So why has Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos not implemented the total removal of ALL Federally mandated Common Core standards and encouraged states to replace them with proven standards that educate, instead of indoctrinate?
So why has Florida Commissioner of Education, Richard Cochran not implemented the total removal of ALL Federally mandated Common Core standards from Florida and replaced them with proven standards that educate, instead of indoctrinate? Continue reading
This morning, I was searching for information about drive thru and mail-in voting and came across a recent Orlando Sentinel editorial. Due to circumstances, I vote absentee ballot, which I mail in, but which is not the same as the “mail-in ballot”.
Here in Florida, the Mass Media(Fake News), is up to their usual distortions and outright lies in order to manipulate the masses. They have lost sight of their duty to accurately report the news and instead are focused on making up the news.
According to an ORLANDO SLANTINAL editorial, published September 9, 2020, President Trump instructed America to “vote twice”. The spewing of lies by this treacherous editorial board orders us..”not to follow the law-and-order president’s advice to break the law”.
My duty as a husband and father, is to make the best informed decisions for my family. Media’s duty is to that provide accurate information!
Media that chooses not to provide me with all the accurate information, purposefully distorting and lying to me, so I cannot make the best decisions for my family, which in turn harms my family is an ENEMY OF MINE! Continue reading
I am a die hard BAMA fan and have been so starting at birth 73 years ago. My Grandfather was a BAMA fan and my Grandmother was an Auburn fan. My mom was a BAMA fan.
I have been with BAMA through great times and very lean times. I love BAMA football because it is had been about ONE THING ONLY; football and perfection.
Today, I am very disappoined! Continue reading
Courtesy of Rush Limbaugh and a great monolouge, here is a list of many of the FAKE MEDIA driven false attacks on our President Trump, starting before he became President.
Make no mistake, this is an attack on all Americans who voted and supported him in 2016. It is also an attack on those Americans that did not support him, but through the actions of the leftist, (MLB, Antifa, etc) and the Democrats, are now eager for a change.
All the Things That Were Going to Be the End of Trump…
RUSH: I want to try to tell you where I think we are right now. You might be saying, “Where we are? I mean, ain’t it obvious where we are?” Yeah, I know, I know. But I mean in a strict political sense. I think those of you that pay attention to conservative media, you probably noticed something. You probably have noticed that it seems like more and more people that you would think are on our side, on Trump’s side, seem to be fading away and joining the anti-Trump side.
I have sensed it. I see it. I know who it is. I mean, I could give you the names. I don’t want to do that because I don’t want that to be the focal point of what I’m saying. But I’ll tell you where I think we are right now. Even though it’s months earlier in the campaign, you remember when the Access Hollywood video came out in October 2016? This was the videotape that NBC had had for years and years. Trump had made a video he didn’t know was being made with Billy Bush who was the host of an NBC show called Access Hollywood.
And it was on this show that Trump talked about what rich guys get away with, about what powerful guys get away with regarding women. And he was very explicit in where you can touch them and grab them, and they will not do anything about it. Remember that? All hell broke loose. Everybody thought, “That’s it.” The October Surprise. “That’s it. It’s over for Trump.” Remember the defectors?
Remember, we already had a Never Trump contingency that was loud as it could be, and when that Access Hollywood video was released, there were people who thought, “Well, that’s it. That’s it. I knew it was never gonna happen,” Trump supporters said. “I knew it was nothing but a dream.” Well, just to remind you, I did not think that it meant anything. I did not think that it represented the end of the Trump campaign or candidacy.
And I remember telling you that I sent a note to people in the Trump campaign to not regard it that way. I sent a note to the Trump campaign telling them to fight back on this because the American people are sick and tired of having their elections determined every year by the so-called October Surprise, a bunch of news from years and years ago that’s irrelevant to anything that’s purely dirty politics designed to take somebody out.
I said the people supporting Trump are not going to abandon him over this. I told the Trump campaign that, to anybody who would listen. I got a reply. But I had any number of people, I was telling them, “This is not going to cause Trump voters to abandon him. It’s not going to even shake the earth.”
