ON THE AVENUES: A multiplicity of toxicity.


ON THE AVENUES: A multiplicity of toxicity.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

It’s been almost exactly one year since the infamous Clere Channel Facebook Massacre, and it appears the statute of insinuations has at long last expired, because on August 21, in a comment posted at One Southern Indiana Newspaper’s web site, a public explanation for the X-ACTO brand stiletto attack finally was offered by State Representative Ed Clere’s wife, Amy Clere.

But first, here’s a brief reprise from my News & Tribune column last year:

In the aftermath of the New Albany city council’s wondrous resolution condemning tolls on existing bridges, I decided to canvass local politicians to learn their views on tolling, and to publish these at the NA Confidential blog. Of prime importance are those candidates on the November ballot, whose position on tolls obviously is important for informed voter choice.

Consequently, I was delighted to see that Chuck Freiberger and Ron Grooms (candidates for State Senate, District 46) and Shane Gibson and Ed Clere (candidates for State Representative, District 72) all have campaign pages on Facebook.

Social media sites represent immediacy and two-way communications, something especially valued when it comes to politicians. Once you are a “friend,” or in certain cases “like” a Facebook page, you may post comments and interact. I followed social media protocol, and posted my question at three of the four candidate pages, omitting Gibson, who’d already taken an anti-toll position in his Tribune guest column.

“Can you explain your position on tolls for the Ohio River Bridges Project? Thanks.”

Only now, twelve months later, can I offer eager readers the reasoning for the deletion of my question and the expunging of my “like.”

Here is some information for the record.

Ed has never written any comment on the News and Tribune website and certainly not on his own column. As someone who sees how very busy Ed is, I can attest that he has little time to even look at his column online, much less post comments. In addition, Ed is a former newsman who would only write on this or any other newspaper site using his own name.

If you look back at Ed’s columns online, you will see that comments come from a wide array of individuals. As far as we can tell, most of these are people with whom neither Ed nor I are acquainted. Ed appreciates all constructive comments on this site whether or not they are complimentary. The same is true of Ed’s Facebook page.I am the administrator of the State Representative Ed Clere Facebook page. I set up the page so that people could get information, link to Ed’s columns or write comments. In order to write comments, you must first ‘like’ the page. This language suggests that FB intends that this be a positive medium. Again, Ed welcomes constructive comments.

On only one occasion have I deleted any comment from Ed’s FB page.

It occurred late one weeknight. One individual posted a comment intended to politically undermine Ed and to engage him in an argument that this individual and his cohorts were working hard to create. A couple of other people copied and pasted the same comment and posted it on Ed’s FB page. Over the course of several minutes, additional identical comments lined the “wall” of the page, some written by outside agitators who do not live in Ed’s district or even in Indiana. Before 24 hours was finished, I fully expected to see additional disingenuous comments lining the page.

Like Ed, I have precious little time to mind a FB page and cannot log on at the school where I teach. Therefore, I took immediate action. I deleted the copied and pasted comments and denied some individuals access to the page. I did the deleting, and Ed has never deleted anything on his FB page.Bullying Ed or any other public official is not a productive way to communicate. Ed appreciates constructive conversation and provides easy ways to reach him.

Amy Clere … August 21, 2011, 11:21 PM

Apparently, when you’re the hardest working, most selfless power couple in two centuries of local politics, there’s just no time for any activity requiring the subtlety and discernment necessary to sense the fundamental difference in asking a question and “politically undermin(ing)” someone whose job description as legislator includes tasks like answering questions.

The doo doo’s gotten deeper and deeper during the intervening year, as the layers of Rep. Clere’s expedient centrist deceptions have been peeled away to reveal the ideological right-wing extremist behind the mask, and the reason NAC stays in the crosshairs of the smitten is that we remain among the only coherent voices of opposition in town where business-as-usual is terrified to point openly to the emperor’s terminal nudity — politically speaking, of course.

