Saturday, February 18, 2012

This Is What Scapegoating Looks Like

More than a few people who supported the recall efforts had some reservations about having their name appear on a public database...teachers, employees with conservative bosses. It's not that they were ashamed, it's not that wanted to keep the process shrouded in secrecy, it was the possibility of opening the door to hatred and intimidation that not signing would have avoided.

The Siren has heard of plenty of stories about those kind of incidents since the signatures went online - especially with the handy alphabetized version Van Wanggaard made available and super convenient for individuals with nothing but time and some spare hate - where they could fixate on finding neighbors and coworkers to confront and intimidate.

It didn't take long either. A woman we know of was confronted loudly and inappropriately as church services ended. Her confronter screamed at her in front of parishioners and her minister that she had seen her name on Van's list. Mortified, this bully went on to tell her she wished she had not prayed for her in the past...all because she signed a recall petition.

Teachers have found threatening messages on their cars in school parking lots claiming knowledge from public recall databases. A reader had a letter sent to his home that contained a photocopy of the petition his wife had signed and a copy of a pro-Walker speech. They took the time to include the message in all caps: "IT IS THE STATE VERSUS YOU."

Yeah, that's not scary or intimidating at all.

Yesterday brought another story from the "we know what you did" haters playbook...

Racinians all know Wilson's Coffee Shop. It is an institution in West Racine, headed by Robin Wilson and his family. If you are looking for great coffee, the Wilson's roast it. They quite literally have traveled the earth not just for good coffee, but for organic and fair trade coffee that supports sustainability for both farmers and the environment.

Any day Wilson's is open, you will find friends and neighbors gathered, book clubs and students and the kind of foot traffic that makes folks on Main Street jealous. Robin Wilson has opened his doors for fundraisers of all kinds - Mayaworks, Racine County Food Bank, HALO and many a politician both Democratic and Republican (Van Wanggaard himself) have held press conferences and meetings there.

It's safe to say Robin personally leans to the liberal side - a quality he neither hides nor flaunts. He just just a good and decent man who runs a valuable and vibrant business in which all are welcome.

Robin Wilson signed a petition to recall Van Wanggaard - a right he is entitled to under the Wisconsin State Constitution. Robin Wilson is also one of 24,000 people who signed a petition to recall Van Wanggaard in Racine County, but because he owns a business and people know him, he was singled out for intimidation by the author of the letter below: (Click on the image for a larger version)

There is a whole discussion we could have about the content of the letter and how it's author assigns his anger and venom all on what he imagines Wilson may believe - something he has no way of knowing from seeing Wilson's name on a petition.

But there is actually a clinical definition for this kind of behavior - it's called "scapegoating." The medical description of scapegoating is:
"Process in which the mechanisms of psychological projection or displacement are utilized in focusing feelings of aggression, hostility, frustration etc. upon another individual or group; the amount of blame being unwarranted."
We each know the factual fallacies the author commits, the gross hyperbole and thinly veiled aggression all pointing not to person who simply disagrees with Wilson, but a person with - at best a complete lack of judgement and perspective to - at worst a real manifestation of personality disorder.

It is these individuals that made people very nervous about having their names appear online...in alphabetical order. It is these individuals that should prompt Van Wanggaard to pick up up the phone and give his neighbor, Robin Wilson a call to say he does not condone this kind of behavior.

Naturally it was Wilson - always classy and decent - who put the whole thing in to perspective by saying:
"I long ago was able to take an Oath of Enlistment, pledging to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Since that time I have always felt free to form and express my beliefs. I have also felt free to stand up for them, and acknowledge them as my own... If we don’t use our freedoms, we increase the risk of losing them, so I choose to be free to publicly own my expressions of my beliefs. I hope for the day when everyone can feel so free."
Please stop by Wilson's today or tomorrow and enjoy a great cup of coffee prepared by a great American.