Hyping the "Hacklash"


Today's Herald cover story focuses on three specific examples of local politicians "feeling the heat on the street from taxpayers and public sector workers fuming over impending layoffs and service cuts": someone shooting at the Lawrence city planner's office; Gloucester mayor Carolyn Kirk finding a pile of dead fish on her front porch; and Brian Wallace "getting an earful" about the proposed state gas tax during a fill-up.

First off, compared to gunfire and a pile of dead fish, having a constituent complain vociferously is pretty unexceptional stuff. So we should probably say there are 2 specific examples here, or 2.5, tops--certainly not 3.

Or is that too generous? Reporter Ed Mason doesn't say that the Lawrence shooting was definitely the product of ire over cutbacks; instead, he says authorities think it "may be related" to recent layoffs and firings. And this AP article says authorities do, in fact, think a connection is possible. But the AP also includes an important detail that Mason fails to mention--namely, that the city planner himself, Michael Sweeney, thinks he was shot at specifically due to his anti-corruption efforts:

[City Planner Michael] Sweeney, who recently played a role in firing a parking clerk accused of selling a bogus parking pass, said he believed the bullet was meant to send him a message and called the gunshot a "cowardly act."

"Without a doubt, I think this was directed toward me," Sweeney said. "The mayor and I have been successful at stopping questionable activities at City Hall that were, in some cases, illegal. This just makes me more motivated."

Sweeney said he had his "suspicions" about who might have fired the bullet, but he wouldn't elaborate.

If Sweeney's right, we're down to 1.5 examples--at most--which is pretty slim pickings for a trend story.

To be fair, Mason's story includes other, more generalized evidence aimed at proving his thesis--angry emails received by Kirk, people getting "very, very angry" with Lynn Mayor Chip Clancy, Melrose residents complaining (as they should) about city workers who aren't actually working.

Then again, it also includes an ominous reference to last year's fatal shooting of five people during a Kirkwood, Mo. city council meeting--which, since it seems to have been linked to racial tensions, may not be relevant at all.

In sum: take this "Hacklash" stuff with a fat grain of salt.


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