Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Discussions to Avoid

In the wake of unpleasant revelations about DeSalvatore's bigotry, I find myself wondering how the DeSalvatore supporters (and Ted himself) will respond. How will they defend the indefensible?

Luckily, there's a long history of blind supporters defending any and all stupid things their candidate does, and they do it in a few very predictable ways. Let's examine them, so we know whether to bother even talking to these people.

Defense #1: "It's not true!"
This is a very effective defense if indeed the thing in question isn't true, but a really horrible one if it is.

This is usually the first defense used by candidates who are accused of something bad. If the accusation is true it's highly risky (not to mention totally dishonest) to say it's not. There's often corroborating evidence that comes out after a denial. It sounds like there are plenty of people who can corroborate the charges against Ted, and a denial tends to bring those people out.

Of course, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, some candidates will always hold to the lie. And some hardcore supporters will support their guy no matter what, even going so far as to internalize the lie. Like the people who still believe there are WMDs in Iraq (they're just well-hidden!), these people are not worth talking to.

Defense #2: Refuse to comment.
When used by a candidate it's like Defense #1. Except it's for people who are certain they'll be caught if they lie. The only reason to use this defense is if you don't dare tell the truth, since everyone's going to assume the worst anyway. So you just hope it'll go away. If the press is anemic enough, maybe you can even get away with it.

Supporters only use this in a disingenuous manner, generally pontificating at length about how they refuse to talk about the thing they're actually talking about. This is the "I won't dignify that with a response" passive-aggressive technique. It doesn't work, because everyone realizes it just means they have no defense.

Defense #3: "Even if true, it's no big deal."
Do I even need to discuss this? People who say this simply prove that they're just as big an asshole as the candidate they support. Just write them off as lost causes.

Defense #4: Attacking the messenger.
This is a very common one. It's an obvious favorite of DeSalvatore's supporters, who've already been attacking Rachel for pretty much anything they could think of.

In addition to being a sleazy thing to do, it's intellectually bankrupt. There's absolutely no relationship between the truth of a statement and the person telling it.

Sure, if someone's a well-known liar you may have reason to dig deeper before believing them, and you should always try to get corroboration for things like this anyway. But attacking the messenger is really just a thinly-veiled attempt to get people to ignore the message.

I'm sure some people will say that Rachel made this up because she doesn't like Ted. There's no reason to believe that, though. Making shit up and presenting it as fact opens you to libel charges, which nobody wants to subject themselves to. Telling the truth is a perfect defense against such charges.

Anyway, could it be that perhaps the person who used to be the director of Ted's "Back Streets Association" doesn't like him anymore because he called her a "crazy kike"? Yeah, that'd turn me against someone real quick too!

So anyway, that's another pointless defense. Truth exists independently of those who tell it, and attacking the messenger is just a smokescreen.

Defense #5: Talking about "negativity".
This is actually the one I want to get into the most, since it comes up so often in campaigns. Usually it's brought up by people who support a candidate that does a lot of negative things. It's also something I'm quite certain will come up in response to the revelations about DeSalvatore.

First, let's just write off the people who accuse the actual mayoral candidates here of negative campaigning. They're talking out their asses.

None of the mayoral candidates have really engaged in negative campaigning, at least on a personal level. Sure, DeSalvatore "focus[es] on what's bad" about the town, but he's managed not to launch personal attacks on the other candidates (at least in public). The other three candidates have been more positive about the town, and have also basically kept their mouths shut about their opponents. Overall, it's been a pretty civil campaign. If there's negative campaigning, I haven't seen it.

The charges of negativity are more appropriately leveled against people like me who write about what's going on in town. In my case it's accurate. I'm pretty damn negative at times, and it's not always tongue-in-cheek. The No To DeSalvo guy can be accused of the same (hell, it's an inherently negative name). And Rachel's statement is about something negative, though her actual blog stays positive.

But so what? Why shouldn't people writing about local events be negative at times? We're writing about negative things! If someone running for Mayor is spouting racial epithets then it's not being negative to talk about it, it's being honest!

What would these people who are so keen on positivity have us do? Ignore what's going on because it's inconvenient to their preconceptions? No thank you! I think I'll just stick to telling the truth.

Funny bit about this: The people who harp on "negativity" are asserting that negativity is a bad (aka negative) thing. They then attribute this negative thing to somebody else. So they're being what they're accusing others of being by the very act of making the accusation! Ouch!

Let's not delude ourselves, though. They don't really give a shit about negativity. They only care if it's directed at the guy they support. Given the same information about an opponent, they'd be the first people to pounce on it. But when they learn something negative about their guy, they'll start with the moralizing bullshit.

These people are idiots who can be safely ignored.

So that's just a few of them. There are certainly other defenses that get used, and they're almost universally dishonest. The only acceptable response from DeSalvatore in this situation would be a truthful one, which I don't really expect to get. (Just as I no longer expect to get an answer to the question of where he teaches.)

As for his stalwart supporters, maybe they'll realize at some point that there's a reason we call some things "indefensible." In the meantime, I suggest just ignoring them. These arguments have no merit.


fitchburg-shuffle said...

Did you get that list out of some book on relationships? It sounds like every old girlfriend story. If you came up with that list on your own you should copyright it, just like your cartoon!

I'm a big fan of avoiding the question altogether. That's my favorite way to end fights with girls!

When are you going to write your book?

The Unicow said...


It's my own list, I don't read shitty relationship books. And like everything on here, it's copylefted. In other words, feel free to steal it.

Perhaps I should write a book! Maybe some sort of love story between a dinosaur and a robot. People would love that, and as you can tell I'm all about pleasing the readers!

the bartender said...

Hey Moo:

I'm not saying he said it, I'm not saying he didn't. I wasn't there.

Were you?

Probably not... a cow is hard to hide, what with that darn bell clanging and the sheer mass of you. I bet Ted would have noticed and probably not said all those bad words.

If he did.

The Unicow said...


Thanks, I forgot that one! Though it's probably a subcategory of #2: "No comment because I wasn't there."

Which is often used in such a way as to suggest that anyone not there should follow suit and not comment. Which is stupid.

No, of course I wasn't there.

Similarly I wasn't at the Watergate burglary or in the bathroom when Larry Craig tried to fuck a cop, but I still believe those things happened.

Generally the way people come to believe or reject a new claim in the absence of hard evidence is to see how it fits with what we already know. If it fits, we tend to believe it. If not, we tend to reject it. It's not a flawless system by any means, but it works pretty well most of the time.

Since this fits with what I've heard from multiple other sources who didn't go public, I'm inclined to believe it.

Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps I'm right. Most likely we'll never really be certain. But I know which way I'm betting.

the bartender said...

Other people have heard him use racial slurs? Is that what you're saying? Because I haven't heard that and I hear just about everything. Eventually. So please, do tell. I actually greatly dislike racial slurs, so I am genuinely interested.

I was trying to gently remind you that you don't know what happened, you only think you know. It was a friendly nudge to maybe not be so sure so quickly.

And I wasn't suggesting you shouldn't comment. Just maybe not comment like someone who was hiding in the bushes and is sure of everything that was said.

Half of what you see and none of what you hear, moo cow.

The Unicow said...


I'm just saying that this is not the first time I've heard someone make this sort of claim about DeSalvatore. Not always racial slurs, some have been about sexual orientation, etc. But the principle is the same.

I can't speak for the veracity of those claims any more than I can the veracity of Rachel's statement, but once you hear something like that a few times it does suggest a pattern. Most people I've talked to about this matter have basically said "Yeah, that sounds like Ted."

Ted's not alone of course, I've heard of at least two other candidates for public office making disparaging remarks about minorities (generally Hispanics), though they supposedly did it in a much more subtle manner.

As for being too sure, chalk it up more to writing style than anything. If this was a newspaper column, I'd use the word "allegedly" a bunch. But it's not.

ReallyRachel said...

I'm going to comment on your comment.

Fair enough. Certainly Ted never called me a "crazy kike" to my face, nor did he use the n* word or the g* word in his conversations with me, because, after all, the reason he wanted me in the first place was as "the token Jew" - which he did call me jokingly several times until I suggested it was inappropriate. He also stacked the board of directors with persons of other than Caucasian origin and was careful to present the "impression of diversity" (his words).

He had no idea his conversation was being overheard. However, he also had no expectation of privacy standing on the public sidewalk or my front sidewalk and stoop. I logged the conversation in my notes, and Councilor Tran and others were made aware of the comments at some point.

Next, look at a person's reasons for making a statement. The last thing I want in my life is to draw yet more negative attention from the Ted crowd. I have plenty of attention thank you and have had plenty in my lifetime. I have no ambitions beyond enjoying each precious day. I love my city and my country, my family, and my religion, and I love my fellow human beings. When someone acts or speaks hatefully toward the homeless, the disabled, the disenfranchised, or any particular racial, ethnic or religious group, it raises both my hackles and my sense of responsibility.

And if that sounds Jimmy Stewart corny ... well there are a few of us left. I'm certainly an IMperfect human being, but a sincere and honest one.

When someone stalks me to attempt to intimidate me, it has the opposite of its intended effect. And yes the stalking was witnessed on several occasions.

And when someone (or someone's blind followers) send third party emails that they know will be forwarded to me, or post anonymously to blogs believing those comments will be forwarded to me with threats such as "you must might be speaking to an angel" (see SF archives posted by BlackKnight), "you aren't looking so healthy lately" (from to another party and forwarded to me) .... well that's enough to cause me to come forward with what I know, what I have heard with my own ears, and what I have seen with my own eyes.

Finally, the old saying is "consider the source." My life - the ups and downs of it - is an open book. There are no skeletons in my closet, you would pray for a CORI like mine, and I have a history of probono public service to Fitchburg. I'm not running for office, and I'm not a "campaign team member" for any candidate in any race. I have nothing to gain by having made my statement, and indeed because MY identity is known, it's a pain in the ass.

The original Abe Lincoln said that if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything. It's what I was taught as a child and it's how I have always lived my life. I don't intend at this ripe stage to try to put the fruit back on the vine.

So, lengthy diatribe aside, the choice are

1)believe the person with credibility, transparency, and positive motivation;

or 2) believe the person with unknown background who has singlehandedly done more to destroy community relationships and give our city a bad name in the past three years than anyone in Fitchburg's history.

I know who I am. I know what I heard. And I know in my heart the citizens of Fitchburg will not put this homophobic racist bigot into the mayor's office.