Will the real demagogues please stand up?

November 10, 2014
Daniel Blackburn

Daniel Blackburn

OPINION by DANIEL BLACKBURN

Usually, those unusually insipid things we read so regularly in our local daily newspaper come and go from our thoughts like the pat of a subway groper. Until Joe.

Look, I’ll say from the start that it pains me to criticize another media entity — mostly because it’s a practice most readers find immensely boring and competitively stupid.

So have no doubt about it: giving The Tribune any attention now as it struggles against its business demons is not fun.

But there was Joe. Tarica, that is, one of The Tribune’s regularly featured columnists. Joe writes something called “Joetopia” which I guess is a takeoff on the word “Utopia” which seems to be the dream of his employer — a picture-perfect and happy San Luis Obispo County existing exactly as Joe and his fellow travelers must imagine.

When I read Joetopia’s first words on Nov. 8 — “I don’t understand voters” — my impulse was to send him a quick email reply. Then I figured, why don’t I just share my own insipid thoughts with the half-million-plus people who will have a chance to read this on this site during November? Let them dump me in the trash.

We start by noting The Tribune’s antediluvian practice of “interviewing” political candidates and making editorial recommendations to readers prior to elections.

It’s essentially a publishers’ ego trip dating from the time when newspapers were the only means available for most people to get information about their government and elected officials. The exercise has always been abused by some editors and publishers pursuing their own agendas; I submit, however, that at one time, such recommendations carried some weight, and had some social value. That’s certainly no longer the case, particularly at the smaller, regional newspaper level.

So I must figure that Joe took his cue from the newspaper’s editorial hierarchy when he slapped this headline on Saturday’s Joetopia: “In election’s wake, voters’ choices are difficult to understand.”

If Joe had really free reign to write what he wanted, he’d have penned something like this: “I just don’t understand why the ignorant electorate didn’t follow The Tribune’s insightful recommendations.”

Tribune news standThis shouldn’t be a difficult mental pull for Joe: He doesn’t understand because The Tribune can’t detect the truthful pulse of county residents.

Joe wrings his ink-stained hands in frustration at the election of people and the approval of issues not endorsed by The Tribune, which leads him to the only conclusion possible: “I guess we are a people wracked by phantom fears and manipulated by demagogues.”

I guess many of Joetopia’s own fears are based on misconception spread by the newspaper itself.

One example: He bemoans the triumph of new supervisor Lynn Compton in capturing the District 4 seat, writing: “Water is a major challenge, but does the South County elect a supervisor who will help push forward thoughtful regulation of the Paso Robles groundwater basin? No, they pick someone who doesn’t even believe the crisis exists. I guess it isn’t their problem.”

The real problem here, Joetopia, is that Compton says she never, ever said that. The Tribune said she said it, but that doesn’t make it true. There is no evidence she ever uttered the words.

Here’s Compton’s comment on the matter during The Tribune’s own debate (available on their website). Compton said, “We are in a long term drought that could go on for 10 years.” In another debate, Compton questioned the research that went into the emergency ordinance, but not whether there is a water crisis.

And — this is only my observation, not Compton’s — those who do question a genuine “water crisis” in this county have a lot of hard evidence to support that particular position. Excessive pumping? Now you’re talking!

Also, Joetopia didn’t much like the folks Atascadero voters reelected.

And he really seethed about Jim Hill’s already-historic, uphill write-in political performance in Arroyo Grande.

Blind to a decade of exploitation by the city’s sitting mayor, his abuses clearly perceived and willingly articulated by local residents and business owners, The Tribune’s dogged endorsement of long-time incumbent Tony Ferrara colored its coverage of the city’s now-notorious July 3 Adams-McClish City Hall caper and its aftermath.

Joetopia writes how Ferrara “fights for his political life against a write-in candidate whose non-campaign was fueled by backlash over a frothy pseudo scandal.”

Where to start? A “pseudo scandal?” A “non-campaign?”

thanksagThe city bloomed almost overnight with hundreds upon hundreds of iridescent, hand-made yellow signs supporting Hill’s write-in candidacy. The signs appeared on the lawns of homes, the windows of businesses… everywhere, it seemed, a virtual sea of poster board. And with the kind of virulent retaliation Ferrara and his tax-paid lackeys are capable of wreaking, this was a bold act, uncomfortable for many Arroyo Grande residents.

A committee of some of the community’s prominent and committed folks created what is truly a political miracle (no matter the eventual vote count). They fashioned a grass-roots effort that was visible, outspoken, and most of all, effective in communicating the message to the thousands of voters who wrote in Jim Hill’s name after a five-week campaign. Thousands. Chew on that for a moment.

