Last Wednesday night I testified at the Juneau Assembly meeting regarding the COVID-19 ordinance. I’m not a public speaker nor have I ever been someone to get up and speak my mind in front of hundreds of my fellow citizens. Therefore, I felt it was important to prepare by writing down my thoughts, revising them and sharing them with family and friends in our community before making a fool of myself.
In hopes that the assembly members would allow 2-3 minutes per person to speak, I aired on the side of caution and did my best to consolidate my thoughts into two minutes. Halfway through speaking, it became clear that I wasn’t speaking fast enough to convey my whole message in time. Nevertheless, I powered through in hopes that I would make it to the most important part of my message, which I did.
I don’t think there’s any question of the division, violence and chaos around the world that the last year and a half has ushered in. I also don’t believe it does any good to ignore these facts. The Empire quoted me as saying, “A mask mandate no longer serves the purpose it once did. I’d rather pay a $25 fine than submit to any of your dictates. I ask you to choose wisely. You might be surprised how angry and violent our law-abiding citizens can get.” All of which is true, but if you were watching or listening, you would’ve heard the end of that last sentence instead of it being cut off at the juicy part.
For those of you who care, the entire sentence was actually, “You might be surprised how angry and violent many of our civil, law-abiding citizens can get…when forced against their will to comply to irrelevant mandates for years on end.” Not only did the Empire cut off my sentence at the most sensational part, they failed to include the immediate follow up to the previous statement. “I think we need less anger, less violence and less division. Let’s do our best to bring everyone together by letting individuals and businesses make their own personal decisions.”
Media sound bites and snippets can be misleading and downright false at times. Although I would never expect any media outlet to quote everyone in their entirety, timing and context mean everything. For example; “Time to eat, Grandpa!” versus, “Time to eat Grandpa!” Quite a silly example, yet drastically different based on a simple comma. There’s an expression in journalism, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Rational, mundane statements don’t create good stories, sensationalism does.
Was it the Juneau Empire’s intention to paint me as an angry, radical person in search of violence? That’s not for me to decide. At this point, intent no longer matters. The story has been published and the court of public opinion has decided. I don’t blame the Empire for running a story that gets clicks and comments on Facebook because it’s their job to do so. I do however believe that newspapers and other media outlets carry a tremendous amount of power and influence on our community and how we interact with each other.
I would like to thank Dana Zigmund for covering the story despite my issues with it. I’ve received supportive messages and some fairly vile ones as well. The most important part of all of this is that it sparked a conversation, not angrily scoring more Twitter points because your tweet got five more likes than another. Currently, we’re living in a metaphorical East and West Germany before the wall was torn down. Neighbors have chosen their camps and aren’t allowed to communicate with individuals on the opposing side of the fence.
Not only is this concept extremely depressing, it will lead to something much worse. I hate doom and gloom as much as the next person and politics are considered taboo in most social circles. But we have a cancer growing in our community and around the world. Like I said in my testimony, I’m no medical expert but if we choose to ignore the cancer and pretend it isn’t present, we will continue getting sicker until our eventual demise.
• Christian Jacobsen is a concerned resident of Juneau.