By the time you read this, people who respected Mayor Tom Menino will hopefully have worked through purely rosy remembrances and begun to recall more, shall we say, hilarious moments. It’s hardly time to swing the hammer; harsh criticisms will inevitably bleed out as the current team at City Hall thaws more frozen leftovers. That said, we thought we’d take the opportunity to lovingly acknowledge some of Menino’s rifts with alternative media you haven’t heard much about in the past week.
We’ll start with ourselves, as the Dig punched way out of our weight class on several occasions to engage Hizzoner. As babies in 2001, we declared that “Mayor Menino [was] wiping his soft, pimply white ass with the Constitution. Again.” Our beef: the removal of street boxes from the Back Bay, which spurred us into a losing court case alongside the Boston Phoenix, the Improper Bostonian, the Boston Herald, and the Boston Globe. Together, we won a temporary restraining order against the removal, though in the end Menino prevailed in some particular locations.
We could go on forever about our squabbles, but one particular rift from 2008 speaks volumes. In response to a Dig cover by Syracuse artist Phil McAndrew featuring abstract cartoon characters in the quasi-buff, local CBS affiliate WBZ-TV found three people who were outraged by the “weird,” “crazy,” and “sick” imagery. Make that four if you include Menino, who told the station, “It’s totally irresponsible … It’s not what we should be showing our young people.” The mayor also said he was looking to get Dig boxes removed from “nearby city buildings.” What else is new?
Everybody knows Menino liked nice threads. He also took time to micromanage the wardrobes of others, and in 2006 attempted to ban “Stop Snitching” shirts from shelves citywide. He wound up making peace with the local designer behind the slogan, although he returned five years later with demands that Niketown yank T-shirts “emblazoned with pill bottles” from its Newbury Street storefront. The mayor reacted after he and his wife stumbled upon the lascivious threads, thus earning him a spot in the Boston Phoenix Muzzle Awards Hall of Shame. Media critic Dan Kennedy and First Amendment expert Harvey Silverglate bestowed the honor in light of previous muzzles for (unsuccessfully) attempting to prevent the MassCann Freedom Rally, and “for refusing to repeal the city’s archaic regulations making life miserable for street musicians.”
WAG OF THE FINGER
The year was 2007. A reported 40 LED signs shaped like Mooninites promoting the Cartoon Network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie were hung around Boston. No one was particularly scared, but the cops and city irrationally freaked anyway, their fears elevating into an all-out bomb scare. Even after it was revealed that local artist Peter “Zebbler” Berdovsky was involved, Menino called the act an “irresponsible,” “nitwit technique.” Not his finest moment.
Always looking out for his city, for better or worse, last year the mayor penned a public letter to Jann Wenner expressing disappointment over the August 3, 2013, cover of Rolling Stone, which Menino argued “rewards a terrorist [Dzhokhar Tsarnaev] with celebrity treatment.” The letter wasn’t too harsh, noting, “There may be valuable journalism behind your sensational treatment.” Nevertheless, it demonstrated the mayor’s occasional inability to look beyond the headlines. You’d think a guy whose whole career proved that you shouldn’t judge books by their covers would have seen things differently.
[Media Farm is wrestled weekly by DigBoston News+Features Editor Chris Faraone]