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Media Critiques of Outlets Other Than the Chronicle

Both politics and media can be off-putting to people because of the inauthenticity around it. There’s a built in expectation that a politician will say one thing but act in another or that the perspective of a pundit is manufactured in a sensational way to create controversy and drive viewership.

It’s not just the senders of the messages who can be guilty of this. Receivers, the audience, of these messages can be equally as frustrating to contend with even if their inauthenticity is unintentional.

For example, last week Just Wright Citrus posted a blog about the defeat of a service station near the Avenue of Oaks in Floral City. The piece quoted a text message from the developer of the project Scott Adams, but all it said was that he was busy moving cattle.

Adams commented once the column was posted to Facebook that he had in fact had a lengthy discussion with Mike Wright in which he explained to him that more people had signed a petition for the project than who had opposed it along with several other factors that would have painted the proposal in a much better light than what the blog had done, but that were likely excluded because they didn’t fit the narrative that it was an idea defeated by a “little guy group” - the Floral City heritage community.

Two hours after Adams’ correction to the piece, which has still been left unaddressed by the author, someone commented, “straight forward information. No slant either way.”

That’s an absurdly disingenuous comment to make given the sheer amount of relevant details that were omitted. Most people would quickly decry this as confirmation bias, the inability to see error in material you already agree with, but in reality it’s likely the mixture of several biases including familiarity bias, framing effect bias and many others that nuanced psychology has categorized.

This might be starting to feel like a tangent but it actually transitions us to why this is important.

Understanding the names behind phenomena in media might seem irrelevant. After all, we generally know when something is wrong based on how it feels even if we can’t articulate exactly why that is.

But some things deserve to be called out. Today’s column is not about calling out Mike Wright. It’s about naming exactly why nobody should be, and very few people do, take John Labriola seriously.

Labriola was dubbed “Library Guy” by Wright late last year before his twice failed attempts to change library policy in order to exclude Pride Month displays. There’s no doubt some good came of this. It led to awareness about some of the procedures for appointing new board members that required reform. It sparked a community debate about a tough topic that should be discussed in the public forum.

But he, the person, has tried to link himself from the issue of anti-LGBT stances, and more recently, anti-anything Chronicle to the point that if you share those views, you must support him. Those two things are not at all the same. A person can both be concerned about the direction of public funds used to support perceived political agendas and recognize that Labriola’s real intentions are impure.

Much like categorizing the biases behind the Facebook commenters, that inauthenticity may need to be named outrightly in order to fully see it. Labriola makes claims that he is for protecting the children, yet his actions demonstrate he is solely interested in personal gain.

This is evident all throughout a newsletter released this week in which he was often as quick to self-congratulate, “Much of the credit for this recent political awakening goes to new conservative online outlets like the Citrus Eagle and the Citrus Crusader” as he was to self-promote, “As some of you may have heard, I have decided to run for Inverness City Council in the upcoming Nov. 8 election.” More examples are strewn throughout before closing with his official campaign disclaimer.

Mike Wright might drive me crazy but there’s never any doubt that his intent behind his writings are for the betterment of Citrus County as a community even if he and I often disagree about what that looks like.

Labriola is different though. The intent behind his writing is so clearly wrapped up in self-interest that, regardless of whether or not you agree with his positions, he personally should not be taken seriously. His political preservation from being a failed Democrat candidate to reformed Republican diehard is only further evidence of the true motivation behind his actions.

Both politics and media have enough insincerity around them. We don’t need to embrace John Labriola’s brand of bringing out the worst of both.


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