Patriotism Vs. Tolerance in Pennsylvania - March 19, 2003

Times Watch for 03/19/03

The Times Pro-War StanceOn Augusta National

Todays Times is appropriately pre-occupied with the looming war. John Burns filed a piece from Baghdad that subverted the liberal medias conventional wisdom by suggesting for many Iraqis the first American strike could not come too soon.

On another war-related note, media reporter Jim Rutenbergs piece for the National section mentioned the Media Research Centers Special Report criticizing ABC News for its liberally biased coverage of Iraq.

But even during the run-up to an invasion of Iraq, the Times still found room to hawk its own vital agenda: Getting women into Augusta National Golf Club.

In todays sports section, Clifton Browns article on golfer Tiger Woods included a sidebar on the Masters controversy. The short piece, Woods Says Masters Suffers, opened: Like many people, Tiger Woods wonders how much attention will be focused on golf at the Masters this year, and how much attention will be focused on protests against Augusta National Golf Clubs men-only membership.

The leading questions continued: Asked if the Masters was tarnished, Woods said: I think it's tarnished this year. I think eventually it will go away and be resolved, and the Masters will be what it is. If Woods wins the Masters, will more people remember the Masters for him, or for the controversy? Woods smiled and replied, I would love to have that problem.

The Augusta angle also wormed its way into a Wednesday story on LPGA golfer Annika Sorenstram, who in two months will become the first woman golfer to play a PGA tour event since 1945. Damon Hacks story on Sorenstram included this line:

Others have tried to link her playing at Colonial to the question of female membership at Augusta National Golf Club, the men-only club that plays host to the Masters. Sorenstram didnt take the bait: I'm not looking at the Colonial or trying to play in a PGA event to do something like Martha Burk is doing. This is for me. I want to see how good I am.

When the Times says many people or others, its safe to substitute Executive Editor Howell Raines. All along, its been Raines and the Times whove tried to pump Augusta Nationals all-male membership policy into a controversy. Back in November, New York Observer media columnist Sridhar Pappu wrote that Raines was seen to be running the sports department:

In the sports department, theres agreement that Augusta is important to the papers top bosses. Howell and [managing editor] Gerald [Boyd] are running our department right now, its pretty clear, said a Times source. Of course, the story is a natural for the Times, the source acknowledged. You have an old white guy at a country club who doesnt want women to come in. Every womens group in the country will eat it up, and were a liberal paper, so the feeling is: Lets jump on it.

Only a couple of weeks later the Times jumped on two of its own writers, spiking columns that had taken mild issue with the papers editorial stand suggesting Tiger Woods boycott the Masters.

Patriotism Vs. Tolerance in Pennsylvania Two weeks after her fawning profile of a Bronx-based antiwar group, Times reporter Leslie Eaton today feared for the future of democracy and tolerance after public outcry forced a small Pennsylvania township to rescind an antiwar resolution. Eaton wrote: The dispute has made people think twice about civic responsibility and the virtues of voting and even the nature of representative democracy. (Daniel Brannen Jr., author of the resolution, comes across like a liberal out of Central Casting. After saying Bush was banging the war drum, he added, I dont like to use that phrase because its an aspersion on Native American culture.) But Eatons own reporting contradicted her sour assessment of democracy: Residents, who almost never attend the monthly supervisors meeting, crowded into the last one and forced the board to rescind the resolution. In other words, citizens joined together to declare that the antiwar resolution was (to coin a phrase) Not In Our Name. The people did in fact exercise civic responsibility, just not the kind Eaton may have liked. That resolution began: "We, the Board of Supervisors of Haines Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania, oppose a pre-emptive military strike on Iraq by the United States of America as divisive, because by killing innocent Middle Eastern people, including Muslims, we will widen the gorge between people of different races and religions rather than nurturing a union of humanity here and abroad." Eaton saw the resolutions defeat not as popular rejection of a rather sanctimonious anti-war document, but a slap at the very idea of tolerance. In some ways, Eaton wrote, Haines Township might have seemed the perfect place for such a resolution, just because of its history, which some historians say was a celebration of tolerance.The township is home to many Amish families, and there is also a strong Quaker presence. The sign in front of the United Church of Christ reads, Pray for Peace. But patriotism is important here, too. When did patriotism and tolerance become mutually exclusive? What Eaton tried to paint as unobjectionable tolerance was something most people would call knee-jerk pacifism-a far more debatable proposition on the eve of war with Iraq.