When people conceal their identities while spewing malice, while being bullies, they aren’t worthy of respect.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hooded goon namelessly raising a fist, an avatar troll berating people online, or anonymously funded special-interest groups such as COLAB browbeating local government folks. If a person or group won’t identify themselves, their words are worthless.
They are cowards. We should pay them no mind.
In San Luis Obispo County, we don’t see people wearing hoods. There are no violent mobs, just an increasingly mean-spirited verbal toxicity metastasizing into our public squares — a brutish, “Lord of the Flies” style cancer on our democracy taking on the patina of “normal” public commentary.
It may be normal on Fox News, but it isn’t normal here. And we shouldn’t put up with it.
Today, our political bullying comes from unnamed online louts and, in particular, an anonymously funded advocacy group calling itself COLAB, the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business. Judging from performances at meetings of the county Board of Supervisors and other public bodies, COLAB and its aggressive acolytes act more like government attack dogs than the watchdogs they claim to be.
Declaring to be about keeping our government honest, COLAB actually seems more about using extreme demagoguery to push land development. It appears to be about establishing who’s actually in charge around here, elections be damned.
Via its online and broadcast outlets and two spokesmen, COLAB suggests political conspiracy under every rock, corruption around every corner, rottenness from stem to stern of every government agency.
Public employees are the enemy. Elected officials deemed insufficiently conservative are to be flogged at every opportunity.
“ALERT — COUNTY TO CORRECT BROWN ACT VIOLATION TUESDAY MORNING JANUARY 13, 2015, SPECIAL PUBLIC COMMENT SESSION,” COLAB’s website shouts. It’s a blatantly exaggerated premise of wrongdoing accompanied by a naked incitement to rail against supervisors.
Because it appears COLAB believes the new conservative majority on the Board of Supervisors should trash the tradition of rotating leadership posts among experienced members and install the new victors at the helm. COLAB made the same demand that raw partisan politics trump sensible public policy at a recent Air Pollution Control District meeting.
The COLAB Web alerts might as well say, “Come on down to another public meeting and join the ongoing circus. Step right up and fling your poo.” And some gullible souls reliably do it.
Their punch list? Birtherism, check. Agenda 21 conspiracy, check. Socialism, check. Government overreach, check. Local liberal menace, check. Personal insults to staffers and elected public officials, check.
I’m not sure whether COLAB actually believes this junk — because there is no public visibility into its policy-making process — but it certainly uses it to foment paranoia among the true believers, who dutifully trot out like hyenas to rotten meat and publicly spit up their bilious hairballs.
That is their right. As it is the right of everyone else to say, “Enough!” This carjacking of our public square accomplishes little, other than to confirm the belief among many that the people’s business is not for them.
The resulting debasement of our local civic affairs continues apace toward nihilism. COLAB’s job seems to be to burn local government to the ground so its anonymous financial backers can rule what’s left of it.
No matter that nearly everyone unfortunate enough to witness this ugly public mosh pit is repulsed to the point of giving up on the civic process itself, which appears to be exactly what COLAB wants. In more than 30 years of covering this county’s politics as a newspaper reporter, columnist and a political consultant, I’ve never encountered a more opaque outfit than COLAB, based in Santa Maria. Who COLAB actually represents in San Luis Obispo County is a mystery. Its member rolls and funding base are hidden from public scrutiny.
The excuse we’re offered is that COLAB’s funders need to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from the very people COLAB is paid to harangue. Reading between the lines, one can surmise COLAB’s funders fear they won’t get their development projects approved.
Because — at its core — COLAB quite apparently is a front for developers. Whether its funders wear hard hats, cowboy hats or farmer’s overalls, underneath they’re developers, potential developers or they sell goods and services to developers. The ideological claptrap they offer is just gilding — this is all about money.
Legitimate advocacy groups here and at the state level are far more transparent.
We can pretty well see how their public policy positions are developed. This applies to the Sierra Club, the local chambers of commerce, the county Farm Bureau, the Cattlemen’s Association, the League of Women Voters and local political parties.
How legitimate can COLAB be if we don’t know who its members are or who pays for its activities?
Why should COLAB be held to a lesser standard than every other advocacy group?
COLAB’s funders hide under a hood of secrecy. Until they step out of the shadow, COLAB’s words are worthless.
They are cowards. We should pay them no mind.