Opinion » Shredder

Big ol' bullies


There are few things I love better than a good slam book. Gossip. Intrigue. Poorly worded insults. Vendettas that go back to the seventh grade when Becky decided she liked Mark but Mary already had dibs. Like wtf, Becky?

I say this assuming most of you understand the difference between a slam book and a newspaper. One is purportedly an unbiased source of news and the other is a sort of journal in which a person with a juvenile mind and agenda berates his or her enemies.

I shouldn’t have to explain that, but watching last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, it became obvious that I’ve overestimated some people’s intelligence.

Days before the supervisors’ meeting, writers Dan Blackburn and Josh Friedman posted an online “news” article to the effect that fellow journalist Karen Velie’s grandchildren were in the custody of Child Welfare Services. This was done, no doubt, to avoid the appearance of bias because Velie’s byline wasn’t directly attached. Because asking your buddies to write an article championing your cause is the dictionary definition of ethical journalism.

The article in question alleged that the county unfairly seized Velie’s grandchildren over a dirty home, and that the organization labeled Velie’s daughter bipolar without ever meeting with her. 

None of Cal Coast News’ allegations can be verified from the other side, of course, because the county can’t respond to specific questions due to privacy issues. It’s not terribly unlike the case in Morro Bay in which the city can’t respond to demands for an explanation for the firings of City Attorney Rob Schultz and City Manager Andrea Lueker due to confidential personnel issues. Doing so could get them sued. And it would be the wannabe government watchdogs who would be the first to scream bloody murder and take legal action if government officials whispered a single syllable revealing any information regarding either of these cases.

In other words, it’s a no-win situation for the county to respond to accusations of a vendetta against Velie, no matter how loud the mob screams for them. Of course, according to Velie & Friends, this is all part of an elaborate multi-pronged effort to discredit her “reporting” on CAPSLO. Her articles proved nothing; contained the usual he-said, she-said as “evidence” of wrongdoing; and ultimately led nowhere. But still, according to conspiracy theorists, the county coordinated a multi-agency effort to destroy Velie and her family, despite being chronically ineffective at executing even the simplest of projects, amirite?

The only reason I’m blathering about this ridiculousness at all is because Velie and her pet radio host Dave Congalton used their platform to rally the folks who take their word as undisputed gospel—which is not terribly unlike what Congalton did during the Annie the Dog fiasco, which, if I remember correctly, ended in threats against a family whose only crime was adopting a dog from a local shelter, an activity Congalton regularly promotes.

The end result is that you, the taxpayer, had to fund some hour-long, one-sided name calling and yet another opportunity for the anti-government, anti-Gibson, anti-Hill, anti-Homeless Services, anti-United Nations, tin-foil-hat-wearers to spew venom against their favorite targets. Several of them even had to succumb to a momentary lapse in insanity and acknowledge they didn’t know all the details of the case, but that it “appeared” that there was something kinky going on. Don’t know about you, but I’m sold!

Allegations against Child Welfare Services are nothing new. There have been plenty of instances of questionable decisions, notably in cases where medical marijuana was involved, even when the parents in question possessed the pot legally. In the case of the Doobie Dozen, for instance, children were placed in protective custody, or in the custody of other family members, and returned to the parents when it became apparent the prosecution against the parents had turned into an
absolute shit show. 

But back to the hissy: The 60 or so characters who showed up at the meeting were so thoroughly riled up that they didn’t seem to care what the county had to say in response to their allegations. Case in point: Social Services Director Lee Collins did his best to explain why certain measures are taken by the department without specifically discussing the Velie case. It’s rather ironic that the CCN groupies have chosen to set their sights on Collins, who has long been one of the more outspoken county leaders, especially in advocating for children and foster youth. As far as bureaucrats go, Collins pretty much tells it like it is, and he hasn’t minced words in criticizing the system when it fails children. He’s even taken on the former governor’s office when it threatened to de-fund transitional housing programs for foster youths aging out of the system.

Since the so-called news article was published, Collins has received thinly veiled threats against his life in the comment troll boards of CCN. Remember that Annie the Dog thing again? To the blog’s credit, the publishers did remove the offensive comments when asked. Guess threatening someone’s life doesn’t speak well for your cause.

So the children have been dragged ruthlessly through the mud. I wonder how traumatic that will be when they’re old enough to realize how bad this public airing of dirty laundry really is. I wonder if the CCN trolls even care, or if they are aware of the hypocrisy of doing just what they accuse CWS of: using children to further their own goals.

I dunno, maybe the family’s situation really isn’t that bad and the children belong with their mother or grandmother. How the hell am I supposed to know? How the hell is anyone other than the family or the professionals tasked with making that decision supposed to know? All I know is I think that’s probably beyond the pay-grade of a perennial public commenter wearing a paper-mache barrel for pants who manages to tie the risks of chemtrails in with blind statements about government conspiracies.

Where was this manufactured outrage by these same people when CCN wrote a series of scathing articles about the children of Paavo Ogren and Maria Kelly? Oh, I forgot, children of public servants don’t count.


Send tin foil hats to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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