It’s the height of cynicism to accuse someone of being hateful in a letter that is itself filled with hate and misrepresentation, then try to inflict financial damage. It’s the best irony when the attacker shoots himself in the foot.
That cynicism and subsequent limp is what Jim Sinkinson serves up in a letter to my company asking us not only to stop reading the Berkeley Daily Planet, but also to cancel our advertising contract with the paper. He says he speaks for “East Bay Citizens for Journalistic Responsibility” and complains that the Daily Planet “is an anti-Semitic newspaper” that has a “constant one-sided editorial drumbeat of falsehoods and denigration of the State of Israel.” Terrible charges. Could they be true?
In addition to a sample notice of cancellation he wants us to sign and send, he provides four “recent examples of hate-speech published in the Daily Planet.” The “recent examples” were from Aug. 8, 2004; Oct. 23, 2008; Nov. 4, 2003; and Aug. 4, 2006.
After musing on how the words “recent” and “constant” can change meaning according to one’s perspective, I Googled Jim Sinkinson and got something called the “Bulldog Reporter.” Its motto is “Media News and Intelligence for PR Pros.”
Mr. Sinkinson also mentions a website entirely devoted to attacking the Daily Planet. Does he pay himself to operate it? Is he a volunteer?
To find the context Mr. Sinkinson leaves out, I started with the August 2004 citation, which was about Middle Eastern history. The paper didn’t publish on Aug. 8, so I looked in the August 6 and August 10 editions. I searched for “Cyrus,” the ancient Persian king mentioned in the quote. The Aug. 6 paper featured a collection of heated readers’ letters on various sides of Middle Eastern issues, but no “Cyrus” results.
Searching the Planet’s entire history, I found the “Cyrus” quote in the Aug. 8, 2006 edition—two years after Mr. Sinkinson’s citation. It was in a now-infamous reader’s letter claiming to be from an Iranian student studying in India. That sure created a community flap at the time, but it wasn’t the Planet’s own thought, and the paper paid dearly for publishing it.
Following his sequence, next I jumped two years forward to Oct. 23, 2008. Joanna Graham’s opinion “Oy Vay the Israel Thing” had lots of sentences including the ones Mr. Sinkinson cites as evidence of anti-Semitism. Apparently Mr. Sinkinson wasn’t happy with how Ms. Graham expressed her thoughts, so he inserted his own words into them to make them as bad as he wants us to think they are. Like all the headlines he writes for each quote, it is Mr. Sinkinson’s language that is anti-Semitic. Also, like the Cyrus piece, the original thought wasn’t the Planet’s opinion, but a letter-writer’s.
Mr. Sinkinson’s bullet-point headline for the November 2003 letter he quotes is “Why it’s okay for Palestinian suicide bombers to kill Jews.” In fact this letter says no such thing. It begins as an argument for clarity in language and against self-absorbed bias. Unfortunately the writer goes on apparently to defend suicide bombing in general and to ask, “Are journalists self-serving, servile or just plain lazy to habitually refer to suicide bombers as terrorists? Such labeling inexcusably denies the fact that to his countrymen the suicide is a martyr.”
To make his sensational headline stick, Mr. Sinkinson needs the letter to praise suicide bombers that kill Jews, but it doesn’t. So he resorts to adding the Jews to the letter’s text using brackets to make sure his version of the writer’s supposed intention is inserted. Then he slams the letter for his own anti-Semitic insertions. I didn’t find any integral anti-Semitic intention in the writer’s original letter. In the last few years suicide bombers have probably killed far more Muslims than Jews, not to mention Spaniards, Hindus, Londoners, and others.
Jump foward again to August 2006. Israel’s retaliatory attack on the Hezbollah in Lebanon generated multiple heated letters. One was from the same gentleman mentioned above who defended suicide bombers, this time complaining that “Characterizing killing and maiming hundreds of civilians, one-third of them children, with bombs and rockets and destroying buildings, roads, homes, bridges, airports, etc. as a crisis reduces savagery and barbarism to ‘unstable’ and ‘stressful’ conditions.” That’s an opinion about the evils and excesses of war; it isn’t hate speech.
Mr. Sinkinson chose a different author’s letter to object to this time, however: five sentences written by someone who said “Israel’s actions were worse than what Hitler did in Germany.” Many people might take the writer to task for this opinion. But by neglecting to identify the source, Mr. Sinkinson duplicitously implies that the opinion is the Planet’s own view.
In fact none of the purported offenses cited were the Planet’s expressions. One wasn’t even the writer’s expression, but only Mr. Sinkinson’s.
Perhaps Mr. Sinkinson is campaigning for Captain of the Thought Police and wants the Planet not to publish people he finds unreasonable. He’d be the judge if he could, but it’s clear his real intent is to abolish the court—the Planet.
What or who is he really defending? He doesn’t say.
Prospective clients can consider Mr. Sinkinson’s sorry attack a sample of the quality of outreach available when they hire the Bulldog Reporter to provide “Media News and Intelligence for PR Pros.” For our part, we intend to keep on advertising with the Planet. It’s a quality paper, an invaluable journalistic asset to Berkeley and its environs.
Mary Lou Van Deventer is a proprietor of Urban Ore.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Urban Ore’s complaint is one of several the Planet has heard from our advertisers in the past two weeks about similar harrassment.