Friday, October 19, 2012

A Joke From God*


"...no fossils have ever been found to substantiate evolution, which would certainly be strange if evolution was true, because a lot of fossils have been found, and more every day."
--Jennie Whitmer, the Democrat News, October 10, 2012

The above editorial appeared in the Democrat News, a Lee Enterprises newspaper, published in Fredericktown, Missouri, in the October 10th issue. That's October 10, 2012, for those who might be wondering.

I only mention it because amazingly there were no outraged comments left on the newspaper's site (one mild one), no scandalized townspeople rose up to demand that the paper be shut down, that its editors be fired. No one threatened to spit in the publisher's face, show 'em the county line, send them back to Iowa. No science teachers either from the public school system or the community college extension organized to confront the Democrat News' advertisers, to threaten boycott and otherwise hold them responsible for this outrage to common sense, the public good, and most especially their own job security.

No one started a thread on Topix or called the publisher a dumb bitch. No wives of scientists rushed to science's side regretting they or science itself had ever been previously mentioned in the newspaper. Nine days later the paper's points of distribution seem to have remained unperturbed. No reports of vandalizing the newspaper as a result of publishing Jennie Whitmer's column have reached my ears and certainly no bellicose shouts of “Burn It!” or “Shut it Down.” No one on the Democrat News' writing team has resigned from fear of negative association, boycott or other retribution, as unfortunately was the case with several quislings on The Crier's masthead. As far as I can tell the Ad Rep hasn't cut his ties and slithered away. No one has attacked Ms. Whitmer's sanity, questioned her motives, tried to shame her for her disrespect to human intelligence, or crowed about wanting to put her happy ass on a plane to Afghanistan. Letters to the Editors did not pour over the paper's transom on South Main; no abusive phone calls were received by the DN's local staff or at corporate headquarters in Davenport.

Even with no sidebar attributing this woman's point of view to a wishful fantasy in an alternative universe, no local loudmouth boutique owners, renowned slumlords, or other disagreeable members of prominent Fredericktown families have distanced themselves from the newspaper. Nor have they risen to the defense of human reason, or publicly apologized to their children for allowing outside influences to confuse them momentarily with an anti-science viewpoint. No self-appointed town leaders have gone on their Facebook spewing vitriol towards those that allowed Lee Enterprises to set up shop in Madison County in the first place. No reporters from Cape Girardeau have schlepped up to Fredericktown to get the "convoluted story" straight and "demand answers." No seasoned corporate media columnist from Chicago has devoted his column and a supplemental blogpost to analysis of its content. No astonishingly lazy reporter from the Riverfront Times in St. Louis has spiced up a rehash of something she gleaned secondhand from the Chicago media columnist, getting numerous details flat out wrong.

The city's Zoning and Planning Commission has not put it to a vote not to allow interviews to go forward with the Democrat News about its citizen survey and 20-year plan as a result of the scandalous ignorance demonstrated by Ms. Whitmer (assuming they would trouble themselves to report on it). The corporate newspaper has not been craftily banned from having a table at a community business event. Local county and city elected officials are not stonewalling, refusing interviews, hanging up on DN personnel when contacted for interviews, etc.

Why not? I mean fair is fair. From what I can tell Jennie Whitmer attended a program somewhere called “Stories of Evolution” and then presented the stories not as they were presented to her, but without asking anyone's permission, offered her own take on those stories. How "unimaginably disrespectful" to the accomplishments of the stories' originators, some of who may have been marines or who may know a marine or may have at one time talked to a marine! So why the difference in response, why is the one met with apoplectic hysteria and another with calm resignation, even amusement or a perverse pride ("only in Fredericktown!")?

I really hadn't planned or desired to devote even one more pixel on this blog to my newspaper's encounter with mob rule in Fredericktown, Missouri. But when God (*greater ontological dignity) hands you a joke so rich, it's downright heretical not to publish the punch line.







11 comments:

  1. You still don't get it, do you? You ridiculed a young man. The article on evolution is an editorial, opinion piece. Anyone who reads it, sees it as an opinion piece. Although I do not agree with the author's opinion, I do not see a single hint of the author attempting to ridicule anyone who accepts evolution as fact.
    You, however, chose to make fun of a young man, and the pride of his family, and the respect a community has in military service. You did not offer it as an editorial. You did it as direct ridicule. You did it as a mirror image to his accomplishments. Then, when offended individuals pointed out the bad taste and poor manners, rather than realizing an error and apologizing, you called everyone who disagreed with you, a bunch of idiots, too stupid to know they should bow to your superior intellect.
    So... You still don't get it. And your paper is in the shitcan. Too bad. You had a chance to offer the citizens of southeast Missouri something different. You cry and whine about the writers who deserted you, the advertisers who pulled support, and tried to invent some “big business boogeyman” to blame for the outrage. Look around. Maybe, if you think real hard about it, you might find some fault in your own actions. Maybe you fucked up. Maybe the downfall had a bit to do with your arrogance. Perhaps, someday, if you ever learn the meaning of humility, and ever gain a respect for the opinions of others, you might grow to become a complete human being. One that might exist in a community of differing opinions, with the ability to express, communicate, and exchange ideas through conversations imbued with mutual respect. But I doubt it. My guess is... You are not intelligent enough to understand that you are not the most intelligent person on the planet. Until you understand that, humility is unobtainable.

