Sometimes, a situation presents itself that forces you to make a bad choice. I call it the “Geraldo VS. Nazis Effect.” It’s named after that famous TV incident when Nazi skinheads on the now-cancelled Geraldo Rivera afternoon talk show got into a ruckus and chucked a chair at Geraldo, busting his nose. One was left with a bad choice – do you root for the skinhead Nazis for bashing Geraldo’s nose, or do you root for Geraldo?
Either way, you’re stuck. At the time, San Francisco comedian (and now the voice of Spongebob) Tom Kenny suggested “Why can’t James Dean come back from the grave, kick Geraldo’s ass, and go back from whence he came, so we don’t have to root for Nazis?”
You get the idea.
This week, the Bay Guardian presented such a situation, with regards to fliers in the Mission, although as is the case with that publication, they didn’t see it that way. It seems that there’s a rumble between folks who want to keep the Mission District clean, and the infamous “International A.N.S.W.E.R” folks, who put up all those posters and fliers all the time.
Now, I say “infamous” because there are a lot of people who are very critical of A.N.S.W.E.R. and their tactics, as they don’t just advocate an end to the war in Iraq, but for a lot of other stuff that many people who oppose the war in Iraq want no part of, and do not support.
That ranges from supporting the agenda of the Worker’s World Party (Yeah, I was surprised such a thing still existed too) and some have made some serious charges regarding anti-Semitism and ANSWER. Plenty of folks on the left side of the political spectrum have been very vocal and detailed in their critiques as well.
I understand that some might find these charges debatable. Fine. That said, I know a lot of mainstream folks who don’t like the Iraq War resent the hell out of the fact that a small group of busybodies has managed to hijack the permit process and the media spotlight for a group that has supporters of Slobodan Milosevic in their ranks, among others. So when I read this article that basically says I have to choose between standing up for a clean and safe Mission or standing up for “free speech” on behalf of these guys, I’m caught in a bind.
I don’t like restricting people’s ability to get the word out, and San Francisco is seeing a new wave of laws and fines to keep people from putting up signs about politics, their garage sale or lost dog, or whatever. Not a fan of rubbish, still, the idea that we’re gonna fine people into oblivion for some fliers might seem a bit extreme.
Instead I’m left with the “Geraldo vs. the Nazis” choice: support The Man and possible future laws that might hurt free speech for Good Guys and Gals, or support “free speech” by supporting ANSWER, a group with more distasteful political and social baggage than the Titanic. May I vomit now, please?
I suppose if the article had any mention of local businesses, or a kid posting “lost dog” fliers getting the Hell fined outta them, I might have been able to tolerate this (long) article about the ANSWER people as a necessary evil in an open society – the old “yes they suck but we gotta let the weirdos have their say so everyone can” argument. No mention in the article of anyone else getting hit though – just a lot of whining from the self-styled La Revolucion folks. Hmm.
Since it seems from this article that perhaps someone is doing to ANSWER what it would do if it ever attained any real power, then frankly, I don’t care. I seriously doubt if a group with views not in line with ANSWER’s was getting hit with fines and whatnots by The Man that either the Guardian or ANSWER would give a tinker’s cuss for their troubles.
That being the case, I think the next time someone tells me how horrible it is that people want a clean city and fine these trust-fund anarchists some money, I’m going to turn up the volume on the stereo and read a comic book. I certainly won’t be giving too much of a crap what a bunch of Stalinists think, and I’ll deal with the fallout for Good Guys and Gals at a future date. Maybe if these extremists can get tied up in court, the 60% of Americans nationally who are not nutjobs who do oppose the Iraq War can get something done besides smelly demonstrations.
The Super Cool folks at SFist.com beat me to the punch on this issue earlier today, having posted a shorter, more concise critique that makes some great points. Good job, SFist!