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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Tuesday, November 12, 2002
1:11 PM

So here we have this Augusta story in which Hootie Johnson is quoted in the Post, as noted earlier today.

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 11 -- The chairman of Augusta National Golf Club said today that no woman will be invited to join the all-male golf club before the Masters tournament in April, and that no timetable has been set to change that policy. He also said the tournament will go on as scheduled "and it will always be held. We are a single-gender club, and that has always been our tradition," William "Hootie" Johnson said in a telephone interview today with The Washington Post from his home in Columbia, S.C., his first public comments on the issue since July 9. "We're very comfortable the way we are. It may happen down the road, but when I don't know."...

Johnson notes there are plenty of all-female groups, as I noted in my post this morning, such as the Girl Scouts and sororities. Martha Burk replies:

"I hope cooler heads and rationality will prevail and they will come down on the side of fairness, regardless of what Hootie Johnson thinks. These guys are not Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, they're adult human beings, many of them CEOs of the largest U.S. corporations. He's attempting to allow discrimination by adult males on their female peers."

Burk doesn't dispute Johnson's arguments; she just rewinds the tape on discrimination. Other than the ages involved, she doesn't attempt to explain why it's acceptable for the Girl Scouts to accept only girls; she simply asserts the gender-selection applied by the Girl Scouts is irrelevant to the gender-selection applied by Augusta. And of course she keeps playing the trump card:

It's their own bigotry that is standing in their own way.

This is the work of an old-fashioned liberal demagogue. If you don't have an argument, call them names. Feminists have long tried to equate gender discrimination with race hatred, but most Americans stopped believing they are the same thing a long time ago, if they ever did believe it. That doesn't mean the Burks of the world can't win tactically, as they often do, by smearing their opponents. Smears work, just like negative political advertising works. Smears can definitely work in the corporate world, where CEO's look at the bottom line and are willing to make problems go away as expediently as possible, one reason why speech codes and affirmative action policies are alive and well in many companies.

But as I've noted before, Johnson was racially progressive in the South when it really mattered, starting in the 1960s, and has actively promoted gender integration in public venues as well. What he's fighting for today is the right of a private club to determine its membership on the basis of gender. The laws of the United States and of Georgia permit women to do the same--and they do the same. Meanwhile, the golf club populated in Burk's imagination by bigots hosts about 1,000 rounds of golf by women every year.

So the question is, does Martha Burk really believe Hootie Johnson is a bigot? If so, she's, shall we say, misinformed. If not, she's something much worse than that.

I'll have some instructive Burk quotes later on today.

Admit it, you need a break from all this talk about elections and Iraq.

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