Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Anime Lovers in Boston

By Christine Chew

Anime, just like books and movies, is very versatile and suitable for all ages. There are many genres of anime that anybody can find an interest in, such as action, romance, mystery, science fiction, and many more. Every spring, one of the biggest anime conventions in the country takes place in Boston, Massachusetts. Anime lovers everywhere unite at this three-day convention known as Anime Boston. The 10th annual year for this event took place on April 6-8, 2012.

Based on "Hetalia," an anime about political and historical events where each character is personified as a country.
Anime Boston Convention (AB Con) was first proposed by New England Anime Society (NEAS) and took 18 months to plan. Launching off with an attendance of 4,110 guests in 2003, AB Con chairman Andrea Finn reflects, “When I think back on 2002, when we were working to organize ourselves and plan for the first year of the convention, I’m still astounded at how much the event has grown and developed.” AB Con holds the record for largest anime convention in all of New England for the past ten consecutive years. The event was first held at Boston Park Plaza for the first two years but because of overpopulation, AB Con relocated to the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay. After only ten years, a total of 22,065 guests attended in 2012.

These thousands of fellow anime lovers gather here to express their appreciation for anime. While it is not required, most people seize the opportunity to cosplay, or dress up in costume as memorable anime characters. It is almost like seeing Mickey Mouse from Disney World except a more popular character at AB Con would be Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. One cosplayer, 17-year-old Richard dressed as Ryuuk from Death Note, remarks, “I love Anime Boston because not only do I get to meet all my favorite anime characters, but I can be someone’s favorite anime character too. It’s also cool to just meet people who I can talk to about anime without feeling geeky.” As much as convention-goers look forward to taking pictures with real life anime characters, it is even more exciting to see them take part in Cosplay Death Match and Cosplay Mock Combat, or join them at the Informal Dance.

Cosplayers at Anime Boston get into character for a picture.

Another way to show appreciation for anime is visiting the Artists’ Alley, Dealers’ Room, and Game Room. This is where AB Con raises money to host the convention. Every year, vendors interested in selling their works pay a fee to NEAS for a spot to sell their materials in hopes to make a profit. Lisa, a 24-year-old seamstress, comments, “The clothes I make are based off of Japanese Lolita fashion like what Chi from Chobits wears and I hope I can sell my stuff at Anime Boston one day.” Artists sell their artwork and homemade crafts, dealers sell merchandise from their stores, and game producers set up video and arcade games. Along with charging $50 per ticket, NEAS has raised a lot of money this way. Every year, some of the proceeds are donated to Central New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society every year.

Anime is very versatile as the age range at AB Con typically falls in the 16-26 range. While there are many familiar faces each year, there are also many more new faces that attend the convention. Finn agrees, “In a real way we grew up, in the way that adults can, alongside the convention.” NEAS plans on hosting the 11th annual Anime Boston Convention on May 24-26, 2013.

From kids to adults, everyone can be anyone at Anime Boston!

Mayor Menino vs. Chick-fil-A


By Keller McGuinness

Having lived in the Northeast my entire life, I have been mostly unaware of the Atlanta-based fast food chain, Chick-fil-A. Last winter I had the opportunity to sample their product at a Northeastern University sporting event I was working. They had set up outside the arena with an enormous supply of their no-frills chicken sandwich and array of sauces, free for anyone who happened by. This was a marketing ploy in advance of their hoping to open up in the soon-to-be renovated student center. I tried one, (or two), and was neither particularly impressed nor disappointed. Soon after I finished eating, a coworker uttered something along the lines of, “I love their chicken, too bad about the whole anti-gay thing.” Enter: indigestion.

As it turns out, the Cathy family, the folks behind the fil-A, are quite open about their opposition to gay marriage. They have also contributed a substantial sum of money to known anti-gay organizations like Focus on the Family through their charity organization, WinShape. It should come as no great surprise then, that the first state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage would prove to be a difficult market for them to infiltrate. In fact, last February the Northeastern University student Senate opted to nix the idea of including a Chick-fil-A on campus, citing the company’s past donations to anti-gay organizations as the main reason. I for one, applaud their decision. They absolutely have the right say what businesses take up residence on their campus.

