By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Sign language (II)

In two comments to Media Nation yesterday (here’s the link to the comment thread), WRKO Radio (AM 680) talk-show host Scott Allen Miller continued to insist that taxpayers are being forced to pick up the cost of lighting the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square. Miller wrote:

I didn’t say the Boston taxpayer refurbished the sign, Dan, but according to media reports last year when the sign was refurbished, the Boston taxpayer does pay to light it. Some “gift”! Would we be as supportive of an Exxon sign?

I’ve asked Miller to provide documentation, but haven’t seen any yet. I do know that of the three reports I was able to find from that event, in the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and the Associated Press, none made any such assertion. (No links for the Herald and the AP because I found them in closed databases. But you can look up the Herald story online with a library card, and the AP story pretty much rehashed what was in the papers.)

At this point, I have to assume that Miller hasn’t come up with the relevant “media reports” he cited because there aren’t any. Herald reporter Laura Crimaldi posted a comment to Media Nation yesterday in which she said: “For what it’s worth, Citgo spokesman Fernando Garay told me this morning that Citgo Oil pays the electricity bill for the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square.” In today’s Herald, Crimaldi includes Garay’s comment and confirms it with Mayor Tom Menino as well.

Despite all this, if you go to the Web site for Miller’s show this morning, it still says, “Citgo is basically owned by the government of Venezuela, and the city pays to light up the sign every night.” (My emphasis.) Yet in a post on his own blog, Miller goes on at some length about his crusade to tear down the Citgo sign without ever once making the same claim. Interesting.

As for Miller’s claim that I got it wrong when I wrote that he had said taxpayers had footed the bill for refurbishing the Citgo sign, I’ll concede that I may have gotten confused. I was driving, not taking notes or rolling tape. That’s not an excuse, just reality — I was convinced I had it right. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone with it.

Miller, on the other hand, has yet to admit he got it wrong when he said, over and over, that taxpayers have been saddled with the cost of Citgo’s electric bill every time the sign is turned on. I’m told he was going off on me yesterday morning as well. I hope he at least mentioned the URL of Media Nation.

One final thought. Miller is well within his rights to demand that the city turn off the sign in protest of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavéz’s denunciation of President Bush. But Boston City Councilor Jerry McDermott, as an elected official, has different responsibilities.

Both Miller and McDermott are advocating government censorship, in direct violation of the First Amendment. Miller, as a talk-show host, is exercising his right of free speech. McDermott, as a representative of the government, is not — he wants to use his power to silence someone whose speech he disagrees with.

And let’s not even get into the absurdity of trying to punish Chavéz by going after Citgo simply because the corporation is owned by the Venezuelan state oil company.

Anyway — enough.

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  1. Anonymous

    The stupidity is spreading. Hub Politics is calling for the demolition of the Citgo sign, just because of the association with Chavez. Should we blow up at the Statue of Liberty next time someone from France does seomething stupid?

  2. Rick in Duxbury

    Mark Shanahan of the Globe today quotes Chavez in the NYT: “Suppose Venezuela …overthrew the government of the U.S., would we think it was a joke?” Er yes, actually. (Unless I personally saw Peter Sellers leading the troops).Can Delahunt and Joe K. persuade Lyndon Larouche to sign on with this lunatic?

  3. Mister Goat

    Anonymous, if Hub Politics says something, that’s usually a good sign that it’s dismissed by the vast majority of the population. Matt and Aaron Margolis, the site’s editors, sit in the suburbs and attempt to dictate to Boston what it should do. And some of the stances that they take, and that featured writers on their other blogs take, would be laughable if they weren’t offensive. Like the “senior editor” at one of Aaron Margolis’ sites, who wrote that he put the word “gay” in quotes “to indicate the way we sanitize sodomy in our culture.”I wrote something about it the other day–you can find it at .

