Our rebuttal to comments posted on Facebook in regard to the AshtabulaCurrent story A Special Report from AshtabulaCurrent – Are public official’s posts on Facebook Racist?
By William A. West – Owner / Publisher
|“The role journalists play in serving as our national and local watchdogs is too critical to allow this responsibility to be commandeered. Fact is, we are not the enemy of the people — we are the people.”|
ASHTABULA_Racism continues forcing its ugly face into headlines in our daily news feed. The acts of racist domestic terrorists last week, white man kills blacks because they’re black, more than a dozen pipe bombs mailed to opponents of President Trump and the senseless slaughter of 11 people of the Jewish faith should, at the least, trigger an automatic, if not predictable response from our president. He should express prayers for the victims and their families, assurances that those responsible will be brought to justice, and confidence that we will not let terrorists change our freedom-loving lifestyle.
What does Trump say to our nation in need? He posts Twitter tweets and policy announcements that continue fueling fear and hate to his nationalistic followers. Trump talks of a “Caravan” with thousands “of big-strong healthy men” that are apparently infested with a multitude of diseases gathering at our border with Mexico. This “Caravan” includes “very bad people” from the Mideast, but worst of all, women and children that are embedded in this trail of fears. This “invasion” is funded by leftists if one listens to President Trump and/or his supporters.
Trump has started the deployment of thousands of soldiers along our southern border to save our sovereignty from this horde of invaders. The president puts the cherry on top of it all with his unconstitutional threat of using an executive order to do away with the 14th Amendment of the United State Constitution.
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment specifically states:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Trump’s promotion of racism has led to the increased visibility of white nationalists and their associated hate groups. The Republican Party’s acceptance of this President’s divisive tweets and policies further enhances our nation’s backslide into racial intolerance.
AshtabulaCurrent published a story July, 31 2018 about an elected official posting Mexican Word of the Day memes on his Facebook page. The story looked at the appropriateness of these memes being posted on by Geneva Township Trustee Tim Mills.
Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Anita Gray, of Cleveland, and HOLA Executive Director Veronica Dahlberg expressed their opinions about the posting of MWOTD memes by an elected official. The story generated a multitude of vile comments directed at Gray, Dahlberg and writer William West.
“Newsrooms: When you let your readers attack your reporters in the comments — U R SO BIAS YOU STUPID LIBTARD #FAKENEWS — does it impact your journalists’ credibility in the eyes of other readers? How about your organization’s credibility?
Yep and yep.” JOSHUA BENTON / NiemanLab
It is in this vein, we at ashtabulacurrent.com return for a second look a story that AshtabulaCurrent published July 31, 2018.
The response showed overwhelming support for Trustee Tim Mills and his “Mexican Word of the Day” memes. Mills’s supporters claimed that the ashtabulacurrent.com stated that Mills was a racist. The story in question, A Special Report from AshtabulaCurrent – Are public official’s posts on Facebook Racist?, does not state in any form that Mills is a racist.
Ashtabulacurrent.com, Gray and Dahlberg were labeled everything but human. The comments posted by fans of Mills were so nasty that liberals apparently stayed mum for the story. There was only one response of support. It could be that liberals simply refuse to engage in such a low, vulgar discourse.
An avowed-liberal wanted their comment removed after being attacked by a vile woman using particularly nasty language. The woman’s comment included the infamous B-word, C-word, F-word and the always inflammatory L-word.
The author of this vitriolic diatribe also set her sights on the writer; me. Her comments once again included the mandatory F-word, L-word, S-word along with a Republican favorite, the L-word modified into “Libtard”.
An Ashtabula business tycoon claimed that “Crap like this is why good people don’t want to get involved in civil service. Character assassination over the dumbest shit possible.”
A “character assassination” is a deliberate attempt to destroy someone’s reputation, especially by criticizing them in an unfair and dishonest way when they are not present.
The tycoon followed up his mischaracterization of the story with a personal attack on the writer’s journalism ethics.
“Bill West lost a lot of credibility with me on this story. It isn’t the first time, I am sure it won’t be the last. His political bias often has pushed him to the fringes of tabloid journalism. This, for me, as a consumer of his public work only further confirms that bias and discredits his future publications.”
