By Ben Jones
After the misbegotten Bike Trail was no longer on the table and the VDOT grant rejected by the Rappahannock Board of Supervisors, the Rappahannock News proclaimed with unflinching courage that “This newspaper has not taken a position on the merits of the Schools (sic) Connector, and we will not.”
A fearless statement, given that there is no longer an issue upon which to take a position.
That use of the “royal we” aka “the editorial we” speaks volumes about the distance that the Rappahannock News maintains from the real heartbeat of our community. Hyman Rickover once said that only three types of individuals were entitled to use that phrase: “The head of a sovereign state, a schizophrenic, and a pregnant woman.”
When “we” is used in this sense it is also called the “exclusive we,” which means the reader is not included as part of the “we.” This use of the “exclusive we” by the anonymous editorial writer has the intention of conferring upon himself the stature of authority and superiority.
That vanity is off-putting even in major urban newspapers, but its use by the tiny weekly of our little rural county is laughable. (“We” are laughing at them, not with them.) Our paper, once a laid-back and accessible read, has begun to take itself far too seriously. Its coverage of the Bike Trail saga was a turgid, byzantine, and a mostly incomprehensible struggle with the simple rules of objective reporting, and with the English language.
The conclusions of the anonymous “we” are also laughable. Had there not been vigorous opposition to this project “from the git-go,” an opposition that was broad-based and reasoned, the Editorial might make some sense. But it was never a popular notion with the taxpayers. (It immediately cost one supervisor his seat in last year’s local election). The BOS support, which made the County (i.e., the taxpayers) the guarantors of the project, was made without a proper vetting of the Trail, and without the public hearings required before a vote was even considered. It seemed to be on a very fast track, and many in the community felt they were being “big-footed” by what one old-timer referred to as the “highbrow” crowd.
There are obviously lessons to be learned by all here, and the newspaper would do well to consider its part in this very real schism. Yes, there was visceral anger on both sides. I was subjected to some of it myself. Yet the editorial falsely calls out the opponents of the trail as “self-appointed vanguards,” engaged in some sort of rabble-rousing demagoguery.
The hard-working folks whose families have lived here for generations are generally soft-spoken. But when they feel like they are not being listened to, they will ultimately speak as loud as they need to until they are heard. And finally they were heard. They said “no,” loudly and clearly.
Newcomers, such as the ownership of the Rappahannock News who deign to morally instruct the folks who were here when they arrived, are also guilty of being “self-appointed vanguards.”