according to a trusted source, the next first lady of ypsilanti proclaims that all bloggers are idiots

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to introduce this subject. You see, I’ve been pretty diligent these past several months to remain above the local political fray. I thought, in my position as Chairman of the Ypsilanti Mayoral Debate Committee, that it was important for me to do so, and, it occurred to me somewhat early on in election cycle that by taking sides in such a partisan atmosphere, I might, if the election doesn’t go my way, limit my ability to work effectively as a community organizer in the future. So, I sat out of what, over the past several months, became an increasingly dirty and malicious campaign. So, now, if it’s alright with everyone, I’d like to step down from this patch of moral high ground that I’ve been tending, and join the rest of you in this seething pit of mud.

This post, as will soon become clear, was set in motion by a letter sent a week or so ago by Penny Schreiber, the wife of Paul Schreiber, the winner of our recent Democratic mayoral primary, to Steve Pierce, a candidate who had run against Paul. Mine is not the first local blog to mention this letter… If no one else had shared it, I doubt that I would have. I’m not in the habit of publishing personal letters, especially when it’s clear to me that said letters may have been leaked for the purpose of embarrassing and discrediting the writer. But, like I said, the letter was already out there on the internet, accessible to everyone, and to get where I need to go in this post, it’s necessary that I mention it. So, with all of that being said, here’s a clip from the letter by Penny Schreiber:

The context isn’t that important, at least not to me. The wife of the man who will, barring some unforeseen development, be our next Mayor has no place behaving like this, in my opinion. I wouldn’t accept it if my two year old daughter acted out like this, and I certainly expect better from my community leaders. I don’t care if Steve Pierce was a prick to Penny and her husband. (I’m not saying that he was. I’m just saying that it wouldn’t matter if he had been.) It doesn’t matter.

But, that’s not what this post is about. This post isn’t about nasty letters between political opponents. It’s about what the next first lady of Ypsilanti has to say about “bloggers.” Here’s a clip from a post at Eric Touchberry’s site on what happened when he tried to confirm that Penny Schrieber was the writer of the previously mentioned letter:

…This afternoon I called Penny, introduced myself, and asked her if she wrote the letter.

“Yes, I wrote it. Why would I sign it if I didn’t write it?” Penny said.

“Well, I didn’t know whether you signed it even though your name is on it. That’s why I’m calling,” I explained.

“Why wouldn’t I sign it? Of course I wrote it.”

“Thank you.”

In our conversation, which lasted maybe two minutes, Ms. Schreiber seemed furious that anyone would question her opinion.

“Are you one of those bloggers?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I am,” I said.

“Well, let me tell you, I’m a journalist and I think that bloggers are idiots.”

“I see.”

“Yes. All of them.”

(note: I should point out, that, although I don’t know Eric personally, I have good reason to believe his transcription is accurate. I have heard, through the grapevine, that Penny has said such things concerning blogs and bloggers in the past.)

Leaving alone for the moment the fact that several prominent journalists and political leaders have blogs of their own, I’d like to ask Mrs. Schrieber a few questions. Here they are:

Am I an idiot for working to set up the debate at EMU which your husband participated in, and the YpsiVotes website which sought to engage our fellow citizens, especially those without much of a voice in politics, in the election? Is Sam Abuelsamid an idiot for taking a night away from his family, and his blog, to come out and videotape the debate and share it online with members of the online community who couldn’t attend? Is Richard Murphy, another blogger, an idiot for promoting the event and helping to bring in the 300+ people who came to hear what your husband and the other candidates had to say that evening? Is Amanda Edmonds, yet another blogger, an idiot for promoting the debate at the new downtown farmer’s market that her organization, Growing Hope, launched? And, is Brett Shutzman, the blogger who so eloquently made the case as to why he was voting for your husband (which actually influenced several people), an idiot?

You may not realize this, Mrs. Schreiber, but there are a great many of us online who care tremendously for this city and are doing our utmost to see things improve here. While you are busy practicing your journalism and writing nasty letters, we are making things happen. We are bringing new people into Ypsilanti with events like the Shadow Art Fair, and we are organizing our fellow citizens to fight for things that matter, like public transportation. We are volunteering to bring technology into the schools and we are launching non-profits dedicated to delivering safe, healthy food to our most vulnerable neighbors. You apparently cannot see this, or refuse to see it, but we are making this a better place to live. Your behavior, and especially this recent comment concerning bloggers, illustrates to me that you have very little understanding of just how pervasive blogging is, and, more importantly, just how much your husband’s campaign benefited from the efforts of idiot bloggers like me who were dedicated to the idea that the people of Ypsilanti deserved an open and honest discussion on the candidates and issues. I have never said an unkind word concerning your husband, either online or in the real worrld, and, when hosting the debate, I believe I treated him both well and fairly. So, please tell me, just what it is that I’ve done to deserve the title of “idiot.”

