Poll cats, windbags, dirtbags and desert denouncers
We all live in Grimy Gulch. (No, this is not another column on
Grimy Gulch is the longtime setting of the Tumbleweeds cartoon strip.
The title character, an aw-shucks cowboy, resides in the old west
town. A running gag involves the endless pursuit of 'Weeds by spinster
One day, as our hero stands his usual watch in front of the Grimy
Gulch Saloon, the newsboy for the local paper runs by.
"Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Tumbleweeds to marry Hildegarde
A suddenly galvanized cowboy gallops to confront the madcap editor
of the "Desert Denouncer."
"Why did you print that story about me marrying Hildegarde?"
screams the beleaguered beau.
"Because it's news, boy, big news," proclaims the wildeyed journalist.
"But it's a lie!"
"That ain't news."
I felt like Tumbleweeds last week.
As many of you know, my profession involves dreaming impossible
dreams and fighting unbeatable foes. Given my penchant for managing
political underdogs, I marvel that my lifetime batting average still hovers
Part of the job requires dealing with the likes of the Desert Denouncer.
Last week, the Aaron Russo for Governor campaign pulled a bit of
political chicanery which would make any propagandist proud. I must admit
it was a well-executed sucker punch.
I got a call from a Carson City man supporting the gubernatorial
bid of State Sen. Joe Neal (D-North Las Vegas). He had heard a poll
reported on the local hate radio station's breakfast time newscast.
The Neal suppporter expressed disappointment at hearing that his
candidate appeared to run so far behind recently announced Las Vegas Mayor
This gentleman also marveled at how soundly millionaire movie
producer Aaron Russo was beating fellow megabucks candidate Kenny Guinn and
Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
One of the station's news people told me that the Russo campaign
had faxed a printout of a poll from the Las Vegas Review-Journal's website.
The item aired for two days. Neal supporters were disheartened, Russo's
ecstatic. It's news, boy, big news.
But it's a lie.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has neither conducted nor published
any such poll. Their most recent scientific survey was released in late
February, showing Mr. Guinn leading Sen. Neal by 11 points statewide and by
a single point in Las Vegas, a statistical dead heat.
Nothing like that found its way onto hate radio last week. The
Review-Journal invites website visitors to register their opinions on
topics in the news. Anyone with a computer may "vote" as many times as he
or she wants.
In a previous R-J websurfer query, Mr. Russo likewise blew away Mr.
Guinn and Sen. Neal. After making a very slow start, he turned the trend
around overnight. Amazing. Big news.
After the candidate filing period closed last Monday, Nevada's
largest newspaper started another web edition trial heat. The Russo
campaign pumped those results to the media. The hate radio station
apparently presented them as an accurate representation of Nevada public
opinion. The same outfit recently singled out Sen. Neal for a ban from
appearing on its talk programming. (See the April 26 Barbwire entitled "The
truth, the untruth and nothing near the truth.")
I have a large computer mailing list of Sen. Neal's supporters. I
could have put out a bulletin asking them to pepper the newspaper's website
with Neal votes. I'd rather have people doing something productive, like
organizing neighborhoods and raising money.
When journalists do sloppy work, the whole enterprise suffers,
public cynicism grows and barbarians enter the gates.
For most of the 1980s, Democratic candidates couldn't figure out
the source of vicious, often untrue, rumors which regularly blindsided
them. Unfortunately, their supporters did not often listen to religious
radio stations, source of many of the stealth bombs which nuked so many
Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) was defeated in the 1980 Reagan
landslide. He was especially hurt by Rev. Jerry Falwell's troops accusing
him of being a "babykiller." In fact, his position on abortion was exactly
that of the conservative Mormon and Catholic churches.
At least with the emergence of commercial hate radio, the Typhoid
Marys are out of the closet.
The public has begun to wise up. It was best summed up recently by
a cartoonist who drew a pollster questioning an apron-wearing grandmother
at her front door.
"I think the dirtbag is doing a great job," sweet granny said.
LAST SHOT: This Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. at McQueen High School in
northwest Reno, the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees will
consider replacing its police force with heaven-knows-whom. In light of the
most recent schoolhouse carnage, the timing could not be better for both
the besieged officers union and student safety.
Perhaps the elected officials will finally listen to reason about the questionable wisdom of firing their experienced police force. They should consider expansion, not cutbacks, with an eye toward budgeting for metal detectors at every location.
Nevada recently received fair warning by the narrowly avoided near-death experience of Yerington High School in nearby Lyon County.
That, alas, would have truly been big news.
Happy Memorial Day.
Be well. Raise hell.