Local Government Demands $100,000 To Fight Information War And Uses A Former Democrat Spokesperson To Inform The Public About It

by Travis Mateer

Yesterday’s post about the rush to exploit the death of a child on social media by Missoula County’s Communication Coordinator, Allison Franz, received some criticism from City Council candidate J. Kevin Hunt. In defense of the communication specialists I regard as propagandists for state power, Hunt had this to say:

Additionally, a PIO is not expected to be, and could never be, an expert on the various subjects she is tasked with communicating. If the standard is 100% perfection on the part of both the PIO and the entity supplying the information, no one could ever meet it, including you. That the Health Dept. issued a very prompt correction, is to be commended, not ridiculed. The Health Dept. is not tasked with determining causes and manners of deaths, either, and collects and aggregates data provided to it by physicians and hospitals. If it’s really necessary to persecute someone, you could always seek a copy of the death certificate and query whomever made the determination of cause and manner of death. This is not even determined to be an error at this point, but rather a conclusion that was premature. Where’s the scandal?

This comment is a straw man response to an argument I’ve never made. I’m not claiming public information officers should be experts in all subjects with 100% perfection. That is why I acknowledged our human fallibility at the beginning of the post. Instead I’m criticizing how paid government officials tasked with interfacing with the public to promote government transparency prioritize the use of their time and the topics they are putting on social media blast.

While I try to get information from various agencies about how our local government promotes “public safety”, an article from the Missoula Current highlights how our local government is approaching the communication challenges of the 21st century: MORE MONEY!

First, before getting to the article, I’d like to remind readers about the $46,000 in Tax Increment Financing our local officials tossed at Spider McKnight’s consulting firm, Six Pony Hitch, to develop a communication plan for MRA. While I haven’t seen the results of that money spent last August, I know we have LOTS of communication specialists doing communication work, like Ginny Merriam for the Mayor’s office, Lydia Arnold for the police and Allison Franz for the County.

Yet, despite all those paid communication professionals, we are being told another $100,000 is needed for our government to be able to effectively inform us lowly citizens of the machinations of said government. From the link:

Citing the advent of digital media and misinformation, members of the Missoula City Council on Wednesday considered funding an effort to enhance the city’s communications and outreach, particularly those related to ongoing initiatives.

The one-time budgetary request of roughly $100,000 would enable City Council to “get ahead” of public engagement, provide media briefs, post regularly to social media and prepare public presentations, among other things.

What I bolded should sound VERY familiar to J. Kevin Hunt because it’s the same rationale Mayor Engen used two years ago to justify schedule changes around the public comment opportunity for Nick Checota’s BIG DRIFT. Here’s a trip down memory lane and a portion of Kevin Hunt’s first-hand account from the comment thread:

In his opening remarks, Engen said the reason for “the rush” was that “rumors begin and spread quickly in this town, and I thought we needed to get ahead of the rumors and get this underway” (near-verbatim, from my memory). In my citizen comment (of about five minutes length, the only one from a critic; two others simply told the council to “go for it”), I told Engen that his explanation about “getting ahead of rumors” was a euphemism for “we can’t let the ignorant unwashed public slow us down with their questions.”

We need to remember who we are dealing with in local government when six figure numbers are being thrown around and Bryan Von Rocket Scientist says shit like this:

Council president Bryan von Lossberg said the modern communications landscape has shifted greatly in recent years, moving well beyond what he described as the “pre-Internet era of well-resourced local newspapers, local TV and radio coverage.”

He said citizens receive the majority of their news and government information from online sources, including social media platforms and online news sites “of various degrees of trustworthiness.”

Boy, I really wish Lossberg would specify exactly which online news sites he has a problem with because if one of ’em isn’t the MISSOULA CURRENT then I have a problem with that.

Why? Because I don’t consider a “former” spokesman for the Montana Democratic party to be a trustworthy source of objective information.

To back up this awkward fact, here’s a 2012 post from Flathead Memo that quotes an article featuring Kidston in his former political role. To get the full context about what kind of “kinks in the pipe” Kidston is talking about, go to the link.

Democrats were frank about the funding connection. 

“You’re right, there’s not too many kinks in that pipe,” said Martin Kidston, Montana Democratic Party spokesperson.

Again, without specificity from the Rocket Scientist, I can only speculate as to which online news sites he finds troubling, but I think it’s safe to say it’s probably NOT the one he’s being quoted in.

Now, here’s more “reporting” from Kidston’s virtual rag regarding the “need” to throw $100,000 dollars at this alleged communication problem:

The city has embarked a wide number of initiatives, though it rarely promotes them publicly. That has led to frustration among some council members who believe the work undertaken by the city, including its housing efforts, police reform and infrastructure goals, aren’t getting through to the public.

As a result, Von Lossberg and other council members believe the city is missing out on opportunities to engage with the public on various initiatives and arm the public with what council members described as factual information.

“I spend a huge amount of time communicating. A lot of times, it’s basic correction because there is a lot of misinformation out there from a variety of sources,” said council member Gwen Jones. “It goes to a larger communications issue in general. We’ve got some things to think about in the budget that are going in that direction. We’re always behind instead of ahead.”

