Undoing history: Walker-style

My editor and I were sitting in the newsroom the other day
planning the start of academic year when the phone rang. It’s a rare thing these days, as most of the communication
with news staff comes via their cell phones, emails and other less traditional

She grabbed the phone and all I heard was her end of the

“OK. Explain it to me… I need to know more about this… Can
you give me your name? … Outline what you’re talking about in an email then…”

I figured it was a big news story or a tip on something that
needed to be investigated.

She hung up. “Fucking Busted…”

Busted was a section we ran in the paper for years until we
finally decided the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze about four years ago. It’s a
simple concept that many college papers use: Send a reporter over to the police
station on campus, look through the police reports and run a series of bits and
bites about who got caught peeing in the parking lot or smoking weed this week.

Of all the “Busted” stories the paper ran, my favorite was
one I read before I was advising the paper. A male and a female student were
busted having sex in public behind the giant sign at the entrance to the
university. The man begged the cops not to write him a ticket because he didn’t
want his girlfriend to find out about this by reading the Busted section.

Kids used to love reading about their friends and roommates
who had been caught doing stupid crap. The kids who got caught over the years
were less thrilled, but were generally OK with it. They would call and complain
but in the end, it didn’t matter much because a week after we published it, the
news was relegated to the recycling bin and another group of kids was on the
hot seat.

However, thanks to the Internet, we get at least a call or
three per month from 20-somethings who have Googled their names and found their
exploits live on in cyberspace. The requests range from “I’m going to sue you
if you don’t pull this down” to “Please, my kid is learning how to use the
Internet and I don’t want her to find this.” The most common one is that the
charges were dropped or that it was factually inaccurate. Of course, when we
look it up or ask them to explain the error, it turns out that the original
story was right on the money.

As much as this becomes a pain in the ass, I can forgive
these kids. I thank God every day and twice on Sunday that the Internet wasn’t
around when I was in college. If every drunken email I sent, every stupid
column I wrote, every angst-y moment and every growing pain I had were
available for public consumption, well, God knows where I’d be. When kids ask
if they’re better or worse than I was as a student journalist, I tell them that
I don’t like to compare, but that they have to make sure they suck less than I
do because their mistakes can go viral. When I wrote a “Student excited dad got
head job”
kind of headline, the worst thing that happened was that journalism
TAs cut it out and pasted it on their office doors. Now, failure can go global.

Just ask Brian Collins.

It’s a lot harder to forgive people who should know better,
however, like Gov. Scott Walker. Governor Deadeyes made a big deal out of jobs
in his campaign for state office in 2010, pledging to add 250,000 new jobs to
the state by the end of his first term. As that number went from a lofty goal
to a pipe dream to a “no way in hell” albatross, Walker started walking his
“pledge” back into a “goal.” In other words, it went from “We will do this!” to
“It would be great if we could do this.”

At a speech in Merrill, Wis., Walker tried to further walk
back his pledge by saying that he really didn’t have a specific number in mind,
although everyone else on Earth seems to remember that 250,000-job pledge. The
local NBC affiliate posted a story on the Web, under the headline “Walker backs
off campaign jobs pledge at Merrill stop”
quoting the governor as saying:

“My goal wasn’t so much to hit a magic number as much
as it was, in the four years before I took office, when I was campaigning, I
saw that we lost over 133,000 jobs in the state. I said, ‘it’s really not about
jobs, it’s about real people, real jobs like those here, and more importantly,
affecting real families all across the state.'”

The story isn’t anything to write home about, nor is it
factually inaccurate. That, however, didn’t stop the governor’s people from
calling up WJFW and requesting that station take the story off its site
Instead, the station ran a follow-up story, noting the request and airing some
damning footage of Walker as a candidate making his 250,000-job pledge to Mike
Gousha on a weekly TV news magazine.

The request to remove the story has done two things:

It focused more attention on the way in which
Walker is operating his office. Namely, he makes a stand and when it works out,
he screams about how fucking awesome it was. When it doesn’t work, he pretends
it never happened and tries to squelch all the voices that point out how he

It drew enough traffic to the WJFW’s website to
dim the sun.