Easy for Joetopia to miss this phenomenon, now that I think of it; The Tribune’s local coverage sure did.

As to the Adams/McClish incident, first reported by CalCoastNews in August: Residents’ concerns have never been about what this sad pair did or did not do in that darkened city office late that night.

It’s about how Tony Ferrara and his council handled the situation from the very start, with denials, a coverup, verbal attacks on residents and police officers who questioned them, and secret meetings.

It was all that, and not the spectre of illicit sex, that Hill’s supporters tried to convey to The Tribune, without success. Now, those citizens are dismissed as “demagogues” by Joetopia.

Ferrara’s slant on the whole thing — a fallacious one repeated often in The Tribune and parroted by council members — was that officers encountered nothing inappropriate that night, and concluded no violations of city policy had occurred.

Commander Kevin McBride’s statement in a memorandum describing the incident, posted on CalCoastNews and even The Tribune, once, was much more, shall we say, revealing: “Once outside, I contacted Senior Officer Day and he was very concerned that he had witnessed a possible violation of city policy because McClish was in the city manager’s office and appeared to be partially clothed.” Responding officers agreed they had walked into “an uncomfortable situation.”

The reason the election went the way it did, Joetopia, is simply that the voters were listening. But not to you.

There’s a financial reason for The Tribune’s brand of “reporting,” which Joetopia himself was kind enough to point out: “A sense of social responsibility,” he wrote, “often can’t compete with the almighty dollar.”

Daniel Blackburn is senior correspondent and co-founder of CalCoastNews.


Loading...

95 Comments

  1. Vagabond says:

    The only thing that has ever changed at your local embarrassment to journalism is the name. Telegram Trivial to Fibune, probably the worst excuse for a newspaper in the country and more often than not worse than nothing. Thankfully it appears that the populous is waking up to the realization of what an abomination that rag is and are steadfastly repudiating it. Good on ya Central Coast, keep up the good work!

    (6) 16 Total Votes - 11 up - 5 down
  2. Slowerfaster says:

    The responses here are oh so telling. The comment has digressed to typical gossip fence complaining by the typical gossips concerning the personalities in politics they dislike on simple emotional bases.
    This is what a demagogue does ..inflame the passions and prejudices of uninformed and/or pridefully ignorant people.
    PEOPLE who surround themselves with myth and trivia…and for whom facts and science are character flaws from smarty-pants elitists.

    In effect, it proves Joe Tarica’s point; even though I find his a ‘cry in the wilderness’ rant that any good journalist would have recognized long before now.

    Americans are stupid. Most don’t know basic geography or history. Only 20% ( on a good day ) can name the five freedoms embodied in the 1st Amendment, while about half of all respondents can name all five main characters in “The Simpsons”.
    Gore Vidal knew this for decades: Americans are dolts. Vidal cited the nation as “The United States of Amnesia”.
    H.L Mencken observed the same long before that; but that was during a time when illiteracy was rampant.

    SO, Tarica’s lament is a latter-day jeremiad, while Blackburn’s rebuttal is a conscience acclamation of the obvious…that Americans are really, REALLY dumb.
    It is as self-evident as that the sky is blue…and I fully expect an argument against that from any number of morons post haste.

    (0) 18 Total Votes - 9 up - 9 down
    • LeAnn says:

      In response to slowerfaster,

      The gossip fence exists no matter where you go—even outside of America.

      We worked to remove Mr. Ferrara from office not based on emotions—we disagree with his politics and how he does the business of Arroyo Grande.

      The people who worked on the Jim Hill campaign were informed. We made our decisions to work on this campaign with regards to facts about how Ferrara and the City Council handled or did not handle the Adams/McClish encounter as well as many other decisions our incumbant mayor and his cadre of cronies made. The public record is extensive regarding these decisions and the public has shared their own personal examples of mishaps and under-handed, back-room dealings with the current mayor and city council.

      We have not surrounded ourselves with myths and trivia–the Fibune however, has surrounded themselves with things other than facts. They report on Adams’ farce of a resignation letter, but refuse to print a piece which would frame Hill’s stance on a variety of issues—they chose to operate in a vacuum and act as if nothing were truly happening in AG. They have surrounded themselves with choosing to not report news—but the reality they would like to be in place.