I can certainly understand why you might be pissed at some local bloggers who took the side of your husband’s opponent, but nothing excuses this kind of childish behavior – nothing. If a blogging friend of mine were to say to me, “all women, or all Mexicans are idiots,” I would disassociate myself at once from that person. Why should I turn a blind eye when you say such a thing about bloggers? I suppose that some could say that it’s not you, but your husband who is running for office, and so this shouldn’t concern me. I don’t buy that. In the letter linked to above, you were very clear when you referred to the Schreiber campaign as “our campaign.” (And I know that a professional journalist picks her words carefully.) So, as I expect that you will be influencing policy, your attitute toward the concerned, actively engaged, online citizens of Ypsi concerns me gravely.

And, on behalf of all the idiot bloggers who sought to provide fair and balanced coverage of the campaign, I say this – you’ve just kicked one hell of a wasp’s nest. Like it or not, I have the feeling that you’re going to be seeing a lot of us over the course of your husband’s term.

Actually, it just occurred to me that you’ve said both that you never read blogs, and that all bloggers are idiots. As a journalist, I’m wondering how you reconcile those two things? Is it common practice in journalistic circles to condemn what you haven’t read?

OK, all snarkyness aside, if you really believe that local bloggers don’t have what it takes to be journalists, why not offer to help them acquire those skills instead of just condemning them outright? As someone in the industry, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the number of professional journalists covering local news is dwindling, as is the quality of what is written. And, I know that you must agree that an actively engaged free press is absolutely essential to a well-functioning Democracy. So, what’s your plan? How are you, as a journalist who claims to care about this community, working to increase quality coverage and widen access? Seriously. I’d like to know your plan.

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48 Comments

  1. mark
    Posted September 5, 2006 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    And, Penny, you do know that Matt and Rene Greff, the couple who hosted Paul’s victory party, are bloggers too, right?

  2. schutzman
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Since he didn’t respond to my comments, you might also inquire as to what, precisely, Eric meant in another recent post, when he himself said:

    “– Ypsi has a rich blog world, but a surfeit of political bullshitters. That is, we have too many bloggers who apparently haven’t rolled up their sleeves, knocked on doors, crafted campaign strategy, analyzed past voting results, stamped GOTV postcards, or cold-called potential voters. Bloggers who don’t know shit about Ypsi politics but who hypothesize and condemn and accuse based on ideology, personal feelings and instincts as if such things were appropriate substitutes for actual campaign experience or (heaven forfend) facts. Bloggers who probably have never attended school board or city council meetings, let alone speak at them. Bloggers — and blog commenters — who type the nastiest, most ignorant crap imaginable as though they live in a vacuum and can’t possibly harm anyone with their words — or receive a well-deserved punch in the nose. So, let me summarize for those who would accuse me of being mean-spirited or of shooting the messenger or whatever: get off your asses and contribute to Ypsi or stfu.”

    (endquote).

    Assuming that Penny was accurately quoted, and that Eric wasn’t trying to make some sort of joke when he wrote the above statement, then methinks that mayhaps they’re actually kindred spirits, of a sort.

    This mayoral dealy is going to get much uglier before it gets any prettier, in my opinion, and the ugliness is going to be the result of a pissing contest between a half-dozen squeaky wheels trying to give the impression of critical mass.

    Don’t believe the hype, folks, no matter which side it comes from.

    ~

  3. ypsiandy
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    I hear she is known for being, as they say, a “piece of work”.

  4. ypsiandy
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    I should add that I voted for Paul.

  5. ChelseaL
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    What am I missing here? That letter doesn’t look so terrible. This woman may be a bit of a loose cannon, may not be that classy, but she sounds loyal to her husband and knowledgeable about local politics.

    As for blogs…well, of course, knowing the political world as she does, she was unwise to speak about them as she did. (And *all* bloggers can’t be idiots.) However
    (and, Mark, you know I love your blog and read it often):

    I’m sure there are some legitimate criticisms to be made, just as there are about journalists.

    Because anyone can set up a blog, there is a lot of misinformation and bias out there. Yes, for as long as there have been newspapers (and before), this has been true. But now, there’s no way to control–or regulate–the constant barrage of stuff.

