11/24/2008

Attacks on Proposition 8 supporters in California

The San Francisco Chronicle has this story. It also again shows the problems produced by mandating disclosure of donors names.

A supporter of Proposition 8, fed up with what he believed was the gay community's and "liberal media's" refusal to accept the voters' verdict, fired off a letter to the editor.

"Please show respect for democracy," he wrote, in a letter we published.

What he encountered instead was an utter lack of respect for free speech.

Within hours, the intimidation game was on. Because his real name and city were listed - a condition for publication of letters to The Chronicle - opponents of Prop. 8 used Internet search engines to find the letter writer's small business, his Web site (which included the names of his children and dog), his phone number and his clients. And they posted that information in the "Comments" section of SFGate.com - urging, in ugly language, retribution against the author's business and its identified clients.

"They're intimidating people that don't have the same beliefs as they do ... so they'll be silenced," he told me last week. "It doesn't bode well for the free-speech process. People are going to have to be pretty damn courageous to speak up about anything. Why would anyone want to go through this?" . . . .

"Blacklists" of donors who contributed to Yes on 8 are circulating on the Internet, and even small-time donors are being confronted. A Palo Alto dentist lost two patients as a result of his $1,000 donation. The artistic director of the California Musical Theatre resigned to spare the organization from a fast-developing boycott. Scott Eckern, the artistic director of the Sacramento theater group and a Mormon, had given $1,000 to Yes on 8. . . .

Equally disappointing is the lack of a forceful denunciation from leaders of the honorable cause of bringing marriage equality to California. . . . .


Note that the SF Chronicle columnist was disturbed by these attacks.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous (Tony in SLO) said...

While the acts of vandals are surely deplorable, a relatively small number of incidents of violence are a separate issue from the public interest in knowing what major forces are attempting to drive the only legitimate initiator of force - the government.

Ironically, or perhaps because of, information overload, voters go to the polls not knowing enough to make informed decisions about candidates and ballot questions. And the media is either overwhelmed or biased.

That's where circumstantial information such as endorsements and campaign contributions provide valuable information for voters on who is behind a ballot measure or a candidate. This is also true of disclosure requirements and regulations of lobbying activities.

And it is much like the sunshine laws and FOIA, where the public is intended to have as much light as possible about the functions of their government.

In this case, the LDS church poured its fortune and encouraged its flock to do the same to promote the initiative that bans gay marriage. It used the most effective force in the free market - money - to move the market (in this case voters, access to ballots, etc.).

With rare exception money moves the markets in politics just as it does in the real world.

The difference is that unlike the real world, the resulting transactions are not voluntary exchanges, rather acts of submission to authority or authority using the fruits of one's labor to promote programs and causes that one might oppose. That's fine, and is the consequence of democracy. But the result should at least be achieved out in the open.

The fact that the Mormon church spent millions on Prop 8 spoke volumes about the motivation behind the measure and the intentions of its backers to use government to enforce the policies of the religion. Therefore, if one opposes gay marriage and favors using the government to promote tenets of scripture (as many of my friends do), then this is in essence a price signal to vote yes on 8. On the other hand, if one favors the right of gays to marry or opposes the use of government to enforce religious polities, then it is a signal to vote no.

The same could be said about other, more mundane perhaps, but equally important because of their impact on the economy, issues such as land use laws, state legislative candidates, people running in nonpartisan races, etc. Seeing who supports whom gives me an idea on whether I should vote for them (or not).

Finally, as an editor at my local paper for nearly seven years, we've never heard of an instance (And believe me, we get calls!) where violence was taken to this level over a political decision or where anyone faced retribution for political donations.

These unfortunate incidents are relatively few in the far greater number of other instances where the valuable information has not caused harm and has helped further the public interest by making it easier to learn who is trying to move the government.

11/25/2008 1:15 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Tony:

Thanks very much for the note. A few comments: 1) while I haven't posted them, there have been other instances of intimidation that have made the news. Still presumably it is a small minority. 2) The columnist here expresses his disappointment about "the lack of a forceful denunciation from leaders" of the no on Prop. 8 movement.

11/25/2008 1:24 AM  
Blogger Tony in SLO said...

It is lamentable that leaders in the gay community have not embraced nonviolence and condemned property damage.

It's been my observation as a journalist that political behavior by a small but vocal, and what I call an unwashed, minority has become worse in recent years. To elaborate, this would be the lowest common denominator of the politically active citizenry. And I have observed it in causes of virtually all stripes.

I've noticed that the political leaders, who tend to be elites or intellectuals or surrounded by them, do not act to curb this activity. This only makes both sides look bad and turns away citizens from being interested in the actions of government.

And they never have a good answer when I ask straight out: "Why is it OK for you to do X when it is not OK for Y to do the same?" It just makes them mad.

What I would hate to see is a dismantling of valuable tenets of open government - the same that reveal the sham of Obama's claim that the "little guy" gave the money to get him elected - over the unrelated actions of an uncouth minority.

The problem is an objectively separate issue of civility and disrespect for others' property. But I would suspect that we could find the blame in this in the moral relativism that they teach in the same public schools that these folks would support. And having two kids in that system, I know I am not generalizing when I say that.

11/30/2008 9:55 PM  

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