Oakland City Council meeting Nov. 19.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | ANALYSIS | There are times when even the most veteran of journalists drop their editorial guard and reveal exactly how they think. Most people in Oakland know San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson bends over backward for the police. But, why, does he consistently fill his columns with such a blatant pro-law and enforcement slant? One reason, most figure, is this is what the conservative editorial page of the Chronicle desires. The fact of the matter is getting your stories in the morning paper sometimes involves mirroring the boss’s ethos. That could be part of it. However, Johnson instead opened his ideological soul in Tuesday’s edition.
In a column meant to mock protesters of Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center during last week’s City Council meeting, Johnson backed the utility of blanketing the city in a surveillance state, of course, all in the name of public safety. The protesters who cry the center will eventually erode public privacy could theoretically be right, he opined, maybe somewhere down the line, but not likely. As he described the shouting and commotion brought on by opponents of the DAC following the council’s vote in favor and subsequent clearing of the council’s chambers, Johnson wrote:
Like a broken record, the scenario has played out again in Oakland City Hall. Oakland residents are pretty sick of it. I’m sick of it.
After nearly two years of being bullied in their own house, maybe City Council members finally got sick of it, too.
It’s no wonder Johnson thinks law and order deserves every implement in the tool shed to fight crime even though the Oakland Police Department has repeatedly shown in the past it defaults to trimming the bushes with a chainsaw rather than pruning shears. Chip Johnson thinks city government belongs to the politicians and not the people. Repeat that in your head. You simply cannot cover government with this frame of mind. This is the mindset of the affluent and the business community, which openly flaunts their perceived control of the political process.
Johnson’s column, in fact, should be about Council President Pat Kernighan stifling dissent last week that was really rather tame, if not merely annoying, when she ordered police to clear the chambers. This act is not something to be lauded by anyone. Kernighan should be embarrassed for her actions.
In addition, what firsthand information does Johnson possess when it comes to Oakland City Council meetings? I’ve been covering City Hall since last January and I’ve never seen him in council chambers. So, what is making him so sick about the whole scene? In fact, the real problem with his column Tuesday is, as a reader, I now believe his assertions about Oakland city government and its crime problem are merely anecdotal collections of extreme stories he has heard about living in Oakland, but nothing he has experienced or even jarringly felt in his reporter’s bones.
In this regard, the protesters of the DAC should be worried of someone like Johnson having such a bully pulpit. The best way to impose a police state is get the media involved. If Johnson and the rest of the local media repeatedly urge the public to be fearful, then they will. Eventually, the incessant barrage of crime stories will affect reality. Before you know it, having every movement you make become subject to review by police won’t seem like such a horrible bargain. It might even save you from yourself.
“There are times when even the most veteran of journalists drop their editorial guard and reveal exactly how they think.”
Yes, this is called being a columnist. Johnson was expressing his opinion in his column just as you, Steven, are expressing your opinion in your column.
“But, why, does he consistently fill his columns with such a blatant pro-law and enforcement slant? One reason, most figure, is this is what the conservative editorial page of the Chronicle desires.”
Who are these “most people”? I have mixed feelings about DAC to be sure, but why would your first assumption be that anyone who supports it must be the crony of some corporate master? Is it inconceivable that he actually supports the law and that reasonable people can actually disagree about this policy? You do your readers—namely, any of your readers whom you're actually hoping to convince—a disservice by turning what could be an informative policy discussion into a personal pissing contest.
In the last two months, we've had a shooting around the corner that injured an infant in a car, and another on our block, in the middle of the night, that left bullet holes through two vehicles. Robberies are up throughout Oakland, and Jean Quan touts that we'll soon have a whole 700 officers to attempt to control all this. Yet I'm not supposed to be fearful, because you tell me that the fear is a media creation? Wait… aren't you “media,” in fact a media of one or two, who have created your own “bully pulpit” in order to attempt to legislate reality according to the way you see it? Really now…
The pundits and the politicians are busy arguing about what's said at a Council meeting. Meanwhile the gangbangers rule signficant parts of Oakland. Reminds me of the Zen phrase “When the master points at the moon, the idiot stares at the finger.”
If Johnson is pro-police, is he anti-mayor? If the writer is anti-Johnson is he anti-police and pro-mayor? Is the mayor anti-or pro-police? Which of the above is pro-homicide? Isn't the Police Department under the control of the mayor's office? So many questions, so much confusion! So tough to be politically correct in Oakland and so tough not to appear a total fool.
I'd prefer Oakland turned down the DAC money also. It won't help reduce crime and it will be a further encroachment of our liberties by the surveillance state.
That said, the anti-DAC protestors at Council were overbearing and incredibly rude, at one point shouting down senior citizens who had literally been waiting years to address their issue. Just because DAC is important to you, protestors, does not make it more important than someone else's issue. No matter how loudly and rudely you assert otherwise.
Chip Johnson does for Oakland what C. W. Nevius does for San Francisco: serve as a stalking horse for the police and the monied folks who run things.