    Blogs *have* had a negative effect on journalists (not single-handedly, of course). Why pay for personal essays when everybody and his brother posts opinions for free?

    She said herself she doesn’t read them. (Of course, as someone in public life, she ought to, but that’s not for me, or anyone else, to say.) They do have kind of a negative public image–again, not bc of blogs like MM.com or others mentioned here, but bc the sheer volume makes quality control impossible.

    Again, this is in no way meant to diminish MM.com. I’ve been a fan since before I even heard the term “blog.”

  6. Sam
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Actually I believe that blogs are more of a response to the decline of traditional journalism than the cause of it. The quality of the content in newspapers has been decaying for many years before the rise of the internet. If anything the blame should be aimed more at the corporations that own the news media, and have tried to turn it more and more into a profit center. The rise of blogging is at least in part out of frustration with the increasingly concentrated ownership and lowest common denominator approach of main stream media. I am willing to pay (and do) for good content. The net has just provided the medium for people to take back control of the conversation. There is and always will be a place for quality professional journalism. People who can dedicate their time to finding stories, discovering the background and reporting the facts in a way that attracts readers are necessary.

    On the other hand members, of a community also have a responsibility to discuss what is happening, how they feel about and how to move forward. Local blogs like this one are forum to do that. What has been going on in the local blogging community here is not an attack culture. I have been reading many local blogs and during the course of the election I have witnessed an ongoing conversation among members of the Ypsilanti community about our future direction. I have not really seen any direct attacks leveled at any of the candidates by bloggers. What some bloggers have been doing is listening to what is being said by candidates and their supporters, and doing what an informed electorate has a responsibility to do. They are asking questions. Where responses are not forthcoming they are finding the answers themselves.

    Mr. Schrieber has not been particularly forthcoming with answers to the questions that were raised either before the primary or now. This is the real issue. Penny Schrieber has a right to her opinion no matter how uninformed or rude it might be, just as you and I do. Paul Schrieber as the presumptive mayor (note that the general election has not yet happened as this is written) has a responsibility to honestly answer questions from his community about where he stands on issues. The community wants to participate in the city’s revival. Don’t shut us out just because we happen to express our opinions in forums such as this.

  7. Sam
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    One more thing. I’ve been called a lot worse than an idiot by people I actually respect. So I really don’t give a shit what Penny Schrieber thinks of me and other local bloggers. But I do want to hear what Paul has to say. He must involve the community to succeed. If he can’t work with the community he will fail.

  8. ol' e cross
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Eric 3.0 says he doesn

  9. Ted Glass
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I found it odd, since she IS a professional journalist, that the concept of Eric checking the veracity of her letter seems so absolutely foreign to her. It’s almost like she doesn’t even get that fact that someone could have forged her name on a letter. (Surely she must have heard about what happened to poor Dan Rather.) She comes across as incredibly naive. Perhaps that’s part of the problem.

  10. Ted Glass
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I say we gather up the pitchforks and torches and go looking for those damned bloggers!

  11. trusty getto
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I have it on good authority that one of the recently elected city council persons (assuming the recount goes his way) is one of those idiot bloggers.

    What is the world coming to?

  12. Dr Cherry
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    The only reason we started covering local Ypsi issues (in November of 2003) was because the Courier wasn’t. One of the first local posts was about attending a public input workshop.

  13. Dr Cherry
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Oh, I guess that was later, that link was for a Planning Commission meeting sometime around 11/20/03.

  14. ingrid
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Schutzman’s right; there have been a lot of pointlessly negative and self-righteous comments about bloggers and, for that matter, neighbors, from all sides.

    While a nasty fight is always interesting, I wonder what the point of continuing it is? Can’t we extract the more useful issues from the campaign and move on?

    One of the campaign themes that has some traction is the need to increase the level of openess, transparency and real debate at city council and the school board. The mayoral debate committee did a fine job in pursuing these goals. Recent suggestions about videotaping city council meetings are also valuable. I would add my own plea that the school board members should follow the city’s lead and include the “packets” of information that they receive from administration on their website in a timely fashion, so the public knows what board members are talking about.

  15. Citizen Blogger
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    It would be useful to note that “idiot” has Greek origins, and was used to mean a person too self-involved to be active in civic life. (Nowadays, we call these people “libertarians”.) In a useful sense, the opposite of “idiot” is “citizen” – being a person who *is* engaged in civic life.

