Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Evil or Entrepreneur?

     Given the success of national blowhards Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, and Neal Boortz, maybe I can't blame him. After all, it certainly seems like the era is past when an impartial newsman rises to national prominence through unbiased analysis. Clearly, appealing to the uneducated and the aggressively self-serving is in Jim Wooten's best professional interests.
     My question is, why does the Atlanta Journal-Constitution feature him? The AJC is supposed to be (was?) a newspaper. It provided news and analysis. As we all know, newspaper readership has been dropping. And so newspapers around the country resort to stunts to boost their numbers. Think you have to buy the Sunday paper to get the good ads? Think again. On certain holiday weekends, the AJC has delivered the advertising sections, despite the fact that I cancelled my subscription a couple of years ago. Still, that's not enough. Perhaps knowing that educated readers, looking for broad, unbiased, well-rounded news sources, are increasingly looking at the internet for their news, local papers like the AJC are going after the "mentally relaxed" market. Read Jack Shafer's July 27th article on this topic in Slate entitled, "How the New York Times Makes Local Papers Dumber.
     It's a shame the AJC is contributing to the decline of the national dialogue in the name of "balance". Just because some guy comes along promising to sell more papers to white supremacists doesn't "balance" him with reasonable authors. Jim Wooten's columns frequently play down to his readership's lack of mental acuity. And his positions come straight out of the wildest GOP caricature. George Bush notwithstanding, I believe most educated Republican voters are nuanced in their beliefs. Perhaps they don't approve of abortion, but they're not sure it should be outlawed. Or maybe they think the federal government should butt out of business, but worry about global warming. Not Jim. There's no nuance to him. Take any issue, imagine what some redneck in 1960's rural Mississippi would say, then read your imagination on the AJC's opinion page.
     Lately he's been railing about city planning issues. If you're not from Atlanta, you have to understand a little of its history here. Right now, Atlanta is one of the largest, sprawlingest cities in the country. This is due to a number of factors, including its small size before the Interstate Highway system and its rapid growth since, the lack of geographical boundaries like an ocean or mountain range, and its racist history. Yes, racist. The "City Too Busy to Hate" is one of the most segregated cities in America after Whites fled downtown during the Civil Rights era. Today, predictably, White suburbanites endure the nation's longest commutes as they drive an average of 35 miles from their home to their job. Today, there's no such thing as "going against traffic" in Atlanta. With sprawl, backups go both ways.
     Why is this happening? Not only are homes moving outward, but so are jobs. You might live 20 miles northeast of the city. Your job might be 20 miles northwest. Or southeast. Or 40 miles north. Cities in the past had large feeder highways going in and out of city centers. Now, we need one connecting every point to every other point. Imagine drawing a line from every square on a chess board to the center of the board. Now imagine drawing a line from every square to every other square. Plus, imagine that every time you draw a line, or make it thicker, the board gets bigger in that direction. It's just not possible to build roads to compensate. The only way to make life livable is to increase density.
     Jim, who is opposed to living near Black people, disagrees. "Move jobs outward", he says, pandering to the imbeciles living 40 miles north of the city who are convinced the jobs are going to move next door to them. What happens when the jobs move 40 miles even farther?
     I digress. It's so easy to point out the flaws in Jim's stupid columns that you miss the point entirely - he exists only to make trouble. Let's look at some of his recent works. Guess his position on college students using condoms. Correct - he's against. (It's all Bill Clinton's fault that college kids have sex, anyway) Is it right for a fraternity that celebrates slavery and civil war to relocate to a Black neighborhood? Yes, but only because the civil war was really only about being gentlemanly and wearing riding on horseback and wearing hoop skirts and because the Black people in the neighborhood were poor. Is government good or bad? Bad! How dare they try to regulate business. I mean, Good! If they pay for kids to go to Christian school. I mean, Bad! If it's taxing luxuries and corporations instead of poor people. Minimum wage? Please. Like you don't know. Ann Coulter? A national hero. Al Gore? A national villain, invoked in as many columns as possible, along with Bill, Hillary, and John Kerry, to rabble-rouse.
     Jim, you're a comic. You're a two dimensional drawing of an right-wing demagogue. You're a hypocrite and a shrill one at that, screaming about "liberals" hating everything and having no ideas, then doing the same yourself. You're the reason the dialog is so poisoned. You would think in a blood-red state like Georgia, you wouldn't be able to blame Democrats for your problems. But somehow you've managed. Just like your insistence that Republicans could clean things up in Washington if only they had control. I mean, for a few more years. That's all. Bill Clinton made congressional Republicans take bribes.
     And to the AJC: maybe people listen to AM radio to get pissed off. But that's not why I read newspapers. And that's why I don't buy yours.