But, dearest reader, please know that cults of personality are no mystery to me, for they are just as useful to publicans as politicians. Consequently, the fact that Rep. Clere is electronically trailed by a loving band of adulatory groupies, long since identified as fluffers in the finest traditions of the urban dictionary, comes as no surprise, but we must strip away their superfluous praise and the choreographed, regimented hosannas borrowed from the playbook of Kim Il Sung to burrow into the very diseased heart of the matter – clerely, paranoia of a breathtaking and locally unprecedented intensity.

From the first moment last August when NAC and others began publicly questioning Rep. Clere about tolling and the attendant idiocies of the Bridges Project, his reaction has been consistently and aggressively Nixonian – the immediate circling of wagons, the vilification and censorship of honest questioners, the unfounded suspicion that a vast oppositionist conspiracy has been arrayed against him, and the sheer, pervasive, unnecessary “they’re all out to get me” bile of it all.

It is very important to note that I intentionally use “his reaction” to describe the phenomenon, rather than “her” or “their.” That’s because as an elected official, the buck in such matters stops with Ed Clere himself, and as such, onlookers are advised to look past the “good cop, bad cop” black comedy routine, wherein Mrs. Clere defines and redefines what her husband knows and does not know, about what is said or not said.

Rather, it’s time to understand that he damn well knows the score, because if he’s as bright as we’re told, then he’s too bright not to know it, and anything less than perpetual brilliance would be more than a disappointment: It would be utterly divorced from the marketing program for the ascendant cult of personality, as was the case with Richard Nixon, as well.

As deities go, you simply cannot be all-knowing without being all-knowing, or else you’re not all-knowing … and the genie leaps back into the bottle.

Meanwhile, the questions that have been peremptorily shunned, sneeringly dismissed and excised outright remain just as valid as when they were first asked.

Haven’t we every bit as much a right as other voters and taxpayers to ask legitimate questions about the legislative agenda an elected official pursues?

Haven’t we the right to offer evidence in rebuttal, and to explain our position to others in the community?

How does the mere act of asking questions – of articulating our disagreement – qualify us as disrespectful, conniving enemies of the true gospel?

Yes, we find the legislative positions espoused by Rep. Clere repugnant and at odds with our core system of beliefs, and so we articulate and perpetuate lawful opposition to them. At root, that’s what the Clere Channel detests the most: That we refuse to be obedient, when disobedience represents not only our civil and governmental philosophies, but embrace personal, ethical imperative.

What infuriates Rep. Clere, and what has succeeded in exposing the nannying, hectoring bully lurking just beneath the “aw, shucks” public façade, is that we dare to openly occupy roles as oppositionists at a time when subservience is being mandated by the ruling junta as a means of squelching dissent.

Moreover, we insist on being true to our core system of beliefs at the expense of new age patriotism, Indiana-style, defined as saluting via auto-tumescence in the presence of icons like Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, Ron Grooms, Ed Clere, Kerry Stemler, One Southern Indiana and all the other architects of theocratic, reactionary, class-war-encouraging Hoosierstan, circa 2011.

During the run-up to last year’s election, the Clere Channel Network’s genetic paranoia was manifested in identifying any question as an overt threat, invariably linked with the incumbent’s opponent, Shane Gibson, as though it was unimaginable that principled dissent in matters of tolling, teaching and taxpaying might exist apart from partisan electoral prerequisites.

And yet it does, and speaking for myself, muzzles qualify as neither viable alternatives nor fashionable accessories.

I’ll content myself with truth-telling.

One final point, to which I’ll return in greater depth another time: When it comes to purely partisan attitudinal “bullying,” perhaps it takes one to know one, seeing as Rep. Clere is not above practicing this delightful art himself whenever the paranoiac mood seizes him.

Evidence? Let’s just say that I know of which I speak, and so does he, and because such tactics have been directed against me, I suspect that our harried hero comprehends far more of what is uttered in cyberspace than either he, she or their Clere Channel operatives let on.

Then again, maybe it’s just the toxicity in me. You know how we dissidents can be, so is it time for Tiananmen Square NA?