    For the matter at hand, it was on the one side pretty incautious of Penny Schreiber to make a sweeping and insulting generalization about “bloggers”, and quite reasonable for Mark – and many others here – to take offense. Additionally, for her, a journalist, to actively neglect trends in blogging, especially when her “beat” is the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area, which has one of the richest civic blog communities going, could be considered a professional error.

    On the other hand, let’s consider where Penny Schreiber is coming from. She doesn’t read blogs, says her letter, immediately before the cut-paste included here. She doesn’t read blogs – but she’s seen what the blogging community said during the Mayoral campaign about her husband. And I certainly agree that there were some nasty, vitriolic, incredibly personal attacks made of Paul Schreiber during his campaign. And, if Paul were _my_ husband, I’d be pretty upset.

    And if I were in this situation, and somebody called me up and said, “Hi, I’m holding a private letter that you sent, personally, from one individual to another, and I plan to publish it on the web,” wouldn’t you be terribly upset, perhaps to the point of saying impolitic things, to that person? Especially if the letter in question was a person-to-person expression of anger and hurt? (And, you know, publishing private communications without permission could probably be considered further evidence for bloggers as a less respectable class than journalists. Unless we mean “yellow journalists.”)

    Summary: Impolitic? Sure. Hurtful to those who qualify as both “citizens” and “bloggers”? Sure. (To the same degree that Eric’s own accusation of bloggers as idiots was, as Schutzman notes.) Excuseable as the emotional response of someone who has spent several months watching “bloggers” heap abuse on her husband, and now being more or less stalked by one?

    Well, for my own part, I’d like to say “yes”, and chalk this up as an understandable emotional response. Are we going to spend the next four years analyzing Paul’s children’s school papers, looking for ways to attack him, or are we going to spend it working together as a community? I’d rather give Penny overwhelming evidence of bloggers’ ability to be citizens than further evidence that we’re idiots.

  16. Sam
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t recall reading anything like “nasty, vitriolic, incredibly personal attacks made of Paul Schreiber” on the local blogs during the recent campaign. What I did see was people questioning actions of some supporters of Mr. Schrieber. There was some investigation into allegations made against Mr. Pierce, along with good rebuttals against those allegations. I also saw people (myself included) questioning why Mr. Schrieber had nothing to say about the actions of these supporters. If you can point me to these vitriolic attacks I will adjust my opinion. Most of the vitriol I saw was actually directed at Mr. Pierce. However, what I saw was a very lively online and offline debate as to the merits of the candidates and their positions.

  17. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m too scared to call and interview her, but the FREEP lists her phone number.

    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060813/FEATURES01/608130525/1034/FEATURES09

  18. UBU
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    But Mark, you ARE an idiot! All of you.

  19. It's Skinner Again
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    It’s a simple error. Although it’s true that (a) all idiots are bloggers, it doesn’t follow that (b) all bloggers are idiots. Idiots is a subset of bloggers; there are other subsets as well.

  20. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Hoo, boy. Good thing this messenger is wearing kevlar.

    I’ll address a few responses here, but I don’t want to clutter Mark’s blog. Feel free to address further questions to me personally via my blog or email, touch *at* umich *dot* edu.

    I say that the provenance of Penny’s letter is irrelevant, and I believe it. But due to the appearance of disingenuity, today I asked around; the letter came from a friend of a friend of Steve Pierce without Steve’s knowledge. I published it several days after receiving it, after weighing the consequences of publishing it against the informative value of the letter. I believe that the information was more important than anything else.

    I called Penny to verify that she was indeed the author. No doubt I took her by surprise. I believe her comment about bloggers was meant to hurt *me*, and that alone said something about Penny. (Other bloggers are obviously welcome to interpret her words as they see fit.) I reported those snippets of conversation that I felt I could accurately report, not the conversation that I thought MM or his readers would find most damaging. Believe it or don’t; call her if you want to know her feelings about bloggers. Questions about “leading” her to a particular statement can be more easily explained by my failure to report my own tone of voice than by my sinister plans. In other words, I was as diligent about reporting Penny’s comments as I was in finding out whether Penny wrote the letter to Steve.

    Brett, I haven’t responded to your post because I’m still pissed about your hatchet job on Steve Pierce. At least I called Penny; as far as I know, you didn’t verify a single syllable with Steve. Your factual inaccuracy and supposition was completely counter to the ideals we discussed at that Spitting Cats meeting in front of Aubree’s. Moreover, there’s a vast difference between saying that all bloggers are idiots (Penny)and ranting about idiot bloggers (me). I’ll draw you the Venn Diagram someday, if you’d like.

    Please feel free to ask me your questions directly here.