I don’t care that Walker is failing. I knew he would from
the start. The bigger issue here is how people are trying to pretend that
history can be retooled if we can just stop people from reporting that things
happened. The less-savvy folks like the
19-year-old who didn’t think before he took a leak on main academic hall is just
as liable for his actions as the governor who took a leak on our state.

However, when you’re 19 and you commit a minor infraction
without too much forethought as to how it may follow you around the rest of
your life, I can forgive you for calling the newspaper and asking to blot out
your past.

When you’re the head of my state, yeah, not so much…

6 thoughts on “Undoing history: Walker-style

  1. this time we hold the bastard to his words. he failed. totally. because the rite no longer builds. anything but discord.

  2. Not only what you say about Walker’s statement, but the 250,000 in a single state is ludicrous.
    I give 2 sources of information below. 1) because if the national number of jobs in the last 3 presidential terms ranges from 13,000 Decrease in Dubya’s first term to roughly a million a term in Dubya II and Obama, what makes him think a single state is going to get 1/4 million jobs outside of a national recovery? 2) Fun fact to have at hand when Ditto heads start talking about jobs. Especially since both Clinton Terms created 11 million jobs each.
    Wikipedia has a chart of net jobs created per presidential term.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jobs_created_during_U.S._presidential_terms
    Chart for Reagan forward. Some colums edited out. Note, I also looked for some notation that these were in thousands (or similar) to try to make the numbers larger. Also, as the columns I cut out make clear, rather than the usual govt calculation of number of jobs created and number of jobs lost, this chart looks at the total number of jobs at the 1st of their term and the number of jobs at the end of their term.
    President term Created Per Cent
    Ronald Reagan R 1981–1985 +5,322 +1.43%
    Ronald Reagan R 1985–1989 +10,780 +2.69%
    George H. W. Bush R 1989–1993 +2,593 +0.60%
    Bill Clinton D 1993–1997 109,725 +11,507 +2.52%
    Bill Clinton D 1997–2001 121,231 +11,233 +2.24%
    George W. Bush R 2001–2005 132,466 -13 -0.00%
    George W. Bush R 2005–2009 132,502 +1,129 +0.21%
    Barack Obama D 2009–2013 133,631 +1,208 +0.23%
    Just below the chart is a graph of total number of employed by year. Notice how it rose under Clinton and stagnated under Dubya.
    Bureau of Labor Statistics report on jobs created in the last quarter of 2012 (with a?release date? of July 20, 2013. They give a lot of statistics, but I emphasize the paragraph:
    “The difference between the number of gross job gains and the number
    of gross job losses yielded a net employment gain of 668,000 jobs in
    the private sector during the fourth quarter of 2012. ”

  3. Well, if there’s no written record of what he said he’d do, there’s no way to hold him accountable. If he’s not accountable he wins, right?

  4. Another thing to watch out for with this weasel is the number of “McJobs” he will attempt take credit for and fold into his 250,000 jobs goal. Sure, there are a lot of jobs being created… a new McDonald’s on this corner, a Panera Bread on that corner, the most recent craze in pizza opens a shop across the street. But NONE of these jobs pays a living wage. When you say you’re going to create JOBS, Scott Walker, WE interpret (and demand) that they are jobs that a person can support a family on. NOT a job where you ask “do you want fries with that?”.

  5. True Mark. But don’t forget how a small number of large numbers can skew the mean / average.
    Just think of the high paying hourly wages he created in the legal sector in defending and seeking court injunctions of all his humongous attempts to grab power. Add in all the publicity costs for PR folks to tell us what a great guy he is.
    Average those in with the McD’s and Panera and you’re going to have an extremely high average wage (perhaps a hundred an hour if not a thousand an hour).

  6. The GOP strategy is to just assume the public is like goldfish with no memory. It is a working strategy, just like the one that gets workers to vote against their own interests because some brown person might benefit from it too. People are stupid and hateful. That works for the GOP.

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