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Friday, December 1, 2023

Fighting Words, Part 2 – Team TIG

Fighting Words Part 2 by Team TIG

In last week’s The Islands Grapevine (TIG), we published a denouncement of the false claims made by Bronwyn Schuster, publicly slandering TIG as having published transphobic hate-speech, following their email to TIG that was an attempt at influence peddling using public funds. While other Denman public servants have publicly endorsed Schuster’s admitted misuse of their position, the seeds of the malice directed at TIG had already been planted. From Bronwyn Schuster’s threatening email:(July 19/23)

“I understand you have been holding an editorial policy of no curation”. 

“I have found it difficult to weed through article after letter of COVID misinformation.”

Ironically, both of these claims are misinformation. TIG publishes its editorial policy in each issue, and we spend time each week asking contributors for revisions. Ninety percent of all the public health information TIG published was from government sources, at the local, regional, and Provincial levels. Prior to the pandemic, TIG had not received any critique of its editorial policies.

The small fraction of dissenting content TIG published, has in some cases turned out to be correct, and in some cases the Public Health advisories turned out to be incorrect. TIG was one of the very few media spaces that did not censor ALL dissenting viewpoints. What is clear from Schuster’s claims, and the claims of other local public servants, is that they have now declared that dissent is impermissible, and will not be tolerated. This is the elephant in the room, and it is a dangerous and authoritarian ideology.

After TIG committed the “original sin” of publishing a few letters that held a dissenting view on the response to the pandemic, some of the privileged liberal class of our community have aligned themselves with censorship of dissent, and granted themselves the entitlement of attempting to cancel a local business and the extremely modest livelihoods it supports. They are publicly spreading slander and lies, including the false accusation of “promoting” bigotry, in order to justify their anti-democratic and censorious ideology. While these bullies never provide any evidence, they rely on the silence of those too afraid to speak up. From Aaron Muirhead, on Denman social media, in a moment of self serving opportunism:

“I for one am thankfull and think its about time that a ‘public official’ actually took responsibility and refused to use ‘public’ money to support a private for profit buisiness that as a matter of policy, regularly publishes clear falsehoods and promotes bigotry in the community… this seems to me a case of a responsible use of ‘public’ funds [sic]”. 

Muirhead made the above comments as part of his announcement of his rival publication. He could not cite any specific “falsehoods” or “bigotry”, but takes pleasure in the act of joining the mob slandering TIG. Some Board members of Denman non-profit organizations have joined the chorus of hateful comments directed at TIG and in support of directing publicly funded advertising dollars away from TIG to Aaron’s new publication. From Laura Busheikin’s Denman social media post:

“From what I’ve heard, [Schuster] let a business owner know that she (as an individual and as a contract employee responsible for advertising choices) would no longer be purchasing their product unless the business practices changed. This could be seen as a threat, but not in a criminal way. It could also be seen as a decent thing to do, as it gives the business owner a chance to consider making changes in response to customer feedback.[sic]” 

Let’s start with Busheikin’s words, “From what I’ve heard”, as it speaks to her reliance on hearsay, and an assumption that the accusations were true. In this case, the “customers” are each and every local resident, not the publicly funded employee. More from Busheikin:

“If I have responsibility for an advertising budget for a publicly funded activity, unless my contract or a terms of reference states otherwise, I would be within my rights to make decisions about that budget. And yes of course I have done this, and will continue to do this in my various community roles. That has included seeking out alternatives to the Grapevine when possible.” And further: “to talk to the staff person directly, and CERTAINLY NOT to repeatedly make inflammatory public statements about the contract employee on social media. (And omg why I am even weighing in on this????[sic]”.

This is an astounding admission of unethical behaviour, and an incredulous take on the issues at hand. Had Busheikin not relied on hearsay, she would have known that we DID reach out to Schuster privately, offered to publish their concerns, and received NO response from Schuster at all. TIG did NOT take these issues to social media, Schuster did, where THEY made “inflammatory public statements” about TIG. And why indeed is Busheikin weighing in on this on social media, after saying that social media wasn’t an appropriate forum for addressing these issues?

TIG has reached out to Busheikin privately on two occasions, and in a cruel irony, she has refused to discuss these matters or comment at all. Busheikin’s lofty declarations on Denman social media do not align with her own actions. She has joined a slanderous social media mob in attempting to cancel a local business, based on hearsay and provable lies, and admitting she has done the same thing with public advertising dollars relating to TIG, in her “various community roles.” TIG wants to know which publicly funded roles?  As a Local Trustee, this behaviour is a violation of the Islands Trust Standards of Conduct.

All of these bullies, dressed up in performative virtue suits, have lost any moral or ethical authority in managing a public service on Denman Island.

Author: TIG

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