Biting the hand that feeds ya

Capital Bites

photo by Larry Dalton

Probably one of the most common questions we get at the SN&R is: Who writes Capital Bites? The short answer is, of course, we don’t know. Oh, Bites has an e-mail address and voicemail here, as well as a mailbox. But we never see Bites, who prefers to work between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight, after the rest of the newsroom has gone home. But after three years of skulking in and around the Capitol and being a thorn in the sides of errant politicians, we thought it time to pin Bites down—and Bites agreed. There was, however, a caveat: Bites would only agree to talk if its face remained hidden. Frankly, we weren’t in much of a position to bargain, so with those ground rules in place, SN&R brings you a glimpse into the psyche of this elusive columnist.

Bites typically stays out of the spotlight. Why did you agree to do this interview?

This is an interview? You said we were just going to go out for a few beers. Geez, that’s it, I’m outta here. Bites doesn’t have to sit still for this crap, letting you media people tarnish my good name. Oh wait, now I remember, Bites did want to do this interview. Publicity is publicity, that’s what Bites has always said. Or someone said it, but Bites always repeats it, particularly when people phone me all pissed off about getting skewered in the column. I’m sorry, what was the question again?

What sex is Bites?

See, that’s what I’m talking about! You media people always make it about sex. Is that it? Sex, sex, sex. Well I’m not going to play your little game, and Bites is not going to discuss my sex life in a family newspaper. Next question.

What expertise does Bites have?

Bites has been covering the socio-political scene here in California since the very beginning. One might say Bites is the eternal conscience of a soulless state. Bites wouldn’t say that, but one might, depending on which one we’re talking about. My readers benefit from a different perspective on the world than what they’d get from mainstream schlock like the Bee. Bites’ mission is to give the people the weapons they need to resist.

Bites is awfully hard on our governor—in fact, it seems like Bites has very little respect for either the man or the office. Isn’t Bites worried that its constant yammering about Davis’ faults will backfire or, at least, make readers tune out?

That’s always a concern, particularly since this energy crisis hit so hard and everyone has jumped on the anti-Davis bandwagon. But Bites was beating up on Davis way before it was fashionable, and you’re right, Bites doesn’t have a lot of respect for the man. He’s a political animal of the most vicious and back-biting sort, the kind of guy who will do or say anything to achieve power, and then use that power simply to enhance his personal reputation, rather than trying to actually address the state’s many problems. When Davis said during his campaign for governor that he wanted to pattern our criminal justice system on that of Singapore’s … well, at that point my role was clear.

How many times have people threatened to sue Bites over the years?

Bites has lost count. Lots. But it’s all talk. Bites may state things strongly, but I also know where the libel lines lie. Threats of lawsuits make me laugh more than tremble.

What’s the most outrageous threat Bites has received and who did it come from?

It was your threat to expose my true identity if I didn’t agree to this interview. Damn you!

Over the years, Bites has been called a left-wing, mean-spirited, nasty, egomaniacal, gutless, hallucinogenic, pretentious know-it-all. Does the name-calling bother you, and is there a softer side of Bites that we don’t see?

Hey, them’s fightin’ words, missy! Bites hasn’t been called those things; you’re making that up. See, again, this is the kind of yellow journalism I’m talking about. Most of my critics can’t even spell the word “egomaniacal.” No, name-calling doesn’t bother me—it invigorates me. As for a “softer” side, Bites likes Fuzzy Navels. Does that count?

I’ve listened to some of Bites’ voicemail messages and it seems that many people are angered that Bites hides behind a nom de plume. What is Bites scared of?

OK, here we go. Bites knew it would come to this. The basic answer is this: anonymity helps Bites get the inside dirt and throw it out there without fear of punishment. Anonymous commentators have a rich and proud history in this country, from the colonial pamphleteers to the authors of the Federalist Papers to the underground press writers who rescued journalism and social commentary from the clutches of corporate America in the second half of the 20th century. This is essentially a small town, and as things stand now, people don’t see Bites coming, which is how it should be.

Last week, Bites told readers that Davis press secretary Steve Maviglio was really responsible for the items appearing in Bites. Obviously, that was a joke—but, for the record, who REALLY writes Bites?

Yup, that was a joke. Because Bites would never be written by someone who has to defend the indefensible public policy approach of Davis by day, and who makes up for that in the evenings by writing a column that counters all the damage that I do … er, um, I mean that he does during the day. That’s it, I have nothing more to say. This interview is over. Turn that damned thing off. Where’s the stop button? I’m outta here.