Every progressive has his price. For the San Francisco Bay Guardian, it's apparently $1 million.
For decades, the Guardian and its staff have insulted the Weekly and its writers because we were purchased by an out-of-town corporation. Now that the Guardian is seriously entertaining the idea of selling to a corporate interest group led by out-of-towners ... well, this is the foie gras of Schadenfreude. The delicious hypocrisy is so thick it's spreadable, yet it melts in your mouth like ice cream.
No irony could possibly taste as good -- except maybe Chris Daly moving to the suburbs, a superior, self-proclaimed feminist claiming that his domestic violence issue is a private, family matter, or Supervisor David Chiu being betrayed by the very person he put into power. The fact that all of this happened, that progressive icons have feet of clay up to their necks, ought to tell us something.
Perhaps it's best if we consider the potential sale of the Guardian to
an out-of-town corporation to be the dessert course of the '60s: so
inevitable it was actually on the menu, visible to anyone who could
The essence of the critique against San Francisco
progressivism, after all, is that it demands that people be better than
they really are. That it is more concerned with establishing who's
holier-than-thou than it is actually getting things done. SF Weekly staff writer Joe Eskenazi
and I have charted, at length, how that dynamic (among others) helped
the Board of Supervisors -- and the Guardian writers appear to be the
only people in San Francisco who never understood how that worked.
time the Guardian's Tim Redmond ran New Year's resolutions for other people, every
time Steven T. Jones said that bicyclists are morally superior beings,
every time Editor and Publisher Bruce Brugmann swore that public power was just one more
scathing editorial away, the Guardian was setting progressivism up as a
movement that would succeed through superior virtue rather than
Yes, they claimed their policies were better,
too -- often correctly. But the essence of their argument was never "this makes sense," but rather, "This is what good people do." Disagreement
wasn't an intellectual process, but a moral one: If you disagree with
what good people do, you are a bad person. On a personal level, that's
why I applied to work for the Weekly instead -- even though I genuinely
believe the Guardian is interested in making a positive difference in
its community, and I mostly agree with its policy recommendations. But the
Weekly never asked me: "Are you a good person?" They asked me if I could
write well and hold an argument together. I had no interest in working for
an employer more concerned about the state of my soul than my pen.
same dynamic, writ large, goes a long way toward explaining why the Guardian's
brand of progressivism has appealed to so few in a place where so many
agree with them about so much. As the progressive movement became
more concerned with displaying its virtue than solving problems, San Franciscans began moving away from it, in part because we
simply didn't believe progressives are any better than the rest of us.
guess what? Former Supervisor Chris Daly moved to the suburbs, while the Chron's Chuck Nevius moved
to the city. David Chiu rides a bicycle, and he stabbed progressives in the
back. Meanwhile, Sheriff-in-limbo Ross Mirkarimi walked his long feminist voting record back, because
dammit, it was about his family. And now the Guardian has named a price
at which it will go corporate.
Progressives, too, are imperfect
people, capable of making mistakes and selling out -- which everybody
learned from the '60s except Guardianistas and the kids who flock to San
Francisco from around the country thinking they'll find a place where
nobody's really in it for the money. Poor, stupid kids.
those of us who have been targets of the Guardian's holier-than-thou
attitude for all these years deserve an apology -- but I'm not going to
ask for one, because I'd expect it to be as poorly written as their
I don't blame Brugmann for wanting to retire anymore than
I blamed Daly for doing what he thought was best for his kids. Life is
messy. People are imperfect. We have to live in a world where clear
moral distinctions are hard to draw.
progressivism, as a movement, will be much better off if it can put the
obsessions of the Brugmann-era Guardian behind them and accept that people who are less than perfect can be part of the solution.
A Guardian that doesn't look down on the world it presumes to improve would be more effective and more honest.
A sense of humor would help, too. But I don't expect miracles.
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