But the Democrats all thought he was toast. They all thought it was over. They all thought that this was gonna launch Hillary, she didn’t have to do anything but show up now. And of course then the next debate came, and what happened? Trump put all of the women Bill Clinton had tried to destroy in the front row to where Hillary Clinton couldn’t miss them, to point out who really had abused women.
It wasn’t him. It was just a videotape, for crying out loud, talking about and joking and laughing and bragging about what rich guys get to do, can do, but nothing that Trump actually did.
Meanwhile, he seated all of those women that had accused Clinton of abusing them in the front row. And then when that Access Hollywood video ended up not deterring Trump and not taking him out, you have to think back hard to remember, but the media, the American political class, the professionals, they were beside themselves. They could not understand how that had not worked. And that began, that lone event then began this realization on the part of these people that nothing they have in their arsenal will take him out.
And now we’re four years later, and nothing in their arsenal takes him out. And they are beside themselves. They cannot believe it. Their impotence where getting rid of Trump is concerned has consumed them. It is eating their brains cell by cell. That’s why they’re getting insane. Anyway, that’s the exact moment we are, right here, right now in this campaign.
There’s no new Access Hollywood video, but what’s happened is the virus and the economy falling apart, the lockdown and Trump and all of these things that they’ve tried to say add up to his incompetence, we now have a bunch of people on our side, is my point, who are defecting because they think that this confluence of events is gonna take Trump out just like they thought the Access Hollywood video is gonna take Trump out.
So I thought it would be well worth our time for a short review of the attempts by the Drive-By Media and the Democrat Party to take out Donald Trump since 2016. As I have said for decades now, the Drive-By Media have a well-honed operation. They run into a situation, they stir up a lot of dust, they create controversy upon controversy, they create an absolute mess filled with lies and destruction and personal destruction, and then they leave. They head on down the highway to do it again somewhere else, leaving somebody else to clean up their mess.
Now we’ve been watching for four years now a new method of causing chaos. And the new method of causing chaos is the attempt to terminate Donald Trump. The Drive-By Media’s never-ending attempt to terminate Donald Trump is what is creating all of this chaos, angst, and anger. Let’s just review some of the things we have had to live through, which in every one of these things there were people on our side who thought, “Uh-oh. He’s toast. They got him on this one.”
Remember the Access Hollywood video is number one. Then came the golden showers story in the Steele dossier.
Remember that? Trump was in Moscow at a hotel, and as the story goes, somebody told him he’s staying in the same suite that Obama and Michelle stayed, in fact, staying in the same bed. So what did Trump do, he called up a bunch of prostitutes, had ’em come over and urinate on the bed. That’s in the Steele dossier.
That’s what Comey told Trump he should know about what’s in the dossier. That alone was supposed to get rid of Trump as well. Didn’t work.
Then the Michaels. Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal fix it attorney, Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels, Paul Manafort, General Flynn, all of these episodes.
I’m going through them in little time at all, but they all represented weeks and weeks and weeks of angst and disgust. And we were supposed to conclude that Trump was finished because every one of these people had the goods. Remember?
Every damn one of these people had what everybody wanted, that one bit of data that Trump had not paid his taxes or that Trump had paid his taxes but not enough or that Trump did this or that Trump did that. Every one of these people — Manafort, Avenatti, Stormy Daniels, they all had the goods on Trump, and they had nothing and never did.
The General Flynn fiasco.
E. Jean Carroll. She’s the one who claimed Trump raped her in Bloomingdale’s. Whatever happened to that? We got three weeks to a month out of that one.
We had Dr. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician who supposedly was lying about Trump’s health. That Trump was actually deadly sick. He was in very, very bad health. And this guy was lying on behalf of Trump because Trump was, whatever, paying him off.
We had the kids-in-cages photos. Oh, yeah. Trump was such a mean guy, he’s separating children from adults in the illegal alien population coming into the country and putting ’em in cages like animals, and there were the pictures during Obama administration.
