Ah, George Orwell would be so happy with T.J. Sullivan, a Chamber of Commerce mouthpiece who was selected in 2014 by Mayor Anna Peterson to chair the Blue Ribbon (is there any other color?) Task Force on the Police Facility.
"Doublespeak," says Wikipedia, is a close relative of Orwell's "doublethink," a central concept in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four book.
Doublespeak is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs, "servicing the target" for bombing), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning (for example, naming a state of war "peace"). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.
Salem Community Vision recently posted a video of Sullivan complaining at a City Council meeting about "misinformation" being pumped out about updated plans for a vastly over-priced/over-sized new police facility: $80 million and 148,000 square feet, double the cost and size of what City officials were saying was needed not long ago.
I testified at the meeting on the same subject. When I heard Sullivan speak about "misinformation," I was mystified. I've followed the police facility planning saga closely. I wasn't aware of anyone spreading false facts.
Citizens, including me, had different opinions about the size, cost, and location of a new police facility. But we were familiar with the facts of the situation. We just used those facts to come to different conclusions. Sullivan, though, seemed to confuse facts and values. Or in philosophical terms, the True and the Good.
If someone openly disagreed with the City of Salem's plan for the police facility, Sullivan appeared to call this "misinformation," whereas actually it is just a different opinion based on different values.
So soon after the City Council meeting, I emailed T.J. Sullivan, asking about this supposed "misinformation." I never heard back from him. When the Salem Community Vision video and post was published on Facebook, I decided to share my email message to Sullivan in a comment.
Which led to an interesting comment conversation.
I ended up doing most of the talking, because Sullivan didn't want to address his misinformation about supposed police facility misinformation. This is typical of how the Powers That Be operate here in Salem: they like backroom deals and closed-door decision-making, but not open community discussion of important policy issues.
Here's our exchange.
My opening comment gambit
T.J. Sullivan talks big, but acts small. Right after the February 29 public hearing I emailed him the message below. After three weeks, I haven't gotten a response. I guess his accusations of "misinformation" can't be backed up. Kind of disturbing when a central mouthpiece for the Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the Police Facility Task Force, says stuff that apparently isn't true. But, hey, maybe T.J. will read this comment and decide to respond to me. Here's what I said to him:
T.J., at last night’s City Council hearing I heard you speak about “misinformation” being spread about the new police facility. This concerns me. Like you, I’m a big believer in focusing on facts and reason when discussing public policy issues.
So please let me know the details about what misinformation you were referring to. Who is doing this? What specific falsities are they spreading?
We need to stop these people, whoever they are. If you can give me their names, and the untruths they’re trying to foist on Salem’s citizens, I’ll call them out on my blog and Strange Up Salem page. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sullivan responds with this comment
Hi Brian, I am happy to meet with you and talk through the issues. Lunch this week?
Not taking the bait, I make a challenge
T.J., I'd enjoy talking with you in person. But let's start off our communication by publicly discussing here on Facebook the question at hand.
Do you stand by your assertion that some people in Salem are spreading "disinformation" about plans for a new police facility? If so, please share details of what those falsities are. If not, just say you take back those words, and we can move on to talking about other things.
By "disinformation" I assume that you're not talking about policy disagreements -- like how much the police facility should cost, how large it should be, and whether seismic upgrades to City Hall and the Library should be part of a Public Safety bond. These are matters of opinion, as evidenced by the fact that City of Salem officials have embraced different costs, sizes, and locations for the police facility in just the past few years.
In this video you claimed in your testimony that disinformation can be knocked off by logic and facts. OK. Give me just one example of this. That's all I"m asking for. In a comment give me some bit of factual disinformation (which likely you are attributing to Salem Community Vision) that you can "knock off" with your own logic and facts.
To repeat, because this is important, I don't consider a debate over value-laded public policy issues to involve "misinformation." There are facts, like that human-caused global warming is happening, and then there are values, like whether humanity should do something about global warming. I'm looking for a factual bit of "disinformation" that you think is being spread around.
It bothers me when people like you accuse other people, like me and others involved with Salem Community Vision, of spreading disinformation. Some City Council members have accused me of this. But when I asked them to give me some specific examples, they couldn't. So they were just making stuff up.
So far, it seems to me that you are doing the same thing. You're saying stuff that isn't true. But I could be wrong about this. Thus I think our face-to-face conversation will go better after I'm convinced that either you do have evidence of disinformation being spread about the police facility, or you admit that you don't have this evidence.
A cogent comment is left by Tamra Heathershaw-Hart
I personally feel that one of Salem's biggest problems is that the "let's do lunch and talk" method of politics/business is the way things are done, rather than sharing information widely and openly on an internet forum.
A big reason Bernie Sanders is doing so well in the primaries is that he is appealing to people who have grown up distrusting private meetings and closed doors -- these people want politics to be "open source" instead.
T.J., if you (and the rest of the council) want to appeal to anyone other than conservative senior citizens and lobbyists then you need to start having open and productive "meetings" about important topics in internet groups, where what you say is viewed and commented on by all and sundry and not just your lunch date. Just my $.02.
I further explain to Sullivan why I'm bothered by what he said
I'll be more explicit about what I'm asking you to do on the "misinformation" front. On behalf of Salem Community Vision I wrote the Feb. 8 position paper on the new police facility. After six weeks since its release date, I'm not aware that anyone has pointed out factual errors in the paper.
As noted before, I consider "misinformation" to be spreading factually false information, as if someone said "There is no scientific consensus that the Earth is warming, and humans are responsible." Words to that effect would be misinformation because they are factually untrue.
During the week it took to write the position paper, I took pains to check facts. For example, I spent a lot of time locating reports on the City of Salem web site. But it's possible that you're aware of some errors in the report's factual information. If so, let me know what they are. If not, please stop your "misinformation" talk -- unless you are referring to something/someone other than the position paper and Salem Community Vision.
If this sounds like a "put up or shut up" challenge, I guess it is.
Anyway, let's get this challenge over, then have a pleasant face to face conversation about the police facility, seismic upgrades to the Civic Center, and whatever else we might want to talk about. I don't take challenges of this sort personally -- they happen all the time on my two blogs -- and I hope you won't either.
We're just trying to better understand the contours of a public policy discussion/debate regarding a new Salem police facility. Here's a link to the position paper.
No response so far from T.J. Sullivan.