Last week, our news editor bumped our planned feature to bring you "Red State, meet Police State" about Homeland Security officers harassing a local federal employee for the anti-war stickers on his automobile. Since we posted the story online, our Web site (www.boiseweekly.com) has experienced huge amounts of traffic. While we normally average about 2,000 unique visitors per week day, and about 1,200 on weekend days, last week saw a record breaking (for us) 15,000 visitors on Thursday alone ("hits" were in the 350,000 range). The attention and Web traffic has not let up.
As the story gets posted to conspiracy blogs, political Web sites, libertarian message boards and the like, we continue to see an increase in visitors reading the original story on our site. But a story like "Red State, meet Police State" is not unique. We are hearing more and more about similar tactics being used to silence dissent in this country. Bob Flisser from Flemington, New Jersey, recounted how, "On August 17 of last year, I organized a candlelight vigil to support fallen soldiers and their families, as part of my duties with Democracy for America and MoveOn.org. Police officers in the small town of Flemington--in a red area of a blue state--said that my group was not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk and hold signs, even though we weren't blocking traffic or pedestrians or making noise. I was handcuffed, arrested, and given a citation."
Other e-mail and comments posted to our Website contain support and anecdotes from people who feel they have been restricted are coming to us as this story gains "legs," journalistic lingo for a story that gets spread around. One story, a news article from Eugene Weekly we are reprinting this week in News, outlines the strategy by administration employees. It is just another example.
Not everyone, however, believes the incident outlined in the our story was worthy of coverage or raising alarm over attacks on the First Amendment and our ability to express ourselves freely. Mike Galmukoff of Chimacum, Washington, wrote that our story "was a crock of horse pucky as to the way Collias reported on the incident. But is was a nice lesson in how to write an article fraught with yellow journalism."
Alan Cossitt wrote, "To put it bluntly, saying that Mr. Scarbrough is 'anti-military' is a load of fresh horse manure ... save your editorializing for the editorial page, please."
What's next? Will one day copies of Boise Weekly not appear on the street because the feds shut down this paper? What is it going to take to shock people out of their complacency? Perhaps the chemical contrails have already pacified us beyond redemption.