The problem was there were kids in cages, and there were pictures of it, but they were from 2014 when Barack Hussein O was the president. Every Trump phone call to every world leader was leaked. Some of it was lies. Some of it was made up. Some of it was legitimate. Then we had Roger Stone.
Then we had Carter Page.
And we had George Papadopoulos.
Then we had the entire Russiagate scandal, the whole corruption thing that was its own entity. It’s still going on, actually, for three and a half years which led to Ukraine and Trump had asked them for dirt on Biden and so forth.
Folks, it was every day. It’s impossible even to make up a comprehensive, full list. But every week for the last 208 weeks there has been some kind of ginned up hysteria, not just a story, ginned up hysteria why the left said, “We got him this time, we got him, this is it.” The Mueller report, the Ukraine story, the impeachment testimony, the impeachment hearings, everything. I mean, the list is endless, and it was events happening daily.
We had books, we had books by anonymous somebody in the White House working on the Trump staff pointing out that Trump didn’t know what he was doing half the time, didn’t care; the other half, but not to worry, there are adults here and the country is being protected from this little man-child, Mr. Orange Man. We had books by Omarosa, a turncoat former loyalist. Where’d that go?
We had books by the Mooch, Scaramucci.
All of these people were turned into media heroes. And where did they end up? We don’t even know where they are now. Bob Woodward, Michael Wolff.
Remember all the bogus BS that he even admitted to publishing and said, “Hey, they gave me a front-row seat, I needed sell books. Who cares?” James Comey starting at 2016 in the campaign exonerating Hillary Clinton and then single-handedly running the scam investigation again Donald Trump.
We’ve had all of the Never Trumpers who’ve now formed a club among themselves. They have been rendered impotent due to abject, poisonous hatred for somebody. Donna Brazile. I mean, there are over 50 books that have been written about Trump, all of them in one way or the other claiming that he’s insane, unstable, unfit. And, meanwhile, not a single one of them has had anything approaching success in getting rid of Donald Trump.
And now what do we have? “Oh, my God. Oh, my God. It’s starting up all over again. John Bolton, yeah. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Bolton’s gonna be the guy. Bolton’s gonna be the guy that gets rid of Trump. Oh, my God.” Orgasm central. John Bolton. Nobody ever had an orgasm looking at Bolton until now. And now the left’s going nuts. They can’t contain themselves. Gotta tighten the belt. “Oh, my God. Bolton, Bolton, Bolton. Gotta get Trump.” Want to bet?
Now there’s an upcoming book from Trump’s niece on all the family horrors. Now we got the coronavirus. We got all this garbage from the Marxists at Black Lives Matter. And again just remember, this really doesn’t get into much detail about the impeachment, Russia, the Mueller report, congressional investigation. This has been our life every day, 208 weeks every day intense, every Drive-By publication and network, four times an hour the New York Times, four times a day with all of these different publications.
And every bit of it lies. Not a single word of it has been true about anything, particularly the Russia investigation. Is it any wonder you feel exhausted? There isn’t a week, there’s not a three-day period that goes by where you get a break from it. And there won’t be. We are witnessing a violent Marxist uprising under the guise of social justice that has co-opted an amazingly successful cohort of white, Millennial, college educated women.
The Democrats know that we’re witnessing a violent Marxist uprising, and their silence is a green light for more. And I might say that the Republican Party silence, no pushback, is a green light for more.
They spied on Donald Trump. It didn’t keep him out of office. A silent coup did not remove him from office. A bogus impeachment did not remove him from office. And now there’s a violent uprising meant to remove him from office. The Marxists at Black Lives Matter will admit this is their purpose, to get rid of Donald Trump.
It is meant to create sufficient chaos — defacing monuments, tearing down statues, burning and looting random businesses guarantee Trump’s defeat in November. This is the Democrat Party plan in action. They are the sponsor, they are the promoter of all of this that is happening.
So we find ourselves at the very same time, not calendar-wise, where people get scared, “Oh, my God. The Bolton book. Oh, my God.” So people are now defecting again like they did during the Access Hollywood video. I would warn all of you, none of this is gonna get Trump. Because none of these people had anything to do with making Trump. It’s a very important point.