Still eager to tap into the Boston market, Chick-fil-A set their sights on a possible location in the heart of the old city, near storied Faneuil Hall. The city’s longtime mayor, Thomas Menino, was unreceptive to the idea, to put it mildly. In a rare unequivocal stand from such a lofty political perch, Menino was quoted by the Boston Herald as having told them, “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

My initial reaction to hearing about this was, “Alright! That’s my mayor!” It was refreshing to hear a politician speak out so frankly and unwaveringly on such a heatedly debated issue. And it’s always reassuring to hear one speak out for something you wholeheartedly stand for. Soon enough the letter Mayor Menino had written to Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, started circulating around the internet, clogging up my Facebook feed. In it he takes Cathy to task for his open opposition to same-sex marriage and urges him to “back out of your plans to locate in Boston.” This is where things get tricky. The Mayor has every right to speak his mind however he should see fit, and in this case I absolutely applaud him for it. But at what point does he cross the line between self-expression and possible abuse of power?

The issue here is not whether same-sex marriage should be legal or not, (it should). Nor is it whether a private business has the right to contribute money to whichever charity it so desires, (it does). The issue is whether the political powers that be should be able to stop a business from opening up within their jurisdiction because the owners of said business harbor beliefs, (however wrongheaded and heinous), which differ from their own. Now I do not believe that this is even currently a legal possibility, nor am I certain that this was in fact Menino’s end intent, but I ask you to think about the implications and unfortunate precedents that would be set if it was. Boston disallowing entry to Chick-fil-A would be no different than, say, a city helmed by a more conservative mayor barring a restaurant chain known to financially support Planned Parenthood. Wouldn’t it be better to let the public decide with their proverbial wallets whether a business should stay or go, provided that its practices are within the bounds of the law? Though I certainly don’t always agree with him, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg had this to say on John Gambling’s radio show, ”You can’t have a test for what the owners’ personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city. You really don’t want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit. That’s just not government’s job.” I have to agree. I think it’s worth mentioning that New York University students recently voted in favor of keeping their Chick-fil-A around, unlike their Northeastern University brethren.

In light of the media storm, Menino has recently backtracked quite a bit on his stance, telling the Boston Herald, "I can't do that. That would be interference to his rights to go there." He even went so far to say that he’d made a mistake. Well, mistake or not, I’m still glad he wrote that letter, even though he may have overstepped his bounds. I’m also glad that no political action will be attempted in keeping Chick-fil-A out.

At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether Chick-fil-A will actually end up here in Boston or not. If they do come, it will be interesting to see how well they do, to see whether any of this negative press will have an effect, one way or the other. I know I won’t be eating there, and if you respect the rights of those around you to marry whomever they see fit, and you don’t want to give money to folks who do not, I hope you won’t either.

Something from Nothing: Constructing a Political Controversy

By Brett Conklin

When the first season finale of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” aired on June 19, 2011, the episode contained a scene detailing several severed heads mounted upon pikes along a city wall. One of the heads used for the shot was a replica of George W. Bush. The resemblance of the image to the former president was so uncanny that no one noticed until nearly a full year later.

The release date of “Game of Thrones” Season 1 on Blu-ray and DVD was March 6, 2012. On June 13, 2012, three months after the release and almost a year after the initial airing, the story broke, not because of discerning eyes, but because of loose lips. In commentary on the DVD, writer/producers D.B Weiss and David Benioff had this to say of the scene: “The last head on the left is George Bush. George Bush’s head appears in a couple of beheading scenes. It’s not a choice; it’s not a political statement. We just had to use whatever head we had around.”

After the story gained traction, HBO issued an apology, promising to have the image “removed from any future DVD production.” They made good on that; the episode now contains a digitally altered head. Benioff and Weiss also released a statement, further explaining what was alluded to during the commentary: “What happened was this: we use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush.”

