Friday, March 4, 2011

Persistent Myths About Events in Madison

I spent the better part of a day in the Fox Valley this week, and being a former news anchor, I’m constantly scanning news online from newspaper and TV websites, blogs, and social media from around the state. A few things seem to be popping up a lot.

First, what’s been going on in Madison the past few weeks is not a “riot”, although it’s being characterized that way by many media outlets. There’s the now-notorious Bill O’Reilly Show clip from Fox that shows a lot of short-sleeved people pushing and shoving, with palm trees in the background, as O’Reilly grills Fox’s “reporter on the scene” in the state Capitol. Oops.

One of the anchors on the local Fox TV outlet (Fox 47, which is owned by a company called Sinclair Broadcasting, and has NOTHING to do with Fox News, but rather is an affiliate carrying Fox programs) has had plenty of hate e-mail from people who think the TV station on the west side is somehow the same thing as “Fox News”. She’s been pointing out via social media that the news she reads on Fox 47 is locally-generated (by the news department at WKOW-TV, Channel 27 in Madison).

And there’s the persistent myth, particularly in the Milwaukee and Green Bay TV markets, that State Senator Glenn Grothman was in grave danger a few nights ago when he was “confronted and accosted” by demonstrators as he tried to get into the Capitol. (Because there’s no communication and much confusion about the ever-shifting rules about who can and can’t get into the Capitol, there are now at least two documented instances of Legislators being told by cops they can’t go inside the building. One was tackled by the cops last night, as he tried to get in to his office in the Capitol.) Grothman has been on several talk shows since the incident, which he laughs about, and confirms that at no time did he feel he was in danger. He confessed to having been a liberal in his formative years, and that he likes to “mix it up” – good-naturedly – with the protesters. But the myth about his being in grave danger persists.

Then there’s the belief, by many, that the core of the problem is the lavish “Teachers Union Pension.” My sister is a teacher in the Oshkosh school district, and I’m sure she has some great stories to tell. Apparently there’s widespread misunderstanding about what the State Retirement System is, who’s covered by it, and where its money comes from. There is, of course, no “Teachers Union Pension”, but I’ve talked to at least six people in the past week who believe there is. (Sorta like the birthers….our President is a Muslim who was born and raised in Kenya.)

I had a brief conversation with a man at a gas station in Rosendale Tuesday afternoon. He saw the Zimbrick license plate frame on my giant gas-sucking foreign-made SUV, and correctly assumed that I was from Madison. He wanted to know if I had been “down to the Capitol to see the teachers rioting”. He informed me that he and his hard-working pals were getting pretty fed-up with paying for the teachers’ retirement, and those bastards only work 9 months a year, and on and on. Then the conversation switched to how much it cost to “fill that beauty up” ($61 and change) and he jokingly asked if everybody in Madison was rich. As I continued my journey back to Madison, I thought how ironic it would be if the fellow I’d been talking with was a plow driver for Fond du Lac County, and that he, too, was covered by the “Teachers Union Pension”.

One other item: is anybody going to challenge the assertion that it’s going to cost 7.5 million dollars to “clean up and repair the Capitol”? Puh-leeze. The only way it could cost more than a few thousand bucks is if the DOA let a no-bid contract to Koch Cleaning.

Hey- I think I’ve just started another myth!


  1. O'rielly, what a joke, didn't he say "video comes in video comes out never a miscommunication". Why is it that so many follow this liar? It looks like that the top republican candidates for president will be coming from "Fake News/ Fox News", or should I say "Big Business", how funny.

  2. Much as I dislike O'Reilly, whose pandering is second only to Obama's race-mongering, the 'splanation offered actually makes sense; the segment explicitly mentioned 'protests around the country' including one in California. They rolled the 'around the country' tape as background when O'R discussed Madison.

    As to costs-of-Capitol: fuggedabout the marble damages, which shouldn't be repaired (there's no money, honey.) How about the $5mill in cop-costs?

  3. @ Montana, O'Reilly actually said "The tides go in; the tides go out; never a miscommunication" -- Stephen Colbert parodied it when he said "video goes in; video goes out; never a miscommunication."

    @ Dad29, the explanation for the palm tree video was very similar to Gableman's explanation of the anti-Butler ad his campaign ran. Every statement in isolation was true. Putting them together in the way they did implied something that was untrue. It was deliberately done.

  4. So O'Reilly is NOT too old to learn from the NYTimes!

    There's hope for us superannuated types...