“To me and ashtabulacurrent, credibility never means being in agreement with a particular political view, it means a straight presentation of the facts – even when the facts are unpopular or embarrassing.”
My story has been reviewed by a Chicago Tribune journalist, an editor with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a former Washington Post reporter and several journalists working for publications in smaller markets. They all stated that the story was fair and professional. I received what Is considered to be one of the highest forms of praise a journalist can receive.
Columnist Burt Cole wrote,“Solid reporting and an important and timely topic. I really can’t tell from your reporting what your opinion is on this story, and that allows me to read it without jumping to conclusions about your “agenda.”
I heartily applaud your reporting on an issue of current interest. The story NEEDS to be told. Thank you for making sure you have both the fire chief’s comments and expert opinion.” __________________________________________________
AshtabulaCurrent.com contacted a varied group of citizens for additional input / comments about the Mexican Word of the Day memes and the story itself.
The question: Good morning, if I shared some memes posted on Facebook by a local elected official would you be willing to go on the record with your comments as to whether the memes were racist or not?
The group of people contacted included politicians running for office, school board members, private citizens, lawyers, journalists, college students. A majority of those asked responded to the questions, but some questioned responded, but their responses were off the record. They were worried about making enemies, and others chose not to answer the questions because they had to be careful what they say.
J.P. Ducro, Ashtabula County Commissioner: “Sorry for not replying sooner. I was out of town with family yesterday and wanted to do a bit more research into this issue and be able to respond properly and not from my phone. I would not normally comment on another elected official regarding an issue that does not really pertain to my role as an elected official, however I will say I do not believe that these posts are consistent with the definition of racist: “a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.” The posts seem to be more about making fun of a dialect or accent or a play on words to me. That being said, it probably is not something I would have posted on my social media as I am always concerned about the manner in which someone may interpret what I put out there. I do not get offend easily and I try very hard to always be respectful and avoid the potential of offending others. The person attributed to these posts I have known to be a good person of high moral character and never had any indication he would show or feel discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or believe that a particular race or his race is superior to another.”
Joe Pete Sr, Ashtabula Township Trustee: “I have many Hispanic friends.. Do not think this kind of thing should be posted on Facebook.. Maybe not meant to be racist, but why even post it..I know I never would.”
Casey Kozlowski, Ashtabula County Commissioner: I don’t wish to respond.
Mike Hamper III, Democrat candidate for Ashtabula County Commissioner: This is my statement: “I do my best to keep my social media postings tolerant, open, and informative for myself and my campaign. There are forces in our society that seek to divide us along any number of lines, and we must not fall victim to them. I believe we need to work together and focus on those places where we meet, not separate. I believe all of us, especially public officials, should strive to be our best selves in all aspects, including on social media.”
Roger Corlett, Ashtabula County Auditor: “I probably would not unless it is very obvious. I have to be careful what I say, these days.”
David Thomas, Republican candidate for Ashtabula County Auditor : “Hey Bill!! Thank you for thinking of me. I typically am happy to go on the record but I don’t like to talk about other elected officials or matters if the issue is not involved with myself or my office.”
Nancy Telzerow, actress: “I will def comment on this. It’s ridiculous and to think he’s a public figure is disheartening.”
Dan Claypool, former Ashtabula County Commissioner: “I really don’t want to get involved.
John Roskovics, President, Ashtabula City Council : “I read this article. I probably should pass William. I’ll look forward to your article. Sorry but thanks for asking.”
Irene Covington, singer: “Let me think about that. At this point, I don’t think it would serve a purpose. People have to “evolve” into a positive consciousness. Maybe by not empowering their negativity, it would “force” them to get attention another way, hopefully, in a more compassionate, loving way.”
Eli Kalil III: “Because of my current position with Senator O’Brien, I am going to have to politely decline.”
Louis Murphy, college student: “While fitting the definition of “racism” I do believe the weight of the issue would be just how public his facebook account is. If his account is visible to anyone who clicks on his name, it’s quite the larger issue than posting some “memes.” However, if it’s a private account and is primarily friended to family and close friends and somehow the memes leaked out, I can see it not being as big as an issue if the account were super public.”
