Wow! Look what Fredericktown, Missouri can do when it puts its mind to solving a “problem.” Within hours of the offending issue of my newspaper The Madison County Crier, radical activists organized to put me out of business (as if you can put a labor of love out of business). Advertisers and points of distribution were confronted, the newspaper itself was vandalized, I received a few phone calls calling me an idiot, demands were made for an apology to the Killians both via letters to the editor and telephone calls, and all in all a river of stenching pus flowed on Facebook and Topix (a local message board) to the point where one of the corporate media outlets in Cape Girardeau roused itself to schlepp up and around town to “get the story.” In my experience, when corporate media gets involved they're often trying to divert you from something even more significant. I've racked my brains as to what that might be, and the only thing I can come up with is the Fredericktown Zoning Commission citizen survey sham.
Fredericktown's Zoning and Planning Commission is putting together a 20-year plan. Now, everyone whose been involved in anything civic over the years knows that when governments start “planning” odds are 50-50 or better that something's going to get stolen right out from under the nose of the people. In NYC when Bloomberg put together his Vision 20:20 plan for the Manhattan waterfront, coincidentally bed bugs spread in the public housing projects that ring the waterfront, surveillance cameras were installed in some housing projects and now there's a press to install surveillance cameras in the projects without them (for their own protection, naturally, based on the results of what else? a citizen survey!). It's common knowledge that apartments have been warehoused for years (not rented out to new tenants when people left), and just watch how this "reform" effort plays out. The Manhattan real estate interests would give their left nut for a chance to sell the waterfront again, and Bloomberg, who thinks nothing of hijacking public lands and resources for personal gain or just pleasure, let them know via his “plan” that the waterfront boondoggle was on. Using the illusion of transparency and citizen input, he diverts the energy and focus of interested citizens who are tricked into feeling that they have been consulted and provided with an opportunity via hearings and meetings to provide “input.” Meanwhile the world within the world is turning.
In Fredericktown they don't go to that much trouble to get community “buy-in.” Somebody designed a survey, not worth the paper it's printed on, which nobody much knows about (the deadline has passed) to use as cover later to show that the people were consulted; even a few high school seniors were cynically used as decoration to show they “reached out to the youth.” They're relying on “apathy,” a constant ingredient in any civic project in Fredericktown, which the leaders have cultivated over the years by a variety of methods, most especially boring people do death with meetings in airless, flourescent-lit rooms, and starting a bunch of initiatives that never go anywhere. That's how the "leaders" do it, like taking candy from a baby. (And does it come as any kind of surprise to learn that one of the biggest decriers of the newspaper, a “leader” who has been on Facebook admonishing the people who brought me to Fredericktown, is also a mover and shaker on the Zoning Commission?)
So when it turns out that The Crier is not just about decorating their efforts, but really is asserting itself as a change vehicle, helping to empower people with critical thinking skills (asking tough questions) its credibility must be destroyed. Enter the “disrespect” brouhaha. But weirdly, it's not working this time, the people aren't allowing themselves to be fooled and manipulated so easily. It's true that some people had a big emotional reaction, but now that the outrage has subsided they're not so quick to want to let go of The Crier it turns out. And what is also becoming apparent even to the bullies and the bullied cowards who "support" them, if they win, they too lose; they lose the chance to find out what opportunities could come next that are bigger and better and bolder than anything they can conceive of from the heart of their limitations.
I can sense the deep and rising undercurrent of support, and consequently am taking the following actions: I'm changing the publication date from Wednesday to Friday (so that in future issues I have the option of pointing out in a timely manner the things that the local corporate paper has not pointed out); I am increasing circulation from 1,500 to 1,800; and I'm expanding distribution outside of Frederictown while constricting it inside of Fredericktown. The paper will only be available at a single outlet, where it will be given out one copy at a time and is guaranteed not to be vandalized by the very same adults who cluelessly wonder why their kids are so destructive defacing the doors and stalls in public bathrooms, and the like.
So why did I call this blogpost “Checkmate?” Because at a fundamental level the many people who don't carve the pie and never get to “participate” in the spoils well know that if they allow either through inaction, inattention, or stubborn wrongheadedness the powers that be to go forward unchallenged with their 20-year rape and pillage fest of the commonweal, that they will pretty much lose everything that's left to lose, everything that's not already nailed down by those same "powers." So here we are. Fredericktown either shakes off its emotionalism-induced stupor and braces itself for its much needed growth spurt with the support and guidance of the many voices in their very own free alternative community newspaper, The Madison County Crier, or it continues to die a slow and agonizing death, with the vultures gleefully feeding off the carrion of the roadkill of the townspeople.
A final note to the business owners who have clandestinely offered us money to keep The Crier going. Stand up and be counted, otherwise your money is worthless to us, as worthless as your flattery. To everyone else, especially those who wish to remain neutral (there is no such thing in this scenario), Find your own way to use your outrage to help you find your courage, it's in there somewhere; locate it and then stick to it, with full knowledge that we've already won.