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New Times / Shredder

The following article was posted on May 21st, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 43 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 43

Wiki bias


I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news.

The good news is that I finally found the jellybean I lost in the folds of my back fat some time around Easter. Also, the Internet doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, which is great if you’re a loner type like me who enjoys nothing better than tossing back recently discovered Easter candy and reading Amish Mafia fanfiction. 

The bad news is that I’ve already eaten the jellybean, which seems to have acquired an unidentified fuzz which I assume was some combination of bellybutton lint, hair from my back, and mold. Also, did I mention that the Internet doesn’t seem to be going anywhere? It’s only worth mentioning because there’s still a free space for people to be stupid in front of an audience, and there were.

The first of these is from wannabe 2nd District supervisor Muril Clift, who literally lifted the entire Wikipedia page about San Luis Obispo for the “About San Luis Obispo” section of his website. He didn’t credit the so-called intellectual theft, and if this lack of attention to detail is any indication, his campaign might not fare too well. Even if this was a grade-school paper, he’d get sent home with a note. 

Of course, what can you expect of a campaign that hinges on Cambria, a town of octogenarians behaving like pissed off teenagers throwing a hissy because their parents took away their sports cars when all they did was rack up speeding tickets and caused a fender bender in their first year of driving? Which really means that Cambria has been pursuing the pipe dream of desalination—the heart of Clift’s campaign—for several years, got shut down by the Coastal Commission, and continued to stumble ignorantly along their intended path anyway. Facts schmacts! 

Which kind of reminds me of a certain Rob McCarthy who keeps putting up fences on his property despite the fact that the Coastal Commission ordered him to remove the barriers 2 1/2 months ago. It’s cool, though, ’cause McCarthy insists that the Coastal Commission doesn’t have the authority to tell him what to do. He does what he wants. And then argues that it’s for the public’s safety. 

But I digress. As we all know, and Clift will remind us, the fact that Cambria didn’t get its desal plant is all Bruce’s fault. You know, Bruce? Gibson? Tallish, mediumish guy with hair? I actually don’t know anything about him, except that it’s all his fault. Not the county’s, not the Coastal Commission’s, not the Army Corps of Engineers (which also made a denial), and certainly not Cambria’s fault. Throw in a few delusional sewer nuts, and you’ve got a recipe for a lackluster campaign in which Wikipedia pages are fair game for campaign websites. Because what else is there to say besides that it’s all Bruce’s fault?

Then there’s the Sheriff’s Department’s website, which managed to post original content in its “About” section but paired this content with a photo of its sexy, drug-funded Dodge Viper that teaches kids not to deal drugs because if you do you can make enough money to buy a sexy Viper of your own. I’ve been hammering the department on the hypocrony (a word I just invented, which means both hypocrisy and irony in equal measure) for several years, but they don’t seem to understand my point. 

Speaking of ironisy (the other way of saying hypocrony), I feel compelled to point out that news organizations formally endorsing candidates while maintaining the pretense of unbiased coverage is sorta impossible. I know it’s a longstanding tradition, but so were plenty of stupid things like child labor and wearing pants—and anyway, the only real reason I can see for The Tribune continuing with this tradition is that it makes them feel important. But no three people should have the privilege of telling other people how to vote, especially when the people in question don’t even have enough sense to go into a profession that makes money.

I’m guessing they’ve taken some flack for their endorsements, seeing as how Executive Editor Sandra Duerr put on a strand of pearls to write a Q&A titled “How does the Tribune cover politics?” In this piece, she argues, “Our journalists are trained to put personal leanings aside and approach their stories from an independent point of view … .” To which I ask: What’s the point in training your staff to think independently only to ultimately club the public over the head with your bias? Independent thinking, incidentally, is something that strangely requires no conditioning among the New Times camp. In fact, I’d argue that our intellectual rogues err on the side of a little too much independent thinking; we’re so independent-minded we’re practically children. Child laborers, as it were.

Is district attorney hopeful Dan Dow or any other unendorsed candidates going to walk away from any article printed in The Tribune feeling that they’ve received a fair shake? Probably not, because you’ve already told them you support the other gal. Or guy. What about Clift? He might be a rascal who can’t get his act sufficiently together to write about his own hometown, but he still deserves at least the pretense that the media is taking his campaign seriously, and that’s a fiction that’s difficult to maintain when the local daily has told everyone to vote for the other guy. 

We all know The Tribune takes itself seriously, but presuming to tell people how to vote while pretending you’re totally hot for unbiased reporting is just too much of a stretch—and I write all my columns in a pair of maternity leggings with extra elastic in the waist and anklebands.

 

Shredder doesn’t presume to tell anyone what to eat for breakfast, much less how to vote. Send frosted flakes to shredder@newtimesslo.com.