Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Outliers inhibit real discourse

I love a good story, and even if you have not liked all the endings, Wisconsin politics
has been full of good stories. Legislative politics has become dramatic to say the
least. And it grows more dramatic with the partisan caricatures who say and do
things outside the realm of good sense, and there is nothing that makes a better
story than an excellent villain. There is something strangely fascinating about their
antics to those who both agree and disagree with them, and it’s no mystery why:
People enjoy being angry at outrageous statements or having the opinions they
would never say aloud reinforced.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans are free of these characters. I would like to
draw your attention to Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend and Capitol protester
Jeremy Ryan. If you’re not familiar with the term “media-boner,” it’s a term I coined
to describe the rush people who say and do dramatic things feel when they get the
press’s attention. I usually avoid them as a general rule. Maybe these two will get
media-boners, but maybe they won’t. I would avoid talking about them completely,
but their presence and role in political discourse points to a visceral and perhaps
natural tendency in human nature and politics.

In a Sept. 30 CapTimes column, former Badger Herald opinion editori Jack Craver pegged Grothman as the liberal
boogeyman, which I think is an apt description. In the same column, Grothman
denounced patients disclosing sexual orientation to doctors, which is a measure
Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison had proposed. He went on to Craver about
how doctors would be “appalled” to ask patients about their sexual orientation.
He added he usually avoids trips to the doctor’s office to begin with. The future is now, Glenn. Welcome, we are glad
you have arrived. People go to doctors here and not everyone’s sphincter tightens at
the thought of sexual health.


I could sit here and chuckle to myself about the misguided and antiquated opinions
of an older man who has a tenuous grasp on what decade he is living in. I could, but
I can’t. The unfortunate reality is that this man holds a public office, which is why
his remarks are threatening. Which is why he is a good villain. A good bogeyman, as
Craver put it.

The Capitol protestors do not get off easy. Jeremy Ryan of Segway fame has recently
made headlines after he was charged with allegedly harassing journalists at the
Capitol, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The police complaint states Ryan had been
mockingly singing about the death of Dick Wheeler, a respected journalist, in front of his daughter. It’s
important to remember these are allegations, but they are serious ones. If it
turns out they are true, then his actions breach basic decency and also tarnish a reputation of peaceful demonstration and activism this state and campus prides
itself on. And if you were for the collective bargaining bill or thought the recall and
protests were a waste, wouldn’t it be sweet if a well-known protestor did something
ugly? Wouldn’t he make a great villain?

If one were to write a dramatic screenplay of the Capitol protests from the
protesters point of view, Grothman would be in the GOP villains’ lair, twirling his mustache
and sipping cognac while protesters mulled in the snow, hoping for a better
tomorrow. If one were to write a dramatic screenplay of the Capitol protests from
the Walker’s point of view, everyday outside the Capitol would look like an unruly
uprising while Grothman tried to do what is best for the State of Wisconsin. Therein lies the
problem. People like narratives, people like villains and people like heroes. Some
people see themselves playing those roles, while others look to the “villains” to
discredit the ideas they do not agree with.

Both Grothman and Ryan function as these characters for both sides of the
spectrum. If you were not weary of either of these men before, be weary now.
These men are arguing and acting outside the realm of reasonable behavior and
discussion, as are the people who endorse and agree with their actions. That said, it
is too easy to label all conservatives or protesters based off the unpopular actions of
a few people who attach themselves to those camps. The villains are out there, and
they’re acting villainously (allegedly in Ryan’s case), but they win if they tune out
partisan minds from listening to reasonable arguments from the other side.

Adelaide Blanchard ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.

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