EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLE

Wholesome activities this past July 4 included citywide house-decorating and costumed-pet contests, organized by the City. This year's first place prize went to Scott Fenley at 1235 Greenbriar Dr.

Geno Auriemma is the 11-time national champion coach of the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team. His players are household names to fans. Sue Bird. Maya Moore. Breanna Stewart. 

Of course, like millionaire college coaches all over the country, he needs to find things to do with his money and years ago he opened Geno’s Grille in a few locations, including one in Southington, Conn., near the ESPN campus. The food was good, the ambiance was tastefully sports-centric, and the cost a tad pricey. (And, yet, even with all those national titles, Geno’s Grille didn’t survive the pandemic.)

We once took a gathering of more than 20 women from our Stats & Information Group to dinner one night – part career development and part of an effort to strengthen networking and camaraderie. As we’re seeing in the news from ESPN the past week, race and gender issues remain difficult topics in corporate America, let alone our neighborhoods. 

Late in the evening, as we all crammed together on both sides of the long table, we took a selfie and I posted it online, evidence of a fun and ebullient evening.

Shortly thereafter we had to remove the photo and entire online post. The hateful, misogynistic, and sexually-charged comments about the women in the photo were immediate, and sickening. It’s a feeling that rushes back as I type this five years later.

The toxicity on social media is stomach-turning, as is the “moderating” of the local “community connection” pages. There are myriad differences between The Chronicle and community pages on Facebook, and among the most notable are the level of discourse and credibility.

In the days around the Fourth of July celebration, a virtual mob gathered to attack a single member of our community. What brought forth such rage? It really doesn’t matter. And the “who” isn’t especially relevant. There is no quantifying angle, no justification for the behavior.

You’d never see these unexpurgated comments on The Chronicle’s affiliated platforms and products, of course. Only on “social” media.

It’s a level of hatefulness, pettiness and vitriol that should make people ashamed of themselves. An edited sampling follows, and I’m using these posters’ public-facing Facebook profiles, since they were brave enough to publish with these identities.

Kirsten Burnett: She’s a raging liberal. Needs to move to another country.

Kenneth Powers: That lady is bats**t crazy. She’s a cancer on the city of Creswell.

Tamera Parker: I can’t believe one horrible **** has so much hate and control over this town …

Melissa Abston: Her and Brown share the title for wicked witch of the west!

Echo Bell: Why does she hate our town so bad? She opened arms for the blm and gave them everything they needed. Whats (sic) wrong with being kind to our own

Amy Donayri: I’ve said it before. (she) is the true definition of hate

Liam: My aunt just hates the idea of the freedom of ideas outside of her personal control. I distanced myself from her brand of stupid years ago.

Heidi Clark: (She) is the new Karen poor crotchety witch. If you don’t like parades or horses, maybe don’t attend

Red Cole: What a sad excuse for a human being she must be. So sad her life must be that all she has time to do is blackmail and threaten people to cause havoc and drama in her community. I pitty (sic) the fool that is afraid of this whiny puke’s empty threats. HAPPY 4TH OF JULY. Don’t listen to her empty threats. (She) is the new “Karen”

Amber: see you next Tuesday, not a very nice person at all. I don’t live in CW anymore, she’s toxic as s**t.

Liam: If she’s about city ordinance can we make one to remove her from the city already. 

Amy Jo Woods: Seriously.....that’s psycho. Literally mentally unstable. 

Kenneth: Her bullying people is what started this whole s**tshow. If she’d keep her f’ing mouth shut and stop messaging people there wouldn’t be any issues.

Kallie Botefur: This lady can remove herself from the town if she has that big of an issue.

These are the voices of the patriotic parade supporters, we are told. So quick to scream about their rights while infringing on everyone else’s. Somehow, they equate liberty with the “right” to create illegal and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and flaunt local laws at their discretion.

Sgt. Scott Denham, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office point man in Creswell, calmly and coolly, worked behind the scenes with the key stakeholders for several weeks before the holiday; he didn’t threaten or bully, no ultimatums or bombast. Instead, he tried reason. Of course, when dealing with extremists, the latter approach is a little like expecting the QAnon Shaman to make sense.

Denham played the parade to perfection. You could almost imagine him standing in front of a wheezing steampunk gadget out of a Victorian Science museum, adjusting gauges and knobs, letting out steam here, applying gentle pressure there, keeping things from exploding as the whole thing huffs and puffs and wobbles. Understaffed and dealing with people determined to circumvent local laws and threaten the safety of others, Denham masterfully protected the community at large.

And, yet, even he couldn’t avoid the irrational attacks on social media, with some folks suggesting a “recall.” It’s exasperating. 

The extremists are loud, but very much a minority. What makes them noteworthy, however, is that their ideas are violent, and you ignore them at your own peril. Or the peril of democracy.

The fact their ideas are in the minority – and appealing to fewer and fewer people all the time – is why they fight so hard. They are like the puffer fish, so small in thinking and in size, yet pretending to be big.

The Chronicle is a mirror for our communities. It reflects what’s happening. Granted, the people with the ugliest ideas and behavior don’t like what they see in the mirror. And that’s when they attack with name-calling and claims of “fake news,” aka the news they don’t like.

Do you know what July 4 was for our executive editor, Erin Tierney? Another work day. She was here from early in the morning until 2 a.m. the next morning, covering the events of the day and reaching out to public and private people seeking comment and context. Reporting. Fact finding. 

Besides Joe Raade, who was out of town on another assignment, no one from the South Lane Fire District – which runs on our tax dollars – would speak to her in the days after the brush fire. Its leadership team was an outlier when it approved the fireworks show. While avoidance of public scrutiny is par for the course under Chief John Wooten and the SLFD board, it’s nevertheless disappointing. 

For all of Erin’s efforts to gather information and report the facts to the public, here’s how one person reacted to this 30-year-old professional, simply doing her job in the face of hostile actors in many cases: 

Charlie Blazer: “Ph*k you Erin Tierney for being a biased, overdramtic (sic), non factual, exaggerating, poor excuse for a puppet of a reporter.”

What if Erin was your employee? What if she was your daughter? Sister? Fiance? Friend? 

She’s all of those things – and a person of great character. 

The online “haters” will never be confused with anyone demonstrating class and dignity. Or good character.

What passed as “parades” in 2020 and ’21 were, in part, an ugly politicization and promotion of violent extremism.

Any softening of the events and the Proud Boys’ involvement this year is one more big lie to avoid.

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.