“Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.”
–Dirty Harry Callahan, The Dead Pool, 1988
Sometimes the news on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast sounds like a broken record.
“For a city already working with its trust issues. . .”
“After a former Volusia County Council member proclaimed in a public meeting this summer that trust in county government had never been lower. . .”
“What they’re most divided on: how much trust the public has in county government.”
“Much has been written about Volusia County government and a lack of transparency.”
“They got caught doing something that now seems deceitful.”
Sounds like a bad Barker’s View screed, doesn’t it?
These quotes came right from the pages of The Daytona Beach News-Journal – picked from feature stories, editorials and letters from readers who have grown suspicious of the machinations of our elected and appointed officials and the uber-wealthy special interests who seem to control it all.
Unfortunately, in the oligarchical system that has come to dominate our lives and livelihoods here in Volusia County – constructive criticism is neither welcome nor accepted – and those who attempt to shine a bright light into the dank corners where public funds and private interests intersect are often marginalized, painted as lunatics, or worse, labeled as “trolls” who reside in the lower parts of the internet and exist simply to poke, prod and provoke the “Rich & Powerful” who can still afford political representation.
So, we are forced to ask the question: Whose critical views on the myriad issues of the day are more accurate and worthy of our attention?
Which opinion matters most – an amalgam of viewpoints of an editorial board – or the concerns voiced in the contentious realm of social media, something News-Journal editor Pat Rice calls the “domain of trolls who live not to provoke thought but simply to provoke”?
More often than not, on those rare occasions when our newspaper of record calls foul on the editorial page, they sound like that kindly-yet-critical old aunt, who, at the risk of offending, softly suggests you might want to “run a comb through your hair” – as opposed to the blunt message of the overbearing truth-teller in the family who calls it like she sees it, “It looks like rat’s are nesting on your head, Lois – do you even own a hairbrush? Look in a mirror for Christ sake. . .”
It seems whenever the News-Journal has cause to offer a gentle suggestion to the perennial politicians and governmental insiders who are seen as “friends” and conflicted associates of the newspaper’s senior leadership – the paper comes off like a mewing, declawed kitten with a raging case of Taijin Kyofusho.
The true editorial scolding is saved for ordinary citizens and grassroots efforts with the temerity to challenge the status quo – voice a call for fundamental change to this disparate scheme that has resulted in the social and economic quagmire we find ourselves in – or use the every-man’s civic soapbox of social media to vent frustration, voice an opinion or engage in a no-holds-barred debate of the issues.
Whenever someone from outside the fraternity offers a pointed criticism, calls out missed opportunities for substantive change, or brings attention to the utter incompetence and dysfunction that have come to permeate the halls of power in DeLand and beyond – they are invariably treated as a threat to the “system” – branded an opinionated malcontent without credibility and immediately set upon by those who still stand to benefit.
That’s not shaping public opinion – that’s an exercise in not ruffling the right feathers. . .
It should, because marginalization – the process of making others feel their opinions are insignificant or secondary to those held by insiders – is the exact tactic used by members of the Volusia County Council to ensure lockstep conformity.
In my view, the most important opinion is your own.
I happen to write down my goofy thoughts on the issues we face and circulate them on this blog site as a means of stirring the pot, calling attention to the seemingly intractable problems we face and stimulating a greater discussion in the community.
Because our ‘powers that be’ hate it when We, The People focus on the machinations of the politically unaccountable insiders behind the curtain – or expose the self-serving maneuverings of their bought-and-paid-for politicians who are repeatedly returned to office on increasingly larger piles of campaign cash originating from those who the system now exists to serve.
In my view, when citizens educate themselves on the issues of the day – then formulate individual opinions that come together into a collective vision for the future through the debate of competing ideas – it results in quality public policy, civic revitalization, collaborative problem solving and fosters a true sense of ‘community building.’
So, to hell with what I, or anybody else thinks – or what the News-Journal tells you about the role of social media and non-conventional communication in contemporary politics.
Take the time to educate yourselves and your neighbors, learn the players and the issues, contemplate our collective needs – then form your own opinions – and express your views in whatever forum you feel comfortable with.
If you are a loyal member of the Barker’s View tribe, I naturally consider you an ‘informed voter’ who looks at all sides of an issue then makes a knowledgeable decision.
If not, I encourage you to get involved.
Talk to candidates for public office, hold their feet to the fire on issues that are important to you and your family, voice your point of view on the issues of the day, be bold, be brave and let’s return a respectful and responsive “government of the people” to DeLand and beyond this election cycle.
Let’s restore the public’s trust in our local government by electing those who value it.
It’s important – now, more than ever.