Boots & Sabers

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0754, 08 Apr 19

Anonymous Hate Group Bullies Local Businesses After School Referendum Fails

When the school referendum failed in West Bend last week, the pro-referendum folks were all over the place looking for people to blame. It has become an insidious facet of the modern political left that they can’t tolerate any disagreement with their agenda. Instead of accepting that we had a rigorous debate and a majority of the people disagreed with the referendum, they demonize opponents and consider them evil, vile people.

One of the objects of their hate has become the Washington County Insider. As many of you know, the WCI has been a robust local news outlet for Washington County that I frequently reference on this site. The owner, Judy Steffes, is a lifelong Bender and has been intrepid in covering local news in various outlets for years. After the decline in local journalism (a national trend), Steffes stepped up to try to keep local journalism alive by creating the Washington County Insider. Like many folks in the county, the WCI is a staple read for me to find out what is going on locally.

Anyway, after the referendum failed, many folks on the Left were all over Facebook* and other social media outlets blaming the WCI for the failure. They accused WCI of only publishing negative stories, filtering comments, and refusing to publish pro-referendum letters to the editor. The truth is far from their accusations. WCI has become a valuable source of local news that has scrupulous journalistic ethics. But they needed someone to hate because they can’t accept that a majority of the voters in the district simply disagree with them. So the hate flowed on social media and spleens were vented on WCI. By the end of the week, local businesses and non-profits who advertise on WCI began receiving the email below and receiving phone calls at their businesses to the same effect:

——– Original message ——–

From: Concerned Citizens <>

Date: **************

To: ****************

Subject: Request

Attached you will find our request that you no longer support Washington County Insider as a paid advertiser. We believe that being aligned to this business is counterintuitive to the values of both our community and your company. In the letter attached you will find a compilation of quotes from local individuals who have taken issue with the practices of WCI and the owner of the website.

Please know this group has formed in an effort to simply share the sentiment of thousands of residents who will no longer support this divisive behavior. Our first step is to make advertisers aware of the negative impact of being associated with WCI. Should it be necessary, we’ll move forward to coordinate an active boycott of advertisers.

In this age of incivility, destructive social media is common place. The only way we can be a part of the solution is to be better; by building up our community, speaking with positive intention, and using our consumer power to only support like minded businesses.

Thank you!

Note the rank hypocrisy… “the only way we can be part of the solution is to be better, by building up our community, speaking with positive intention,” so “we’ll move forward to coordinate an active boycott of advertisers.” This is what has become a typical cry-bully tactic. Spew hate and divisiveness while claiming it’s for the sake of civility and a better world. They are so filled with hate that they seek to destroy people who disagree with them – or even those who publish opinions of others who disagree with them.

What does this mean? Well, it depends. The email is unsigned and comes from an anonymous email address. This could be the work of a single crank. Or it could be the work of the same handful of lefty cranks who are always agitating in the community. I seriously doubt that it represents the “sentiment of thousands of residents” that it pretends. It is difficult to believe that thousands of people could share this sentiment and yet not a single one of them is willing to sign their name to it. So when it comes to the threats made in the email, it is a paper tiger. And if a business is seriously worried about a boycott from an anonymous email crank, then I would question their business judgment.

But pulling back the lens and putting this email in the context of the larger community discussion, it is troubling. It shows that there are some in our community who can’t just disagree with their neighbors and have a discussion about it. Instead, they work to personally and professionally destroy people who disagree with them. It is a vile, hateful, destructive attitude that has, sadly, infected too many in our community.

*NOTE: as soon as I published this, the FB post linked was removed despite having 112 comments – including a supportive one from school board member Tiffany Larson.


0754, 08 April 2019


  1. Jason

    Seems like a Foust tactic to me.

  2. Pat

    I have to agree that the WCI has been a robust source for local news. Her business model for for WCI is to be praised. But like other news outlets has, at times, demonstrated her ability to overstep journalistic decency.

    One such recent example was when announcing the death of a young person, which included the individuals name and cause of death well before an obituary was ever released by the family. Judy did remove this posting once enough people complained and unliked her Facebook page.

  3. Owen

    I actually saw the kid’s name first in the release from the Sheriff’s department. So is it now forbidden for news outlets to run with public information?

  4. Mark Hoefert

    Seems like the referendum support group has gone dark – all their links at other FB sites show the content no longer being available.  Must be the start of a #notme movement.  Rats running for cover.

  5. Pat

    Good question. I guess everything is fair game these days.

  6. Mark Hoefert

    I never understood how these boycotts are supposed to work.  If I don’t support their side, am I supposed to then go make a purchase I would not otherwise?  One of the presumed targets sold me 5 new vehicles over the last 30 years – SUV, Van, and 3 4×4 Truck/Plow units.  Would I have some leverage going in on my next purchase and saying “I am boycotting you” to see if I am given an offer I can not refuse?  By the same token, what about the businesses that seem to be giving tacit approval to the boycott?  I guess I should boycott them too – one will be easy for me to boycott – don’t buy jewelry anyway.

