Selective hypocrisy and more on the op-ed pages

Lately, The Dispatch’s opinion page has been a source of eye
rolls, head shakes and two-syllable


utterances for me.
Lately, The Dispatch’s opinion page has been a source of eye rolls, head shakes and two-syllable “puh-lease” utterances for me.

Most recently, it was frequent letter-to-the-editor writer James Brescoll’s diatribe against columnist Dennis Taylor that elicited that response. Early in his latest missive, Brescoll mocks Taylor for “foolishly believing” in his own opinions.

As I read Brescoll’s letter, I was forced to wonder: Does Brescoll think that Taylor should pen columns containing opinions Taylor doesn’t endorse? Of course Taylor – like Brescoll, myself, and anyone else who takes the time and effort to write letters and columns – believes he is right. Why else would he bother to write? Believe me, Taylor’s not a columnist for the money.

Then Brescoll moved on to scolding Taylor for his anti-Wal-Mart stance. Why is it that Brescoll belittles Taylor’s opinion as repeating “union sniveling” when Brescoll’s pro-Wal-Mart position could just as easily be described as echoing corporate drone speak?

I guess what it comes down to is this: Tirades like Brescoll’s don’t sway my opinion – nor, I suspect, many other people’s – and do nothing to advance public discourse.

Disagreeing with conclusions and opinions doesn’t have to be a name-calling, nasty exercise. It’s fair to demand consistency and that people stick to the facts. There’s simply no need to call people “petty, shallow, thoughtless,” or “mean-spirited, myopic, mendacious.” It accomplishes nothing.

(OK, perhaps using a word like mendacious might move a reader to pull out a dictionary, thus expanding someone’s vocabulary. Look it up, it’s not a flattering modifier.)

Brescoll might label me a “left-wing looney tune,” but I find harangues like that elucidate more about the person spewing the vitriol than they do about the object of their venom or their particular opinion.

Speaking of Taylor, however, one of his tongue-in-cheek new year’s resolutions had me shaking my head: “I resolve to care more about who slept with whom and who investigated what in Morgan Hill. Sort of. I’ll at least read the headlines.”

I assume that he’s referring to the Morgan Hill City Hall scandal, in which rumors of an affair and a bumbling private eye have cost Gilroy’s neighbor to the north $269,000 – so far.

I hate to break it to Taylor, but in the Morgan Hill scandal, apparently nobody slept with anybody, but almost everybody investigated two mysterious cups of hot chocolate on a business trip.

The whole situation – which now includes the very real possibility of a multi-million dollar lawsuit – makes me want to scream. Instead, I settle for an eye roll and a cynical puh-lease whenever I think about it.

But, despite the lack of sex in this particular scandal, Taylor might consider a 2006 resolution: To read more than just the headlines when there’s a Morgan Hill byline on a story. After all, Morgan Hill can boast a scandal in which no one at City Hall was having sex, but taxpayers still got screwed.

Columnist James Fennell elicited an eye roll from me when he accused environmentalists of “selective hypocrisy” because they haven’t griped about traffic and air pollution from Gavilan Community College the way they’ve complained about traffic and air pollution from the proposed Super Wal-Mart.

Puh-lease. Can Fennell show me a building project on the scale of a Super Wal-Mart that Gavilan College has in the planning or permit stages? I think I’m pretty up to speed on local news, and I can’t think of one.

Maybe there’s no outcry because there’s no project at all, let alone one that will draw the volume of traffic a Super Wal-Mart will attract.

Pardon my involuntary eye roll.

Of course, I’m sure Fennell, an ardent opponent of the casino proposed for San Benito County, wouldn’t think of using that liberal tree-hugger argument about traffic and air pollution as he fights the casino, would he? If it’s a bad argument against a project he likes – Super Wal-Mart – it’s a bad argument against a project he hates – the casino. To quote Fennell, “If one’s bad for pollution, why isn’t the other?” Oops, but Fennell already has used that very argument.

In his Nov. 9, 2004, column, Fennell claimed that casinos in San Diego County have brought traffic and environmental problems. His Sept. 9, 2004, column predicted “genuine conglutinated muddle of added population, traffic, pollution, commercial sprawl” if a casino opens in South Valley. (Outside of the vocabulary expander, doesn’t that sound just like what Super Wal-Mart opponents said?)

Is that a selective hypocrisy label coming to haunt Fennell? I know I definitely feel an eye roll coming on.

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