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Let's Agree to Disagree; Coming Together

Wednesday, Sep 26 2001

Let's Agree to Disagree

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week unanimously passed two resolutions concerning the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the people of the United States. The supervisors did not publicly debate the content of the resolutions at their Sept. 17 meeting, despite the fact that the measures effectively canceled each other out. Consequently, the people of San Francisco now officially support two diametrically opposite policies on how to deal with international terrorism.

Supervisor Chris Daly's resolution calls for the apprehension of the terrorists and the swift prosecution of persons committing hate crimes against Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent. It also puts the people of San Francisco on record as "decrying war as [the] answer to intractable social problems." Daly's Gandhian message proclaims that "seeking "eye for eye, tooth for tooth' vengeance renders its participants blind and toothless." The supervisor from South of Market wrote that war "will never contribute to the safety and security of nations who would use it as a balm to soothe the wounds and scars of their suffering."

The representative of the Marina District, Gavin Newsom, was more Old Testament-inclined. Newsom's bellicose resolution declares that the people of San Francisco officially support the House of Representatives' appropriation of $40 billion to respond to terrorist attacks. More specifically, we ask foreign leaders to "stand with the United States in the war against international terrorism." And we "support the determination of the President [George W. Bush] ... to punish the perpetrators of these attacks as well as their sponsors."

In an interview, Supervisor Tony Hall admitted he voted for both resolutions. He said that, in his opinion, he was not hired to make foreign policy.

"The resolutions will not make any difference in the long run," Hall observed. "They were just a bit of self-promotion and grandstanding."
-- Peter Byrne

Coming Together

Last week was rough for the Daily Californian. On Tuesday, Berkeley's independent student newspaper ran a cartoon depicting two long-bearded men in turbans and robes standing in a large hand amid flames. One is saying, "We made it to paradise! Now we will meet Allah and be fed grapes and be serviced by 70 virgin women, and ...." The other is dropping a flight manual.

Oops. On Tuesday night, more than 100 protesters jammed the newspaper's office, demanded an apology for racism, didn't get one, wouldn't leave, and some were arrested. The next night, as television reporters turned the tumult into a symbol of national tension, someone hacked a fake apology onto the newspaper's Web site.

But accusations of racial misrepresentation are routinely leveled against college newspapers, especially those that publish on politically charged campuses. More unusual -- and certainly more troubling -- was the Daily Cal's decision to join forces with the university's public relations office to produce a full-color issue commemorating the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Distributed at a campuswide memorial to reflect on the tragedy, the issue ran headlines such as "Muslims Bring Peace, Prayer to Campus," "Staff Eases Student Anxieties," and "Media Draws on Faculty Expertise."

Although collaboration between an independent newspaper and the PR arm of the institution it covers is generally a journalistic no-no, the Daily Cal's editor in chief says the terrorist attack demanded an unusual response.

"It is unprecedented, but I think the events of the last week were unprecedented," says Janny Hu, a senior majoring in integrative biology. "This was one special issue in an extraordinary time."

The paper's senior editorial board -- the student editors who craft policy -- didn't unanimously agree to meet the university's request for collaboration, Hu says, but did reach a consensus that it was a good step for the paper. "We felt that issues of independence or whatever could be put aside because of the need to have this special issue," she says.

Maybe the Daily Cal, which last year apologized for running David Horowitz's infamous advertisement against reparations for descendants of slaves, was simply taking a cheerleading cue from some of the Bay Area's professional papers. After all, the Examiner declared war before the government did, and both the Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News have run full-page American flags as symbols of their patriotism. "I could do with a few less American flags in our flagship papers," says Orville Schell, dean of Berkeley's journalism school.

Or maybe the protesters clogging the Daily Cal's office should have picked a different, less obvious target for their indignation.
-- Matt Palmquist

About The Authors

Peter Byrne


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