      I take offense to your statement that Americans are stupid. While I agree that Americans may be lacking in knowledge of some fairly basic information, I challenge you to point to why that is—is it because of the campaign run by Hill–or non-campaign as it is referred to? Are Americans lacking this knowledge because of they voted in an election? No, Americans don’t have this basic knowledge for a variety of reasons—one being our culture does not cultivate informed people—it does cultivate consumerism, making money, spending that money, and making more money. Our culture does not encourage people to ready, to study, or to know things, including knowing or seeking good information to make informed choices, as evidenced by the lack of reporting from the Fibune.

      You are lacking correct information regarding the situation in AG because you either 1) choose to ignore the facts as they exist (like other have), 2) or you have not sought the information needed in order to make an informed decision, much like many Americans including leaders nationwide. In addition, sometimes it is easier to look the other way than it is to do something about inequity and bad leadership–we chose to act and do something.

      I consider myself an educated individual and not just because I hold degrees, I consider myself an educated individual because I do seek information and I am observant. I am glad I voted against Ferrara given the events over the last 4 months as well as the debacle which is currently facing the entire south county with regards to the sanitation district. That is a travesty no matter how you look at it.

      In closing slowerfaster, you can come here and call people morons and stupid Americans, but know that your rant has not changed the outcome of the election of the mayor of AG, the citizens have spoken regardless of what you want to believe. Mr. Ferrara has failed as a city leader and thank goodness we do not have to tolderate this any longer.

      Have a good day.

      (7) 21 Total Votes - 14 up - 7 down
      • Slowerfaster says:

        Well, that’s how the arguments are typically framed. You may be correct anecdotally, but this local election was not my premise. The events and conclusions are not necessarily indicative of the mental capacities of the various players around, yet it is again offered as an example.

        The question that both Tarica and Blackburn somewhat unconsciously raised was concerning demagogues. They exist many places…and yes, most of the time these ( from whatever perspective ) are generally smarter and do know what they are doing.
        Why they are effective with their appeals to raw emotion is because they have an audience of willing dupes…and Americans, on the whole, are just the most inattentive numbskulls on the planet.

        (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
  3. toryrand says:

    Has anybody ever likened Orchs to watching late night infomercials? He has all the qualities to be a star. Just saying.

    (-4) 26 Total Votes - 11 up - 15 down
    • surferdude says:

      Who is clicking the thumbs down here?
      Why do they bother?
      Tell us how you really feel.

      (-3) 21 Total Votes - 9 up - 12 down
    • marcusaurelius says:

      who is orchs?

      (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
      • Slowerfaster says:

        They’re the bad guys in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

        (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
  4. LeAnn says:

    Aaron Ochs just made a threatening comment towards me—-I’m scared! He said that I might be done with his Facebook page, but he isn’t done with the group who is threatening others—he said we would all be held accountable! Maybe I should call the cops…

    (12) 36 Total Votes - 24 up - 12 down
    • roberttorrance says:

      Here is Aaron’s quote exactly as it is written: “No matter who wins or loses in the Arroyo Grande mayoral race, each and every one of you will be held accountable for your actions. You may be done with us, but we’re most certainly not done with you”.

      Psychotic?

      (17) 27 Total Votes - 22 up - 5 down
      • agag1 says:

        Sheesh!
        “We’re most certainly not done with you”.
        Who’s “we’re”?
        He and that little rat in his pocket?

        (17) 29 Total Votes - 23 up - 6 down
        • VAndrews says:

          The only people who seem to like that FB page posts of the nuisance A.O, are City Manager Steve Adams wife, Kristen Barneich, Tom Costellos wife, from the quick look I had..a few fringe family members/friends…The Delusional Bunch.
          I choose to ignore this page and any other garbage related websites and would never waste my time commenting. I don’t understand the language of blubbering idiot. I have simply used my perusal as a resource for some unproven facts, and statements of people that represent the City of Arroyo Grande making accusations of crime being committed against them. This is my message to them if you are a VICTIM, please, Call the police, make your crime reports, the police will ALWAYS be professional and handle each call for service with continuity for ALL Just like they did on July 3 2014. So put up or shut up facts. let’s take care of business, I don’t like anyone threatened. Let’s quit with the false distress, fear, and outrage. If you are too sensitive for the job, maybe you need to resign, you have never expressed your opinion to the public, only some weird dudes FB page.

