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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
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.