City Hall

Councilman Lee Kleinman, Like Donald Trump, Sees Haters Everywhere

The word hater has come to Dallas City Hall. Let's hope its a temporary infection.

This is anecdotal, not scientific, but use of hater really does seem to have grown in frequency, the most recent bump coming from the harrumptive Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump.

He used it three times in a recent 20-word description of federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel: “Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater.” Hater accounts for 15 percent of that statement.

It’s a term for which Trump does seem to have a certain special claim, having appended his own name to it in some instances as when he wrote to the O’Reilly Factor show on Fox News: “Why don't you have some knowledgeable talking heads on your show for a change instead of the same old Trump haters.”

Trump’s surrogates have even appropriated the term for fellow conservatives who disagree with them on technical issues regarding rules for the upcoming Republican convention. Dan Scavino Jr., a Trump operative, tweeted about conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, “Assume hater Hugh Hewitt will not be attending the GOP Convention. If he is — the RNC should BAN him from attending.”

Which is not to say that Trump or his followers or conservatives in general invented the contemporary popular usage of the word. NPR did a piece four years ago attributing the rise of hater to its use in the world of hip-hop.

NPR quoted hip-hop historian Marcus Reeves as saying that the term, originally “player-hater,” began to occur in the late 1990s to describe anyone who criticized the ruthless values of what Reeves called the “MC-as-pimp-player-hustler persona.” Reeves told NPR the term, eventually shortened to hater (before it was expanded again to Trump-hater), came to mean “anyone who criticized — even constructively — a person's success or business practices.”

If that etymology is accurate, it’s interesting for the strange or ironic or maybe just weird inflection it implies. The contemporary use of the word hater, then, has its origins in a usage that flips an accusation back on the accuser. If I tell you that I think your MC-as-pimp-player-hustler persona is destructive or hateful, you tell me that I am a player-hater or simply a hater. It has about the same moral intellectual valence, then, as the playground retort, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you.”

But we knew that.
Anyway, the word is on my mind because I found my own name recently on a list of haters compiled and published on Twitter by Dallas City Councilman Lee Kleinman. The list has become known among people interested in City Hall matters (a very small group, I believe) as the “Lee Kleinman haters list” (LKHL).

At this point I'm sure my journalism peers would expect me to say I'm proud to be on the LKHL and then also say some things about Thomas Jefferson, the king's new clothes, the village idiot and maybe the Enron scandal.

Yeah, maybe, but that kind of bravado would mask the more important fact that I do not hate Kleinman. Six years ago when he was a member of the Dallas Park Board, Kleinman popped up in my own personal view-finder as a truth-teller and an independent person.

He and I have spoken eyeball to eyeball once in his office and several times on the phone. The fact is I have always found him to be a smart, charming person. I do happen to disagree with him on a lot of stuff, but disagreement is not hatred in my book, really.

Kleinman explained his list this week to the Advocate magazines as follows: 

“In Twitter, lists are used to filter tweets so the user can read comments from a group of other twitter users. I have a list for Council Members, a list for Trinity River Project related users, and I subscribe to a list of news media.

“I created a list of users who I believe hate me or the things I support and stand for. I guess I could have named the list ‘Users that aggressively spew vitriolic comments about me and about the good work done by the City.’

“‘Haters’ was just easier.”

Well, easier for whom? Former City Council member Angela Hunt, also named on the list, has a piece about it in the July Advocate magazines. I got an early peek, but I’m embargoed from quoting from it until they put it online. I think it’s OK for me to characterize part of it in very general terms — free publicity for them, right? — as long as I don’t quote.

Hunt, a four-term veteran of the council, is married to Paul Sims, who serves on the park board. They are parents of two small children. Taken together, in the last decade their household probably has devoted more person-hours to unpaid civic service than the typical American household in the same period devoted to watching television. Or sleeping.

So, yes, in her piece Hunt takes strong exception to being smeared as a hater of the city. She says she loves the city. That’s why she does what she does. She just doesn’t agree with Kleinman about everything.

Kleinman has taken down his list, and I was slow on the draw to get my own screenshot of it, but it has been reproduced elsewhere, so I can give you the following full account of the people and entities on it. They are: Advocamentum (somebody at the Advocate magazines?), Wylie H. Dallas (not a real person), Scott Griggs (Kleinman’s peer on the council), Dallas May (fake name, frequent astute commenter), Philip Kingston (another council peer), Kevin Lavelle (founder of Mizzen+Main, a men's clothing brand), Downwinders at Risk (region’s oldest most influential environmental group), Dallas Observer (us), Jim Schutze (me), Wick Allison (fly-fisherman), Zac Crain (works for fly-fisherman), D Magazine (fly-fisherman's magazine), Paul Sims (see above)and Angela Hunt (also above).

I have exchanged emails with Kleinman on another topic since the list came out, and neither one of us brought it up. I know as a human being, more than as a reporter, I ought to call him up and ask him why he thinks I hate him and whether he hates me, but I was brought up in a type of fairly rigorous Midwestern household where I just never learned to talk about things like that.

I’m deathly afraid that if I do someone will wind up crying, and if it’s me then I’ll have to go home and shoot myself. I do not regard this as a strength, by the way, but as a weakness. But there you have it. I would rather shoot myself than ask Kleinman or anybody else who is not a blood relative if he or she hates me. Or, you know, shoot them, but I would never do that. Obviously.

And it’s not about any of that, anyway. There isn’t a 10th of an ounce of sincerity in the accusation in the first place. It’s that rubber and glue thing, which does seem to be a core element in the Trump philosophy, perhaps best expressed as, “No I’m not, you are!”

It’s this weird little flip-off that people do, isn’t it? I guess it’s harmless to people who have graduated from the third grade, but I wish we could be a little more careful with it. That’s all.

It’s easy to understand coming from Trump, because he really can be called a hater, legitimately, so he has a strong incentive to flip it back on other people. But not Kleinman. He’s a good guy and a gentleman.

I think he was being silly. And then, when he was confronted, he dug in. That’s my two-bit theory. He should dig out. I refuse to call him about this, by the way. Don’t tell me to call him. This is the kind of stuff that drives people to fly-fishing.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze