As many of you pointed out, I had a rather unwelcome Christmas present plopped into my mailbox this past week. Of course it was photo-shopped, creating a disturbing little advertisement that is out of context and out of time. It surprised me as much as it seemed to surprise most of you. What is even more surprising is the likely identity of the person who spent thousands of dollars to send it.
First: The ad says I am an “E&B Representative.” I am not an E&B representative. That is not true. I would not be ashamed to say so if I were. The people at E&B have shown themselves to be as kind, thoughtful and sensitive a group of people as any of us. Still, I am just a private resident with an opinion and, perhaps, less impulse control than I would like to have.
Out of Time: The post in question was made on my personal Facebook page, late at night, over 6 months ago. The “phone” pictured in the ad is not real. It is a carefully photo-shopped image intended to imply this comment was made yesterday, whenever yesterday was. It’s not just that the post is old though, it also requires some context.
Context: As most of you are aware, I have been involved in the heated debate about whether we should allow the Hermosa Oil Recovery project to move forward. My vocal support of the project has put me directly in the firing line of what I now realize is a small group of very intolerant and mean-spirited individuals.
They gather on a closed Facebook group called Stop Oil Drilling Hermosa Beach. There are a handful of reasonable and thoughtful posters in the group but they are drowned out by the vocal core of anti-project people that have elevated the choice we have to a life or death struggle. This small group has taken an “anything goes” approach to imposing their viewpoints on the rest of Hermosa.
They regularly use and espouse techniques of intimidation, propaganda and name-calling against anyone that dares to have an opinion contrary to their own. They’ve threatened to boycott local businesses like Uncorked just for planning to host a Chamber mixer (Uncorked had to give up that event because of the threats), they’ve attacked estimable local charities for accepting donations and even discussed getting Smackfest shut down because Bill Sigler had the audacity to allow E&B to be a sponsor. They even attack people that are against the oil project but aren’t sufficiently against it by their standards of vitriol.
I know other locals who have had their homes stalked by this small core of people, their lawns littered by propaganda literature. Some of the people were talking about have stood outside project supporters homes and yelled “Sellout!” over and over. A local charity found that individuals from the vocal anti-oil group had tried to intimidate their funding sources. One anti-oil activist who sits on the City Planning Commission, even went so far as publishing a female project supporter’s home address and pointing out that it was an easy place to find.
I regularly see posts attacking me as “dumb” (Not true!), “fat” or “rotund” (True, but I’m working on that!), “bald” (Does it show?) and worse. I’ve received emails and private messages that were much, much worse.
On the night of my errant post, way back in June, I received an unprovoked string of late night, private messages from one of the groups’ leading lights. The gentleman in question, apparently up and possibly drinking, had taken it upon himself to try to convince me to change my stance on the project. His preferred method of rhetoric included bringing up my beloved but deceased parents by saying, among other things, “You’ve really made your family proud. You’re such a failure at life. I’m sure your parents would be as disappointed in you as I am.”
I made the mistake of engaging in a heated, hour long back and forth with this person via mobile messenger, probably while sitting at Hennessey’s. By the time I finally Facebook blocked him, I was sick of being insulted, threatened and attacked. I was also tired of hearing people that don’t try to attack and intimidate but excuse those that do saying, “they’re just passionate.”
So, stung by insults, my pride bruised, I posted the comment, “I don’t know a single anti-oil person that wouldn’t have been a Nazi or Sympathizer in 1938.”
I read a great deal and at the time was immersed in numerous books on World War II. The people of Germany were not all Nazis. There were, of course, many good people in Germany and, yet, somehow, the Nazis did rise. Having read about the techniques of intimidation and misinformation the Nazis used to silence good Germans, I felt I saw parallels in the types of techniques I was facing in this debate. That was the actual context of my comment.
I in no way intended to diminish the horrific tragedy of the Holocaust but I see now that by rendering a tragic and still haunting part of our human history in so simplistic a manner, I did not do justice to an incredibly complicated time.
It was a hasty, impulsive post. It lacked it’s own context, it was overly broad and, worse, it was a lie.
I know many people against the oil project who do not condone or participate in these acts. They are thoughtful and compassionate people and are as incensed by some of the over-heated rhetoric and behavior as anyone. To them, I sincerely apologize.
I also know the post was sloppy and did a terrible job of making my point.
The morning after the post, Jack Levy and a few others raised concerns that involved the broader history and tragedy of Nazism. I was obviously not unaware of the real impact of Nazism but I had not considered it in my reactionary post. In talking to them, while I was still defensive about censoring myself, I begin to realize the many reasons the post was simplistic, lazy and unfair. Not just in regards the people but also the larger history involved.
I deleted the post that morning but not before one of that small group I mentioned had made a screenshot of it.
This particular person makes it his habit to “friend” project supporters on Facebook, merely to get access to their page and grab any post he can use against them. He trolled my page, got the comment (and others) and has re-posted it numerous times. Like so many others in that group I eventually blocked him.
Still, it was just a hyperbolic Facebook post. I’m far from the first person to post late in haste and cringe in the morning.
The mailer is a different matter. It required a great deal of thought, effort and expense and allowed plenty of time for reconsideration. I can’t imagine how inappropriate a person must be to invest the time and money into developing such an offensive flyer, regardless of my poorly written post, to individually attack a resident. I’m pretty sure I know who it was and, if so, it has very little to do with oil. Still, it will surprise you. It surprised me. But I wish they’d have the courage to stand behind thier mailer publicly instead of hiding behind a PO Box.
All in all, Jack Levy sums up the mailer best when he says it is, “Tragically hilarious, yet deeply offensive to me.”