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  2. Thanks for stopping by, Alan P. Well, what do you make of the fact that the young marine himself "liked" the paper's Facebook page? Cause I'm thinking he didn't feel ridiculed in the slightest. And I'm thinking he didn't feel ridiculed in the slightest because he wasn't ridiculed.

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  3. Yes, you are so right. The Zoning and Planning Commission is to blame. You've been above reproach throughout. Everyone is tickled shitless with your alternate reality. No one... Not the young marine, nor his family, nor his friends, nor the community at large objected. Nothing you have done, written, or said, could possibly be considered by anyone to be derogatory or insulting to a young man or the pride expressed by his family. All the problems befalling you and The Crier are due to a Zoning Commission vendetta. Righty-oh, then.

    Perhaps the young marine "liked" the facebook page is because he's a bigger man than you. Something he's learned already in his military training. (Just speculating.)

    Again... None of this is due to your words or actions. None of this is your fault. It's all a government conspiracy. Right.

    My previous comments, about humility and arrogance, stand.

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  4. Thanks for your faux concern AlanP, but there are no problems befalling me. There was a paper, now there's not a paper, it's not really a problem. At least not for me. I'm already doing some other fascinating things, the friends I made through the paper are still dear friends (the ones with principles, anyway), in fact we're closer than ever given what we faced together. And everyone has a better understanding of Fredericktown, Missouri, for better or for worse. So, no problems, and no regrets.

    Your speculations about Caleb, about me, your insistence upon your arrogance lens and only that lens, there's nothing I can do about any of that.

    Even if my wish for peace is seen in the worst possible light, as you and so many others insist upon seeing it, there is nothing that I did in The Madison County Crier that could ever possibly justify what Mike Miner has termed Fredericktown's "seizure." It was a grotesquerie that should give all thinking people in your town serious pause. With a single exception, no one asked me what my intentions were, there was no curiosity whatsoever, just reflexive hatred of the outsider, and it was sickening to watch you all behave like a bunch of ignorant goons, and even more sickening that no one tried to intervene with reason or dignity on your behalf. Even now I'd wager that you won't ask me what I had in mind, that you'll be content with your speculative and limited and false understanding.

    But even if all you say is exactly as it is, a couple of pithily worded letters to the editor would've made the point. The rest of it, pure thuggery. And that AlanP is not my problem, that's yours, a very embarrassing and concerning one, I would think.

    Here's a great line from former Wash U philosophy professor William Gass's essay "Freedom of Expression in Times Like These" that offers a lot of wisdom. It's from one of his newer books of literary criticism titled Life Sentences:

    "When one is confident of the truth, slurs are simply shaken off, remonstrance is calmly observed and duly noted, while one awaits the counterargument that cannot come--because the truth, before the contest began, was already a winner."

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  5. First off, Fredericktown is not "my town". At least, not yet. I intend to retire there, but did not grow up there, nor have I ever lived there. I have spent a lot of time enjoying the beauty of Madison County, but only on temporary terms.

    Second, you still continue to show a lack of respect for the values of your new neighbors. You describe the inhabitants you wished to serve, with your paper, using the phrases "no curiosity" "reflexive hatred" "ignorant goons" etc. You accuse me and, by extension, the people of Madison County, of being "content with...speculative and limited and false understanding." Yet, you have shown no, and continue to show no, understanding, empathy, or effort to understand why people were outraged. You even resort to a feeble attempt to blame some shadowy government conspiracy.

    You are right on one count. I will not ask what you had in mind. Not that I do so because I am content with speculative and limited understanding, but because it is not my responsibility to ask an editor to explain what he/she means. It is the duty of the editor/writer to express themselves in a clear enough manner to be understood by the reader. If there is a misunderstanding, the fault is with the writer. Not the reader. Had you accepted that simple concept, you could have easily done what many people asked, apologize for the misunderstanding, and explained. You chose not to. You dug in your heels, got pissed, and threatened your financial supporters. So, you started a paper and ran it into the ditch in six months. That, as you say, is not my problem, that's yours, a very embarrassing and concerning one, I would think.

    The disconcerting aspect of this episode is... What could have been a benefit to a community I have grown to love (even as an outsider), was ruined because of your lack of respect for the values of the people, and a lack of humility. You started a good thing, then wrecked it.

    And, finally, if you wish to trade quotes, this one is from Mark Twain:

    "How often we recall with regret that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we remember with charity that his intentions were good."

