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Finally someone said no. Our commission of the Unified Port of San Diego announced the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal is not for sale. The U-T San Diego’s vainglorious, Jan. 22 stadium editorial extravaganza has been given its due.

And how did the U-T respond to its rejection by the port? They felt hurt. They openly whined in a Feb. 14 editorial, “Few of our specific points were acknowledged at [the port] board meeting.” It’s as though they made it a “crime” to “make an observation and then suggest alternatives.”

Please, Mr. Manchester, didn’t they tell you there’s no crying in journalism?

So how does a newspaper whose reputation for meanness, prejudice, the assertion of power and the public humiliation of anyone who opposes it pretend not to be its real self and suddenly become a victim? Simple: just do it.

Let’s take a look at how they did it in an attempt to reveal what we can expect from the new owner of the U-T. As well as what we can expect for ourselves as an audience of his advertised quest to use the paper as a bully pulpit from which he will mold the future of San Diego.

His argument begins by saying “the Port’s board…driven by the assumption that [they] know all, and that outsiders should butt out…were curt, dismissive and sarcastic in responding to [our] editorials.”

By eliciting sympathy for the rejection of his ideas, Mr. Manchester is asking for our support. This might work, but it’s difficult to imagine his approach having much credibility since audiences know neither he nor his paper has a reputation for extending similar courtesies to those who bring ideas. The appeal is a transparent contradiction.

Next comes the sop; the section designed to make you think Mr. Manchester is on your side. Here, the paper reminds readers that it isn’t only interested in a new football stadium — a venture repeatedly criticized by football fans and foes alike for its reliance on public funds for private gain — but is interested in “the people of San Diego.”

In fact, the U-T’s plan includes “public parkland, [a] public beach and promenades.” That’s nice. But we know it’s a hollow promise. The needs of cars and profits always take precedence over people or pedestrians. Years of real estate tricks, marketing hyperbole and now the posing of rooftops as parks makes this offer an insult.

Lastly, there’s division. Division creates a world in which people are with you or against you. In opinion journalism division is used to attract an audience by getting it to identify with your view, thereby influencing it to oppose those who don’t share your view. You do this by pointing out how others are not like you.

The U-T has a long history of doing this. But in this case it fails because there is no constituency to divide. What do I mean? The fact is no widespread evidence exists that the citizens of San Diego want a new publicly funded stadium. So how can we be angry over its rejection by the port or the U-T casting the port as bad guys?

We must ask, what is the U-T talking about when they summon us to action because the port disparaged their ideas, calling them “despicable,” or when they label the port “defenders of the…status quo….”? After all, it’s the U-T that is calling for the new stadium, not us. Mr. Manchester’s views do not represent a constituency or even the readers of his paper. He is creating a false division in the hopes it will persuade you to join his fight against those trying to stop a stadium he wants.

Until it becomes clear that the people of San Diego want this stadium, or that two sides are really fighting over it, it is impossible to label anyone a defender of the status quo; no status quo exists.

Yet, of all the oddities in the saga of building a new publicly financed stadium, none is stranger than the notion that only a small cadre of self-appointed visionaries and those who will make money off it want it. Tuesday’s editorial reconfirms this view.

Our job as thinking citizens is not just to see this, but to resist it if we don’t want a publicly financed stadium. Write a letter to an editor or post your view online. Because even a salesman as wise as Manchester knows that in the end there is no sale without a buyer and that you do not really sell a buyer as much as you mirror their needs and wants. We are the buyers. The more we resist his view, the more Mr. Manchester and his newspaper will have to mirror our resistance.

A well done to the port.

Bob Stein lives in University City and reads the U-T online for free.


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