A lot of fuss along with the usual media fawning for foul mouth, classless U.S. Representative and practicing Muslim, Rhashida Tiaib. She is from Detroit, which can explain some of her idiocy..but not all. The “Big”; she is using Thomas Jefferson’s Koran for the swearing-in.
Enter Dr. Bill Warner of Political Islam, https://www.politicalislam.com , Dr. Warner has a PhD in Physics and in Mathematics. Very useful, as he has studied Islam scientifically and mathematically. He has clarity in bringing this event into perfect focus. I have followed him for years.
Did Jefferson study the Koran..yes. Why? For one purpose only; he studied Islam so he could send in the U.S. Marines to kick the Islamic, aka Barbary Pirates’, butts. The Islamic pirates had been bullies attacking America and different nations’ merchant ships, killing and taking slaves for ransom, (because that is what the Koran instructs). That is where you get the opening lines from the Marine Corps Hymn,..”from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli..”. I love it!
One last thing; if according to the Koran and Sunna, Sharia Law is the supreme law of the land, it means that Muslims consider Sharia above the U.S. Constitution. Then, it would seem that by Ms. Tiaib, taking the pledge on the Koran, did not pledge her loyalty to America and the U.S. Constitution. Just a thought..
Please dive into Dr. Warner’s article and be sure to check on the hyperlinks in each fact..
Great piece that exposes what is ongoing and is a daily occurrence for Americans; Fake News. The purposeful, planned and unrelenting (at times not so well planned as in Der Spiegel), attack on the truth; whether in America….or elsewhere.
Ignoring what damage would/could be done to people and places. Lying in all facets of story-telling,..no matter the price. Since 2016, this dispicable and cowardly act is finally being exposed for exactly what it is.
Like Dracula, painfully dying to a new day.. so will Fake News and it’s cronies. I applaud the citizen journalist for not giving up and pursuing truth.
Fake News, whether attacking a small town, big city, rural or urban, a single person or a people or culture;..lies, all for an agenda, imprisons the exchange of free and true thoughts and ideas,..and if not rooted out, will be deadly to both.
..” There is a principle, which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-
….that principle is
CONTEMPT PRIOR TO INVESTIGATION “
Der Spiegel journalist messed with the wrong small town
In February 2017, my husband and I attended a concert at our local theater, and were sipping some wine in the lobby before the show started. Several people came up to us at separate times excitedly, and asked, “did you meet the German guy yet?!”
I hadn’t, but my spider senses perked up when I heard that he worked for Der Spiegel, a magazine based in Hamburg, and that he was writing about the state of rural America in the wake of Trump’s presidency.
I know I’m not the only rural advocate and citizen that is wary about the anthropological gaze on rural America in the wake of the 2016 elections, and has struggled with how or whether to respond to the sudden attention and questions, when before we really didn’t matter to mass media at all.
Suddenly we do matter, but only because everyone wants to be the hero pundit that cracks the code of the current rural psyche. There are only two things those writers seem to have concluded or are able to pitch to their editors — we are either backwards, living in the past and have our heads up our asses, or we’re like dumb, endearing animals that just need a little attention in order to keep us from eating the rest of the world alive.
With that in mind, I was slightly reassured to hear that Der Spiegel’s journalist, Claas Relotius, had met some of the people that could represent the true complexities of Fergus Falls — people that love a good intellectual debate about both local and national issues, people that own small businesses, who grew up here but also had global experience and perspectives, and people who collaborate consistently across political lines because the simple reality of living in a small town is that everyone at some point has to work together if they want anything to function properly.
Knowing that Relotius’ purpose was likely to focus on a few of our many conservative voters, I still had an ounce of faith in journalism. Maybe, just maybe, since he was a professional, award winning, international journalist and was spending not one day here but several weeks, he would craft an interesting, nuanced story about how we all somehow manage to coexist with each other in Trump’s America without burning each other’s houses down.
