Dictator

Of the many memes circulated in the 12010, the ‘dictator’ meme is especially prevalent and pernicious as a charge against Mayor Thane. Leading this chorus is local blogger Jerry Skrocki: 

Ann Thane needs to realize that she is paid to represent all the PEOPLE, not just the special interest groups that she wants to promote. This is not a dictatorship or a monarchy and Ann Thane must be voted out this fall. 

Let’s suspend reality for a moment — you know, that Mayor Thane was elected through a democratic process and if you follow local politics at all, you know she is stymied constantly by that other branch of our democratic government– the legislative aka the Common Concil —  so the dictatorship charge rings a bit hollow. But let’s pretend facts don’t matter — as they never do here– and deconstruct this meme a bit. (Let’s not focus on the hilarity of claiming no other politician is beholden to special interest groups. Classic.)

For readers of this blog, you already know that Jerry and I have had heated, sharp exchanges on the blogging medium — from anonymity to accusations of censorship by other bloggers, namely Mayor Thane. For background, please review here, here and here.

So by Jerry’s very own statements on Mayor Thane’s personal blog, he should be subject to the same standards as he holds other bloggers — namely, any moderation or filtering of comments defines an act of censorship. So I was intrigued by this self-admission of censorship by Jerry on his own blog:

Karin,
I deleted your comment about my penis because it was inappropriate. You should be grateful I allow you to post here at all.

If you don’t like the way I run my blog, there are plenty of other blogs you can post your nasty comments to.

Stick to the topic.

Apparently Jerry can accord himself the right to “censor” on his blog — a right that he will not accord to the Mayor on her personal blog nor that he will grant Charlie Kraebel at the Venner Vox. If this is the standard for defining a dictator, then this standard casts a fairly wide net and even ensnares the lead accuser.

Bear with me a bit and I’ll loop back on this charge of “dictatorship” shortly as I need to make a different but related point.

As I’m heading down this road on blogging, let me revisit the issue of anonymity. I’ve long mainatained that whether you choose to remain anonymous is secondary to what you post. In other words, the what you post matters more than who posts it. On the other hand, Jerry has always maintained that anonymity should be suspect and in fact, censors disallows anonymous posters on his blog. Unlike Jerry, I actually support his right to make any rule he deems appropriate– after all it is his blog. Curiously Jerry, if he were to adhere to his very own statements,  should  deny  himself that very right. Let’s  move on.

In light of our longstanding debate on anonymity, I found this post and the resulting comments quite fascinating along with Dan Weavers’ characterization of it as latrinalia  (thanks Dan for expanding my vocabulary).

What I found fascinating is this policy of Jerry’s:

RAngeletti is no longer allowed to post on my blog because he was using a pseudonym.

In other words, as long as someone puts a plausible name on a post, that, by definition, makes it worthwhile to post. On the other hand, if someone remains anonymous but adds to the debate and discussion, that cannot possibly be posted; that gets censored because it is simply not worthy. If you look at the arguments in the Latrinalia post, you will see the profoundly misguided  logic of this thinking if you rely on the who versus the what. Simply step back and critically assess the nature of the exchange to draw your own conclusion. Is the fact that posters have names raising the debate or lowering the debate? I think the answer here is quite  clear. My point is simply: we need to focus on the what much more than the who. Or, as is clear here, the substantive versus the vindictive. Furthermore, it’s rather ludicrous to view posters with initials or a first name as somehow more worthy of posting than those with pseudonyms– they are all practically equivalent as they do not uniquely identify the poster. It’s nonsensical to draw a distinction.

So how does this all tie to dictatorships? It”s quite simple really.

The reason–hardly surprising — is purely political. By leveling the dictatorship charge, critics of Mayor Thane can frame the narratives from which to attack her. The dictator narrative proves useful for that purpose. The other narrative involves Mayor Thane’s efforts to beautify the city which are, according to her critics narrative, displays of style over substance and a shortcoming in priorities. On the latter narrative, Karin finds herself squarely in the crossfire through her public efforts and public face on these beautification efforts. As Mayor Thane’s critics cannot attack the results of the efforts — it’s hard to build an argument against ridding the city of trash and waste — the critics attack the public face to those efforts; in Rovian terms, this undermines the value of the efforts if you can undermine and vilify the public face to those efforts. That’s why the attacks here are so personal versus substantive, and so prevalent — they are meant to inflict political damage. And as long as you inflict damage, you remain unrelenting in your attacks. Simple , albeit disturbing, as that.

Let me be crystal clear in my two main points.

First, Jerry can run his blog in any manner he wants in terms of who or what gets posted. I’m just asking him to accord other bloggers, even with those he disagrees, the very same rights he freely executes.

Second, the personal attacks mask an underlying political agenda and narrative. How dare you believe and work to make the city more livable? It’s that political philosophy and its adherents that  must be crushed at any and all costs– you can never make the city better — because if you do, here is what you can expect.  What gets dictated here is that you cannot make the city better; you just need to manage its downward spiral — that’s the real dictatorship. If you peel the onion back, you see a well defined pattern, certainly not a singularity. And you can expect the pattern to continue.

And people still wonder why we’re a small city.

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