Opinion

PUBLISHER'S COLUMN | Even island ‘Mean Girls’ have a voice

Editor’s note: The following column may contain language considered offensive by some.

 

Politics is a blood sport on Whidbey Island.

Within weeks of my arrival here nearly nine months ago, I managed to upset the local Tea Party supporters and quickly landed on their long list of “enemies.”

I don’t believe I was targeted because I’m a political creature. In fact, I rarely discuss my personal politics. It’s boring stuff.

Last week’s South Whidbey Record, with its coverage of Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson, opened a floodgate of personal attacks online from the Tea Party support group.

We published an article about Emerson’s poor attendance at commissioner meetings. In the same issue was an editorial critical of the lawsuit Emerson and her husband filed against Island County.

Kelly Emerson is a public figure. She is paid a healthy salary by taxpayers to do her job. As such, she is subject to greater public scrutiny than the average citizen. Building a deck at her Camano Island home without a permit … suing Island County, i.e., the taxpayers … missing a high number of commissioner meetings ... those all merit newspaper coverage.

The online Tea Party group — mostly comprised of middle-aged men I have dubbed “the Mean Girls” — announced about a month ago that I was the recipient of the “Anal Sphincter Award,” and declared me the “biggest a-hole” in a very lengthy diatribe. I was intrigued. I am still waiting to see what that award looks like and watching for the invitation to the awards banquet.

At various times in various posts, the Mean Girls declared I was “doing a crappy job,” described me as a “liberal pig,” “unethical,” “smug,” “rude,” “a diaper doper baby,” a purveyor of “smut,” “a parrot,” and much more.

Said one commenter, “Keven R. Graves, be comforted in the fact that your local fish wrappers are easily recycled into toilet paper, which provides a sustainable supply for you and your crew. Sustainability is a desirable trait according to Whidbey’s DemonRats and environmental whackos.”

At least Mr. Wolf spelled my name correctly. Perhaps he suspects it’s some Russian deviation from the norm?

Last week, in response to the Emerson coverage, I was dubbed a “journalistic slut.” I’m not sure what that means, but I am considering adding it to my LinkedIn description.

I am in good company. Others subjected to name-calling and criticism by the online Mean Girls include Island County commissioners Jill Johnson and Helen Price Johnson, Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathy Reed, both Island County Superior Court judges and former Oak Harbor mayor Jim Slowik.

Republican officials who don’t toe the Tea Party line are labeled “DemonRats,” “Republirats” and “RINOs.”

I’ve been asked by loved ones if the attacks by the Mean Girls get to me.

They do bother my mother, and that does bother me. My son has a sense of humor similar to mine, and jokingly says he agrees with some of the ruder ones.

I can truthfully say they don’t get to me, and here’s a few reasons why:

First, by their very responses and remarks, the Mean Girls are revealing much more about their own character and beliefs than mine.

Second, many of those doing the worst name calling do so anonymously — I believe that is true cowardice.

Third, and most importantly to me, as a journalist, what appears in these pages is being read, and it’s leading to a form of discussion.

To quote John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, “As a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

Indeed.

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