Only spanking-new residents, amnesiacs, and people with cognitive decline will be able to read this drivel and come away with the impression that our elected officials actually WANT to engage with the public.

Anyone with functioning brain cells who has lived in Missoula for more than a two years might recall how von Rocket Scientist and Pitbull Jones dealt with the public during the anti-TIF uprising, and if you DO NOT recall any of that, well, I’m going to do my best to remind my fellow citizens about what exactly was going down before the pandemic allowed our elected officials to retreat to virtual meetings.

I hope those involved in that fight remember what we are up against.

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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4 Responses to Local Government Demands $100,000 To Fight Information War And Uses A Former Democrat Spokesperson To Inform The Public About It

  1. TC says:

    Wow! It was impressive to see how quickly and thoroughly Kevin Hunt shilled on behalf of propaganda. He utilized all his lawyerly skills to state a claim on behalf of faulty Governmental communications. Hopefully he gets elected because he will fit right in with his fellow lawyerly apologist, Gwen Jones.

    • I completely understand Mr. Hunt’s current approach, since just associating with me has become problematic. Such is the vindictive nature of the political machine I’m exposing.

      I’m hoping, when things settle down a bit, Mr. Hunt will be able to describe the smear campaign (bordering on elder abuse) he’s been dealing with from a malicious young political operator who appears to have taken a few pages from a certain state Senator’s playbook.

  2. TC, you’re full of it! NOWHERE did I “shill” on behalf of propaganda or on behalf of anyone. It isn’t my fault that you don’t understand ICS or NIMS. I didn’t vouch for one damn word. You’re mischaracterizing both my words, and what the county spokesperson did. She is a PIO (though with a different title). Releasing information on cause of death during a matter of high public interest is what PIOs do. More on this in response to Travis:

    If I were going to permit Democratic boutique liberals, faux progressives and their controlled opposition to choose my friends, associates and sparring partners for me, I wouldn’t engage in commentary here. They can go pound sand.

    Methinks that it was you, not I, erecting the straw man, Travis. The post on which I commented d

  3. (There…phone kept disconnecting…continuing, on laptop): Travis, the post of yours on which I commented did not touch upon the wide-ranging items you cover above. Its focus was an injustice supposedly having been done to the family of a young person hospitalized with the Delta variant, whose cause of death was attributed to COVID-19 in a public statement, then retracted hours later with the correction that cause of death was not yet determined and attributing it to COVID-19 was premature. Nothing about propaganda, public relations expenditures of taxpayer funds to enhance local government’s image, nothing about Six Hitch Pony, or anything of the sort.

    Not long ago, the Vaccine Resistance was up in social media arms over causes of death being listed on death certificates as COVID-19, for patients with COVID-19 and other co-morbidities. (That determination of cause of death usually — but not always — was proper, as critics didn’t understand how causes of death are designated.) Here, an initial determination of COVID-19 being the cause of death of a young person hospitalized with the Delta variant, was walked back immediately because someone in the medical chain of that case believed the determination was premature. There are many possible reasons for that, but isn’t it a good thing that a premature attribution of cause of death was called back?

    Deniers of the public health emergency can’t have it both ways: that is, they cannot validly condemn both what they deem to be determinations of causes of death biased in favor of COVID-19 in co-morbid patients, and also condemn rapid rescission of a COVID-19 cause of death determination that was made prematurely.

    If you’d like, we could have a discussion about the large amounts of public money lavished on public relations concerns for the purpose of improving the city’s image and manufacturing consent for policies that oppress half of our residents and enrich an oligarchy. But it would be a dull conversation, because we’re in agreement.

    As for the textbook Establishment Democratic Party smear campaign, censorship and unsuccessful effort to “cancel” me and derail growing popular support for my campaign to empower and give voice to those oppressed by the policies of the incumbent mayor, city council and the machine built over the past 16 years, I have quite extensively reported and commented about that on my Facebook profile.

    Returning to you, T.C., I suggest that your rather kneejerk flight of fancy in which you baselessly accuse me of “shilling” for propaganda, is not unlike the false light in which I was depicted by those terrified by a candidate who isn’t controlled or intimidated by party bosses, multimillionaires and mega-landlords, a candidate who tells the truth about the economic cleansing fueled by weaponized TIF. Kindly try to refrain from vilfying me or anyone else as a co-conspirator of the oligarchy in the class war, on the basis of purported words never uttered. If you’d like to discuss what I *actually said* in my comment on Travis’ post, I’m game. But countering phantasmagoric descriptions of me as a “shill” for local government propagandists is a waste of my time in which I won’t partake, and those mischaraterizations are particularly offensive given that for three years I have continuously, openly and doggedly exposed and opposed such local regime doublespeak, at great personal expense and occasional psychic trauma, without hiding behind my name’s initials. I have a lot of skin in the game, and the enconsed Establishmentarians play hardball. With respect, T.C., you’re barking up the wrong tree.

    /s/ J. Kevin Hunt
    Peoples’ Candidate for Ward 1, Missoula City Council.

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