The Center Holds
Several of this month’s letters to the editor, responding to our September issue, fall into two categories: those from angry liberals and those from angry conservatives. The libs rabidly attack Gary Cartwright for refusing to canonize Austin’s own Vegan de Milo, shopping center owner Jeanne Daniels, whose commitment to the ethical treatment of creatures great and small does not extend to (a) small-business owners who might want to sell the occasional hamburger or leather belt or (b) customers inclined to purchase such things. As for the cons—well, let’s all agree that the talk of not just shooting Mexicans but shooting them dead is, you know, an extreme reaction to Pamela Colloff’s piece on the incarceration of rogue Border Patrol agents. (A few somebodies picked the wrong day to give up caffeine!)
There are only two things these valued Texas Monthly readers have in common, other than a stated intention to become former valued Texas Monthly readers. The first is their name-calling proclivities: Gary is “petty” and “mean-spirited,” while Pam is “out of her mind” and “a liar.” The second is their insistence, implied and explicit, that Gary’s and Pam’s stories are proof positive that the magazine is ideologically biased.
Forget, for the moment, the irony of liberals’ and conservatives’ insisting simultaneously that we’re against them. The fact is, none of this is new. We’ve been hearing that we favor one side or another ever since, I suspect, the very day in 1973 that our first issue hit the newsstands but certainly for the more than fifteen years I’ve worked here. I remember clearly, for instance, conservatives complaining, early in Ann Richards’s term as governor, that she could do no wrong in our hippie-dippy eyes. In the run-up to the 1994 election, it was the liberals’ turn to argue the exact opposite: We country-club Republicans, (mis)led by Paul Burka, were unfairly gunning for Ann. Then, for the entirety of George W. Bush’s time at the Capitol, Burka and the rest of us were said to be hopelessly in the tank for the governor. That changed after the 2000 election, and particularly after 9/11, when Burka, hardly alone, dared to question whether President Bush was doing a good job. When the Republicans took control of both houses of the Texas Legislature in 2003 and promptly made a mess of things, we blasted away—and suddenly we were back to being sodomites, Austinites, etc. That continues to be the prevailing wisdom about us, whether expressed by average readers (“I didn’t see anything written in your pitiful little magazine that says how much y’all love faggots, abortion, and higher taxes,” one cheerful soul recently wrote, “but since you’re liberals I know you do”) or anything-but-average political pros (according to the Los Angeles Times, Karl Rove advised the president against cooperating with our former colleague Robert Draper on his now-famous book Dead Certain because he had been part of “the Texas Monthly crowd”).
For the millionth time—and that may be understating it—I feel compelled to point out that we don’t play favorites. We go into a story with an open mind, report fully and fairly, process the information we gather, and arrive at a conclusion. On the other hand, we are biased . . . in favor of Texas. Whatever the story, we ally ourselves with the heroic idea of our state’s being as good as it can be—and woe to the person who makes us anything less. When elected officials are inept or corrupt, we say so, no matter which party is at the helm. When an injustice has occurred, we say so, no matter if liberals or conservatives are responsible. When the public interest is subordinated to the special interest, we say so, no matter which end of the ideological spectrum the special interest occupies. Oftentimes we offend both ends of the spectrum in the same issue, as we did in September. When liberals think we’re too conservative and conservatives think we’re too liberal, we must be doing something right. And we’re going to keep doing it.
Beef, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the anthropology of sewerage, octogenarian Aggie champs, and Sarah Bird on craigslist.