So it’s difficult to imagine how a nearly cult-like group of Internet troglodytes could arbitrarily go forth and spread venomous speech more often reserved for neo-fascists and related ilk without having some sort of source for their energy. In the case of a certain contingent of Keehniacs, it’s hard to imagine this source generating from anywhere other than the top itself.
Since the spring and perhaps even earlier, this group has spread an amazing array of allegations, hearsay, and flat out mud at anyone viewed as an opponent of the “people’s mayor.” The main and obvious target has been Public Works fixture Tom McTygue, Keehn’s nemesis on the City Council and a man with whom she very publically refused to make amends.
Starting with the documented state Department of Environmental Conservation investigation, Keehn’s supporters launched a veritable online rabble to lynch the sitting commissioner for a variety of offense. Some said he abused his wife, others questioned his fidelity. Many accused McTygue of holding office illicitly, despite recent court findings suggesting otherwise.
Then there was Web chatter of McTygue’s bullying; in his department, during council meetings and on the street. They wrote of cover-ups, back-room deals and cooking the department’s books to squander taxpayer money; all without a tattered strand of evidence.
Not surprisingly, the group moved onto mayoral challenger Gordon Boyd once the primaries neared. He was accused of posing with Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove at a Conservative Party rally. Then came the spurious assertions that Boyd would somehow further the war in Iraq, was for slave labor and against universal healthcare; pages upon pages of cyber-chatter accusing a city resident of being the quintessential man in the black cape.
Meanwhile, the patron goddess of this cult, Valerie Keehn herself, rested back on her laurels and enjoyed a cruise primary victory. But even with this mod-squad of Web junkies doing the political dirty work for her, she felt compelled to push the envelope. Cowards, she called her fellow city councilors, wretched she called her opponents and “Rove-like” she called her challenger.
So it came as a bit of surprise Thursday when Keehn denied having any part in one of the most vitriolic election seasons the city has witnessed in recent times. An anonymous poster on a fellow blog forwarded an e-mail allegedly sent by Madame Mayor, herself, in which she denies playing any part in the mudslinging.
“While I refuse to engage in such unproductive discourse, what others do with their time and energy is their own business,” she stated in the correspondence.
Now, it’s highly unlikely the mayor personally slings mud; that’s the sort of thing that can lead to some very uncomfortable press in the mainstream media. Still, the mayor isn’t ignorant enough to ignore the call of some of her most vehement detractors. In other words, someone at the top knows what is being whispered among the flotsam and jetsam of the Spa City’s blog roll. On a side-note, both this scribe and the aforementioned are regularly accessed –sometimes upwards of six times in a few hours –by someone in City Hall.
Given all this, it’s not too hard to imagine Keehn or one of her guard giving marching orders for the online contingent, even if it’s a tacit mention or musing suggestion. Within moments of Keehn’s name turning up on the Internet, a veritable deluge of comments seem to follow; many of these make reference to the allegations one can easily imagine the mayor herself wanting to say.
Even if these minions aren’t driven explicitly by Keehn –or perhaps number-two Eileen Finneran –she could easily rope them in. After all, this is the mayor who wanted each department commissioner to sign decency pledge for council meetings. She could probably call off the dogs with a simple decency pledge for the rest of the campaign. But that would be yielding a certain degree of political capital she’s certainly trying to ride back into the mayor’s office.
An even more interesting proposition is that Keehn is keenly aware of this banter and is moving to foment it. After all, her cohorts at Democracy for America generate a fairly significant amount of their support online. This is the sort of thought that harkens back to a certain president who denied any involvement in campaign wrongdoing right up until he was about to be impeached.