How to drink the Kool-Aid in Somerville in the year 2015: Mix one part “Black Lives Matter” with one part “Free the Somerville 18” with a final part of “double standard” and enjoy that tasty beverage.
Before I begin, I need to point out two things: 1. This is an “opinion” column – my opinion. It is not the official opinion of this newspaper and does not require a counterpoint or the inclusion of a rebuttal by anyone – if you don’t like my opinion, turn the page. 2. I have always maintained, and still do, that Mayor Curtatone has been an excellent Mayor – probably the best Mayor this city has had in the last few decades (Sorry Congressman Capuano, former Mayor Kelly-Gay and former Mayor Brune, that’s just the truth).
Now, having said that – I have also not been afraid to call a spade a spade. As I would expect if I was in the hot seat like he is, when you make a mistake, calculated or not, expect to be called out on it, even from people who are considered friendly. I have always been the first to point out my own shortcomings in print, even when it made my family cringe. I have nothing to hide.
Which is why I was wasn’t surprised there were so many people who agreed with my column about how the Mayor was guilty of political pandering when he had that “#BlackLivesMatter” sign put up on City Hall. I also wasn’t surprised to see the very negative remarks pointed in my direction about the column. What I was surprised about was the immediate backpedaling by the administration and thankful “explanation” of why the sign was put up in the first place. I didn’t quite agree with the explanation, but, it was at least something. Anything. Putting up the sign with no contextual reference was, to me, pure political pandering.
Next, the Mayor put out a statement on Sept 23rd asking the DA to drop the numerous criminal charges against the “Somerville 18” – you remember those special nitwits who, in their misguided zeal to protest social injustice, decided that chaining themselves to oil drums and sitting in the middle of Route 93 would be a good idea. He likened their efforts to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s – I don’t even need to get into how incredibly ridiculous that is.
Well, I was going to use this entire column to eviscerate the Mayor over this insanity, but then I saw the reaction online. It wasn’t pleasant. The worse thing about it was that the Mayor decided that only 2 days later, to put out another statement asking for civility to rule the day when it comes to negative feedback on the latest statement regarding the aforementioned nitwits. The justification apparently being rooted in a supposed “count” of all the various responses online which resulted in a more than 3-to-1 positive vs negative response rate (actually stated as “sub-25%”).
I have very specific experience in what I am about to say about this supposed “count.” Without very expensive to develop, in-place metrics designed to track a statement across multiple-platforms, it is next to impossible to follow, track and be able to present an accurate number of positive vs negative feedback. Counting “likes” and “shares” and whatnot does not cut it.
So it is with the underlying message that I have a problem here, again. Recapping the banner issue – it wasn’t so much about the banner and what it stood for – it was the impression that it made across the range of people that would see it, without any context. That’s what made it, to me, political pandering. With the call for the DA to drop the charges against the protesters, it was the reasoning why – which seemed to be a stretch when drawing comparisons to the Civil Rights movement as justification for breaking the law.
My biggest problem is that again we are being drawn in by political pandering – by saying it’s okay for people to go to extremes to protest, but it’s not ok to be extremely negative in feedback. Not everyone is a Rhodes Scholar or has a Law Degree, so the range of intellectual response is going to vary on some issues quite remarkably. Anyone who has held public office knows this and expects this – but here is where the double standard sleeps at night. Apparently it’s okay to have a city that is so over the top liberal and bash everything that anyone remotely associated with any kind of conservative view, and then be offended at any kind of over the top negative feedback is almost chicken-little-ish to me.
And therein lies the political pandering, once again. It’s okay though, because I suspect someone will take umbrage with me and then call me narrow minded, fascist or try to explain to me what political pandering means. It’s okay though, because I expect it, I live in the real world and don’t pander. #GMK