The producers’ explanation seems reasonable enough. Claims that the producers have lied—that they had every intention to send a political message—are not substantiated by the actual scene. The shot containing the Bush head lasts for less than two seconds. During that time, the head is seen from a behind-profile angle. The face and forehead are obscured by a wig of long hair, and what little can be seen of the head is covered in dirt and makeup. Truly, the image resembles more closely a stereotypical caveman than an ex-president. Furthermore, the prior scene directs the viewer’s attention to a different head: that of a woman in head wrappings. The character Joffrey says, “That’s your septa, there,” referencing the woman in the center of the shot (a “septa,” for the “Game of Thones” uninitiated, is essentially a nun). Perhaps the most damning evidence against the political agenda theory is that no one actually recognized Bush until it was revealed by the commentary. None of the other scenes referred to in the commentary have even been discussed. If the use of the Bush replica was meant to send a political message, it was not very effective.

 The scene as it appears in "Game of Thrones."

But that didn’t stop Fox News from publishing no fewer than four articles about the subject on June 14, 2012—that doesn’t account for broadcasting. Of the four articles, three of them used sensationalized headlines whose literal readings suggested the actual murder of George W. Bush. “HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ parades President George W. Bush’s decapitated head on a stick” was published on foxnews.com. Not only does it make no mention of the head being a prosthetic, but the word “parades” inaccurately describes the scene, suggesting both movement and extended celebration. An article for myfoxdc.com—“HBO apologizes for putting George W. Bush’s head on a stake in ‘Game of Thrones’”—uses the same misleading wording regarding the replica head. “Outrageous! Former President’s [sic] George Bush Severed Head Used in ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode,” for nation.foxnews.com, commits the identical sin. Only one article, “Producers of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Apologize for Putting Head Resembling George W. Bush on a Spike,” published on foxnewsinsider.com, makes any mention of the prop not actually being Bush’s head. A fifth article appeared on June 25, 2012 on foxnews.com. Its title, “Actress Camryn Manheim calls Bush beheading on HBO ‘despicable’,” continues the pattern of implying actual harm to the former president—further muddled by the absence of the name of the series. Additionally, the word “beheading” describes a scene that never takes place.

All of the original four articles included visuals to aid—and in this case, distort—the story. Three of the articles used cropped still images of the scene, reframing the focus to that of the Bush head. One of those articles included two images, the first a zoomed in shot of the head, and the second a wider shot. The implication is that the second image is how the scene appears in the series, but it, too, has been cropped to emphasize the prosthetic—nearly half the original shot has been cut away. The last article used video, including the unedited prior scene as a lead in. It is of note that the scene is muted, so Joffrey’s line is unheard. Once the shot of the Bush head appears, the scene is paused. The shot is edited so that it pulls into the Bush head, which has been highlighted by a circle, and the rest of the scene is darkened. While the viewer will no doubt know that the highlighting has been added, without prior knowledge they are likely to mistake the zoom and extended duration as original to the shot.

Outer: The scene as it appears in "Game of Thrones."
Middle: The larger of the two cropped shots to appear on nation.foxnews.com.
Inner: The smaller of the two cropped shots to appear on nation.foxnews.com, captioned, "HBO Screen Grab."

Maybe the least surprising feature of the articles is the presence of biased and misleading rhetoric. One article describes the scene as “a grisly decapitation scene,” despite no act of decapitation occurring on screen. It continues to claim that the episode “features” the Bush head, lending a level of importance and emphasis that simply does not exist. An article states that the producers used Bush’s likeness as “physical inspiration to create a head for [the] scene,” even though it goes on to provide the quote regarding the rental of the prop head. The same article adds an exclamation point to the transcription of, “It’s not a choice; it’s not a political statement,” and describes the quote as having been “insisted,” but the audio of the commentary is delivered in relatively calm monotone. Instead of writing that the producers provided an explanation, an article says they “attempted to explain.” Another article states the head “bears a very strong resemblance to President George W. Bush,” while the evidence suggests otherwise. The author of the article continues by writing, “[…]they just ‘had to use what heads they had around’,” making little attempt to disguise the sarcasm. The article on foxnews.com ends not-so-subtly with this line: “HBO is owned by Time-Warner, the same network which owns CNN.”

In case anyone’s keeping score, the July 8 episode of HBO’s “True Blood” featured a scene in which Obama-mask-wearing bigots performed a drive-by shooting. Fox News published a single, two paragraph article about the scene that they acquired from mediate.com. In the article the Bush-head incident is ironically referenced as “the incredibly serious controversy that was Game of Thrones using an unrecognizable George W. Bush prop in a scene.” Oops!