But I also had a distinct gut feeling that his portrayal of this town could go very, very wrong.
What happened is beyond what I could have ever imagined: An article titled “Where they pray for Trump on Sundays,” and endless pages of an insulting, if not hilarious, excuse for journalism.
Not only did Relotius’ “exposé” on Fergus Falls make unrecognizable movie-like characters out of the people in my town that I interact with on a daily basis, but its very basic lack of truth and its bizarrely bleak portrayal of the place I love left a very sick, unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach.
There’s really nothing like this feeling — knowing that people in another country have read about the place I call home and are shaking their heads over their coffee in disgust, sharing the article on Facebook and Twitter, and making comments on the online article like “creepy,” and “these are the people who don’t believe electricity exists.”
Relotius has received accolades for his daring quest to live among us for several weeks. And yet, he reported on very little actual truth about Fergus Falls life. In 7,300 words he really only got our town’s population and average annual temperature correct, and a few other basic things, like the names of businesses and public figures, things that a child could figure out in a Google search. The rest is uninhibited fiction (even as sloppy as citing an incorrect figure of citywide 70.4% electoral support for Trump, when the actual number was 62.6%), which begs the question of why Der Spiegel even invested in Relotius’ three week trip to the U.S., whether they should demand their money back from him, and what kind of institutional breakdown led to the supposedly world-class Der Spiegel fact-checking team completely dropping the ball on this one.
There are so many lies here, that my friend Jake and I had to narrow them down to top 11 most absurd lies (we couldn’t do just 10) for the purpose of this article. We’ve been working on it since the article came out in spring of 2017, but had to set it aside to attend to our lives (raising a family, managing a nonprofit organization, etc.) before coming back to it this fall, and finally wrapped things up a few weeks ago, just in time to hear today that Relotius was fired when he was exposed for fabricating many of his articles.
We hope that our version of this story makes you think twice the next time you read an article claiming some kind of intellectual authority over rural identity, and that you’ll come and see for yourself what Fergus Falls is all about (we don’t mind a little tourism boost every now and then — although we’re doing pretty well attracting artists from all around the nation, among other things).
1. The Sleeping Dragon
“After three and a half hours, the bus bends from the highway to a narrow, sloping street, rolling towards a dark forest that looks like dragons live in it. At the entrance, just before the station, there is a sign with the American stars and stripes banner, which reads: “Welcome to Fergus Falls, home of damn good folks.”
Fergus Falls is located on the prairie — which means our landscape mostly consists of tall grass and lakes. While we have trees, we do not have any distinct forests in our city limits, and definitely not in the route that the bus Relotius would have taken from the Twin Cities. And sadly, our welcome sign is quite mundane in its greeting.
2. The gun-toting, virgin City Administrator
“Andrew Bremseth would like to marry soon, he says, but he was never together with a woman. He has also never seen the ocean.”
Relotius chose to put the spotlight on Fergus Falls city administrator, Andrew Bremseth, as the main character in his article. We have spoken to Bremseth at length regarding the parts of the story that feature him, and Relotius got three facts right:
- Bremseth’s age (27)
- That he grew up in Fergus Falls
- That he went to university in South Dakota
Everything else, from the claim that Bremseth carries a Beretta 9mm on his person while at work (“I would never ever wear a gun to work, and I don’t even own a Beretta.”), his disdain for a potential female president, his comment that Trump would “kick ass” (“Never said that”), and even his college-era preference for 18th century French philosophers (“Never read them”) and the New England Patriots (“I’m not a fan of them at all”), is complete fiction. Says Bremseth, “Anyone who knows anything about me, this [portrayal] is the furthest from what I stand for.”
Perhaps the oddest fiction in a list of many is Relotius’ depiction of Bremseth as someone who “would like to marry soon…but he has not yet been in a serious relationship with a woman. He has also never been to the ocean.”
We can attest that Bremseth has indeed been to the ocean, by his account, “many times” and is currently happily involved in a multi-year, cohabitational relationship with a woman named Amber. In fact, here’s a picture of the two of them in front of, all things, an ocean.
