Monday, June 07, 2010

Bonanza Column 188 – Trotsky Was Killed with an Ice Axe

I knew a guy who, back in the '60's used to sell encyclopedias door to door (remember door to door salespeople?). All the salesmen would get together about once a week to play poker, and among them was a guy named Fred, who was a Communist, and not just a Communist, but a Trotskyite, and Trotskyite Communism was about all Fred talked about. Consequently, particularly during poker games, Fred was pretty quiet, because while he knew a lot about his favorite subject, it's pretty hard to work into the conversation at a poker game.

Well, at one of these poker games, the talk turned to people's upcoming vacations, and one of the fellows mentioned he was going camping. As will happen in idle conversation, there ensued a kind of free association, that brought the talk around to winter camping, and from there to the equipment you need for winter camping, and one of the guys mentioned that the most important thing to bring for winter camping was an ice axe. At which point, Fred joined in the conversation, saying "and Trotsky was killed with an ice axe!"
My point is that when you have a particular point of view, you can find a way to use almost anything to bring it up. For example, on the Bonanza's web site this week, the crime log is headlined "Latest Incline crime log includes man cited for stealing a salad." Now anyone who's read this newspaper for any amount of time knows that the Crime Log includes a heavy dose of whimsy – for years now, rather than just listing the crime report, the paper has included some humor – not at the expense of reporting serious crimes, but as a way of lightening it up a bit with what I would call some small-town flavor.

So in this week's report, at the very bottom, after some straightforward reports of some serious incidents, there was the eponymous story of a fellow who had stolen a salad from a convenience store. This is where some of our local "Freds" come in. One commenter on the Bonanza's site cited this headline as proof that the Bonanza doesn't know what journalism is about. Another, in a stretch worthy of Plastic Man (remember Plastic Man?) tied this to the Bonanza's supposed endorsement of IB (though there has been no such endorsement).

Well, it just goes to show you that no attempt at a good deed goes unpunished. The Bonanza tries to retain a "local" flavor and to represent all sides of living here in what Joe Tahoe used to call Tilted Village. Jean Eick does a yeoman's (yeoperson's? yeowoman's?) job of reporting on the community-minded activities and social life of the village, Mac Avoy Layne, the ghost of Mark Twain contributes his unique take on events, Jim Clark and I try to present some aspects of political life here, and the news reporters focus on local events of moment. The Crime Log is kind of like the listing of births at the local hospital that my home-town paper ran every day – just a way of keeping people up on what's happening.

C'mon, Fred(s), lighten up. Serious crime and incidents get covered in the news – arrests, indictments, convictions, ranging from assault to murder, from embezzlement to fraud. You don't have to like it, and I don't know anyone who likes 100% of it, and lest you consider this self-serving, I write a volunteer column here – I have nothing to do with the rest of the paper except to read it as you do, but I think that overall, given the economic and political realities in which they have to work, the folks at the Bonanza do a pretty fair job, including giving the "Freds" among us ample opportunity to swing their particular hammer at anything vaguely resembling what they consider a nail.

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