1-25-2007 Links

If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case; you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.-- Winston Churchill

What the heck is going on? I got out of bed today, surfed the Web a wee bit, read the local news sites and then took a quick stroll through the local blogosphere. I found one site linking to mine and then found this here site also linking to mine. That ain’t right.

Traditionally, links to this electronic oasis of mine have been few and far between. When I first started writing on the internet, the plain fact of the matter was, there simply were not any other local sites in existence. So, obviously, nobody linked to it. In addition, when I first appeared on the internet, I had the then unheard of unmitigated audacity to openly challenge the then popular mayor. And as a result, I was savagely attacked by way of the e-mail inbox. Even if somebody out there had a Web site, there was no way they were going to link to that “fat, bald and unemployed” bastard at Wilkes-Barre Online.

One of the very first local sites I linked to was the Wilkes-Barre Crime Watch Coalition. I thought local residents should take a look at what the crime watchers had to offer as the city was fast losing cops by attrition and the occurrence of violent crimes seemed to be fast increasing. And since the mayor was popular with the crime watchers, I was informed that they wanted my link to their site removed. I did as they requested and deleted the link, but it amazed me that they supported the very man who was systematically deleting the police department. The thing is, if we had enough cops, we probably wouldn’t need any crime watchers.

At one point, circa early 2001, I created a Wilkes-Barre Web Ring. At it’s height, I think we had approximately 12 local sites that joined up. There was one about exotic motorcycles. One about local slang. There was one about coal mining lore. And that’s about all I can remember. What I had hoped for when I first created it was that plenty of locals would join the internet scrum by posting pictures, commentary and what have you. And while a few did, there was infrequent posting at best. And there were no politically oriented sites at all.

Even if political sites did pop up, I imagine the authors of said sites would have been reluctant to link to this site. City employees didn’t want to be scene with me. Well, all but one. Residents were warning me to remove my name from my site for fear of retaliation from elected officials. Some were aghast with fright when I posted pictures of my kids, as if the “political machine” would put out a contract on their lives. I was told by someone wearing a gun for a living that my background was extensively checked by order of a certain elected official. Goons barked threats at me on occasion. I got myself and my bicycle chased by motor vehicles a couple of times. I was the first ever resident of Wilkes-Barre to have his downstairs snooped over by the fire chief during a smoke detector installation. I was threatened with lawsuits for posting what is known as “public record” documents. My site was even deleted due to a complaint from a local resident who seemed to have very strong opinions, but no tolerance for strong opinions other than her own. Long story short, while the hit counter kept piling up hits, I wasn’t winning any popularity contests.

My buddy Snake once mocked the entire local internet shebang I alone had created. He couldn’t understand why I drew so much attention when, as he put it, “All you do is write a bunch of sh*t on the internet.” I told him that if it looked so damned easy, he ought to give it a try. He did. And with his very first posting that mistakenly attacked our police department, he caught more return fire than he had sent out. Turned out, he didn’t have his facts straight and that‘ll get the hornets stirred up in a big, big hurry ever time it‘s tried. It was funny, though. Note to beginners: If you are going to offer local commentary, it would behoove you to have your facts straight. If not, you get sued, you get chased, cursed at, have your chest bumped by other chests and have vulgarities hurled your way while out and about. Of course, the same things are likely to happen to you when you do have your facts straight.

And then it finally happened. Some unknown person created another local site of a political nature. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, this fledgling site’s first post promised to refute everything that my site had to offer. Awesome!

Wilkes-Barre Online, an "unaffiliated" website offering an ultra conservative viewpoint on the world and Wilkes-Barre. Provided on the site will be refutations towards WBO's arguements, essays, as well as links to noteworthy newspaper articles.

Note: Updates will be slow, if any, until finals are over.

Awesome! And “WBO?“ I like it. It did not bother me in the least that some anonymous upstart suddenly emerged and promised to take me to task. Hell, I was used to practically everyone being thoroughly pissed at me. Join the chase. Bump my chest. Hurl an insult. This was old hat by now. Sadly, what I reprinted above was the first and last post to ever appear on that long-defunct site. Rats!

My name and this site's address have appeared in the Times Leader countless times. The absolute apex for me was when people would call SAYSO and bitch about this site. Cool! The Crown did a story about this site, as did the Times Leader. WVIA radio requested an interview, which I declined. One of the talk show hosts at WILK also requested that I make an appearance, but that never happened. This site comes up on WILK every now and again, as does my name. I was even invited to do an audition tape after Fred Williams was...let go? Crazy, but true. What needs to be reiterated is that I never knowingly sought, nor wanted any fame. What I sought was a city I could be proud of once again.

There did come a point when I started to speculate about the sanity of Wilkes-Barre’s residents as a whole. I presented document after document and picture after picture that proved without a doubt that Wilkes-Barre was not in capable hands and headed for a devastating financial disaster. Yet, the e-mail inbox was still stuffed full of unflattering attacks on a daily basis. Fat, bald, unemployed, bitter, clueless…it was unrelenting and as fun as could be. I couldn’t understand the backlash. The city was seriously awash in reverse-gentrification. Our governor correctly called our mayor “inept.“ Our police department had shrunk to previously unimagined numbers. Our fire department was using aging apparatus that would be rejected by the Mogadishu Fire Department. Gunplay was becoming the ‘norm. The downtown was getting worse, not better. We were promised progress, but it obviously wasn’t going to happen. The city’s financial wheels had all but fallen off, and Tax Anticipation Notes kept the city listing badly, but still barely afloat. The residents were dispirited. And with all of that having been documented here, I was the bad guy? Figure that one out. I know I couldn’t.