  21. egpenet
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    This is great!

    I am a blog contributor, and I have also worked on several past mayoral campaigns and one judgeship campaign in the area. I have watched Ypsi politics for many years.

    In contrast to the preceeeeding 25 years of Ypsi backroom politics, the past primary was the most exciting campaign I have witnessed. Instead of a small group of activists huddled in someone’s dining room waiting for pricincts to be counted and subsequently claiming victory … the people, us, you and me, all idiots, were talking, arguing, spitting, growling, attending neighborhood debates and making noise.

    At first, I was shocked by the low turnout; but realized afterword that the electorate HAD spoken by not going to the polls, but by deciding … after all the noise … that status quo was being maintained.

    The BEST part is not the outcome but the CONTINUED activity by us, you and me, our neighborhood associations, the idiots, who haven’t skipped a beat and who are videofeeding the council meetings, and building a bottom-up foundation for democracy in this city that no city council in my time has been able to do. We/You/Idiots are doing it!

    Don’t stop! I pleaded with all of you to vote in the primary. But you have totally blown my mind by voting with your energy, time, brains (even though you are all idiots), creativity and hearts to create REAL change.

    Paul and Penny are really close friends of mine. However, I STILL want to hear from Paul regarding responses to the many questions we/you/I/idiots have been posting regarding the city. I encourage Paul, as well, to say what must be said about the negative campaigning from his staff. And I would also urge Paul to publicly say that Penny’s letter was: “1 – A private letter written to Steve Pierce, not intended for public eyes. 2 – It was written from a place in her heart that wanted to protect her husband, whom she loves. And, 3 – I take full responsibility for any negative campaigning conducted by persons on my staff or who volunteered on my campaign. I apologize to both Steve Pierce and Lois Richardson, and anyone on their campaigns or in their families who was hurt.”

    Paul … let’s start clean and get going NOW! We don’t want a coronation, we want a leader. We citizens, idiots-all, are already making real democratic progress.

  22. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Well said, egpenet — especially point #3. Let’s work to improve Ypsi.

  23. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 6, 2006 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    I have been called upon to clarify:

    Steve Pierce did not know that I received a copy, nor did he know that I would publish it. I saw him at a Labor Day picnic on Monday and told him to check my blog *after* it was published.

  24. mark
    Posted September 7, 2006 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I’ll try to jump back into the conversation tonight… I just couldn’t stay awake any longer last night… Thank you all for your thoughtful comments….

  25. Sam
    Posted September 7, 2006 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    As part of the effort to continue and enhance community involvement I want to start an initiative to record public meetings of government bodies in Ypsi and put them up as podcasts. I have a post up here with more info. I want to get the city council, township board and school board if we can. If anyone is interested in helping with getting stuff recorded let me know.

  26. Anonymous
    Posted September 7, 2006 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Sam, I am working with a group that is video taping public meetings and posting them on the net. We could rip out the audio to make an audio podcast as well. Lets team up and work together on this. Who else is interested in joining us.

    First example http://www.ypsinews.com.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  27. Ted Glass
    Posted September 7, 2006 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Are you sure there’s nothing else you’d like to add to this thread, Steve?

  28. Sam
    Posted September 7, 2006 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I guess great minds think alike Steve. I hadn’t check ypsinews recently and missed this. I’d like to work with you on this project and move it forward with improved quality and access to more meetings.

  29. Shanster
    Posted September 7, 2006 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Maybe she meant to say “All loggers are Inuits”. That might be equally inaccurate, but it’s a much better explanation for that ridiculous statement. If a confrontation actually occurred between the two candidates, I imagine that they were both polite, and Paul’s response was reasonable and good-natured, like “I never asked anybody to…”, or “I told them not to…”, and “I’m sorry you feel that way.” He’s too kind to say something like “Son, this is politics, that’s just the way we roll.”

  30. maryd
    Posted September 7, 2006 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    What bothered me about the letter was the fact she IGNORED all the negative, crying wolf & hate mongering campaign style the Schreiber campaign indulged in. And don’t forget the extremely damaging anti-collaboration letter as well. Those were conveniently not mentioned in her letter to Steve.
    While “Schutzman” talks about ugliness, I only remember ugly tactics.
    Paul could reach out and end this. He needs to get out from under her apron.

  31. mark
    Posted September 7, 2006 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    There’s been so much said on this thread that I’m at a loss as to where I should jump in… Let me start by saying that I’m not pissed at Penny. I don’t, after some thought, believe that she really thinks I’m an idiot. I do, however, feel that she’s dismissive of what we’re accomplishing here online, but I’m sure, as we continue to make things happen, she’ll come around. And, as for Paul, I get the sense that he’s at least trying.

