When my prior blog began to stray from self-deprecating personal tales and droll social observations into the more concrete and more particularly the political realm, I would not and could not continue publishing those new things anonymously. There are two reasons. In order of importance (to me), they are:
1 - Only immoral & craven cowards publish things anonymously.
2 - Anonymous opinions are worth nothing because there is no way to assess the author’s motive to exaggerate, minimize or outright lie.
That’s what I thought then, and my opinion hasn’t changed.
[This does not reflect on life in the Shelf Community and the relative anonymity found there, because it is a closed village which does not reach out to any public. Such of us as do go public do so flying our own flags. There is also a good bit of off-the-net contact amongst the Villagers.]
A. Conan Doyle spoke through Sherlock Holmes about his total lack of interest in anything which was irrelevant to him, such as the Copernican model of the solar system (Sun in the middle). I don’t fully support that logic, because the human mind is capable of making astounding direct connections and even analogous connections.
Although my interest in popular culture is miniscule, my attention to national, state and local political, legal and government affairs is intense, and so I cruise daily lots of state and national newspapers or their websites. One of these is the Charleston Gazette, the morning paper in the state capital. The primary attraction (to me) of the Gazette is that it has published a couple of my op-eds in the past two years. In today’s issue, there was a story about a member of the Fairmont State University Board of Governors getting into an argument with an assistant football coach over how much playing time his son got in last weekend’s game. Descriptions of this sort of thing are subject to the whim of the writer. One person’s “scream” is another’s “yell” is anothers “he talked loudly.” So we have no way to know any of the nuances of what actually happened. What we do know is that there was no physical contact, no physical threats and no violent verbal threats. The Gazette says it’s a big deal, but when you distill the mash, you just get that the guy was pissed off. But: That BOG member, Andy Kniceley, is the publisher of the Times-West Virginian, the daily paper in Fairmont.
Let me note at the outset that my relations with the Fourth Estate are uneven. I have never commented on a case prior to a verdict and said very little after a verdict. Andy and I have never become buds, and I have yet to talk with him about this. But what first struck me was that this was a “prominent person under the microscope thing,” and that it’s also payback time from whoever dislikes Andy. People who run newspapers collect more enemies than bikers with open helmets collect bugs in their teeth. Remember, though, that public perception and character aren’t always in tune. I’ve known genuinely beloved public people who were jerks; and genuinely despised public people who were kind and decent. Public perception simply doesn’t have a lot to do with actual character, Ronald Reagan excepted. Payback is personal, not just.
And then as I read the Gazette article, I got to the following paragraph:
“Separate reports by two Fairmont police officers were anonymously sent to the Gazette on Tuesday.”
The person or persons who sent documents anonymously have neither nerve nor honor. The reporter went on to say that s/he had been unable to contact Kniceley or other BOG members. (Ever notice how the press implies that their "targets" are hiding if they don't instantly answer the phone?) The Fairmont Police said that the “incident” is “under investigation,” and FSU issued a mealy-mouthed “We understand this is under investigation” statement. (Nice going, PR Department of my alma mater. Hint: It takes a touch of courage, but “This is silly” is an acceptable response when the inquiry is, well, silly. Or how about, "We have a genuine drug problem in Fairmont and you're asking about THIS shit?") The reporter laughing up his/her sleeve as s/he wrote the story as well as the editor who ran it (and prominently, at that) are cursed with an overabundance of self-rightousness. I carry a small rock in my pocket, and call it “the first stone,” for obvious reasons. They’ve already chucked theirs.
Barney Fife could “investigate” this in 30 minutes. (The officers who have been assigned this pathetic “case” are professionals and nice guys who are caught in the middle - if it were Joe Lunchbucket, nobody would care when they kissed off the case; with someone prominent, they will be accused of favortism if they treat the guy like a normal person.) What should an “investigation” conclude? Well, if every allegation is Gospel truth, but the incident had occurred at the Tinkerbell Ballerina Academy with the Junior Assistant Dance Intern (“You just let her do three ******* pirouettes!?!?!?), we would be and should be concerned. But consider the context. The person Andy was addressing was the offensive line coach of a college football team. I doubt he had an attack of the vapors and fainted. And so, after our 30 minute “investigation,” our response should be “Yo, dude: Chill.” Case closed.
Anything else is idiocy which distracts us from important things going on in Fairmont and in Mother West Virginia.
By the way, I’ll give you odds that the end of the story is that the differences will be settled the way "manly men" do it in West Virginia - They’ll sit down together for a pepperoni roll, call each other assholes half-heartedly and decide that they’re each OK guys after all.
Addenda - 19 November 2009
1 - The Times-West Virginian published an apology by Andy Kniceley today. It showed a lot of class.
2 - Almost without exception, comments shown as "anonymous" here are signed, light & humorous, and/or from Shelf Villagers with their writing style tracks knowingly all over them. However, the irony of Comment #2 below was so delicious that I published it anyway.
3 - In the past 2 days, I've toured the anonymous blogosphere more than ever. Some of the writing is wretched and some pretty good. Unfortunately, none of it carries a shred of credibility, owing to the absence of guts by the authors. This is hardly in the spirit of Thomas Paine or Patrick Henry. They knew damn well that they were putting a lot on the line by honesty in writing.
4 - I have deleted the link to the Community.