Christine Seuffert, School Board President, Ashtabula Area City Schools: “Bill, these are my thoughts on the memes. I’m not sure if racist is the term I would use but inappropriate certainly is. The memes make fun of a culture. I have seen Italian memes, usually shared by Italians and I have occasionally liked them. Those sharing are not public officials. I think all public officials may benefit from a class on ethics and what is appropriate public and private social media posts. Once elected, officials walk a fine line. Is something genuinely funny or are they making fun of a group or person? As an elected official I would NOT post memes such as these. It would be demeaning and stereotyping. I’ll choose to treat people with dignity which is the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically.”
Ellen Kolman, teacher: “Wow. ..first of all two of them that i read are sexist and very disrespectful to women…2nd all of them are in poor taste at best and racist at worst. ..if he has private jokes with his Mexican American friends and family then keep them private…PM them to his friends. ..the fact is someone in a position that commands respect needs to show respect to everyone …especially on social media.”
Nate Shipman: “Good afternoon William, this is Nate Shipman, Senior Legislative Aide to State Senator Sean O’Brien. Thank you for contacting our office with your inquiry.
While Senator O’Brien certainly condemns racism of any kind, Statehouse decorum dictates that any public comments emanating from his legislative office be limited to issues involving current legislation or other Statehouse happenings. Any public comments outside of that might conceivably be obtained from him directly as a private citizen or attorney, but we do not deal with that side of the Senator’s affairs here in Columbus.”
Steve Sargent, pastor: “For an elected official or a public official to post things like that on social media, it’s totally unacceptable. Once you’ve taken the oath of office, you are held to a higher standard because you are expected to serve all of the constituents within your area. That should be done without bias towards their ethnicity, gender, race etc. I won’t go as far as to call the elected official a racist but what he’s posting on social media is going to leave a whole lot of people, especially people of color, believing that he is. Why would you put yourself in that type of situation when you’re elected/hired by the public. I would advise the man to use better judgment with what he post on social media. There can only be one Donald Trump at a time! Politics on the local level is different than what politics is on the federal level. The president can make jokes or remarks about a group that can be interpreted as racist. The media and his friends or enemies will Judge him or criticize him accordingly. However, on the local level you have to see the people you serve daily! You can’t avoid being confronted personally about what you post on social media. Once you hit the send button, it’s done. You can’t take it back.”
David Grant Walker, Media Magic, farmer : “What a shame. The man should be using his position to bring togetherness and teamwork. Fire Chiefs are often the pillar of a community, and should NOT BE a subject of controversy. It doesn’t matter what HE THINKS others may see in this, his first responsibility is to the community he represents, and he should consider what OTHERS may see in this. I wonder, would he honestly feel badly if he found out he really had been deeply offending his employees, peers, maybe even family members? Or would he simply just not care?
So far, if he has been asked to stop as the article purports, and he has not given the people who say they feel offended, the benefit of the doubt and stopped posting these memes, I’d have to say it looks like he just doesn’t care. If that’s the case, I’m not sure we need someone of that stature guiding our communities and our first responders.
I can tell you this much, if I walked into a Hispanic community, and worked for an overwhelmingly Hispanic employer, and all my employee peers enjoyed telling old white guy jokes, I probably wouldn’t EVER say a word no matter how much it offended me. I would laugh a little, maybe even pretend to BE that dumb white guy they poke fun at, in hopes they NEVER look at ME that way. And I’m sure as hell not going to cause trouble…. Who would I even complain to?!!!”
Matt Santill, founding partner at Cyber Security Services: “I’ve got screenshots of local elected officials supporting children being taken from their parents. I also have local business leaders saying blatant racist things about immigrants.
Here is a general thought that I have on the Mexican memes in particular:
Posting memes that make fun of Mexicans is offensive and leads to more anti-Mexican sentiment and racism. The city officials that post things like the Mexican memes may not even be aware that what they are posting is considered racist. If you surround yourself with folks that think the same way as you do, you may not ever know you are being hurtful to others. I think once decent people understand the impact, they tend to be more open to apologizing for their behavior. That is what we hope happens here.”
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