Finding Blame: It Must Have Been Video Games

By Brett Conklin

On the morning of July 20, 2012, only hours after the Aurora, Colorado shooting, criminal profiler Pat Brown appeared on CNN to discuss the incident. During a brief interview, with the limited information available at that time, Ms. Brown offered a hypothetical profile of the shooter that included the suggestion that he was “probably spending his time in his apartment playing one video game after the other—shooting, shooting, shooting.” The interview got the attention of the gaming community, and gaming-oriented media outlets went on the attack. Gengame.net published an article entitled, “CNN Contributor Suggests Video Games Contributed to Colorado ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Shooting,” while an article from egmnow.com read similarly: “CNN Guest Blames Video Games for Dark Knight Rises Colorado Shooting.” A more accurate, but still misleading, headline appeared on forbes.com: “CNN Guest: ‘Video Games Help You Get In The Mood To Do The Killing’.”

Did Pat Brown actually blame James Holmes’s actions on video games? Well, sort of. What Ms. Brown certainly did not do was fall into the sensationalized trap of claiming that video games were the sole—or even primary—cause of Holmes’s actions. Ms. Brown qualified her statement by saying, “And I’m not saying video games make you a killer. When you’re a psychopath, video games help you get in the mood to do the killing.” In that sense, Brown recognized that video games, in and of themselves, do not lead to violence. However, she still made unsubstantiated and unsupported claims about both the killer and the negative effect video games have on certain individuals.

It’s of note that there is no real indication that James Holmes even played violent video games. In a video that has surfaced of Holmes at the age of 18, he is introduced at a science camp as enjoying “soccer and strategy games”—some sources have misquoted that as “soccer and strategy video games.” Even if the quote does refer to video games, neither soccer nor strategy games are known for their violent content. A classmate of Holmes at the University of California commented to TMZ that he and Holmes used to play “Guitar Hero” together “for hours” at a time. Another classmate spoke to the Daily Mail, saying, “James was obsessed with computer games and was always playing role-playing games. I can’t remember which one, but it was something like 'World of Warcraft,' one of those where you compete against people on the internet.” Again, games such as “World of Warcraft,” referred to as Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs), are seldom known for their violence, especially when compared to the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre. “World of Warcraft,” for instance, is rated “Teen” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for “Violence,” but it is animated and stylized, unlike many FPSs. MMORPGs, despite the student’s quote, also tend to promote cooperation with those online as often, if not more often, than they promote direct competition.

A similar phantom link to violent video games occurred in regards to the Virginia Tech shooter in 2007. During the breaking coverage of that shooting, now-disbarred attorney Jack Thompson, a man notorious for his anti-video game views, made claims to both Fox News and MSNBC that the shooter would have had a fascination with violent video games, using them to “rehearse” and “train.” Dr. Phil McGraw appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” and provided a similar hypothesis, stating, “[…]the problem is we are programming these people as a society. You cannot tell me—common sense tells you that if these kids are playing video games, where they’re on a mass killing spree in a video game, it’s glamorized on the big screen.” When police searched Seung-Hui Cho’s room, however, they found no games, nor game consoles. A search of his computer, likewise, revealed no evidence of gaming. Cho’s roommate confirmed that he never saw the shooter playing any games.

So, why video games? What’s the stigma that causes people to wrongfully associate violent youths with violent video games? Well, besides the obvious rhetorical link, one might consider how the misrepresentation of statistics plays its part. When a man like Jack Thompson lists off young killers and the video games they played, he does not stop to suggest that the correlation might have more to do with being young males than it does their violent tendencies. He also doesn’t ask you to consider that those experiencing urges towards violence might first seek out socially acceptable methods of release before attempting more high risk ventures. In that sense, video games wouldn’t be a disease—a cause—so much as they would be a possible symptom.

