Will the real demagogues please stand up?

November 10, 2014
Daniel Blackburn

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.

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I used to attend a demagogue… then I discovered the Lord.

For some reason, I double doubt that.

I had to give you a thumbs up, agag1! The demagogue part is not true, I have never been to a demagogue.

Really? My first thumbs up from you, not sure what to think about that.

BTW, clerk recorder is working today–yes on Veteran’s Day.

We had observers from Jim Hill campaign there.

Don’t thumbs down me because you said it wasn’t going to happen.

It is.

Newspapers are dying everywhere, but I still can’t help being a little nostalgic for the old days where the Telegram Tribune was the thing to read every day. I haven’t renewed our subscription for well over 5 years now and should have canceled it much earlier. There is no local reporting to speak of and the national and international news is way too late and not comprehensive. Our daughter wanted to go to an Ivy League school to major in journalism. We said no way would we pay for that. She is studying economics now and writes for the school newspaper on the side.

Those damn arrogant voters…who do they think they are not following the recommendations of the “smarter than the masses” experts telling them how to vote?

Its so typical of the liberal mindset to show such disdain and contempt for the voters.

True enough. Conservatives have the same attitudes but limit its expression to their broadcast media pundits. (e.g. Rush Limbaugh and his “Low-information Voters,” “Environmental Whackos,” “Femi-Nazis,” etc.)

People still read newspapers?!

I wouldn’t wrap my dead fish in ANY of them these days.

Browse the SLO Tribune Securely, Privately, and FASTER!

Did you know browsing the Tribune web site exposes you to a multitude of tracking cookies and cross-site scripts from multiple marketing and advertising companies?


These tracking cookies are just another invaluable public service provided by Sandy Duerr as she destroys what used to be a fine little newspaper.

Here’s a fun exercise:

-Clear ALL cookies from your browser (use your alternate browser if you don’t want to clear all your logins from other sites).

-Now, open the Tribune’s web page. DON’T CLICK ANYTHING.

-Open your browser cookies (usually under privacy options) and count the cookies


Now, click a few pages around the Tribune web site and recount cookies. Up to 200 yet? I was.

Malcontents, misfits and now demagogues, that is what they want to call the small group of people who worked to unseat Tony and bring hope back to AG.

I think determined, hard working, and unstoppable might be better names for the small group.

No matter what you may call them, the residents seemed to agree when it came time to cast their votes. I hope more cities decide to take back their cities and fight like this group did.

No matter what got tossed their way they just keep going forward. they knew what needed to be done and they just lowered their heads and went to work.

BRAVO!!!! To everyone who saw that something was wrong and fought to correct it

I was shocked by Joetopia’s expression of his OPINION in his column. I was already planning on not renewing my 21 year subscription with the Fibune, and this column nailed that coffin shut.

So biased, so defending of the wrong-doers. Of course the corrupt continue to get away with their ways because the paper won’t write the truth. So, adios Tribune, the SMTimes will now get my $215.28 a year subscriptions fees…but I bet they will be much lower than that!

CANCEL CANCEL CANCEL! And, tell them why. Enough similar “votes” and they will eventually change their ways. Think of it as electing a new publisher and editor.

Just cancelled and signed up on line for SM TImes. Only $70 a year! Should have done this years ago!

I wish I could cancel, but I can’t… cause I don’t subscribe.

We’ll count that as a cancel Kevin.

The clerk recorder counts votes that show intent.

Your intent is clear!

I don’t think that you will find the SM Times more informative in terms of investigative reporting. However, at least they aren’t as politically biased in their coverage. Both newspapers engage in a form of reporting that I call “re-writing press releases.” The SM Times also takes political stands but they aren’t as blatantly defensive of the status quo (aka “The Establishment”)

I probably agree with you, Dan, but I’d have to go back and read Joetopia’s piece which doesn’t seem like a productive use of my time.

BRAVO !!! Thanks Dan for a PERFECTLY WRITTEN Opinion !!

When I saw the “non campaign”, I thought he was talking about King Tony.

Let’s see… The Mayors campaign included….

Calling citizens miscreants, nor looking at them as they spoke in meetings to him and finally blaming a radio personality, an internet site and the dumb voters who do not know any bette for listening to the above two.

Lastly, the mayor had two campaigners: a sitting council person and a little elderly lady.

They had a tough time catching up.

Tony Ferrara completely and utterly underestimated the fervor of the write-in campaign.

The Tribune never came down to AG to see the signs or the people on corners or listen to the robo calls or radio signs.

So who had the non campaign?

Win or lose the write -in campaign has sent a statement.

Thousands of people voted for Jim Hill. It’s time for you to get over yourself Mr. Mayor.

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