I took a lot of flack this past week for my column in which I played Dear Abby to a collection of county notables. One of the groups that fell under my acid pen I labeled “Los Osos Sewer Nuts,” which drew me more ire than a Pictionary game. Does that work as a metaphor? Because of the “draw” parallel? Nah. Let me try again.
One of the groups that fell under my acid pen I labeled “Los Osos Nuts,” which drew me more ire than a Scrabble game. That’s worse, but I’m over trying to think of something else.
The criticism was both expected and unexpected. I expected to get unexpectedly trashed. Yes, I knew I would take bullets for voicing such an unpopular—to some—and harsh—to some—sentiment, but I didn’t count on getting painted with the same brush as used to color SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill, who recently boldly exerted his people-given power by actually, physically muffling the people. To whit, he shut off Los Osos activist Linde Owen’s microphone during public comment period. Now that’s class.
After my column came out, followed by the typical “the First Amendment gives me the right to tell you you’re an idiot for using the First Amendment to tell me to shut up” arguments, I quickly realized that I was getting lumped in the same category as Adam.
Urk! I leaped into a scalding shower and scoured my skin with a steel-wool luffa. Louffa? Lougha? Who cares—I’m exfoliated up the yin-yang now. Literally.
While I was merely using my column to advise people whose legitimate points tend to get lost in what many people in the county see as crazy behavior to clam up a bit and aim for more rationality, Adam was physically shutting people up. Like, for real.
As much as I bitch and moan about having to listen to people say the same things over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, I don’t actually prevent them from doing so. That’s lame.
What’s that? And so is my whining? Well, nuts to you, pal. I would like to point out that some online back-and-forth about my column triggered the sort of all-or-nothing rhetoric that lends weight to the “crazy” interpretation. I write one column, and suddenly all of New Times is part of an ongoing campaign being waged against the paper’s opponents in Los Osos in an effort to silence them?
Yeah, not crazy at all.
But that’s the sort of stuff I was writing about. New Times writers have been loved and hated by the very same folks in the sewer-starved burg, depending on their story of the week. Write something one side likes? You’re a hero who deserves a parade. Write something they don’t? You’re the scum they scrape off their shoes with the despised paper. Do both, as tends to happen in a complex paper featuring a multitude of voices covering a complex community with a multitude of voices over several decades? Well, you’re labeled schizophrenic, an enemy of the state, or both.
Honestly, can anyone point to New Times’ actual “stance” on the sewer situation? Or mine? (Hint: If you think you can, you can’t.) (Second hint: If you think New Times even has a stance, you’re wrong.) (Third hint: If you think I even believe most of what I write about, you obviously haven’t gone out drinking with me.)
To be fair, one of my biggest critics seemed to be The Razor’s Aaron Ochs, who’s been known to, you know, Photoshop local leaders’ heads on stakes to illustrate his opinion pieces. But hey! First Amendment rights, right? As every Bill of Rights scholar will tell you, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging freedom of speech, or of the press; or of bloggers to cut and paste supervisors’ faces over portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte while making sexual double-entendres to illustrate stories about suspected conflicts of interest of the ‘hubba-hubba-wink-wink’ variety.”
Aaron builds his case by noting that my column echoed “similar sentiments” to comments made in 2009 on his site by a former New Times writer, Patrick Klemz, who, as a former writer giving his thoughts to an unrelated media outlet, doesn’t exactly speak for this publication.
That’s absolutely damning, if you sort of squint at it.
Look, the situation in Los Osos sucks. It sucks harder than a sparkly vampire named Dyson. The rest of SLO County, happily evacuating their bowels without a care beyond choosing single- or double-ply, has no idea of the real-world stresses being exerted on the people with the Plunger of Damocles hanging over their heads.
Everyone not in Los Osos could work a little harder to understand what living in the town is like. But everyone in Los Osos should understand what the rotating cast of characters sounds like to outside people who could be able to contribute to a working solution, whatever that may look like.
Note that in my column I didn’t tell everyone with an interest in the Los Osos sewer to cork it in the interest of focusing on increased clarity and coherence: Just the nuts.
If you thought I was talking directly to you, well …
The Shredder is ready for the second volley. Aim your projectiles directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.