And then came that fateful day when Tom Leighton planned to announce his intention to seek the mayoralty of this city at the downtown Ramada. I had once implored this guy to run for mayor for the sake of the city. I listened to his excuses as to why he could not. He had a family. He had a business. He was involved in this, that and everything else. I fully understood all of that, but didn’t want to hear it. As I kept asking over and over again that sunny day, “So? Are you going to run?” Truth be told, it didn’t really seem as if he was interested. And he probably came away from that chance encounter wondering who the heck that raving lunatic was. No biggie. I get that a lot.

So, the big announcement was about to get underway in some grand ballroom down at the Ramada. This would be my first ever jaunt into the local political world dominated by the recognizable movers and shakers. I personally knew less than10 people in that large room, and figured I’d be bored for lack of someone to talk to. My sole reason for being there was to take a few pictures of what I had hoped would be the beginning of Wilkes-Barre’s long-allusive resurgence. There were expensive-looking suits and gowns as far as the eye could see. There were lawyers, politicos, commissioners, city employees, the media and plenty of people that looked very well-heeled. And there I was wearing jeans, sneaks and a ball cap. Looking back on that day, I’m surprised that I wasn’t wearing a pair of shorts. I’m not sure what happened there. Anyway, I felt like a white boy in Harlem. Then again, if they were offering free eats and free beer in Harlem, I’m pretty sure I’d give it a go.

There I was in all of my fatness, baldness, bitterness, cluelessness and still supposedly unemployed all for the purposes of grabbing a few pictures of the mayoral hopeful at the podium. I was figuring on a few free beers, a few pictures and then an abrupt exit stage left. Besides, we wouldn’t want some sort of ugly incident going down in this setting. No need for no chest bumps in this environment. I’ll throw a few back, get the pictures and get the heck out before anyone recognizes me and goes mental.

And then it started.

The introductions started. Important-looking people were paraded up to me, introduced to me and they praised my efforts on the internet. As if they had all received the same taking points, they said, “Keep it up.” I met prominent business owners, past and present county commissioners, a former mayor, former council people, Chamber folk, behind the scenes type power brokers and people who just wanted to see Wilkes-Barre’s sagging fortunes changed for the better and soon. I even met the guy who owns the Ramada. I met young and old, but what we all had in common that day was faith in a potential leader and for the first time in a very long time, we had hope. I was caught totally off-guard by what had transpired, but I left the Ramada that day feeling totally vindicated, if not, reinvigorated.

While some may have cursed me, birded me, kicked me, chased me and bumped me, the people that could actually play a meaningful part in changing Wilkes-Barre for the better wholeheartedly agreed with me. And if that wasn’t redeeming enough, they were cheering me on.

A couple of years later, I was introduced to someone as “The man who blogged his mayor out of office.” And immediately after that introduction, the guy doing the introducing had to try to explain what blogging was. Where once it was possible, even easy to blindside a local politician by way of the internet, that is no longer the case. Blogging is not the new phenomenon that it once was. Rather, it has become an ersatz, alternative news source of sorts, albeit, a very reckless and mostly anonymous news source. Publishing the criminal record of a political hopeful is one thing, but calling a politician, or a political hopeful a criminal without any shred of proof is a fool’s errand that can only end very, very badly for those who find it so easy to offer slander in lieu of documentation.

And therein lies the one rule that all bloggers must abide by: If it’s true, it’s not slanderous or libelous. But, if it’s not provable, it ought not be typed. It’s all fun and games until you are served with the lawsuit, or run over.

These days, blogs are like SUVs…seemingly everybody’s got one. Locally, we’ve got plenty of people opining away on the internet. So, what I openly encouraged so long ago, what I had hoped for, has finally come to fruition. People are making their voices heard. People are circumventing the editorial page editors with one keystroke. In my opinion, some do it very well and others do not. We’re all entitled to our opinions. And for the first time in the history of mankind, the common, hardscrabble folks have a relatively inexpensive vehicle that delivers our uncensored opinions to those who bother to visit that which we set about creating. We should be thankful and use that unexpected gift wisely.

In keeping with the “nobody likes me” angle, last year we had the emergence of several local blogs that were created to either refute what I had to say about city politics, or simply provide an alternative opinion of the localized goings-on. One of which was created for one purpose and one purpose only--attacking me personally. They are mostly dormant internet places, but I have to point out to the anonymous authors that I have been attacked by the very best of them and suffered nary a scratch. Been there, done that. And nothing any anonymous coward has to say counts for very much. In fact, you are the very worse that the vast internet has to offer. You are effeminate attack dogs hiding behind an electronic mask.

Anyway, with all of that circumlocution having been inflicted upon you, I’m not used to being linked to more than every once in a blue internet moon. Some love me and most hate me, but links to this aged site can probably be counted on one hand during even the best of years. And I’m not sure what to make of that. Why are people suddenly linking to me? Am I slipping somewhat? Am I mellowing with age? Am I less acerbic than I used to be? Am I less cutting edge? Or am I the trailblazer that now thinks all available trails have been blazed?

I dunno.

I am what I am, it is what it is and there it is.