Relotius also decided he could get away with telling his readers that Bremseth is the only Fergus Falls resident that subscribes to national publications, painting the community as the perfect villain around which to frame the rest of his horror story about rural America.
3. The town obsessed with American Sniper
“There is also a cinema outside of town, where fast food stores are lit up. In this cinema, a flat, rectangular building, there are two films on a Friday evening. The one, “La La Land”, running in empty rows, is a musical, a romance about artists in Los Angeles. The other, “American Sniper”, a war film by Clint Eastwood, is sold out. The film is actually already two years old, almost 40 million Americans have seen it, but it still runs in Fergus Falls.”
This anecdote that supported Relotius’ exaggerated story of an immigrant-fearing, gun obsessed small town one was the easiest to fact check and yet the strangest, most random lie for him to craft. American Sniper definitely has not played in Fergus Falls since its first and only run in 2015. To be sure, we even reached out to Isaac Wunderlich, the manager of Westridge Theatre.
4. Neil, the coal plant employee that doesn’t exist
“There is nothing on the cap of Neil Becker. Becker, a man with strong shoulders, blond hair and big, clear eyes, asks, “Have you lost your mind?” Neil Becker is 57 years old, married, a man with a deep voice and a face in which seldom find any questions. He is not a farmer, he works next door in the coal-fired power plant, his hands are always black.”
The man Relotius describes has an accompanying photo in the Der Spiegel article, and we all know that guy. It’s the one and only Doug Becker, who works for UPS and ran the Fergus Falls Fitness Center for years, which is possibly the only place in Minnesota where you could listen to a vintage record collection while lifting weights. While we have not yet been able to sit down with Doug to discuss his conversations with Relotius, we know enough about him (it’s a small town after all) to make his depiction seem very suspect.
5. The mixed-up case of Israel and Maria
“Maria Rodriguez, a mother and local restaurant owner from Mexico, who came to the USA years ago, also saw Trump as a savior.”
One of the most exploitative aspects of Relotius’ story was his depiction of the employees at Don Pablo’s, a much-beloved Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown. Relotius weaves together the story of Maria, restaurateur turned Trump supporter whose treatment for kidney disease becomes increasingly expensive under Obamacare, and that of her 15-year old son Israel, who faces prejudice at the hands of his Fergus Falls classmates. It’s riveting stuff, but, as is par for the course, an utter lie.
This was confirmed through a lengthy conversation we had with Maria’s son, Pablo Rodriguez, dubbed Israel, in Relotius’ story. “None of that story is true,” said Rodriguez. In fact, he had never talked to Relotius at all. His only interaction with the journalist was when he was stopped and asked to pose for a picture outside of the restaurant, which later appeared in the article.
In Relotius’ telling, “Israel” was a 15-year-old high school student, when in reality Pablo was in his second year of college. There is an Israel in the Don Pablo’s universe, a waiter in his late 20’s, who likely served Relotius a meal and lended his name to this fictional character, but little else.
Maria Rodriguez, as pictured in the story, is indeed Maria Rodriguez in real life, but that is where the truth ends. She does not own the restaurant (she is a waitress there; her sister-in-law Teresa is the owner), has never suffered from kidney disease, and, most tellingly, never even sat for an interview with Relotius. Says Rodriguez, “He just wanted to take a picture of me. He never talked to me about anything.”
6. The view from the Viking Cafe
“You can see the power plant where he works when you look out the window of the Diner, six tall, gray towers, from which rise white steam clouds.”
The Viking Cafe is Fergus Falls’ most treasured downtown establishment — over 60 years old. One of the reasons we Minnesotans all like it so much is that it has a cozy, underground feeling. Why? Because there are literally NO WINDOWS in the interior of this restaurant. Sure, you can see a little bit out the small front windows, but nothing beyond the shops across the street. The power plant Relotius refers to is almost 2 miles away on the northeast edge of town, blocked from view by a neighborhood on a large hill, and sports a single smokestack. Relotius’ imaginings are dramatic for the movie version of Trump’s America someday, but is it accurate and true? Not in the least.
