Yesterday, one of Washington’s largest daily newspapers, the Everett Herald, semi-outed a commenter who has been regularly defending red-light cameras in the comment threads of news stories the Herald has published about city governments’ deliberations over whether or not to use them.
It turns out this commenter, “W Howard”, is actually Bill Kroske, a vice president for development at one of the nation’s largest red light camera manufacturers – American Traffic Solutions. The Herald was able to find this out because Kroske used his work email address when submitting comments, which either means he doesn’t understand how to cover his tracks on the Internet or wasn’t even trying.
The story would have been interesting enough without any reaction from Tim Eyman, but the reporters who wrote the post, like so many of their colleagues, apparently feel some sort of obligation to give Eyman extra and unnecessary exposure.
But maybe it was a good thing they did, because as a result of them asking Tim for his thoughts, we got this gem of a sound bite:
Eyman chuckled when told about the Kroske connection.
“It shows a level of sophistication and manipulation,” he said. “… If you’ve got a product that everybody loves it is going to be self evident. You don’t need to manipulate web sites, sounding boards and impersonate local folks to get the message out.”
Oh really? If that’s the case, then why does Tim spend so much of his time manipulating websites and sounding boards to get his message out?
Not to mention paying reporters a visit, or calling them, or emailing them. (That’s partly why the press corps can’t ignore him. Eyman makes sure that they can’t. He has a gift for media manipulation, and he uses it to the fullest extent he can).
Anybody who has looked at the comment thread of a news story about Tim Eyman knows exactly what we’re talking about. Eyman shows up, posts links to his websites, trashes opponents, and debates other commenters. But his activities are hardly limited to that. He regularly reposts his emails on the region’s best known right-wing blog, (un)Sound Politics. He crafts talking points into op-eds so he can get his message directly into websites operated by media outlets.
He’s even edited his own Wikipedia entry.
Pretty much all of Tim’s activities shows a level of sophistication and manipulation that impresses us. It also worries us, because his means and ends are incredibly destructive in more than one way.
For instance, Eyman’s response to the story was to email all of his supporters and urge them to pepper Bill Kroske with nastygrams, and then send nastygrams to a long list of city councilmembers from Mukilteo, Monroe, Bellingham, Seattle, and Redmond, the hometown of NPI and Permanent Defense.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with constituents writing to their councilmember, but Eyman is hardly trying to encourage civil discourse here. He’s waging a campaign of harassment against people he portrays as evil.
What does that make him and those of his followers who do as he asks?
And what’s the deal with Eyman calling out Bill Kroske and American Traffic Solutions for trying to make money? Doesn’t right wing dogma say that’s a good thing? “[T]he Everett Herald has exposed the lengths they’ll go to as a corporate policy to protect those profits,” Eyman declared in his email this afternoon.
That’s funny, because the same point could be made about BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, USBank, and the host of other powerful corporations that donated big bucks to put Tim’s Initiative 1053 on the ballot last year. Without their money, I-1053 couldn’t have made it, as Tim well knows. They ponied up for Eyman because I-1053 helps them protect their profits – at our expense – on a grand scale.
Tim obviously doesn’t care about big corporations running roughshod over the rest of us – he’s defended his corporate support on many occasions.
That just proves what we’ve tried to point out for years: Tim Eyman is not a champion, a guru, or a populist. He is a professional political operative, living off of the huge checks written to him by some of the wealthiest, most powerful people and businesses in the state. The persona he’s crafted for himself is fake, and yet somehow, he’s managed to dupe some sadly misguided people into believing that he’s making Washington State a better place to live.
How? By destroying our common wealth? Gutting public services? Wrecking representative democracy? Lowering the level of discourse with endless name calling and campaigns of harassment against elected officials and public employees?
Eyman says it’s outrageous that a business executive misrepresented himself in comment threads on a newspaper’s website. What’s even more outrageous is Tim Eyman’s giant double standard. The loophole Eyman has created for himself in his own bizarrely construed moral system is so large you could drive a Mac truck through it – to borrow a reference from one of Tim’s recent emails.
The Everett Herald has shown a light on what Kroske was doing. That’s healthy and helpful for our public discourse. What is not helpful is the campaign of harassment Eyman is trying to wage. He is purposely trying to provoke his supporters into acting like jerks. No doubt next week, he’ll selectively quote from some of the more nicely-worded nastygrams and congratulate his followers on their ability to behave reasonably in the face of bullying.
The truth is, Eyman’s his most vocal followers are the ones who are doing the bullying. They shout, they make unsupported claims, they mimic Eyman’s name calling, they express a desire to see harm come to those they disagree with. We have seen all of that, firsthand, because NPI was one of Eyman’s recent targets.
There’s nothing more American than having an opinion and expressing it. But a democracy cannot survive without majority rule, which is espoused in our Constitution, and a civil discourse. The people who call themselves Voters Want More Choices are regrettably doing all they can to undermine both.