Santayana Was Right

Now that the election is over, and (thankfully) Measure R has passed, I can finally say something that has bothered me about how politics influences journalism.

This became apparent when Supervisor Michael Antonovich, one of the most outspoken opponents of Measure R, started using the rhetoric of "equity" in the allocation of the revenue across the region. Anyone listening to him speak who had no knowledge of what has happened over the past two decades might have thought that not one transportation improvement had ever taken place in the San Gabriel or Antelope Valleys. And it is his right to express his views, even if his choice of words might raise a few eyebrows. But when the media in those two parts of the county started buying into his rhetoric in their editorials urging the defeat of the ballot measure, I started fuming.

One such example was an editorial in the Antelope Valley Press, which also declined to publish my letter rebutting it. Among the phrases they used was "probably, zero improvements for the Antelope Valley" in their description of Measure R. (I'll pause for a few seconds so you can stop laughing.)

The use of the word "probably" in an editorial should be a clue that whoever wrote it didn't bother doing any research to see if what they were about to write was supported by fact. In this case, it's an indication that the research did not include an actual reading of the Measure R informational booklet, but instead -- if there was indeed any research done -- was based on the collective speeches of Supervisor Antonovich.

The editorial made, as did so many others in the San Gabriel Valley, much of the fact that Measure R's funds will be used for, among other things, extending the subway on the Westside. So what? In the past twenty years, the Antelope Valley got Metrolink, the San Gabriel Valley got the Gold Line, the southern part of the county got the Blue and Green Lines, the San Fernando Valley got the Orange Line ... and the Westside got increased traffic congestion. When does it become the Westside's turn to get something other than gridlock?

The philosopher George Santayana is most famous for his Aphorism on Repetitive Consequences ("Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."), but it is the sentence that appears at the beginning of the paragraph his famous quote appears in that applies here: "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness."

Until politicians such as Mr. Antonovich -- and, more importantly, the media in their districts -- acquire the ability to remember what has gone before, their credibility in speaking to the present day is severely compromised.

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