7. Library lies
“In the library, which used to be a kindergarten, pensioners meet for knitting. A couple of buildings away, in the town hall, City Administrator Andrew Bremseth, who believes in breaking away, is leading a seminar called ‘iPad for Beginners,’ four locals are participating. He also organizes a TV series quiz night once a month, his favorite series is called ‘Game of Thrones.’
One of our writers, Jake, is married to the Fergus Falls Public Library’s youth librarian, so we feel this is a great place to quote him. “No,” he says, “the building was built in 1986 and has only functioned as a library.”
There has never been an iPad for Beginners class at City Hall. Classes like that are the library’s domain and taught by one of the librarians there. And as to Bremseth’s “Game of Thrones” quiz night? As with everything else related to our city administrator, a complete lie. Says a laughing Bremseth, “I don’t have cable, I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, and I don’t even know what it’s about.” Never seen Game of Thrones? In this case, truth is (just about) stranger than fiction.
8. High School security
“Anyone who enters it must pass through a security line, through three armored glass doors, and a weapon scanner.”
Although we haven’t tested the strength of the doors fronting our high school, we are quite sure that “armored” is an exaggeration, and there are two, not three, sets of doors; their real purpose is to keep the cold January air out of the school more than automatic weapons. That is not to say our grounds are not secure — all doors are locked during the school day and visitors must pass through the school office to receive a visitor’s pass before entering. While this picture of a hardened school is undoubtedly true elsewhere in the U.S., it’s simply not the case in Fergus Falls.
9. Secret Super Bowl viewing at the Brewery?
“The pub around him is crowded with men, hanging from the ceiling garlands, the Super Bowl is on TV, and Andrew Bremseth is sitting on a stool, in front of him is a dark beer, he likes it warm in the winter.”
The Super Bowl was on Sunday, February 5th. Union Pizza wasn’t open on Sundays at that time. Therefore, Bremseth and Relotius definitely couldn’t have watched the Super Bowl there and talked politics. To confirm this, we talked briefly to our Mayor, the owner of Union Pizza, just to make sure he didn’t have some kind of private Super Bowl party. “Was the restaurant open for the Super Bowl? Did you have it open just for friends and family?” His response to both queries: “No…?”
Bremseth confirmed this, saying, “I didn’t watch the Super Bowl at Union Pizza and I certainly wouldn’t have watched it with this guy. And I like my beer light and cold.”
10. The awesome “Western Evening”… that no one was invited to.
“That evening, Bremseth says the people of Fergus Falls love are big, extravagant festivals. It was last summer, he says, they were celebrating a Western evening here in this bar. They poured sand and straw on the porch, grilled marinated beef halves, and played a country band. All women, including Maria Rodriguez, danced in old-fashioned clothes, all the men, among them Neil Becker and his regular friends, wore hats or cowboy boots.”
We find this hilarious, if not a little inspiring for a future event idea, especially since all of the characters Relotius portrayed in this article just happened to show up at this “Western evening” in Fergus Falls. The nice thing about a small town is that none of us would have missed this, especially if our city administrator, the non-owner of our Mexican restaurant, and our non-existent power plant worker Neil knew about it and attended. Again, we confirmed with Mayor Schierer, just in case we were somehow too busy to miss this, or just not invited. “No western-themed parties here,” he said.
11. The High School New York Trip
“The bus reaches New York at midnight, the towers of Manhattan light up. The students move into a hostel on the outskirts of the city, only the next morning take the subway to Times Square. None of them ever went underground, and their parents have never been to New York. On their first day, they head through the streets, head hanging back to their necks. They spit from the Rockefeller Center and ride a boat across the Hudson River. They do not go to Liberty Island, the Statue of Liberty, but they visit the Trump Tower.”