Another possibility is the all too common phenomenon that minority populations are discriminated against—out of ignorance, out of fear, out of “otherness.” A 2005 article in The Economist titled “Defending video games: Breeding evil?” suggests something along these lines. The article argues that the discrimination occurs across generations, that “opposition to gaming springs largely from the neophobia that has pitted the old against the young for centuries.” It recalls, “novels were once considered too low-brow for university literature courses[…]waltz music and dancing were condemned in the 19th century[…]and rock and roll was thought to encourage violence, promiscuity and Satanism.” If that’s the case, if what we’re seeing is simply the result of an older generation rejecting the media of a newer generation, then at least the time for video games as a scapegoat has an impending expiration. Or, as the article put it, “Eventually, objections to new media resolve themselves, as the young grow up and the old die out.”

Monday, July 30, 2012

Light Means it's Safe, Right?

by Loren Cruise

When I close my eyes and summon images of the Boston I know and love, I see myself standing beside the reflecting pool at the Christian Science Church, watching the waves sparkle in the sun. I see people running and biking by me on the Esplanade as I relax on the bank of the Charles River. I see myself in the crowd of onlookers watching a man in a kilt juggling on a unicycle outside of Quincy Market. These images make me feel warm and comfortable. Safe and happy to be in such an amazing city.

What I don’t see when I close my eyes is me, by myself, in the dark, trying to find the safest way to get home when I suddenly feel scared and alone. I don’t picture my walk home, jumping at any sound and looking over my shoulder every other second because I have that feeling that someone is there.

The city I love is Boston when the sun is up and people are everywhere. I must admit that I am afraid of the dark sometimes, even when I am not in the city. I associate light with safety and darkness with danger. When I read the news, I see story after story about people being robbed when they are walking Boston alone at night, and that confirms my fears that nighttime draws out the anger and violence in people.

On February 29, 2012, someone was robbed around midnight by four men with a knife near Boston University. In March, two separate robberies, the victims both female, occurred in the middle of the night in Cambridge. In the Brookline area, starting in March, multiple women were attacked at night and their phones were stolen. In Coolidge Corner in early July, another woman was robbed close to midnight, this time by a man with a gun. Need I continue? I can see what these all incidents have in common and my fear of the night is justified.

However, I recently became aware of a different type of news story. A middle-aged man sat feeding ducks in Longwood Park when he was approached by a robber who demanded that he hand over his phone and cash. When the man refused, the robber stabbed him. This happened, to my surprise, at 12:30 in the afternoon. The afternoon, the time I feel so safe in Boston.

Perhaps it is because I am from a small town where people leave their cars running when they drop off a package at the post office and no one even thinks to lock their front doors. Perhaps I am a little naïve because when I questioned some people who live or go to school in the area about what they thought of the recent incident, I expected them to be as shocked and horrified as I was. “These kinds of things happen in Boston. They happen in Quincy. They happen in Dorchester. They just happen and people have to be cautious and smart,” said Austin, a Simmons College student.

Wheelock College sent out a public safety advisory to all its students, describing robber who attacked the man in Longwood Park as, “a white male in his early 30s about 5’9”. The man was wearing a gray skull cap, a black and white tank top with a U.S. flag on it and dark-colored shorts. He has a tattoo on his right arm.” Wheelock advised its students to “be aware of your surroundings” and walk with a friend if going out at night. They encouraged students to carry a noisemaker, as well. While pepper spray was the first thing I thought of when I realized I am thoroughly not prepared for any sort of attack, the Boston police department makes a good point that, while it could be an effective weapon against an attacker, it could also be turned on you by an attacker. Another piece of advice I found from the Boston police department was not to resist. If they want your phone, give them your phone. It’s not worth putting yourself in danger. In the case of the man from Longwood Park, he refused to hand over his phone and money which prompted the robber to stab him. More advice from the Boston Police Department about how to protect yourself can be found on its website: cityofboston.gov/police.

While ideally you have a noisemaker in your purse, you are super aware of your surroundings, and you’re walking with an escort of four large, muscular guys, reality is that sometimes you do find yourself alone and vulnerable at night. “I have to park at the Longwood campus,” says Alicia, a Wheelock graduate student, “and I have to cross through the park. It’s completely dark, there’s no lights there. It’s just scary and I pretty much don’t feel safe. But, sometimes I just have to walk by myself.” Jennifer, a Wheelock undergraduate student, said, “Saturday night, I had to walk to the Copley T station from a friend’s house alone. Trains kept going by, but my train didn’t come. People were getting on those trains, so it was pretty much deserted. I finally got on a train to Kenmore because I knew people would be coming out of the Red Sox game and I wouldn’t be alone. When I’m with a group of people, I feel safe. When I’m alone, no.”

