Rear End Kiss

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Our Denman bumper stickers read, “Coexist” and “Keep Denman Weird”, and we celebrate community and all the benefits of the multitude of non-profit organizations and small town generosity of spirit. We demand diversity and inclusiveness and respect for marginalized identities inside and out of our community, as we well should. We oppose violence, especially when targeted at those living in the margins of class or identity. When conflict sometimes arises, most of us would prefer dialogue and private reconciliations. And most of us would prefer that the divisions that appear from time to time, be met in a private process. Some of you post “No Space For Hate” memes on social media, but apparently some space for hate is tolerated when it comes to smearing and bullying The Islands Grapevine (TIG) weekly community newspaper.

We’ve tried to reconcile this conflict from the very beginning of it. TIG has never claimed that the people we name in our reporting of the fractured relationship between tax funded agencies and TIG were bad people. In fact, in the case of the contractors of the Denman Island Bus Service, we see these people as valuable community contributors and talented people in their endeavours. Good people can do bad things. All of us, if we’re honest, have done something we deeply regret. We offer a forum in TIG to be critical of TIG, and we pay for the ink and paper and labour and mailing costs for the privilege of doing so. We were the ones to initiate private dialogue with the well meaning neighbours who have trespassed on us.

We reached out privately, to see if we could reconcile through receiving a public apology on social media, the place where our critics have taken to smearing us. And we’ve heard, “didn’t you already receive an apology?” No, not really. The response to our initial reporting was on social media, and an admission that the words chosen to express the concerns about TIG weren’t appropriate, but in that “apology” came further false accusations of TIG’s support for bigotry, claiming we’ve left marginalized members of our community in peril. Whatever anyone’s assessment of the facts, that isn’t an apology. The CVRD offered us a privately mediated process of resolution and we agreed to it, while the other central players in this conflict did not. All the while, we are accused of being “bullies” who are attacking upstanding people, and being “divisive.” 

TIG has experienced a loss of reputation, a loss of revenue, and TIG’s publisher was improperly removed from two DenmanWorks Economic Enhancement Society positions, all the while with community leaders of non-profit agencies continuing to disparage TIG on social media, calling for the withdrawal of publicly funded advertising, and cheerleading for the cancellation of TIG, it’s jobs, and its weekly promotion of every community interest and economic enhancement on Denman Island. And WE’RE accused of being bullies and of being divisive? If you attempt to destroy your neighbour’s livelihood, they will defend themselves from these bullying and divisive tactics. TIG’s publisher has been the only party to this conflict who has been served any consequences, unjust as they are. And all the while, the community leadership is on social media smearing TIG, and expressing the pretence of the high ground of moral authority. 

TIG and its contributors are enthusiastic supporters of the Denman Bus, and all the cooperative initiatives that we share, and we’re happy to see that some people are being compensated for their time and their dedicated contributions. We believe these publicly funded agencies should operate with more transparency and accountability, by communicating with Denman residents more clearly and thoroughly. Most residents aren’t well informed about these agencies, and many of us are tired of the lack of transparency and accountability, never mind the vacant “consultations.” It won’t take much effort to improve these measures. 

In the meantime. TIG isn’t going anywhere, and we are growing our circulation and our value to advertisers, listening to community input on content curation, and continuing the redevelopment and expansion of our online presence, theislandsgrapevine.com. No one is required to read The Islands Grapevine, nor advertise within it. But no one has the right to smear us with false accusations and then use their publicly funded position and tax resources to attempt to destroy our weekly community newspaper, because you’ve read a letter to the editor that you found to be insensitive, or wrong minded. We won’t allow ourselves to be intimidated by a live reenactment of Lord of the Flies, and the cries of, “Kill Piggy!”

Diversity of opinion is a crucial part of coping with these extraordinary times of change, social and economic pressures, and in considering the best practices of supporting the food, housing, warmth, and the common needs of our neighbours living in those margins. The Islands Grapevine stands with, and for these values, honestly and sincerely. If you have a concern, a critique, a disagreement, a question, or some unsolicited advice, send us a letter, or better yet, invite us for coffee and a chat. See you in 2024.