Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Mayors Calling Mayors the "B Word": Nounism In Portsmouth, Ohio

Scioto County is a microcosm of America even though the demographics certainly show it to be unrepresentative of the great majority of places in the United States. An era of great distrust for government plus a backlash against political correctness has revealed a dark side – government officials and politicians use name-calling and other distasteful tactics in official capacities to belittle opponents with differing views.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leads the insensitive charge in regard to careless disrespect. Who can deny his influence on those Americans sick of the system who then mindlessly resort to this type of belittling behavior? Many conservatives see Trump, someone who holds no political office, as a champion of free speech. What a distortion of his character.

Jeremy E. Sherman, Social science and science writer, cites Trump's name-calling in an article as far back as 2011 ...

Today Trump called Seth Meyers a 'Stutterer.' Everyday he calls someone a 'Loser.' People are things, plain and simple. Just figure out what kind of thing they are, a good thing or a bad thing and call them that.

That's ostensibly the extent of Trump's psychological reasoning. Psychology as taxonomy, identifying what sub-species of winner and loser people are. Letterman suggested that Trump's recent attacks have 'smacked of racism' but its broader than that. It's nounism: basically leaning lazily into name-calling rather than thinking.

He reminds me of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland who on impulse and at the slightest provocation shouted 'off with their head,' as though any time someone else became the least bit challenging – every time someone made your head spin – the simplest solution was to have that someone's head removed. Rather than tax your noggin, have theirs eliminated.”

(Jeremy E. Sherman, Ph.D. “Trump's Name-Calling a Symptom of Nounism.”
Psychology Today. May 02, 2011.)

Please read the entire Sherman article by clicking here: .

It's not just Trump. Others in executive positions employ radical nounism at an alarming rate. Sherman says in recent decades many officials have used despicable, loaded nouns and descriptive adjectives “under the influence of Karl Rove and a general Republican emphasis on sounding practical.” Many conservatives have leaned heavily upon name-calling following the banner of stamping out any vestige of political correctness.

Why is nounism so disturbing? Sherman explains ...

We intuit that nouns are what practical people focus on. They're what make the world feel solid. Nothing is more solid than a thing. Feel that table in front of you. It's a hard thing, a hard truth.

Using nouns, especially loaded ones, to describe people is the simplest way to telegraph your view of which ones to trust and which not to trust A person is a thing, either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what nouns we assign.”

(Jeremy E. Sherman, Ph.D. “Trump's Name-Calling a Symptom of Nounism.”
Psychology Today. May 02, 2011.)

Applying Nounism to Local Politics

First of all, let me admit that I worked for the recall of Mayor Jane Murray. I had my own reasons for doing so, and when I asked people to vote for recall, I represented no office or other interest. Mayor Murray was recalled. I considered the matter finished.

Of course, I carried some regret with my decision to campaign for recall. After all, I realize any change mandated by the people has positive and negative effects.

I have thought about the outcome of the recall many times, and although I don't regret my actions while seeking Mayor Murray's recall, I believe the people spoke at the ballot box, and Portsmouth, as a result, should move on without malice or further division. I hold no hard feelings against Jane Murray.

But now, the nounism raises its ugly head ...

The Daily Times reported February 19, 2016, that in an email dated Saturday, February 13, 2016, and addressed to all members of Portsmouth City Council, City Clerk Diana Ratliff, City Solicitor John Haas, City Auditor Trent Williams and Wastewater Director Rick Duncan and obtained in a public records request by the Daily Times, current Portsmouth Mayor Jim Kalb wrote:

I know that most of you don’t even want to acknowledge her with a reply, but the bitch (Jane Murray) lies…”

(Frank Lewis. “Mayor calls former mayor the ‘B’ word.” Daily Times. February 19, 2016.)

The email obtained by the Times was in reference to a Cincinnati Enquirer story about the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District spending as much as $680 million in public money during the past decade with little or no oversight from anyone outside the agency.

At some point in the email Mayor Kalb called Murray the derrogatory name.

I know that most of you don’t even want to acknowledge her with a reply, but the bitch lies….I hate the thought of anyone reading her trash and thinking it’s all the truth. It’s clear that she just won’t give up by being ignored; she needs to be seen/known for what she really is.”

Of the email, Kalb said, “First, I’m fully aware that this email could be made public, but it’s nothing that I wouldn’t say to anyone.”

In a later Portsmouth City Council meeting, Mayor Kalb reacted to the Daily Times story. According to Frank Lewis, Times reporter, Kalb said:

I’m going to take this opportunity to speak about my recent email that made the top spot on the front page of this past Saturday’s newspaper. First I want to apologize to anyone that I may have offended other than the person that I referred to as a female dog, or as the headlines read – the 'B' word.”

Kalb then said he did not know what qualified the email to be referenced in a front page story.

Was it the fact that the mayor used the 'B' word, which can be heard anytime on the History Channel, AH Channel, Discovery Channel or just about any other broadcast station on TV?. Or was it the fact the mayor called an ex-mayor any unflattering name?

