Monday, February 29, 2016

The P&C's editorial board is cowardly at best, complicit at worst

The Timidity Times

Posted by Chris Haire on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 3:22 PM

You may not know this, but I'm a fan of The Post and Courier, and a fairly vocal one at that. On a certain level they are our competition — both in terms of ad revenue and reporting the news. But they are also our fair city's daily paper — the one that has the resources to cover nearly every single aspect of our society, the good and the bad. More importantly, they do it well. I mean, they won a Pulitzer for a reason. However, over the years I've come to see that there is a stark difference between the P&C's lineup of all-star reporters and its editorial board.

On the one hand, you have a news team that is the very definition of a compassionate watchdog press, one that uses its editorial power to tackle the state's shameful domestic violence laws, the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later behavior of some South Carolina cops, the misuse of campaign funds by our legislators, and the scourge of racism that still haunts us today, especially here in Charleston.

On the other hand, you have an editorial board that regularly takes milquetoast positions on important issues, in particular ones that challenge the status quo. And when they're not doing that, they're authoring apologies for a regressive, authoritarian-loving, arch-conservative world view. The latter, of course, is something of a shock considering Charleston's deep-blue leanings.

Normally, I skip the editorials for these reasons, not because I don't like to have my own points of view challenged, but because there are other conservative minds that do it far better with an approach that is both bold and intellectually honest.

Last week, however, I did read what the editorial board had to say, and quite honestly, it sent me off on a rant the ferocity of which was neither quenched by beer or bourbon. Needless to say, at this moment I'm deep in the throes of a hater hangover that I have yet to recover from. And it all began with two sentences in an editorial defending the continued detention of terror suspects at Gitmo: "Mr. Obama contended Tuesday that 'Guantánamo Bay does not advance our national security — it undermines it.' But in a world that has given rise to the Islamic State, it is hard to credit the argument that the existence of Guantánamo incites terror."

Clearly, the P&C editorial board hasn't done their research, because if they had, then they would have quickly discovered that Gitmo has long been used by Islamic militants to recruit would-be terrorists. From the Taliban to Al-Qaeda, our enemies repeatedly reference the Guantánamo Bay detainees in speeches and the press and on social media. Now, I'm not sure what this flub says of the P&C's editorialists — they could be lying, they could be grossly misinformed, they could be lazy, they could be trying desperately to fashion reality into what they want it to be — but the fact that they don't even bother to provide an argument to back up their statement hints that it could be all four possibilities. 

My troubles could have ended there, but they didn't. Two days later, the editorial board penned not one, but two pieces that forced me to direct my attention to the Great Bartender in the Sky, wave a $20-spot, and shout, "I'll have another, and this time, make it a double." The first concerned Saturday's Democratic presidential primary, the other the Confederate Relic Room.

As people who are duty-bound to cover politics — it's the primary purpose of the American press after all — you would think that the P&C editorial board would be invested enough in the future of our great nation to select the best candidate on the Democratic end of the spectrum simply because they want the two best candidates facing off in November. I know, that's how we would have done it if we endorsed candidates in primary contests. (For the record, I would have picked Marco Rubio.) The point is, you don't simply want your team to win, you want to make sure the U.S. is always in good hands, regardless of which party wins, because sometimes, your guy loses. But not The Post and Courier

Instead, the editorial board refused to offer an endorsement, and in fact, spent much of the article talking about Donald Trump and the need for the GOP to find a candidate that can beat him. (Again, Rubio.) Quite simply, they were unable to argue against or for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders; beyond a pithy dismissal of Bern's promises of "free" government benefits, they skipped any serious discussion of the two candidates qualifications or lack thereof. I mean, we're talking about a former Secretary of State and a long-time senator. Isn't there something on their resume that is worthy of qualification or disqualification?

As much as those two editorials got my blood boiling, it was a piece criticizing Rep. Chip Limehouse's proposal to move the state Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum to the site of the H.L. Hunley that sent me clamoring for a plate of Nana's Nashville hot chicken to cool down.

While they were right to note that the Hunley attracts enough visitors as is and the current relic room rehab plan is too expensive, it's what they didn't say that stands out. They wrote: "Charleston Branch NAACP President Dot Scott opposes [the Relic Room] being brought here, correctly saying, 'The last thing we need right now is a reminder,'" adding, "The flag was taken down after nine people were killed in a racially motivated attack at Emanuel AME Church last June. The man charged with the murders posed with Confederate flags and guns in photos posted online."

On first read, that sounds so sensible, correct even. But if you read it again, and read the rest of the editorial, you'll see that the board never says why Roof's decision to pose with the Confederate flag was so troubling. They don't explain how or why we were, and still are, horrified by these photos.

Instead of arguing that the South's shameful history of racial oppression — and its chief symbol — inspired Dylann Roof, The Post and Courier puts forth the argument that Roof is to blame for the flag's negative connotations and the ill feelings folks like Dot Scott have toward this relic. It's a sidestep that's as graceless as the one Donald Trump tried to make when he said he didn't know who David Duke was when the GOP candidate was asked to disavow the endorsement of the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

I can't decided if The Post and Courier editorial board actually believes the Confederate flag isn't a racist symbol or if they are simply too afraid to anger the Lost Causers in town. Either way, the P&C's entire stable of writers should be ashamed. At best the editorial board is complicit in protecting this hateful symbol and, at worst, too cowardly to call it out for what it is. Neither one is good for a paper that is trying to prove it's the most fearless news organization in the state if not the nation.

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