In the nearly ten years of editing the Adirondack Almanack, I’ve seen some pretty nutty and occasionally outrageous writing. Rarely does it warrant a response, but an anonymous foaming-mouthed editorial in Friday’s Denton papers (Adirondack Journal, North Creek News Enterprise, Times of Ti, Valley News, etc.) simply cannot go unanswered.
It is perhaps the most vicious, poorly researched, and cowardly personal attack published in the Adirondacks in the last 20 years.
Reasonable readers are familiar with Denton’s one-sided stories, obfuscations, and occasional outright lies, and they are profoundly on display here. There is no point in addressing them all, because their main argument is that Protect the Adirondacks are our collective enemies – subhuman outsiders who should be blacklisted, silenced, “abolished,” and driven out of our communities.
For a start, Protect the Adirondacks is demonstrably one of the oldest and most deeply-rooted of Adirondack organizations. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, now known as Protect, was established in 1901 and its founding membership list reads like a history of the Adirondacks in the 19th century. Denton was founded in 1948, although the current ownership dates to only 1988.
Claiming people you don’t agree with don’t belong here is sinister enough, but it’s laughable for readers of the North Creek News Enterprise who know that Denton has owned that paper for less than 10 years. Their Johnsburg neighbor and Protect board member Evelyn Greene wrote for the North Creek News Enterprise for longer than Denton has owned it. Maybe childish exuberance is the reason Denton’s editors think they can insult their neighbors.
The facts are that the vast majority of Protect members and supporters live or own property here. Two-thirds of their board live full-time in the Adirondack Park; a third either made or make their living here; five board members run businesses here that employ over a dozen people. All but two of Protect’s 18 board members own property and pay taxes here. Some of those taxes go to Denton, in the form of subsidized shipping rates at the post office and sweetheart “legal notice” deals with local governments.
Aggrandizing themselves as our official spokesmen (yes, spokes-men) and railing against their enemies is Denton’s stock-in-trade. But this time, they have simply gone too far by dehumanizing their enemies as pigs “wallowing in the shadows” and snakes who should “slink back to their headquarters”. Those are the words and imagery used by history’s most hate-filled zealots to dehumanize their enemies, to silence them, to drive them out, and worse. Drawing from the same well, they incredibly call on readers to “cut the head off this long-tentacled monster known as Protect the Adirondacks”. It’s disgraceful, particularly in light of the fact that not that long ago a Protect board member had his business torched by an arsonist that is probably still at large.
The members and supporters of Protect are not pigs and snakes and no one has the right to drive them out. They are not our enemies, they are our friends. They are members of our families. They are our neighbors. They are our collaborators in our fire departments, theater groups, at PTA meetings, and in town halls and our schools. Many of them are from families who have lived here for centuries.
Equally egregious is that these attacks have been penned anonymously by an unidentified “Denton Publications Editorial Board”. Who sits on this board? One suspects that it’s made of at least some of the Alexander family, who own the company. Three of the seven names on the masthead are Daniel E. Alexander, Daniel E. Alexander Jr., and Ashley Alexander. Ed Coates is listed, as is William Coates. (Nepotism runs deep at Denton, “Bill Coates” is an author of a scathingly racist letter to the editor published on the opposite page).
Refusing to reveal the authors darkens the reputations of those who write for Denton papers. I count some who write every week in the company’s papers as friends, and well-respected voices in our community – I hope they’ll make clear that they didn’t have a hand in this.
The final assault in the Denton piece attacks local reporters.
“The media is to blame for giving these organizations credibility. Why even allow them a voice at the table when discussing these projects?” they write. “Let us be the first to say that Denton Publications, for one, will no longer be [Protect Executive Director Peter] Bauer’s bully pulpit. We call on other media outlets to follow suit.”
Will other media outlets follow this call to blacklist and censor groups like Protect, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Council, the Nature Conservancy, and those who hold similar beliefs from their stories?
Adirondack bureau chief Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio and managing editor Peter Crowley of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise have joined representatives from Denton Publications in moderating congressional debates. Will they tacitly endorse this disservice to the very notion of journalism and the free exchange of ideas by continuing to lend their credibility to those who would not just silence their opponents, but actively work to drive them from our midst?
Journalism professionals should use this as an opportunity to reassure their listeners and readers that the censorship of ideas and personal attacks, especially those that dehumanize, have no place in our community. I hope they will.
Update 9:54 am: Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio has rejected Denton’s editorial here.