  4. tony schinella

    I’m going to be sending Councilor Jerry McDermott an email about this. The United Nations IS NOT American soil: It is international soil. John D Rockefeller Jr donated $8.5 million that the U.N. used to buy land from a developer in order to build the U.N. Look on any map and you will see the area as considered international space. In addition, every other nation’s embassy is also considered that country’s sovereign space inside our nation – not American soil.

  5. Anonymous

    In countries like Venezuela, at least the can safely practice their freedon of speech, without being chastised as traitor or not a patriot. In these Bush-administration days, the modus operandi of the administration, in politics, and in popular America is to chastise anyone who criticizes Bush or his War in Iraq. Chavez is just saying what the whole world can’t say outloud. We as Americans should stop thinking that we can just forget the thousands of lives that have been killed over Bush’s fantasies with a speech that appeals to our patriostism. I don’t care what everybody else says in politics…Chavez can speak his mind. That’s the country I’d rather be…where I can speak without being chastised. And for the democrat that felt offended that another head of state came to “American” soil….read some more politician…the U.N. is international territory.

  6. Mike P

    This is beyond ridiculous. I’m wondering if Miller (and anyone else on this silly bandwagon) exclusively uses American-drilled gasoline for his car. It isn’t as if Venezuela is the worst regime that we get oil from. If Miller wanted to try to lead a charge towards energy independence – renewable, please – that’d be nice.

  7. Peter Porcupine

    Please visit Amnesty International for a better ‘take’ on the state of free speech in Venezuela.The fact you have made this post without storm troopers crashing down your front door (and from your writing style, I’d say it’s one of many) is proof positive that you are NOT living in a fascist police state, you ninny!

  8. Neil

    Peter, you can tell how many front doors anonymous has, by his writing style? Not bad.I happened to hear a recording of a recent Noam Chomsky talk at MIT, on WZBC’s “Truth and Justice Radio” this morning. Hey, real student radio! Chavez boosted sales of Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival by holding it up and recommending it during his UN speech.I missed the beginning and had never heard Chomsky so didn’t know who was speaking. I guessed correctly but had to listen to the whole thing to be sure. All I can say is wow. In today’s column Jeff Jacoby calls him, redundantly, a “far left extremist”, as if that means his opinion needn’t even be considered. But name-calling aside, he is worth listening to and reading. These days where the slightest list to port labels you far left, it’s refreshing to hear an actual leftist (no reason to say “far”, or “extreme”) point of view, presented cogently.

  9. Steve

    Neil, you can get a whole hour of Chomsky with Chris Lydon here, talking about his dinner with Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah last May. This show was done at about the tail end of Israel’s latest battle with Hezbollah.

  10. Mister Goat

    Peter, whom are you responding to? I don’t find any references to a “fascist police state” in these comments aside from yours. I certainly may be missing something, but could you clarify whom you’re calling a ninny?

  11. Liam

    Just a note.The White House has yet to deny that George Bush is the devil.

  12. Anonymous

    I do wish I lived in a state where the conservative viewpoint was represented by something other than cartoon characters. HubPolitics is really another face on “Bloggers for Bush” — one of them is even writing an attack book on “Democrat Corruption.” They aren’t conservatives, they’re Republican hacks. Same with Ginny Buckingham (anybody remember her MassPort stint?). And Jeff “I really, really, really, hate gay marriage” Jacoby. Howie Carr is the same, except it’s gays, not gay marriage.And there’s Peter Porcupine, who consistently seems to be having an argument with a strawman of his own devising. Thank god for Hub Blog…

  13. Anonymous

    Good lord, “mister goat” was being nice about Aaron and Matt. “Pardon My English” contains an entry from Aaron with the title “Did anyone else just laugh when you heard this story?” with an addition “I was in my car when I heard about this; I cheered with delight.”The article?Nine illegal immigrants were killed in a highway crash Monday while trying to elude Border Patrol agents, and at least 12 others were injured, officials said.The endless gay, feminist, Arab, and Democrat bashing must make them a big hit at parties. Too bad the “Hup Politics” site identifies them as Conservatives rather than Bush Republicans.

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