Dear Andy, Elizabeth, and Jeff
League of American Bicyclists Executive Staff
Just read the solicitation letter on responding to and addressing the hate on the Internet and elsewhere. Fine as far as it goes.
We are running into a problem larger than cyclists alone. A letter to the editor in the Los Alamos Monitor was written by a local resident who, walking into County offices to vote early, heard two men say, one to the other, "you aren't going to vote for the n*gg*r, are you? ". The letter-writer was perhaps as naive as cyclists regarding undercurrents of hate?
The rise of anonymous forums on the Internet and to inflammatory radio has lead to people feeling free to say crap they would never dare to if they had to sign their names or have their faces seen in the newspaper. Perhaps from our perspective that is good--we get to see the worst of the hate speech which otherwise is underground.
On the other hand, I don't buy that perspective. I think the rise of anonymous hate speech reinforces it, due to the "me too" effect. You cannot reason with or confront a fictitious name for an Internet troll in Topix, etc. I've really gotten disgusted with organizations such as Topix which get their income by fanning anonymous hate. Our local paper, the New Mexican, has tossed its lot in with Topix. Too bad, since our previous forum kept it reasonably civil because we were all real people. The level of discourse has recently gone into and beyond the toilet bowl.
One antidote I advise is making our own faces public. When I walk into the County offices to chair our County Transportation Board meetings, its often with my bicycle, and I toss bike and helmet in the corner, walk to the nearest rest room, and come out in street clothes as Clark Kent. At work, a cyclist is chair of our LANL-wide traffic safety committee and is active in other safety issues on the technical side.
So it is obvious that I am a cyclist. You want to hate me? Take a good look. I look just like you do. Its a little tougher when we put a human face on it. Get more people active in their community as public ambassadors for the greater good--not just the cycling good.