“Wackadoodleism” returns with QAnon conspiracy that canceled school fundraiser

Just when things were starting to go well around here — a reinvigorated business climate, our designation as California cultural districts; a $4.3 million renovation of our performing arts center; local Ghidotti High’s repeated No. 1 ranking statewide on the CAASPP standardized test; and the “new gold rush”  in food and culture — we are faced with the return our nagging own local “ism” known as wackadoodleism.

Yup, the wackadoodles, political extremists and conspiracy theorists are baaack — just like in real-life version of Poltergeist!

In the past few weeks, our towns have made national and international news in the Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle,  The New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, the network news, and even the BBC. It’s not for our new businesses, arts and culture, a wet winter that filled our lakes and streams, or for our schools’ achievement. Rather it’s for a bizarre conspiracy theory that forced the Grass Valley Charter School to cancel a fundraiser. Argh.

“A California school fundraiser has been canceled after conspiracy theorists spread the claim it was the target of a terror attack by an ex-FBI chief,” as the BBC reported. “An innocuous tweet by James Comey about his previous jobs was interpreted online as code for a ‘false flag’ assault on the family gathering.

“The Grass Valley Charter School in California said it decided to stop the event out of an ‘abundance of caution.’ Authorities expressed concern that internet vigilantes might attend.”

“In the current social and political climate, schools and communities must take into consideration matters never before imagined,” the school’s Blue Marble Jubilee organizers said in a statement.

It was a shame. The school has started a GoFundMe campaign in place of the fundraiser. We were glad to donate along with others. A link is here.

Rolling Stone didn’t mince words, writing: “A Ridiculous QAnon conspiracy forced a small charter school to cancel a fundraiser. The Trump-loving cult thought James Comey was wise to a Deep State hit job on the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation’s Blue Marble Jubilee.”

QAnon details a supposed secret plot by an alleged “deep state” against U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters.

To be sure, this QAnon conspiracy was generated from outside our area — and it snared a local school fundraiser. And some of the wackiest bumper stickers we all see around town represent extremism on both sides, not just one.

But the deep ideological divide now gripping our nation stems largely from Trumpism. Our President sets the tone with his outrageous and polarizing statements, sometimes tweeted late at night. His calls Pete Buttigieg “Alfred E. Neuman,” but that’s nothing: “Horseface, Lowlife, Fat, Ugly”: How the President Demeans Women” is here.

Our “Storied” Political Past

Our towns have long been known for a deep ideological divide. We hear from locals who proudly declare our independence from the rest of California, including “Frisco,” Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Some of us are passionate global warming deniers (see “What’s up with climate deniers like Watts”? and “Pulitzer-prize winning cartoon lampoons global warming skeptics.”)

We have our Tea Party, State of Jefferson and “gun culture” — sometimes wrapped into one. As the local tea party has promoted: “The State of Jefferson Signature Drive Contest: There is one Grand Prize: Your choice of EITHER 1000 rounds of .22 caliber ammo OR a $100 prepaid Visa Gift Card! Take your pick! (See “Local Tea Party raffles off 1000 rounds of .22 caliber ammo in State of Jefferson signature drive” ).

Need more examples? Ten pages worth of State of Jefferson “news” is here, including “Supes hear from the State of Jefferson” and “Tea Party and State of Jefferson handouts part of our July 4 parade culture.” 

That’s not all. There’s Tea Party co-founder Mark Meckler making the national news when he was arrested “after he took a gun to LaGuardia airport,” as CBS News put it. The details are here.  Mark’s perspective was recited on George Rebane’s blog here.

And who can forget Mark’s 40-year plan to “take back our country.” It happened in our town, at the Grass Valley Elks’ Lodge.

Then there was Mark’s dad, Stan Meckler, claiming — erroneously — that KVMR “refuses to interview me.” Stan was a frequent contributor to The Union, helping it earn the “Tea Party Gazette” label: “After much soul searching, I have decided to vote for the outsider who may be able to shake up our government and make America great again.” You go Stan!

And let’s not forget local tea party leader Fran Freedle, who once led during  “a bitterly divided political scene.” The Sacramento News & Review explains it here. The article reads: “The county is solidly Republican, and, according to state demographic data, its residents are among California’s whitest and oldest. But Bay Area liberals have brought new attitudes, especially on environmental issues.”

Fran’s columns have been a regular in The Union newspaper, such as “Nevada County part of a new state”? Thanks but no thanks Fran.

If that’s not enough, our eastern county’s Congressman  Tom McClintock wondered aloud at a local tea party rally whether it was time to “get rid of that left-wing clerk recorder.”

We have much to be proud of in our region — a new “gold rush” of sorts — and I’m hopeful that we’re going to grow and prosper despite headwinds of a declining and aging population. But along the way, it’s been hard to shake our reputation for political extremism, which leads to isolation rather than fellowship.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

4 thoughts on ““Wackadoodleism” returns with QAnon conspiracy that canceled school fundraiser”

  1. So well said, Jeff. I love your articles and agree with you 99.9% of the time. What you write is a great alternative to The Union but the problem is most people don’t know about you and don’t read your stuff. I try to spread the word but in this day of information overload, it is hard to even get their attention. So, here is a suggestion:

    Since The Union does not like you and probably won’t publish anything you write, you may want to self fund (with the help of your friends and readers of course) articles that The Union will publish for a price. They are cash-starved so I can’t see how they would refuse. And, each time, you can include a header with a short explanation about why you had to pay The Union to publish your articles. What do you think?

    With all my support, sincerely,

    Katherine Scourtes

    On Sun, May 12, 2019 at 1:46 PM Jeff Pelline’s Sierra Foothills Report wrote:

    > jeffpelline posted: “Just when things were starting to go well around here > — a reinvigorated business climate, our designation as California cultural > districts; a $4.3 million renovation of our performing arts center; local > Ghidotti High’s No. 1 ranking statewide on the CAASP” >

  2. Thanks Katherine. It’s a mixed bag with The Union and its columnists (“Bored” Georgman comes to mind). The Union’s current publisher and I have a friendly and communicative relationship, and the newspaper has run letters from me the very few times I have submitted them (https://www.theunion.com/opinion/letters/jeff-pelline-blue-skies-ahead/). Sometimes their columnists are complementary: “Grass Valley’s Chamber welcomes Sierra FoodWineArt, the classy magazine published by Jeff and Shannon Pelline.” (https://www.theunion.com/news/community/lorraines-lowdown-walking-in-an-easter-wonderland/). I suspect The Union would publish this post as an “Other Voices” if I submitted it. People see these posts here, and sometimes I post them on Facebook where they are “liked.” In this day and age, people get their news from so many different sources: social media, blogs, other publications, as well as The Union. I also think the view express here are shared by many people now that our politics are “purple,” not red or blue. There are a few loud people on the far right — George Rebane routinely hosts personal attack on his blog. But on the whole, the tide is turning toward moderate, not extreme.

  3. The new pot growing ordinance passed 4-1. Miller time was the Lone Ranger citing “environmental concerns” or was he just playing politics, knowing it was going to pass anyway, and decided to toss a bone to the far right south county crowd with his ‘no’ vote? Perhaps much like how so called ‘Obamacare’ came into being with Republicans dragging their feet and trying to water it down as much as possible. The Dems compromised again and again trying to get something passed. They got agreement and once there were enough votes to pass it, voted no to preserve their ‘anti’ status with their corporate donors.

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