie. Let me quote the article again:
“During the last three years for which IRS returns are available, FLAME reported taking in gross receipts of $2,997,654, of which direct public support accounted for $2,330,032.
“During the same three-year period, FLAME spent $1,352,696 on mass media ads, $133,850 on direct mail fundraising and an additional $200,772 on ‘educational’ mailings.
“The forms report $70,552 in costs to maintain the group’s Internet site, and while the tax documents don’t list the payee, separate ‘Statements of Condition’ found on the organizational website reveal that the recipient is Sinkinson’s Infocom Group.”
So much for that falsehood—or perhaps it was merely the fruit of a momentary instance of dyslexia.
Sinkinson also implies that I’m an anti-Semite, an allegation that drew laughter from my two daughters, who are descendants of both that Goldman and that Sachs as well as Edwin Vogel, one of the founders of CIT. They’re also step-great-grand-nieces of Sir Rudolph Peierls.
I converted for my first marriage, and unlike some of my critics, I can remember my bris. I would also add that four of the five great loves of my life have been Jewish by birth.
Adding insult to injury, Sinkinson declares, ominously, “What was Brenneman smoking when he invented this stuff?”
But wait. I didn’t invent a damn thing. Maybe the sentence should be rephrased: “What was Sinkinson smoking when he read this stuff?” Perhaps something that affects short-term memory?
This is the man who warns our advertisers in his latest letter that their appearance in the paper “harms your reputation” [underline in original], adding that “East Bay Jews and Israel supporters” will become “more outraged ”if they continue.”
“Please know that we are taking this action because it is a critical concern for many members of the Jewish community,” he tells the advertisers.
Such is “I am not a publicist” Sinkinson, who comes out smelling a lot like brethren in arms of his who once touted the health virtues of tobacco in press releases to reporters like me.
Oh, and one last point. Sinkinson’s letters rail at the Planet for publishing “editorials” of which he disapproves.
As the publisher of a publicists’ newsletter and the organizer of annual national gatherings for the PR trade, Sinkinson surely knows that letters to the editor and op-ed pieces aren’t “editorials.” They are unremunerated contributions from readers, printed to give free expression to the opinions of others in order to create a public forum for the free exchange of ideas, a critical function if democracy is to endure.
Sure, I’m not thrilled that Sinkinson and Gertz are after my job, striving to close the paper by intimidating advertisers until they either fold up their checkbooks or the paper “reforms.” But I’ve been unemployed before.
Journalism has been the first and perhaps hardest hit craft in the chaos of the “new economy,” and newspapers across the country have closed or downsized. Attacking newspapers these days is like shooting ducks with already-clipped wings.
But imagine if Sinkinson and Gertz could boast that they’d shut down the only community newspaper in Berkeley, California, known worldwide as the home of the Free Speech Movement and (somewhat erroneously) as a bastion of radicals.
What sober editor wouldn’t have second thoughts about publishing an article critical of Israeli policies if someone called up and reminded her about the fate of the Daily Planet and warned that the same thing could happen to them?
And just for the record, I had the same qualms about the 2006 letter as Rabbi Berlin expressed. But one thing I won’t call Becky O’Malley is anti-Semitic. I wouldn’t be working here if she were.
As for the Daily Planet’s policy of encouraging the free exchange of ideas in its reader contribution pages, let me quote another Jew whom I deeply admire. In his 1927 concurring opinion in the case of Whitney v. California, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that “freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.”
Richard Brenneman is a staff writer for the Berkeley Daily Planet.