March 10, 1995

Dear Editor:

Mis-Information on the Bypass

The Hwy 1 Bypass issue has now entered a new era of name calling, and a new buzzword has been unleashed : MIS-INFORMATION. I am not writing to re-hash the issues; the place for that is a public forum where all data can be openly discussed. My goal is to clear the air on mis-information.

Mis-information (MI) is characterized by slogans, catchy phrases, mindless repetition, and refusal to actually discuss the controversial subjects in public forum. The goal of MI is to link a popular concept with oneself or an unpopular one with one's opponent; the truth of the position is irrelevant. If a group can establish this positive or negative image, the real issues need never be debated. Democrats can be seen as mindless spenders, Republicans as the greedy rich, Environmentalists as laughable butterfly protectors and Developers as self-serving park pavers. MI is used to hide truths, distract people from the facts, and hide real agendas. If an un-truth is stated often enough, by enough people, it will tend to be thought of by the un-informed as the truth.

MI is a characteristic of a totalitarian society like that described in the book, 1984. In our century we have seen the government-sponsored spectacles in Fascist and Communist countries with their banners, slogans, songs, and speeches with no public comment. Totalitarians fear the truth. Totalitarians fear an informed public.

A democratic society is ideally characterized by open public debates, discussions of the facts, an analysis of the alternatives, and decisions made by an informed public. When one side makes a statement, the other side can comment. When one party describes or attacks the other party's position, that party is allowed to respond to these mis-conceptions or intentional distortions. Public debate has made our democracy strong. Public debate is our only weapon against totalitarian MI.

When one side in a controversy consistently refuses to participate in public debates, continually assigns positions to the opposing party that are ludicrous and untrue, and tries to rush through a decision without public input or discussion, an informed public should begin asking questions like "What are they trying to hide?", "Why are they scared to hear our views?", and " Is there an agenda we don't know about?" . Caltrans, Sen. Kopp, and the new Pro-Bypass Coalition now use each other's speeches as their research material for Bypass information. Is it any wonder we see the exact same phrases, such as, "zealous environmentalists" and "elitist outsiders" appearing time and time again? They even try to align the opposition with the ridiculous overblown MDA proposal created by Caltrans itself to make the Bypass option look better. If they had attended one of the public information meetings, they would know of the many scaled down MDA's which are supported.

These groups who claim to battle the MI of the anti-Bypass groups have now become the embodiment of MI by refusing to attend public discussions. They have staged several press conferences (propaganda releases) in pro-Bypass arenas, blocked public input, and then claimed to represent the public they just ignored. They feel that if they can prevent real information from reaching the public, Sen. Kopp will be able to lock in the Bypass for all time. Once they have blown up the offending mountain and paved through the park, they feel opposition will die out. I ask "What are they afraid of ?" I ask "What are they trying to hide ?". If they are so sure of their data and position, why are they afraid to talk? The Pro Bypass group claims to be the "vast silent majority". The 9000 signatures gathered against the Bypass seem to discredit the 'vast majority' part, but the 'silent' part certainly matches their goal of silence in public discussions.

If the Pro-Bypass goal is truly the permanent, safe, quick, and economical construction of a two-lane highway, then we wish to work with them to hammer out a public consensus in true democratic fashion. The anti-Bypass group eagerly awaits a public debate of these issues. Let's talk in front of the people instead of posturing in front of the press and hiding behind slogans. This is a public challenge. We are not afraid of public comment. We think you, Sen. Kopp and Caltrans are. If you do not respond, the public will be justified in assuming a safe road is not your only goal and that you do have a hidden agenda and MI intents.

Richard Lohman
420 First Avenue
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

(408) 481-3816 (work)
(650) 726-9607

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