Local Spin: Going Negative
Public opinion, campaign season – we’re all really cranky.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Today’s dish: anger, two ways.
One: I discovered a great way to tick people off, and for once, it’s got nothing to do with desal scandals, the Diocese of Monterey, controversial ag fumigants, or, hell, any other of the other things I write about that usually tick people off.
Here’s how: Write an article about graffiti and include the stories of those perpetrating it. Promise the tagger anonymity if he agrees to share his story, the insights into who he is and why he does it. Put a picture of the tagger on the cover, and put a couple more of him on the inside.
In a day, your phone should be ringing off the hook.
Mine sure did, after the Feb. 23 cover story on Salinas’ graffiti problems (and those trying to solve it), hit the stands. The first call came from Cris Rury, the director of family life at the wildly popular First Presbyterian Church in Salinas. His wife, Jacey Rury, owns a cupcake business and her catering truck had been tagged by the tagger I interviewed. I didn’t know this when I sat down with him, but it wouldn’t have prevented me from talking to him or agreeing to keep his name confidential.
Rury wanted to know when I intended to turn the name of the “punk criminal” over to the police. I didn’t, I said. “Then tell me,” he said, “so I can tell them.” I explained that it didn’t work that way, but that I was happy to sit down with him and talk it through, and he agreed.
But a few hours later, he had a change of heart. He had forwarded the story to the police, and they would follow up, he emailed.
IT’S CARMEL, FOR PETE’S SAKE. GO LOOK AT THE OCEAN AND CALM DOWN.
A second notable call came from Brandy Hurst, the unidentified woman in the story who had done battle with the U.S. Postal Service for their refusal to remove a “slap tag” bearing a racial epithet from a mailbox. Hurst, an East Side resident, takes a can of paint and a brush on her daily walks, covering up graffiti as she goes. She’s tired of it, tired of taggers being glorified, and wanted to know when she could expect an article that focuses on people trying to stop it. She followed up with an impassioned letter.
“I wanted the ending of the article to be about the arrest and conviction of the proud, prolific slap tagger. What he did and does is illegal and considered vandalism,” she wrote. “The world revolves on team work. We all need to do our part in making things better. The so-called taggers only make things worse. They should not be glorified in any way. That is what they want.”
I hear you, Brandy. I probably can’t offer you any satisfaction, but I do hear you.
Two: Campaign season is in full swing, and with it comes all of the related mud flinging that has become rote, regardless of the office being sought. If you’re a Weekly writer, you can look forward to the influx of emails from “corruptionstinks” and “davepottersatitagain,” both targeting Supervisor Dave Potter, who’s running against P.G. Mayor Carmelita Garcia. The anonymous emailer(s) allege bad deeds by Potter, like seeking the support of unions while not using union labor in his own business.
There is the “pepetruth” discussion board, focusing on Carmel restaurateur and mayoral candidate Rich Pepe. Created by an angry former Pepe employee, the board focuses on Pepe’s alleged bad behavior, like not having a voting record and seeking office as a means of revenge on City Hall. It’s disintegrated (as if that was possible) into a miasma of name-calling, I.P. tracking and revealing. It’s Carmel, for Pete’s sake. Go look at the ocean and calm down.
And there’s a telephone poll allegedly being run by Byrl Smith’s supervisorial campaign seeking information on whether Supervisor Jane Parker is raising questions about Smith’s physical health and fitness to serve. (She’s not. Parker wisely has pointed out that Smith’s health is nobody’s business.)
And since much of the mud is being generated anonymously, and the generators are using tools like gmail and Yahoo! mail that make tracing impossible, it’s hard to know who’s behind much of it. We have our suspicions, of course. Our suggestion to any candidate is this: Run clean, run on your own platform of ideas and goals, and tell your minions they should plan on doing the same.
Because unlike that tagger, we won’t keep you anonymous if we find out you’re throwing the mud, no matter what the cause.
MARY DUAN is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/maryrduan.