This is the same ex-mayor that called everyone sitting at these tables crooked, incompetent, stupid, uncaring and selfish individuals. The same ex-mayor that, when I went shake her hand at the courthouse for garnering the most votes in a primary election, she jerked her hand back and asked me how that second place was working for me.”

Kalb then referred to Murray as, “The same ex-mayor that sends correspondence to Portsmouth City Council about official business, but purposely neglects to include the President of Council, and also asks the other recipients not to copy the correspondences to him.”

Kalb re-iterated his original quote in a somewhat more subdued manner.

What else could you call a person like that?” Kalb said. “In my limited vocabulary, that was the only one word that seemed to best describe her and I used it.”

In closing, Kalb said ...

Let me, in closing, in no reference to anyone, there are no consequence to sharing this email. I have accepted the responsibility for this black eye on the city by supplying someone with the ammunition. Is there anyone here man enough to stand up and say they’re the ones that shared the email? I sent it to 10 people.”

When no one responded, Kalb ended with, “Very good. That concludes my report.”

(Frank Lewis. “Mayor elaborates on emails.” Daily Times. February 23, 2016.)

This is not the first time Mayor Kalb has openly recorded some questionable comments about those in city government.

In 2015, Mayor Kalb wrote in his City Manager Performance Evaluation of Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen, that the city manager should “lose a couple of pounds, practice stress management and find a doctor to prescribe Viagra.”

Kalb later apologized... well, kind of... for writing his bawdy comment. Kalb said he would accept responsibility for what he termed “a failed evaluation process.” He said "council should have sought professional guidance from the start allowing for their questions and concerns to be addressed before the evaluation began."

Clearly, Mayor Kalb wasn't fully admitting to misjudgment on his part.

My Suggestion

Anyone who knows me understands that I have lost my “cool” and made mistakes at some very inopportune times. I later regret these gaffes and attempt to make apologies and amends. Admittedly, I am not always successful with my efforts to correct my mistakes; however, I do understand that any blunder I have made was my fault, solely something for which I am fully responsible.

Although I am not a fan of intercepting emails, especially private conversations, I see a great need for those people who represent our city as public servants to conduct themselves with proper restraint and decorum as they represent an official office. To do less betrays the trust we, the citizens, give them upon election.

Why did Mayor Kalb send those emails in the first place? I feel confident that his excuse for employing hurtful nounism as the only thing he could say with his “limited vocabulary” is deceitful. Sharing emails with such inflammatory content that he later dismisses as merely calling Murray “a female dog” makes him look ridiculous and incompetent.

I believe Mayor Kalb needs to reconsider his attempts to apologize for his disrespectful comments. An apology should not include excuses and hindsight reasons for misconduct.

In the first instance of the “Viagra” comments, the fact that Mayor Kalb submits such glib remarks on a performance evaluation is unprofessional and reflective of a nonchalant, improper response to the evaluation of the City Manager of Portsmouth, Ohio.

It is clear, taxpayers pay the city manager's salary, and we demand accurate, serious evaluation of his performance from the mayor and city council. It is critical to the residents of Portsmouth. It is not a joke. There is no honest regret when a person blames the evaluation process for his own improper comments.

And, it seems, once again Mayor Kalb is attempting to shift the blame for his own mistakes in the “bitch” email. The fact that such language can be heard on the History Channel or on the Discovery Channel in no way excuses a sitting mayor from making such derogatory comments – especially in correspondence he knows is a part of public record. It is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Mayor Kalb is guilty of nounism and transferring blame for his own transgressions. This is true of Trump on the national scene, and it is becoming increasingly more common in society to model this behavior and to denigrate others. Reducing another public servant to a “bitch” while occupying a mayor's position is more than troubling.

I believe in apology. I question those who claim a strong person need never apologize. In fact, I have never regretted making a sincere apology as part of making amends. Nounism is hurtful and counterproductive to progress. Those who harbor revenge must carry a load that reduces their capacity to love others.

"I'd like to punch him in the face. In the old days
protesters would be carried out on stretchers." 

--Donald Trump remarking about a man disrupting his rally

I do not know the mayor; he may be well-intentioned and guilty of some simple errors. We all mess up. We all are imperfect human beings.

However, I believe there are important matters at hand that should occupy his time. His private life is his own in which he may speak in any manner he wishes, but his public life demands decorum. I hope he understands this -- it matters even in our little world of Scioto County -- and takes the opportunity to apologize fully and to pledge no further shenanigans.

Other people have a built-in “sincerity detector,” so an insincere apology really doesn't work. How can one best be sure an apology is accepted? Four simple steps will help that occur:

* Acknowledge what you did was wrong.
* Accept responsibility for your action.
* Make attempts to atone for the wrong you committed.
*Give assurances that the transgression will not happen again.

Hatcher, I. (2011). Evaluations of apologies: The effects of apology sincerity and acceptance motivation. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 71, 7087.

Noble, N.D. (2006). The use of apologies in romantic relationships. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 67, 2283.

Volkmann, J.R. (2010). A longitudinal analysis of the forgiveness process in romantic relationships. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 70, 7274.

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