    Paul wrote to me shortly after this post went up and requested a meeting. I take that as a positive sign. I guess it could just be that he doesn’t want me as an enemy before he even takes office, but I’d like to think that he really feels as though we (the people that hang out here at MM.com) might have some good ideas. Anyway, that’s the attitude I’m going into the meeting with. (I’ll let you know how it goes.)

  32. ChelseaL
    Posted September 8, 2006 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Do.

    So many excellent comments. Clearly, nobody *here* is an idiot.

  33. schutzman
    Posted September 8, 2006 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    ~

    While I was out of town this week, Eric 3.0 said:

    Brett, I haven’t responded to your post because I’m still pissed about your hatchet job on Steve Pierce. At least I called Penny; as far as I know, you didn’t verify a single syllable with Steve. Your factual inaccuracy and supposition was completely counter to the ideals we discussed at that Spitting Cats meeting in front of Aubree’s.“(endquote)

    …To which a response is probably warranted.

    ~

    (Cue music (The Theme to “The Waltons” would be good))

    (Fade in)

    ~

    Many an evening my wife and I sit out on the old front porch, she picking her banjo, and I slowly filling my corncob pipe, as I reminisce about those experiences, back when we were all young cub reporters in short pants, eager to make a name for ourselves in the heady world of Ypsilanti Info-tainment.

    “Ma,” I say (we call eachother Ma and Pa, despite being childless, in order to enhance the sense of nostalgia), “You remember back in Double-Aught-Five when me and that Maynard fellow were thinkin’ we might figger a way to put the news hereabouts on the internets?”

    “Yes, Pa,” she replies.

    “Well, there was a couple ways I reckoned things could get a bit caddiewampus with that plan, gettin’ all fouled up, and one of ’em was with the business of commentatin’.”

    “You mean like what when somebody gives their opinion and makes it seems like a fact?”

    “No, Ma, though that’s a right problem in itself. I was more thinking about how those blogs let people leave comments on a post. Y’see, I didn’t think folks would take kindly to havin’ their writings put on some other part of the interwebs, wherein they might get a bunch a comments that wouldn’t be on their own site. I figured that, well, a lot of people get all excited with comments, cause they think it shows they’re popular and all.”

    “Yes, Pa, I can see that. But don’t them people have site counters or what-have-you?”

    (Patting her on the knee reassuringly) “Yes, Ma, but most of the hits you get are mistakes or were made by somethin’ called a “Web Spider”, so them numbers ain’t always right, and even if they were, puttin’ them on your page isn’t near as impressive as having a couple good comments here and there.”

    “Yes, Pa.”

    “Well, anyways, there was that whole dealy, and I thought folks might not want to put their writin’ on some other site because of it. But, there was another thing to it: I didn’t like how all these blogs and comments and what-not tended to get all confusing and intimate.”

    “When you say intimate, Pa, you mean like what with that Mr. Maynard’s Ball-shaving business?”

    “No, Ma, I mean making a bunch a’ inside jokes, folks talkin’ with eachother using their christian names, referencin’ things from other places, and generally makin’ it hard for a greenhorn reader to feel comfortable there, or even know what’s going on. It makes for a right bad historical record, too.”

    “But Pa, everybody knows that History is Bunk!”

    “Now, now, Ma, watch yer language. It weren’t just the history I was worried about, it was makin’ sense out of the present. Lemme give you an example. Let’s say I scribble out a little piece about that fella what wanted to be Mayor. A couple people might leave a comment, he himself might even say a few words in his defense, and the whole thing is meant to mean somethin’ to a person coming into the situation not knowin’ anything previous. Follow me so far?”

    “Yes, Pa.”

    “Well, now, someone gets his overalls all in a bunch about what I wrote. Says it’s a ‘hatchet job’, even thinks I deserve a smack in the chops over it, and writes an angry little piece over on his own site, without actually referencin’ what has him all hot and bothered.”

    “But Pa, how in the name of Benjamin Woodruff could his readers know what he was even talking about, then?”

    “It gets worse, Ma. You can see that he shoulda just left a comment on my blog, where it properly belonged, but when I left a comment on his post, tryin’ to make some sense outta this, he wouldn’t respond to it. Then, weeks later, on yet a third fella’s blog, he finally connects the dots- so to understand what’s going on, a reader needs to be followin’ no fewer than three different places, none of which link to eachother’s relevant bits, to understand what’s being talked about. It gets confusing, doesn’t it?”

