Commentary on Comments
Updated: Jul 4
We recently published a piece about a local streetscape project. In it, our reporter referenced accusations of secret political meetings, administrative shortcuts, benefit redundancy, and a general 'damn the torpedoes' mentality surrounding this rather pricy endeavor.
As with any article, we expected a variety of reader responses. To be sure, that's exactly what we got. A number of neighbors conveyed how pleased they were that at least one newshound was shedding light on the unsavoriness associated with a clearly questionable infrastructure idea. Alas, their desire for real bureaucratic clarity was watered down by a second group of individuals who flood message boards with spurious demands for journalistic transparency.
Since the Equalizer is bound to encounter this trend again, we feel it warrants its own editorial.
Our website exists to provide an outlet for people whose stories are not being fully told. More often than not, this approach leads us to offer a counter to the narratives being set by the government, mass media, and certain advocacy groups. You would think an operation such as ours would be universally respected for identifying potential transgressions by these unwieldy entities. While we expect opponents to disagree with our opinions, we never thought they would impugn our mission of supporting average citizens against the all-powerful administrative blob.
As it turns out, they do it all the time.
In a local internet forum where the aforementioned column was shared, a pair of complaints about our coverage arose repeatedly: vague concerns about the veracity of the information cited as well as questions about our credentials. In other words, it didn't matter to these commenters that we use hyperlinks as often as possible to back up the claims we make or that our site goes into great depth about what motivates us. Like archetypical bullies, they refused to engage in the substance of the debate, opting instead for smear tactics and character attacks.
Please recognize that these same marplots would almost certainly never dispute anything published by a major periodical. It wouldn't matter if the journalist was an unknown and unspectacular recent college graduate with no ties to the area and no plans to plant roots there. It wouldn't even matter if that same writer was passing off a single anonymous quote as irrefutable gospel. To the defenders of the mainstream, as long as the byline is located in a pre-approved location, it's beyond reproach.
That's ominous; but it pales in comparison to the fact that these commenters chose not to critique the bad actors adduced in the story. Not one iota. Ignoring the misdeeds of public servants while pantomiming the necessity of a thorough author background check? Talk about tipping the hand!
If you think about it, it's not surprising that these organizational stalwarts, whose employers are in the business of dictating ironclad terms to entire populations, would dismiss the apprehension of commoners who dare object to their authoritative version of "fairness." They are products of that system. Predictably, they find it vexing when community members balk at civic proposals... while also crying crocodile tears about the need for "all viewpoints to be expressed and appreciated."**
Nobody personifies this hubris more than the ex-politician (from the same governmental commission that held the key closed-door meeting) who nonchalantly dropped gems like "it's sad how some people are so opposed to any change in the neighborhood" as if the public has no right to challenge elected officials' hairbrained schemes. This is the same guy who insinuated the "speedway that's there now" should be "rectified" to correct the "historical mistake" of "having a highway trench through one of our prime commercial areas." Very forceful language, indeed. But not even close to accurate. First off, this mass transit lover leaves out the streetcar portion of the trench's past that is inconvenient to his argument. More importantly, that so-called speedway, with its 25mph speed limit, isn't going anywhere. It's just getting a ceiling placed over it. Hmm...
Isn't it strange how the people asking for journalist bona fides don't reprimand a former office holder who is hoodwinking us all about a thing he was intimately involved with before retiring.
Perhaps more people should be asking who they are and what allegiances they have?
This isn't about one article or one gazette. Yes, we are using an Equalizer piece as the example; but only because it illustrates an often-unspoken layer of pseudo-censorship that awaits anyone trying to disseminate an alternative viewpoint.
A sliver of the population can muzzle the truth just by floating unsubstantiated assertions that otherize their opponents. Heck, proof of their deception can be right there, or a single mouse click away, but it becomes immaterial once their strategy is deployed.
Taint the messenger to neuter the message. That is the goal.
It's a textbook red herring so effective that it works even when the people that exploit it are ultimately proven wrong. Businesses afraid of cancellation are the most susceptible. Moderators and editors are pressured to either block free speech or apologize for letting it see the light of day. Regular citizens preemptively reduce their participation or avoid topics altogether.
With rare exception, the argument against accepted convention is stifled until it withers and dies.
Keep in mind how easy it was for the expurgators to cast doubt on something as benign as a transportation story. Now imagine how militant they can be when the subject involves hot buttons like gender, race, wealth, et cetera.
How did we get to the point where malinformation (facts that are inconvenient to those who the truth exposes) has been permitted to have this kind of power over 21st Century life? If we continue to allow the truth to be debased as "harmful" to wrongdoers, the era of honest reporting is over. Is that the kind of world you want to live in?
It boils down to this: since vanishingly few individuals are brave enough to defend people or causes that have been ostracized, the mudslingers almost always win and almost never experience repercussions. As a society, we can no longer sit back and let them classify everything as verboten.
Make your opinion heard.
** Note that we did not include direct links to the forum posts in question. We did this to avoid accusations of bullying the busybodies who have no compunction about doing the very same thing to others. See how malinformation works? They will reflexively scream "dox" if you unmask them... while they demand full biographical and relationship disclosures from their opponents. **
Image credit: @iamsherise (free use)