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Hogtied pics, old apologies, the sands of time, and why an awful joke turned political.

If I had a nickel for every time somebody…

Wait a minute here. This isn’t about griping, this is about making the record as clear as possible about what I will term the “hogtied pic post.”

If you’ve read this space regularly over the years, you are probably aware that back in September, 2017, in the run-up to the council election that gave us (most of) our current council, I made a public apology for an ugly, ill-considered image I posted as a joke in a conversation on the Sterling Heights Local Politics group.

Let’s get it out of the way and post the image right here for the world to see:

Here it is, permanent testament to the fact I can be really stupid and insensitive.

This was a big deal for me and still is

People being what they are — human — and not all of them lining up for their very own Geoff Gariepy Fan Club membership cards — have continued to circulate this story to this very day. Every so often someone or another will stand up at a council meeting to complain about why I’m still allowed to be involved with the city having posted that awful image; it’s almost become a tradition for a couple of the frequent fliers at council meetings; head on down to the corner of Utica and Dodge Park, wait for the Communications from Citizens portion of the meeting, stand up, take a swipe at the mayor and/or his wife, sling a barb or two at a “liberal” member of council, remind all of them who they work for, and then finish things off with a few choice words about that terrorist ISIS member on the Planning Commission, Geoff Gariepy.


Now I am not complaining. I bought and paid for the notoriety that went with posting that image, and I own it. That’s what happens when you make a mistake in a political environment and you aren’t everyone’s friend. I made another mistake earlier this past week concerning Mrs. Early’s statement on the outcome of a court case. Compared to image-gate, that one was small potatoes, but I apologized for it because it was the right thing to do. I make mistakes. I try to own them and learn from them. It’s what you do.

Political opportunism rears its ugly head

Yet, there’s no denying at this point in time that the thing has taken on a life of its own. Today I was in a disagreement with candidate Early over on the Nextdoor social media site, and she apparently felt she needed to add a little juice to her side of the argument, so she trotted out a screen shot of the hogtied image to shock the people reading along with the back and forth. Today she even linked the news article. I was so happy to see her dedication to thoroughness in taking a swipe at me. Somehow she overlooked the opportunity to post my apology, but I don’t expect any better.

Now, for my part in this argument with Early, I have taken her to task for her opposition to a Mosque on 15 Mile Road. It’s the same issue that was in play when the hogtied image was posted, and she’s been using it ever since. If I have one confession to make, it’s that I have not been gentle with her over on NextDoor; she’s got a well-deserved reputation on the issue, and most moderate conservatives such as myself agree that the reputation isn’t a good one. Suffice it to say, she must have felt she was on the ropes, so she went with the nuclear option. Whatever. If all you have is a dried-up two-year old debacle caused by willfully misinterpreting something, well, you’re not doing too well, rhetorically speaking.

I’m not hiding anything; this post is still up

My response to accusations that I should part ways with the city has been thus: yep, I posted it, and yep, it was a really poor attempt at humor, and yep, I needed to apologize for it, and so I did. I own the responsibility, and I own the consequences.

But I was also careful to point out that there was never an attempt made to hide the post despite many accusations; after nearly two years it’s still visible if you go into the search box on Facebook while in the Sterling Heights Local Politics group and type the words “hog tied” in. There’s never been any attempt to take it down; I figure if it’s going to keep coming up, why not keep it around to show everyone what really happened?

Part of this has been because the post as typically circulated by people on the political fringe has been edited to remove the context. I always thought this was unfair, but if anyone should know one thing about the Internet, it’s me: when you post something on Facebook that can be used against you, it will be seized upon and you take your licks for such things.

Not only did I apologize, I also offered to resign.

I made a terribly callous joke. I apologized. I have been told by a lot of people I should not have apologized. According to this theory, I should have reared up on my hind legs and fought.

But it was important to apologize, and so I did. It was not easy. Go have a look for yourself.

But there was more to it than just that.

This hasn’t been public information up until right now, but I also offered my resignation from my post with the Planning Commission to the mayor the day after this blew up. I felt like if I was going to be a liability to his campaign, that was not in either of our best interests, so I broached the subject with him.

My offer was rebuffed, thankfully. I have enjoyed my time on the Planning Commission immensely, I feel like I have found a place there that I can make a good contribution, and I am glad he was able to see beyond that very moment and tell me no. I truly appreciate it, Mayor.

For those of you out there saying I should have resigned, well, the mayor saw that coming, and fortunately for me, he headed me off at the pass.

I can’t live in the past; I can only live in the present and hope the best for the future. Basically, whether it’s behind the rest of the political yahoos in town or not, it’s behind me. News flash: I’m not going to resign from anything. If the political scene changes and the new rulers of the roost decide to give me the hoof someday, then that will be that. But until such time as that happens, I will remain as long as I feel I’m making a contribution.

Facebook does not age well

But, as it turns out, time erodes Facebook, and less and less of the original post, and thus the extenuating circumstances of the hogtied image’s true context is slowly disappearing over time. With it being election season again, people are renewing their efforts to try to capitalize on this. If the original post is slowly going away, right now it is important to preserve it for what it was, in all of its awful glory, just to keep the record straight.

Fortunately, my friend Malcolm McEasy captured screen shots of the exchange shortly after it happened and blew up in my face. The man has a library. He graciously made a copy of the images available to me within 10 minutes of my asking him this evening.