    “Yes, Pa. But I still don’t see what all this has to do with them Spittin’ Cats.”

    “Well, y’see, this fella what thinks I wrote a bad bit of press about the Mayor business, he showed up for a spell at one of those five or so meetings we had ’bout it, and thinks he’s some sort of expert on what it was all about, and now he’s sayin’ that I’m an apple what’s fallen far from the tree.”

    “But Pa, how can he say that? It was your idea!”

    “Now Ma, be careful there. I reckon we’d need some sort of public contest, horseshoe pitchin’ or the like, to figger out whether it was me, Maynard, or them Cherries what actually had the idea first. No sense in splittin’ hairs on that matter just now. Fact is, there were a lot of people who wanted to help out, and they all deserve a little bit a credit. I just think it’s a right unfair for a few people to be pointin’ fingers about being truthful and such, a lot like when our Lord said “He without sin should cast the first stone,” you know.”

    “Yes, Pa, and Amen. I still have a few questions for you, though.”

    “Yes, Ma?”

    “Since we don’t have a porch on our apartment, and thus we never sit and have conversations like this, nor do we talk in a dialect and call eachother ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’, nor do I let you smoke pipe tobacco around me as I hate the smell, nor have I practiced my banjo playing lately, I wonder why you’re writing this in the form of a lenghthly dialogue that never actually took place.”

    “Well, Ma, that’s a lot of big questions from a purty little lady like yourself, and the answer’s a bit complicated, so I’ll try to simplify it for you. Y’see, there’s been lots of comments bein’ made as of late, here, there, and everywhere, that all are saying the same basic things. Trouble is, if you don’t know any better, you could land on a blog and think that every dern fool in Ypsilanti is thinkin’ the same thing. Truth of the matter is, that it’s really just a couple good old boys all postin’ on eachother’s sites, agreein’ with one another, and makin’ it seem like there’s a whole posse out there ready to raise a little H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.”

    “Language, Pa.”

    “Sorry, Ma. Truth is, those couple good old boys are just talkin’ amongst themselves, but because they’re doing it on as many different blogs, people might get the wrong impression of reality. So, trying to be a wiseacre, I thought I’d pretend I had more people joining in on this here comment as well.”

    “Woof! Woof!”

    “Simmer down there, Buddy! You can’t be sittin’ on this fictional porch with us, ’cause we took you to the Animal Shelter months ago, and there’s no way folks over at this blog would be expected to remember that fact, without me linkin’ to yer story. Oh-wait- I see! You were tryin’ to reinforce that point I made earlier! Good dog.”

    “Woof.”

    “Now Ma, it looks like the sun’s settin’ and I reckon I’ve talked long enough about these matters fer now, so what’s say we get dinner started. You start up the stove, and I’ll go out back and finish dressin’ that horse meat.”

    “Sounds good, Pa.”

    ~

    (Cue Music)

    (Fade Out)

    ~

  34. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    That was a genuine waste of bandwidth, Brett. But thanks for wasting it with us.

  35. schutzman
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    the pleasure was all mine, because the bandwidth wasted was all mark’s.

    my main goal was to improve his search engine ranking for users looking up “caddiewampus.”

  36. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Well done.

    I must retract, however. What I called a waste of bandwidth was actually proof that you don’t like having your integrity questioned. Imagine how Steve Pierce feels. You were free to answer that question to your integrity in any way you chose. Steve Pierce couldn’t reply to similar attacks on his integrity without giving them credibility.

    Instead, I say thanks for the object lesson, Brett. It wasn’t funny, but thanks just the same.

  37. schutzman
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    “Steve Pierce couldn’t reply to similar attacks on his integrity without giving them credibility.”

    Now I’m very confused. Are you saying that:

    1) Paul Schreiber shouldn’t reply to similar attacks on his integrity as that would give them credibility? (Keep in mind that you’ve called on him to defend himself publicly on several occasions)

    or,

    2) Steve Pierce DIDN’T reply to any blog posts during the election (which, I should point out, he in fact DID reply on many blogs, including some on my site).

  38. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps you’re missing the context, Brett. Pre-election, Pierce couldn’t react to blog posts as you did here. He probably couldn’t do it post-election without losing support, either. (Actually, I didn’t know that he had responded to any posts at all. But I bet his responses were straight-up.)

    Pre- and Post-election, Paul should be reading and reacting to blogs. Apparently, MM’s input means something, thus the meeting. He should also consider calls like mine for a public apology to Steve Pierce.