  7. Jason

    >Good question. I guess everything is fair game these days.


    In other words, oops you stepped in it… but still want to sound critical.  Good thing most readers here are better thinkers than you.

  8. steveegg

    This is yet another reminder that Andrew Breitbart was wrong – politics is upstream of everything else, and politics streams liquids of various colors, viscosities, and odors.

  9. Mark Hoefert

    I can understand Owen’s “spidey senses” about on-line bully tactics. Here is an oldie for West Bend newbies (after 2007).  As a parent of a child in elementary school at the time it was kind of scary that there could be someone in our community who would use a public forum to post such nonsense.  It happened on a weekend and the culprit was identified immediately, so it was not necessary to inform parents and cancel school on Monday.  As I recall, Owen, you were able to help the police identify the IP address from the comfort (or discomfort?) of your deer tree stand?

  10. Owen

    Wow, I had forgotten about that. That post would be deep in the archives, but I was able to give the IP address to the police from the comfort of my deer stand :)

  11. Mark Hoefert

    Well, it happened several weeks after the failed referendum of 11/6/2007.  I was part of the referendum advocacy group. It went 63% NO on that one. Disappointed, but not angry.  Not aware that anyone else was angry either – of course, did not have Facebook at the time.

  12. Owen

    Yeah, something in our culture has shifted since that referendum. Also, several referendums have passed since then, but there was never this kind of angry attack from the side that lost.

  13. Merlin

    Back in the day it was virtually impossible to bitch anonymously. Letters to the editor were vetted.Your alderman, councilman, or trustee wanted to know who you were before they would listen to you rant about anything. Every idiot’s free speech rights came with a name and a face, but once identified as an idiot you weren’t obligated to accept their company any further. Fools and tools were much easier to avoid. Much less so in the age of the interwebs.

  14. dad29

    politics is upstream of everything else

    Pretty sure you don’t mean that, Steve.

    First comes “cult,” then comes “culture;” following that is “politics.”  Works that way for Righties and for Lefties–but clearly, in opposite directions.

  15. jjf

    Sorry, Jason, not me.  I generally don’t support boycotts, either.

  16. MjM

    As I read that sophomoric fascist prose, it seemed vaguely familiar.

    Yeah.  Now I remember.




  17. Jason

    MjM, nice call.   Both sound like they are coming from a college student / eagle scout.

  18. Kevin Scheunemann

    I don’t live in District so I had no horse in the race.

    Why don’t supporters just voluntarily send their share in as a donation to do building project instead of this blame game?

  19. dad29

    No Eagle Scout writes that badly.  I’ll go with a 10th-grade (or less) nephew of the judge in question.  And that judge deserves questioning.

  20. Pat

    “In other words, oops you stepped in it… ”

    No, Jason. It means exactly what I said. Even you’d have to agree, in this day and age nothing is off the table with the media.

    Owen poses a good question. But, just because there was a police report made doesn’t necessarily mean the media needs, and usually doesn’t, print the cause of death by suicide of a minor, which includes the youths name.

    Generally, when these suicides are carried out at home or in another private place, journalists will weigh the privacy interests of these individuals’ family and friends over the newsworthiness and interest among the general public.

  21. Pat

    “Good thing most readers here are better thinkers than you.”

    So, Jason. What are your better thoughts?

  22. Pat


    I guess when you were spouting off about better thinkers, you weren’t including yourself.

  23. Jason

    No Pat, I made my point.  Sorry it whooshed over you.

  24. Pat


    So why don’t you share your best thoughts about journalistic ethics and the reporting deaths of children by suicide. Or are you only good at trolling.

  25. Jason

    I’m sorry, I thought your point was about a single journalist and a single incident?

    “One such recent example was when announcing the death of a young person, which included the individuals name and cause of death well before an obituary was ever released by the family. ”


    You know, the one in which it was shown that the data was already in public record before the reporting of it?  And the one in which you yourself stated the journalist – out of compassion – removed at the wishes of the family?

    Or do you have more in mind that we’re supposed to divine from you?

  26. Pat

    So what was the point you were feebly attempting to make with your smart ass trolling remark;

    “In other words, oops you stepped in it… but still want to sound critical.”

  27. Jason

    >You know, the one in which it was shown that the data was already in public record before the reporting of it?  

    And then you doubled down on your stupidity by a smarmy comment of “Good question. I guess everything is fair game these days.”


    You know, going from a specific incident to condemn something, to a generalized statement once proven wrong?   Like all trolls do.  But you be you, you’re so good at it.

  28. Pat

    And what was proven wrong?

  29. jjf

    Back in the day it was virtually impossible to bitch anonymously. Letters to the editor were vetted.

    The Founders would like a word with you.

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