Thursday, September 27, 2007


The rest of the story: high-level intimidation at Kauai meeting you didn't see on TV

by Larry Geller

For television and print news reporters, the Sept. 20 Superferry meeting on Kauai with Governor Lingle was great stuff. Rife with conflict, sure to lead to many weeks' worth of letters to the editor. Conflict attracts eyeballs on TV and builds single-copy sales of  the daily papers.

I've spoken to many people who take a hard position one way or another on the meeting (and on other aspects of the Superferry fiasco, of course). From personal comments and from reading letters to the editor, it seems that there are many who hold opinions on the conduct or tone of the meeting.

Now, the cameras didn't show you the papers handed out before the meeting. If reporters had done an honest job of it, they would have gone beyond the spectacle for a closer look. I wasn't there but I received a copy of the handout today (thanks to journalist Joan Conrow, whose article in yesterday's Honolulu Weekly covered this issue also).

Kauai residents were disrespected at least two ways at the meeting.

ConsequencesThe first affront was  the handout, a specially prepared document threatening all sorts of dire  penalties including confiscation of property, jail and prison time, huge fines, and even the intervention of Child Protective Services to take away any children involved in protest activity. Download a scan of the document here, or an OCR copy here

They were dissed again when Lingle informed them that regardless of what they said, it didn't matter. From Joan's article:

Residents were expecting to discuss the ferry's return with Lingle, but when she stated that the decision had already been made, the crowd erupted into loud boos...

Also contributing to the put down were the Superferry employees brought over from Oahu to stack what should have been a Kauai residents' meeting. That tactic (stacking the meeting with supporters) might work during an election campaign, but it backfired on Kauai.

And finally, of course, the media delivered mostly one-sided coverage, showing only loud protest and skipping the sordid details of intimidation and disrespect.

Readers might form a new opinion of the meeting if they were informed that those attending were either intimidated beforehand or goaded into becoming fodder for a bloodthirsty media.

Update: I somehow missed that the papers did mention threats of arrest and the governor's "unified command" earlier, before the paper distributed at the meeting. In fact, the threats were mentioned in a front-page story in the Honolulu Advertiser on September 13.

Joan's communications with Ian Lind are on his blog, still the best place for Superferry reporting I've found on the Web. Her blog is KauaiEclectic, go visit. Also read here how the Advertiser, perhaps wanting to control the slant of its coverage of the Superferry, let her go as a stringer. So much for fair and balanced in Oahu media.

Yup, for the rest of the story, you need to search the Web.


I was there and in my opinion nobody came out of that meeting looking very good. The govenment came to read us the riot act and scold us like children. It was insulting and couldn’t have been better planned to inflame the community. But being insulted and angry doesn’t make anyone look better for screaching “F*** YOU, LINGLE!” and “LIAR!” every single time she opened her mouth to speak. It was crap all around.

I am sure that you are right. It certainly would have been better had the F word not been used.

Maybe I'll catch some flack for this, but I think I can understand the use of extreme language in the face of implacable obstinance and arrogance. I sometimes wish it was my nature to let loose like that.

For example, Lingle is happy to see seniors go without meals or home care services (she withheld money for Kupuna Care until just a day or two before the 2006 election, after she had been nailed for it). I can imagine some seniors and their families, or even professional caregivers, wishing they could confront Lingle verbally. Same for pedestrian safety. $3 million withheld may mean avoidable deaths. Is language so important in comparison to the deed that inspires it?

Just my 2 cents, not to disagree with you at all in what you have said in your comment. And thanks.

Thanks for your reply, and I don't mean to monopolize the comment thread but I do want to say: Don't get me wrong. There were many well spoken, passionate, even heated comments that reflected very well the strong feelings the issue has evoked here on Kauai. I don't mean to discount that aspect of the meeting. But notice how those who gave vent to their spleens overshadow the message. They did a dissersive to those who support the requirement of an EIS. In my opinion.

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