I'm taking my shot this week because I was afraid that if I took
it last week, I might really get shot, thanks to a low trick by
Augusta National Inc.--injecting the imagery of violence into a
debate about sex discrimination--that was handily boosted by SI's
Until recently most of the spin from the club had been about the
rights of Boy Scouts and college fraternities. But on March 20,
Augusta National changed the rules of engagement when its media
flack, Jim McCarthy, called me a "drive-by shooter" in the San
Francisco Chronicle. Alarmed that the club had deliberately
invoked the rhetoric of mayhem, which would have been more
suitable for an exchange about gang wars than gender wars, I
faxed an urgent letter to the club asking for a repudiation of
the tactic. In return I got a ratcheting-up of the invective; the
next day, in The Scotsman, McCarthy called me a "bomb thrower"
and "drive-by shotgunner."
At that point I was truly concerned about my safety. There were
only two weeks to go before I would be appearing at an outdoor
rally just off a busy roadway in a hostile city in which gun
sales are advertised on marquees. I sent a second emergency
communication to the club expressing my outrage. I also started
calling my abortion-rights groups to inquire about borrowing a
After a week of silence from the club I was sleeping less
fitfully. That is, until I was handed SI's stand-alone Masters
preview, dated April 8. In a move worthy of the trashiest
tabloid, SI quoted McCarthy's violent imagery in a time line of
events, which was accompanied by a one-sided story blaming me
exclusively for damaging the Augusta economy. To accentuate the
point, SI set off a quote from a local citizen that said, in
part, that I "oughta be shot." Figurative to you, threatening to
me in an environment awash in anti-Burk propaganda and
paraphernalia. I hired two bodyguards and rented an SUV with
blacked-out windows for the protest last Saturday.
April 20, 2003
I haven't experienced that kind of fear since the mid-1980s, when
crazies bombed the abortion clinics in Wichita, Kans., where I
was president of the NOW chapter. That I'm here to write this "My
Shot" means that no one took one at me during Saturday's
rally--no thanks to SI.
Burk is chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations.