Quasi-anonymous blogs seem to be an ignoble specialty of our towns, Wi-Fi-enabled trolls cowardly throwing stones from behind the blue screen of their computers.
Do they actually believe what they say, do they affect anything, and do they even want to? One in Burbank acts like a private club, cheering on one another's takedowns like boozy frat boys. (The fights they have between themselves resemble this as well, but is a lot more fun to watch.)
I suppose you could call this local chattering class the digital evolution of the council gadfly, those souls who show up week after week to pick at elected officials regarding their pet projects, be they pension reform, leaf-blowers or puppy mills. I have no quarrel with gadflies, though, as they put themselves out in public, inviting discussion rather than quashing it.
Perhaps it's more accurate to equate the Semichorus blog as the online form of talk radio, where hosts and guests bloviate for no other reason than ratings.
Online, though, the currency of the realm isn't cash, but the number of comments you collect and the damage you inflict. That's middle-school-level thinking, folks.
I got my own taste of the Media City's online nastiness a few months after I started my job in 2009. In an effort to meet various people in town I had coffee and lunch with various public officials, business leaders and nonprofit executives. One of those meetings was with Dennis Barlow, the former city attorney.
I tweeted about the lunch, something that was widely discussed on Semichorus, with the implication that I was clearly in the pocket of the city because I shared a basket of chips with Barlow at Don Cuco's. (Given that we successfully sued the city regarding bonus information about a year later in part because of Barlow's intransigence, I rather doubt Burbank officials agree.)
Since that point, I have repeatedly reached out to Jim Carlile, who runs the blog, asking him to meet with me and to explain his concerns. Except for one unrelated email exchange, he has not even deigned to respond. I let him know I was writing this piece, and, again, he did not respond.
But that, too, has its own logic. It's much easier to see people as demons if you've never looked them in the eye. Seeing me might require him to treat me — and the rest of his targets — like human beings instead of ciphers. Perhaps he is a fraud, a man who believes nothing of what he writes or says, or a cruel prankster carrying on a bad joke years too long.
Part of it is a shame, really, because I've learned to (mostly) tune it out. He does occasionally have some legitimate gripes about how the city is run as well as our coverage of it. But how can we, who serve as a powerful check on the elected officials and leaders of this community, take them seriously? How can anyone?
As far as I can tell, the Semichorus blog starts from the assumption that the paper, its reporters (and its editor) are corrupt, vicious or just too feeble-minded to know they're being played. It's hard to respect anyone's opinions coming from that mindset.
Which gets me back to this: Does Carlile really believe what he says? It's hard to say, as his vitriol is aimed at so many subjects. I suspect he's really upset about some things, but it's hard to believe he's so red-faced about all of them. Because of that, I've concluded at least some part of it is for show, and since I have no idea which he truly believes, it's impossible for me to know what he really thinks.
Or perhaps he's just a bully. If so, the old adage about punching a bully in the nose to make him stop may just work.
So, here you go Jim: Shut it, already. I'm tired of your unfounded and baseless complaints about the paper and your pathetic nostalgia for a Burbank that never existed. I'm fair game, because I can fight back, but you pick on dead children.
You laughed about the death of one of the girls who died in the five-person fatal crash in September at the same time you accused us of "ghoulishness." This is not just cruel, it is hypocrisy, and you should be ashamed.
Your blog is counterproductive and mean-spirited. It traffics in innuendo and gossip, falsely accusing the newspaper of the same. And, given how you continually complain about the same subjects, if you actually wanted to affect change, you have utterly failed. It might be time to hang it up.