We reached out to several sources on this one, and no one recalls a busload of high school students traveling to New York. We asked two high school students, an assistant principal, and a teacher who is tuned in to all the happenings at the school, and all cited an every-other-year band trip that goes to New York, but 2017 was an off year. We searched our local newspaper archives for mention of a trip by any of our 29 churches or a service clubs but came up short. We couldn’t find our fictional friend “Israel,” who went on the trip and we even reached out to our network of Facebook contacts to see if anyone recalled such a trip happening, but no one had. As with many other vignettes painted by Relotius, this one, too, appears to be complete fiction.
So, what did Relotius miss?
Being an outspoken advocate of rural issues and Fergus Falls, I tried to say “hi” to Relotius at a public meeting, only to be glanced at briefly and ignored because he was very preoccupied with taking a picture of an American flag at our city hall. Or maybe he just pretended not to hear me because I didn’t fit into his story.
Not only did he simply indulge in fabricating dramatic scenes and stories about Fergus Falls, but Relotius somehow spent three weeks here and managed to miss out on experiencing the real community and its many complex perspectives, which might have actually offered a helpful analyses about economic transition, politics and identity in rural America.
As a resident that moved here 7 years ago, single, at age 29 from Portland, Oregon, with deep family roots in the area, I would have happily taken him to my favorite coffee shop, where they serve locally crafted Stumbeanos coffee and a cappuccino as good as any coastal city. Or to my office at Springboard for the Arts, where we provide programs that help artists in the region make a living, and directly address the future of rural communities and culture through events like the Rural Arts and Culture Summit, and our Hinge Artist Residency at Fergus Falls’ former state mental institution. And I would have willingly poured my heart out to him about the night I watched the elections at Union Pizza, where I saw my colleagues and friends slouched over in tears of dread and sadness when we realized that Trump would be our next president.
And maybe if he gained my trust I would share with him what I had learned since starting “Open Hearts,” an online forum that was quickly joined by over 200 local residents and provides a supportive space to talk and organize around social justice and equity issues in Fergus Falls.
Yes, we have problems with racism here that he could have used real accounts of (the sign he mentions, “Mexicans Keep Out,” as far as we’ve asked other members of the community, was not seen by anyone else, and would have certainly generated a significant community discussion), but I would also have made sure he got the story of Fergus Falls residents who proudly attended the women’s marches in St. Paul or D.C., and displayed Black Lives Matters signs in our yards or buttons on our jackets, people who mentor immigrants and refugees in the region, people who grow their own food and bike everywhere in order to protect the environment and keep their families healthy, people who have chosen the simplicity rural life as a protest against the often extravagant necessities of city living.
This is just a hunch, but it seems to me that Relotius’ overseas readers might appreciate knowing that small American towns are more complex than they imagine — that die-hard liberals like me can still magically live alongside conservative Republicans — that sometimes we even find some common ground and share a meal together, and take the time to try to understand each other’s viewpoints. You see, we’re definitely not perfect here in Fergus Falls, and many of us feel a lot of responsibility right now, considering that our friends, family and neighbors voted against their own interests in 2016. But we also know how it feels to be ignored in policy and media for decades only to be lectured by ignorant articles such as this after so much silence about our challenges.
So, now I’m glad that I didn’t waste my time talking to Relotius. I’m grateful not to have had my name permanently embedded into his article. But my friends and neighbors in the article are not so lucky and they deserve to reclaim their stories, as well as to hear apologies from Der Spiegel and Relotius.
Unfortunately now, even if it is in German, there is false historical documentation of our community that is not only completely wrong, but that our faces, our landscapes and our community’s name were used for, in service of perpetuating an ugly and exaggerated stereotype during a time when we, in both urban and rural places, need to find ways to understand each other more than to be divided.
So it would be remiss of us to not to have a little hope that a few months of writing out here on the prairie might lead to others to seriously question Relotius and others writers’ credibility and intentions in telling the rural story. Or at least to inspire a better publication out there to do better work, to lift up the stories that are coming directly from rural people themselves, and help us share the real story of who we are and what our future might hold.
Michele and Jake live in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where they collaborate on weird community art projects, sing karaoke in friends’ living rooms and gossip about local politics. You can contact them on twitter at @micheleeamn and @jakekrohn.
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