There are 11 individual screen shots; they follow the conversation roughly from beginning to end, and you can see that what really was going on.

Plain and simple, the exchange of words and images was a silly game of one-upsmanship: a few of us were discussing putting time limits on the Communications from Citizens segment of the regular council meetings, some of us were for it, some against, and as it entered its twelveth or thirteenth hour, late at night, it got silly. Kim Jong Il appeared in a CERT vest. Somebody posted a pic of a person with their mouth tied shut with steel wire. The flag of the Republic of North Korea had the Sterling Heights city logo superimposed over it. And then I went for the gusto and one-upped them all: I found a picture online of a group of Muslim prisoners, hog-tied and hanging from a swingset, apparently waiting to meet whatever their horrible fate was, and captioned it “In a perfect world, this would be the line waiting to speak at Communications from Citizens.”

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Callous. Stupid. Insensitive. Idiotic. Believe me, you can’t beat up on me any harder for this than I beat up on myself. And I’m still being reminded of it at least monthly, if not more often than that.

Well if you visit the thread today, some things have changed. Some of the other images have up and disappeared for reasons unknown. The context in which the post was made is slowly eroding. People have likely come and gone from the group, and as we all know, what is posted on Facebook is not our own.

A look at today’s version of the thread is about three quarters the original length, if not less.

So in order to preserve my sanity by showing the world that I may occasionally be stupid, but at least in this case not evil, and having had this thrown in my face yet another time by a third rate candidate looking to gain an advantage over her opposition in an argument, tonight I requested a copy of the original archived images from Mr. McEasy.

So, without further ado, here are the archival images. Note that the times of day depicted in the screen shots are inaccurate. The conversation started in the late morning, and went on for 14 or 15 hours, late into the night. The images started flying around somewhere around 1-2 AM. I get loopy at that time of night. I showed poor judgement.

Note that I’ve taken the liberty of inserting a comment here and there as captions to help explain what was going on. There’s certainly some jagged edges in some of the screen shots, and it appears they were taken from two different screens with different resolutions, but here’s the best I can do to reproduce Facebook circa September 2017, a surprisingly difficult task.

As you can see, this started out as a poll about cablecasting the city council meetings.
As you can see here, early on in the conversation things started showing signs of getting strange. North Korea?
Malcolm was really opposed to the idea of not televising the meetings, and he and Wyatt Storch, both staunch defenders of the 1st Amendment, started drawing some conclusions that were a little over the top.
Okay, I thought it was getting silly at this point, so my responses started to match them, silly for silly. But I was also making a serious suggestion: move Communications from Citizens to the front of the meeting. I still think it’s a good idea.
The post at the bottom started off the image exchange. It would get weird, and then turn bad from here.
The conversation had been going on for hours at this point, and the images started becoming more frequent and less serious. Everyone knew that things had devolved to an exchange of jokes by now, evidenced by Wyatt’s comment about ‘perverted jokes’.
Annd here we go. Kim Jong Un world’s most evil dictator at the time, depicted in an ersatz CERT uniform. Yes, the image exchange was now fully on, and things were getting chippy. Yes, they were humorous, but clearly we were in a game of one-upsmanship now.
And here we are, the Sterling Heights city logo in a North Korean flag, somebody with their jaw wired shut…and then I overshot the mark. This is what got me into all the trouble: we were playing games, the currency of the game was ever-more-shocking images, and then I made an ill-fated decision to play hard core. By the way, the time shown on the picture was off by 12 hours. The bulk of the image exchange part of this conversation happened between 1 and 2 AM in the morning. Facebook is strange about times and dates.
Blah, blah, blah. The image was posted, the participants in the conversation knew it was a joke, and the discussion just simply went on for several more pages. Nobody was offended because it wasn’t a heated exchange. It was just an unfortunate form of silliness that took an ugly turn, got blown up by some political opponents, and turned into something other than what it actually was.

Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see

Simply put, the image was a terrible joke. But in the end, it was simply a joke in a conversation that was showing signs of getting out of hand right from the beginning. Candidate Early would have you believe otherwise. Charles Jefferson threw such a fit in the lobby of the Police Department on the day he discovered this, which happened to correspond with a Planning Commission meeting night, that a protective detail was sent over for our normally very sleepy meeting. I had no idea what was coming until I showed up at the meeting; I had completely forgotten about the image, the conversation, and the entire thing; it was just a harmless bit of fun, or so I would’ve thought. When I saw Jefferson’s copy of the image, distributed to all of my fellow Planning Commissioners along with a shouted demand that they remove me from the commission that night, I noticed right away the text had been edited by the mayor’s opponent in the upcoming election, Jeffrey Norgrove. And it all became very, very clear what had really happened.

Jeff Norgrove, and his good friend Jazmine Early

You see, Mr Norgrove had been taken to task by the mayor for posting images of a nude woman on Twitter. He had also repeatedly posted anti-Islamic messages on his personal Facebook page. It had blown up in his face, as it rightfully should have. Here’s a sampling:

By the way, take a gander at who is agreeing with “J Ivan Norgrove” in some of his posts.

Are things starting to become clear?

I blundered into providing the perfect political payback in a dispute between two mayoral candidates. My ill-considered attempt at humor? An easy deflection of the public’s attention from Candidate Norgrove’s mysogyny and anti-Islam stance. And look who is right there with him when he’s making his anti-Islamic statements: Jazmine Early.

Jazmine, you DO owe me an apology. Not that I ever expect to get one.