When I asked Alicia, Austin, and Jennifer if they felt safe walking around Boston during the day, especially after the recent attack, they all said yes, without a question. This logic confused me a little. Did I not just tell them about a man being stabbed? “We’re sometimes oblivious about what could happen to us. I hear about the things that happen around Boston and I’m like, ‘I know that spot! I was there yesterday!’ But, it didn’t happen to me or anyone I know, so there’s kind of a disconnect.”

The final question is, will this incident change our lives? I think the answer is, “not really.” Maybe we’ll be a little more aware of our surroundings, but in reality, this isn’t a new thing. There has always been crime in Boston and we all know that. “The fact that it happened so close to campus kind of freaks me out, I’m not going to lie,” said Jennifer, “But, no, it doesn’t really change anything.”

Follow the Citgo Sign

By Loren Cruise

There is something awe-inspiring about sixty square feet of blue, red, and white lights towering above Kenmore Square. Perhaps it is not as beautiful as the Boston Gardens or full of historical significance like the Old North Church. Tourists may not flock to Boston from all across the country to see it or take pictures for their albums. But to many college students and residents, it is literally a light that guides them home. It isn’t a gas company’s advertisement anymore to many Bostonians, even though the letters, “C-I-T-G-O” shine red. It is as much a part of Boston as Faneuil Hall, Fenway Stadium, and the narrow, winding roads of the North End.

The Citgo sign, called simply that by Bostonians, has been part of Boston’s skyline since 1965. It has survived through Boston’s harsh weather and endured the inevitable wear and tear of time. Throughout the years, there has been talk about turning off the lights of this giant Boston landmark or tearing it down. In fact, the sign went dark for years during the gas shortage in the 1970s, although its darkening was mostly symbolic because, according to Citgo’s website, the sign only cost $60 weekly to run. In the 1980s, Citgo considered taking it down because of maintenance costs, but many Bostonians objected vehemently to that plan. So it remains standing, and is now considered a historical landmark.

 Today, Boston is striving to make our city more sustainable by creating the Hubway bike system to provide a greener way to travel and installing solar powered trashcans. Despite all efforts to make our city more energy efficient, though, there is still a bold reminder high above Kenmore Square of our dependence on oil. Dani, a student from Emerson College, said, “I don’t think it symbolizes anything. It’s there because Citgo put it there. I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

To many students in Boston, the sign does not scream “Citgo!” or “Oil!” It screams, “Home!” Lauren, a Boston University student who lived on campus for three years said, “At first, before I went to BU, I didn’t really get it. But then, it’s next to BU’s campus, so it’s a symbol of coming home. In that way, it grew on me.” A recent Wheelock College graduate said that when a tourist asks her where Kenmore is, she tells them to look in the sky for the giant Citgo sign. It is almost as easy as if a bold red line was painted on the sidewalk leading to the square.

However, to some outsiders the sign is just a sign. Worse, it is a sign advertising a gas company. “It is almost as if Boston is thumbing its nose at people who want a more sustainable city,” said Kelsey, a student living in D.C. “It looks really ugly, too. It’s like a billboard. It is a billboard.”

People come to Boston because it is an old city with a long history. Faneuil Hall echoes with the shouts of Boston’s colonists, crying for freedom from Britain. Standing outside the Old State House, one can almost hear Thomas Crafts reading the Declaration of Independence to a crowd of former colonists. Yet, above Boston there is a sign that is a reminder of America’s dependence on oil.

“I think it’s part of Boston, but I don’t think it should be part of Boston,” said James, a former Northeastern student. Lauren demurred, saying, “I would prefer it to be something other than a gas company, but it’s so much a part of history that I can’t picture it being anything else now. So now that we’ve got it, I like it.” The sign has been part of Boston’s skyline for forty-seven years and will continue for the foreseeable future to light Kenmore Square with its delta symbol and the word, “Citgo,” and to guide Boston students home.

