Obsession: preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, excessively, and to a troubling extent; be uppermost in someone's mind, prey on someone's mind.
Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser has accused me of having a “verifiable personal obsession” with him — his “every action, comment and even [his] body weight and facial hair or lack thereof.”
Careful, Gary. Your narcissism is showing.
Narcissism: excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance; extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
It's true that I devote a lot of ink to Gary. In fact, only former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri — another dangerous politician — has been subject to similarly relentless attention. Though Gary was applauding my efforts then, with enthusiastic exhortations to “keep it up!”
I have no personal obsession with Gary. I've never watched “The Gary Hooser Story,” say, or driven by his house or adopted a fake identify to gain access to his Facebook page, from which I'm blocked.
No, my interest in Gary is solely as a reporter covering a demagogue.
Demagog: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
And demagogues don't like people who see beyond the smug schtick — and repeatedly and publicly call them on it, while exposing their lies.
Which I did recently on Ian Lind's blog. Ian was worrying about similarities between the anti-vaccine and anti-GMO movements, which seem to share a “distrust of authority, and the rejection of contrary evidence.” Ian ended his post with a question that I — and many others — have frequently pondered:
How do you pursue a public debate if evidence is considered irrelevant?
Gary was quick to weigh in:
Speaking from my own perspective working on this issue within the Kauai context – the issue is “not about eating the corn” but rather about the industries [sic] impacts on the health and natural environment of our community. Excessive pesticide use, experimental pesticide use, the open air testing of experimental crops not approved for release into the environment or for human consumption, impacts on local flora and fauna and the driving up the price of agricultural lands in completion [sic] with local food production are just some of the impacts that have not been studied and are not related directly to the science of genetic modification. Debating whether or not eating the corn is healthy or not from a science perspective is not the only valid basis upon which to base ones [sic] concerns.
As I read his comment, it occurred to me that the Kauai “debate” got off on the wrong foot because it was driven by assumptions about the seed companies, most of them false. Gary, former Councilman Tim Bynum and their followers told us the companies were using 18 tons of restricted use pesticides each year, drenching thousands of acres with chemicals, spraying fields 24/7, causing birth defects and cancer clusters, contaminating streams and soil, killing off sea urchins, poisoning school kids, suing the county to avoid spraying near schools and functioning as bad, irresponsible members of the community.
But as actual studies were conducted, and the companies voluntarily disclosed their pesticide use, a very different picture emerged. There were no cancer clusters around the fields. Pesticide levels were much higher in water samples collected near urban areas than agricultural lands. Doctors publicly refuted the birth defect claims. There have been no documented cases of ag pesticide poisoning among field workers, residents or students. GMO Free Kauai's own air samples found no pesticide drift. The companies apply about 5 tons of RUPs annually, and use only a very small percentage of the land they lease. They voluntarily established buffer zones around schools and homes, and began their own process for notifying neighbors.
In short, the evidence that's been collected, though admittedly limited, has disproven pretty much everything that Tim, Gary and their followers claimed.
Yet Gary and his followers have systematically rejected all the evidence, and continued their false claims.
Which I pointed out in my comment on Ian's blog, while noting:
It would have been helpful to conduct tests to truly ascertain the industry’s impact on people and the environment BEFORE launching a fear-mongering campaign to pass a bill that has been over-turned by the courts, leaving the community anxious and polarized, with only a bit more information than they had before this started.
So to answer your question, so long as politicians find it politically valuable to spread misinformation and discount evidence when it is produced, we’re not going to have a very meaningful or satisfactory debate.
To which Gary replied:
Ian I am happy to discuss this issue with you or any interested group or thoughtful individual with an open mind. I will not engage in a tit for tat with a blogger who drops in and questions my character and intent – and who clearly for whatever reason has demonstrated a verifiable personal obsession with me and my every action, comment and even my body weight and facial hair or lack thereof.
Gary doesn't much like having a Jiminy Cricket on his shoulder. And neither did Pinocchio, who “took a hammer from the bench, and threw it with all his strength at the Talking Cricket. Perhaps he did not think he would strike it. But, sad to relate, my dear children, he did hit the Cricket, straight on its head.”
The Cricket returns as a ghost, and continues to serve as a conscience to the puppet. But Pinocchio is slow to learn his karmic lessons. First, his feet got burned off on the stove, and ultimately he was hanged by the very same people who had misled him. But even then, he got another chance: and finally saw the light:
“You are right, little Cricket, you are more than right, and I shall remember the lesson you have taught me…”
That's how that particular story concludes. I'm not at all convinced Gary's will have such a happy ending.