          If you cannot do the job of Council woman, then you should realize that and resign. That job is to listen to the PEOPLE who elected you (that’s right KB is an appointee so maybe she doesn’t understand the whole election thing) You are to vote as an independent individual, not as an appendage of Tony Ferrara. It is your failure and the rest of the Council for doing NOTHING…other than ignore the people. If the PEOPLE being ANGRY at your POOR PERFORMANCE and letting you know in the PUBLIC FORUM ( which is how it’s done by the way) is something threatening or intimidating, then public service is NOT FORYOU! You could have spoke your opinion at any time, expressed these fears and had law enforcement assist, but you didn’t. Kristen Barneich you have to have a spine to speak your own opinion, and that’s how you earn respect,which you haven’t unless you count the “Delusional Bunch”

          (8) 26 Total Votes - 17 up - 9 down
          • doglover says:

            Steve Adams lied to the police.

            Mr. McClish allowed only 15 minutes before he called the cops.

            Steve and Teresa did not hear the officers at 11:00pm when they first responded.

            Steve Adams has NOT resigned.

            The Council gave him a verbal chastising as their punishment.

            Steve Adams received a 10/5% raise on July 4th.

            The Council gave the City Attorney a raise after the July 3rd incident.

            Steve Adams held a meeting on the Monday after the event to tell his story to key employees and ask them to keep it quiet.

            Steve Adams and Tony Ferrara initiated 2 meetings at odd times and days.

            Tony Ferrara has not agendized anything to help the city with this crisis.

            The investigation is NOT sworn testimony.

            The City Council is paying for the investigation.

            The City Council members were interviewed as part of the investigation.

            The DA has been contacted as has the Grand Jury.

            And no one can answer the question…..
            Why has the Mayor ( who has just lost his seat) and the Council protected Adams?

            (16) 26 Total Votes - 21 up - 5 down
            • agag1 says:

              You are 100% correct doglover.
              It all began with a lie.
              And it got SO much worse
              with
              each
              and
              every
              lie
              after
              that.

              (11) 23 Total Votes - 17 up - 6 down
              • doglover says:

                Hasn’t Steve Adams met the threshold for “conduct unbecoming a City Manager ” yet?
                Is it “clearly audible”?

                (12) 22 Total Votes - 17 up - 5 down
                • VAndrews says:

                  I hear you !

                  (5) 17 Total Votes - 11 up - 6 down
                • agag1 says:

                  Absolutely he has, and the council should have accepted his resignation weeks ago.
                  The Mayor and council and Mr Adams have only themselves to blame for the situation they are currently facing.
                  Our longtime council member AND Mayor both defeated after defending a story no one but they claim to believe.
                  Clearly the majority of residents have had enough of their inaction and protection of Mr Adams.
                  Just how long did the council expect us to play along with this absurd story? Honestly, how stupid do they think we are?
                  While they may have their reasons for wanting Adams to remain, the citizens of AG are ready for him to go.

                  (5) 15 Total Votes - 10 up - 5 down
                • surferdude says:

                  My God.
                  Mr. Page was right. Can you imagine he is still signing checks?
                  Doing performance appraisals?
                  Attending public meetings as our representative ( even in a bronze costume!)

                  Who drink tea after wine anyways?

                  (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
          • toryrand says:

            Just remember Orchs, Barneich, Ray, Hill, Adams use Salinsky’s playbook when defending the left…..when they start using this playbook it means that their party, campaign or political figure is in deep trouble. So feel flattered if you have been singled out by emotive accusations by these folks….they have no other options.

            “if you are not catching flak, you are not over the target”

            (-4) 20 Total Votes - 8 up - 12 down
            • bobfromsanluis says:

              Aaron Orchs is a “lefty”? Is that your assertion by attempting to link him to Saul Alinsky, one of the favorite boogymen of the right?

              My assertion is that Mr. Orchs is a right leaning Libertarian who firmly believes that he knows best in everything about everything, and anyone who wants to criticize him shouldn’t have any trouble if you simply stick with the facts ….

              (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
            • zaphod says:

              todays misspelled tea party meme brought to you by Saul Alinsky notorious community activist anti war organizer be very very afraid LOL!

              (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        Pretty hoity-toity from a guy who lives in his parents basement.

        (8) 22 Total Votes - 15 up - 7 down
    • SloHeadInTheSand says:

      Call the cops! Terrorist threat. Maybe Dan Dow will handle thid.

      (5) 19 Total Votes - 12 up - 7 down
    • mkaney says:

      He is the ONLY one threatening anyone. But he is also clearly insane, and no attempts to reason with him will get anywhere.

      (6) 26 Total Votes - 16 up - 10 down
    • doglover says:

      Wow!
      Think about this..