    I think it’s funny that Paul wants a meeting with Mark, don’t you?

  39. mark
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to interrupt your fight, but I thought that I should at least pop in here and say that I don’t think it’s all that funny that Paul would want to speak with me. Word is that I’m a pretty interesting guy to have a beer with. And, I suspect that he’s come to appreciate the fact that I’m a pretty open-minded and rational fellow, who can, when he puts his mind to it, get things done. As Paul will be running a city on the cheap, he’s going to need every motivated volunteer he can get. So, no, I don’t find it all that funny…. OK, back to the fight!

  40. schutzman
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Pre-election, Pierce left comments on multiple local blogs. They generally end with “Cheers!”, and are easy to spot.

    By your suggestion that his doing so may have jeopardized his integrity, though, I don’t understand why the same wouldn’t hold true for Schreiber, whether we’re pre- or post- election (and some might point out that, technically, we’re still ‘pre-‘)

    “I think it’s funny that Paul wants a meeting with Mark, don’t you?”

    No, I don’t want a meeting with mark. I had one the other night, and there was nothing funny about it.

    As for why Paul wants a meeting with him, I suspect it must have some dark, sinister agenda behind it, involving seething hatred, being a divider and not a uniter, planning future hatchet jobs, etc. By attending this meeting, Mark is also clearly proving himself as a member of the “status quo”.

    Furthermore, I strongly advise that anyone passing Paul Schreiber on the street must, from this day forward, turn their eyes to the ground lest they become an enabler for and conduit of the negative magickal energies which emanate from him. I personally bring a hand-mirror with me wherever I go, so that I may view him safely.

    ~

  41. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Okay. Hey, you do that, won’t you, and report back to everyone else.

    Thanks, Brett. My aluminum foil hat is in perfect pyramid form as I await the arrival of your leader.

  42. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Mark, my comment about it being funny that Paul wants to meet with you regards Schreiber Damage Control. Despite what the bloggers and readers have said about him or in response to his wife’s letter, Paul cares about the Ypsisphere ™ and he wants you on his side.

    Funny, not in “ha ha” funny, but funny in “strange” funny.

    eric

  43. egpenet
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    “All bloggers are idiots.”
    But some bloggers are MORE idiot(sic) than others.
    – Gee. Oh, well.

  44. Eric 3.0
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    *Sigh* You win, Brett. I concede your point, whatever it is. I don’t like flame wars.

  45. schutzman
    Posted September 10, 2006 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Eric, if it’s any consolation, I sometimes wish I’d just voted for Lois.

  46. mark
    Posted September 11, 2006 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    And that brings us the close of yet another fantastic thread.

    Thank you, everyone. And, goodnight.

  47. Anonymous
    Posted September 17, 2006 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    If someone asked me a direct question before or after the election, I always tried to answer it by either contacting the person directly via email or phone or posting a reply to the blog.

    What I didn’t do was get into a negative campaign sniping or personal attacks. I made the pledge (and it should be noted that two other candidates, one for mayor and one for council, asked me to pledge to run a clean campaign.) I made that pledge, and while sometimes I wanted to punch people in the nose for the mean spirited crap they sent out, like the YCFE letter, I stood by my word and we focused on the issues and never made a personal attack in our letters to the editors, going door to door, or in our printed materials. I wasn’t going to run a campaign and ask for support and volunteers and then run a negative, win at any cost campaign.

    So when someone asked a me question, I tried to answer that question. Eric is right, when people posted up supposed facts coming from teh other side and never bothered to even call or email to confirm those facts, I did not respond. I didn’t see a point, it seemed like that person had already made up their mind and if some folks are willing to just assume what the other campaign is saying is the truth, and not checking the facts for your self, then you only hear what you want to hear. Nothing I could have said would have changed their mind.

    Sometimes people want to assume the worse of people, that is OK, but to not try and confirm facts, well, we have seen what happens when people don’t ask questions. Just look at mess surrounding Water Street as the project grows from an original estimate of $3-5 million in 2000 to just wait. Right now the counter is at $23 million and the city still doesn’t have a developer. Within a year it will be over $30 million once they select a developer and the final bill after you add in the interest paid over 30 years will jump to an astonishing $50 million in taxpayer money

    And folks wonder why there isn’t money to pay for the bus service that will be eliminaed entirely next year.

    If this stuff doesn’t tick you off, you weren’t paying attention during the election.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  48. Peter Larson
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    This was an important post on an issue which people felt strongly about.

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