On What Is Being Lost As Missoula County Public School Officials Revert To Virtual Platforms For Public Meetings

by Travis Mateer

Last Tuesday I attended a Covid task force meeting about whether or not to mandate masks for kids in public schools during the upcoming school year. Since that meeting I’ve been thinking hard about what I want to say, what I want to do, and where I’ll be doing the saying and doing.

A new local blog–Missoula County Tyranny–has given me an opportunity to be a paid contributor that I’m seriously considering, but first I wanted to get the feedback of some professional non-profit virtue-signalers who have already identified this new local media outlet as being extremist:

I was intrigued by this anecdotal screenshot of extremism, so I asked these professional virtue signalers (who care more about a broken window in Kalispell than they do a dead black man in Missoula) if I would be considered an extremist by MHRN if I started contributing to this blog, but I didn’t get a response.

I think asking questions is important, even if one doesn’t get a response. But some questions are more important than others, like the ones being posed to school board officials about the actual risk school children face from Covid, and the effectiveness of wearing masks.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the public comments as I sat in that room last Tuesday, and I’ll admit to cringing when the first woman who spoke used the term “face diaper”, but over-all the people who commented in support of PARENTAL CHOICE were articulate, well-informed and openly sympathetic to those who thought differently and feared the impacts of unmasked children being children in a school setting.

Those who spoke in support of mask mandates were in the minority and their arguments were based on fear-driven strategies of emotional manipulation, like the woman who used her young daughter like a prop to repeat into the microphone what she had clearly been coached to say.

After this meeting, Missoula County Superintendent, Rob Watson, made the decision to shift all meetings back to a virtual Zoom format. Is this to keep us all safe?

Of course it isn’t. If policies like social distancing were something these school officials took seriously, the sign-in sheet for those of us making public comment wouldn’t have been placed less than a foot from those actively speaking to school officials.

Then why go virtual? Because dangerous things DO happen if people are allowed to organize in person, like meeting new allies and expanding one’s personal network of opposition to authoritarian overreach.

Something EVEN MORE dangerous happened after this meeting concluded and almost everyone else went home, and this final interaction I had is what I’d like readers to think about in the weeks and months to come.

One of the pro-mask-mandate commenters was a young man with long hair who described a possible scenario of kids dropping dead from the Delta variant. I was so incensed by his blatant fear-mongering that I blurted out BETA as he described his DELTA fears.

I’m not proud that I allowed this emotionally-charged subject to trigger my outburst, so when I saw this man speaking with someone after the meeting, I stuck around to chat.

And you know what? After both displaying some active listening skills, I was able to find common ground with this man regarding the negative community impacts of Tax Increment Financing and the mental health crisis. It turns out this guy has worked as a caseworker for a notoriously shitty mental health provider in Missoula AND he’s educated enough about TIF to understand its use lining the pockets of developers while exacerbating the affordable housing crisis.

It goes without saying that this interaction NEVER would have happened had this meeting been done via Zoom.

While this post is only touching on a few of the social aspects of public meetings returning to virtual formats, there is a whole world of legal ramifications that could be developing for public officials exploiting DELTA fears in order to put screens back between them and the public they are supposed to be accountable to.

Maybe that could be a topic for future posts at an “extremist” website that presumes we still have Constitutionally protected free speech rights to cover what our government officials are planning to impose on our children with the financial backing of our tax dollars.

So stay tuned…

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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