Romney in Roxbury

Romney in Roxbury
By Arthur Stadnik

With less than 100 days left until the Presidential Election we can be sure of many more headlines and articles that overwhelm us with imbalance and rhetoric.  No surprise there! The newspapers, the television ads and everywhere in-between will be bombarding the public with their rationale of why your guy won’t do.  If you’re looking for fair and balanced reporting, good luck!

To prove my point, in a random sort of way, I’ll blindly grab a newspaper from the recycling container here at home.  Rummaging… rummaging… ahhh, and the winner is: The Boston Globe, Friday, July 20, 2012. And look at that headline!  “In Roxbury, Romney hits Obama’s business message” by Callum Borchers.  The article is accompanied with a large photo of Romney in blue jeans standing next to a tool box.  There is also a group of workers who seem to be a standoff-ish 20 feet away. 

The article is about Romney’s visit to the Roxbury business Middlesex Truck & Coach, owned by Brian Maloney.  Romney is there to add fuel to the fire started by what is being dubbed as Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech.  Romney and Maloney are clearly upset with Obama.  Romney says, “Come here and talk to Brian, and you’ll learn that in fact he did build this business, someone else isn’t responsible for what he did here.  He’s the one that took the risk.  He’s the one that built this enterprise.”  Maloney adds, “I take umbrage at the suggestion that people don’t start and build businesses.  We don’t need any of government’s help, we haven’t had any.” 

You’re only a third of the way through the article at this point and the tables are about to be turned.  Borchers digs into Maloney’s business history and here is what he reveals: “a preferential bank loan from the City of Boston if the business moved to Crosstown Industrial Park,” and “a $560,000 federal government contract.”  This is followed with a reference to Romney’s lack of visibility in the Roxbury community as Governor.  He mentions the protestors outside the Middlesex Truck & Coach.  They are demonstrating Romney’s past business practices as head of Bain Capital and his not releasing all of his tax information. The article goes back to Maloney and mentions how he works in Roxbury but lives in a 1.3 million dollar home in Brookline.

All right already, Callum. I get the point!  These rich, out of touch business owners and politicians just don’t get us blue jeaned, blue collared Globe readers.  But your attack on Romney and Maloney are just as unfair and biased.  Just as they took the President’s words out of context to offend current and aspiring business owners, you have countered with an unfair attack on Maloney and his business.  You haven’t said anything we already don’t know or haven’t heard about Romney and for this you have a page one story?  Where’s the balance?

I want to read about the workers at Middlesex Truck & Coach.  What does Brian Maloney think about all the notoriety he has gained from The Globe article?  Borchers reported “neither Romney nor Maloney answered reporters’ questions after the event” but when I called Middlesex Truck & Coach, Brian was more than willing to answer a few of my questions.

I asked Brian first what he thought of the Globe piece.  He seemed defensive and explained, “That loan in 1980 was an Industrial Revenue Bond created to keep jobs in the community… if we didn’t succeed I would have lost everything!”  I sensed his defensiveness and to ease the conversation I told him I did not appreciate the way he was portrayed in the Globe.  He talked about the house he bought 30-plus years ago for $60,000.  Does the Globe want him to apologize for the equity gained since?  Did he cause the market value during that time frame to go crazy?

Realizing I just wanted him to have the opportunity to express his opinion of this event, he seemed much more relaxed.  He told me with pride how his business had won the 1987 Small Business of the Year Award.  He didn’t know how or why Romney picked his business for this media event, but why would he say no?  He had never met Romney before, but did say, “What a nice guy.  I mean that and in an unbiased way!  At one point I apologized to him because there were protestors outside.  He told me ‘don’t worry about it.  There’s always two teams’!”  Brian was very sincere during our brief conversation.  I thanked him for his time and he wished me well. 

The political season is in high gear.  Take no prisoners; no one is to be spared.  They will fight fire with fire!  Beware of what you read, the impression you receive is sent from a narrow perspective.  Romney’s propaganda surrounding “you didn’t build that” takes advantage of a small portion of what Obama said in a speech.  Borchers’ distortion of businessman Brian Maloney gives the reader no glimpse at all into the character or hard work that has made him successful. 

The value of this story has been compromised!  Articles like Borchers’ will not influence my vote.