      So today, the write in Jim Hill campaigners were invited to observe the vote verification of the write in votes at the County Clerk Recorder’s office.

      On Veteran’s Day – the day the ” war of all wars ended” the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in Paris.

      And our AG citizens were able to participate in the greatest symbol of democracy – the ballot
      How terrific
      thank you.

      (14) 22 Total Votes - 18 up - 4 down
      • surferdude says:

        Two thumbs down here too? really?
        There must be something you can do…
        Go back to CCF and make fools of yourselves!

        (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
  5. LeAnn says:

    CANCEL your subscription to the ribune (Fibune, Crib, etc). Cancel it and send a message-print real news, from varying perspectives, or lose readers. It’s that simple. I’ve canceled mine and have told them why—it’s easy, painless, and you can send in your Fibune money to CCN…..it’s time to change the central coast folks for the better when it comes to politics, who reports the news, how the news is reported, and who is elected.

    I still can’t believe that Ausbaugh got a free ticket—he should have been censured at least, but then again, look who we are dealing with there—-I am sure Adam Hill, based on the decision last night, has secured the vote from Ausbaugh he needed to….SHUT THEM DOWN residents of SLO county! It is time for action!

    (4) 28 Total Votes - 16 up - 12 down
    • agag1 says:

      This county is over-due for a wipe-the-slate-clean Write-In campaign!

      (5) 23 Total Votes - 14 up - 9 down
  6. Revere says:

    Excellent opinion piece Dan. You hit the nail on the head!

    (12) 44 Total Votes - 28 up - 16 down
  7. agag1 says:

    Joetopia completely missed the mark on who ran a “non-campaign” for Mayor in AG.
    We are not surprised.

    The Write-In Jim Hill campaign was full speed ahead from the moment it began. We hit the ground running, taking nothing for granted.
    We distributed fliers, made and posted signs, gathered support and spread the word,
    AG has a choice for Mayor!

    It comes as no surprise that Joe wasn’t aware of what was happening.
    If he gets his news from the Trib, he wouldn’t have seen a word about it.

    On several occasions a member from the campaign reached out to a Trib staffer and invited her to come see for herself what was happening in AG.
    How could someone ignore all those neon yellow signs, they were the talk of the town?

    Heavens, at some point even the Mayor couldn’t ignore them and placed
    a rush order for a few of his own in a weak attempt to dilute all that yellow!

    But a few signs placed on empty developer properties
    do not have the same impact as those placed proudly in business owners store windows.
    Not even close.

    Yet the Trib, week after week continued to ignore our efforts even though other communities were taking notice.
    In an obvious attempt to aid Ferrara, the Trib did not deem us worthy of any recognition, and incorrectly assumed the voters would blindly follow their lead.
    Well guess what?

    Enough folks are wise to the Trib at this point and their slanted version of reality that THEY were largely ignored by a significant percentage of AG voters who joined team Hill.

    It gives us great satisfaction to see the Trib’s tactics backfire on them,
    just as Ton’s non-campaign did on him.

    (22) 40 Total Votes - 31 up - 9 down
    • toryrand says:

      never underestimate your opponent, and always know your limitations.

      (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
  8. smiley says:

    I have lived on the Central Coast 21 years and can’t recall ever having seen anything in the local paper or television that exposed the incompetents and dishonest in government and community until Cal Coast News started.

    (32) 48 Total Votes - 40 up - 8 down
    • OnTheOtherHand says:

      Even back when the Tribune was more objective and did more real reporting, they were somewhat restrained in their criticism. They would tend to take a stand on issues without specifically mentioning the villains on the other side of the issue. New Times was also better under Steve Moss and, while they didn’t devote themselves totally to investigative reporting, they did frequently bring up controversial issues and even target individuals when it was appropriate. (They still do — but much less frequently and less accurately.)

      (16) 32 Total Votes - 24 up - 8 down
      • agag1 says:

        Less frequent, AND less accurate? That’s not exactly a resounding endorsement.

        (9) 23 Total Votes - 16 up - 7 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          The Trib should make that their new banner—

          “Less frequent, less accurate….it is what YOU, the SLO reader, needs.”

          (7) 23 Total Votes - 15 up - 8 down
          • agag1 says:

            Add to that, less thick.
            Some days the plastic bag it comes in is almost as thick as the paper itself.

            (7) 13 Total Votes - 10 up - 3 down
  9. r0y says:

    Pieces like this are why I donate to CalCoast News.

    (28) 52 Total Votes - 40 up - 12 down

Comments are closed.