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  6. This is where we'll have to agree to disagree, AlanP. The paper was indeed wrecked, but not by me. Yes I challenged them, but with few exceptions they couldn't face the challenge, they couldn't meet it so they obliterated not just the challenge but the vehicle that could present them with challenge. People walk around there with their lips zipped, fearful and afraid to utter any difference. It's not living by any definition I hold dear. You will find this out soon enough when your honeymoon is over.

    I better understand your fears about seeing things in any other way other than the lowest common denominator conventional way, since you've made a decision to embrace this backwater uncritically. If you're hoping for Mayberry, you're in for quite a shock.

    Though I imagine you'll fit in very well in Fredericktown, Missouri. You appear to have all the requisite traits, most notably the ability to twist and distort words beyond any resemblance to their meaning. Mark Twain would not be pleased. Editors were anathema to him because they diminished his own challenges to his readers, understand?

    BTW, the luncheon served at the nutrition center on Spruce Street is the best one in town. And you can catch a game of dominoes there too with the other retirees. Of course you'll have to check your brain at the door, but I don't imagine you'll miss it much given your comments here. Good luck to you.

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  7. Once again, you're pleased to demean the locals and their intellects. Funny how some local farmer, who holds conservative values, is seen by you as stupid and brainless simply because he disagrees with what you believe, yet he holds a note on a million dollar 1,000 acre farm, buys a $250,000 combine that he drives three weeks a year, and runs a multi-million dollar business, while you run a free paper into the ditch. But he's stupid, and you're smart.

    While I appreciate your recommendation for luncheon sites, I rarely eat lunch. Don't eat breakfast either. And, dominoes is not what I intend for retirement. Actually, my intention is to write a book on the St. Francis Mountains, and to work very hard, with a group called the Missouri Wilderness Coalition, to gain further protection for an area in Madison County known as Lower Rock Creek. May even teach a biology class or two at the little Mineral Area College.

    If you didn't like my Twain quote, how about another? This one's from Judy Tenuda:

    "You remind me of my brother Bosco - only he had a human head."

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  8. Look, I think I understand why you're so pissed with me and even why you're reduced to uttering such blatantly stupid epithets. Perhaps you were hoping to have something interesting to read about the local scene, but now you don't. Perhaps you were even hoping to be featured in my newspaper, your projected good works, etc. and now that can't happen, either. Perhaps you need for it to be my fault, my lack, my error, because of your illusions about the next chapter in your life, giving back, blah, blah, blah. And instead of learning the lessons so obviously there to be learned, you're determined that you (humble, non-arrogant you) can do it better, be wiser, more...whatever. By all means keep us apprised of your future successes in Fredericktown, Missouri. I'm sure they'll welcome you with open minds and hearts and arms, because you will be sensitive to their values, etc. Talk about arrogance (and foolishness).

    Again, and I'm sorry but I've been more than generous with my time here, so we do need to bring this to a close...But I would urge you to at least consider the absurdity (and futility) of your own claims? Who are you seeking protection of the creek FROM?

    But if busyness is your thing, and it sounds like it is, idle hand's devil's workshop and all that jazz, go be busy in Fredericktown. Spin those wheels to your heart's delight and tell yourself what you're doing is really important. Say it enough times, maybe you'll convince yourself.

    Unfortunately what you will find, AlanP, when you get to MAC, is that a majority of students there are enrolled for the purpose of securing financial aid, and not the obverse. In other words, not aid to achieve education, but education as a short-term means to economic survival. It's a shocking reality, but that is the world that your generation has fostered for these young people with your greed and fealty to the status quo that has served you so very well. Retirement in any meaningful sense will not be available to those young people you want to foist your worldview on, to make your own golden years meaningful. How do you sleep at night? Can you even begin to claim your own self-serving hypocrisy? Because it's exactly the same mechanism that makes it acceptable to pick up other young people and throw them into the killing machine so the economy can keep driving and supporting your retirement at the expense of theirs. But don't think about that, think about my "arrogance."

    It's all waiting for you, AlanP, and it's grisly, and it's all yours. You are welcome to it, all of it. I'll just leave you with a final word to the wise: If you encounter any pesky dinosaur fossils in those mountains, AlanP, probably best not to mention it in your book.

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  9. Since you know nothing of me, or my career, I will only chuckle when you ridicule me. But, since ridicule is what you're good at...

    I will say, over my almost 30 year career, I have, in a small way, left the world a bit better than I found it. And I intend to continue similar works after retirement. But you, in your blissful ignorance wouldn't know, or have any interest in knowing.

    Yes, it might have been nice to have another local newspaper as a voice to advance the preservation and conservation of Madison County's natural wonders, but there are others.

    By the way, there are some nice fossil beds near Park Hills. Trilobites, which predate dinosaurs actually.

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  10. Being content with "making the world a little better" given everything your generation has taken from the young people with both hands and feet while their inheritance is still stuck between your sharp teeth is insufficient to the day. You're an oaf, an anonymous oaf, but still an oaf.

    I'm glad to hear that there are other newspapers around. Go bother their editors with your trivia.

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