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A lot of thought has gone into whether you should be reading this post. The thinking has been going on for almost a week. There’s also been a lot of talking, mostly with a handful of people who tend to provide me good advice about these things. What’s being shared in this post is some vile, disgusting crap that probably shouldn’t be getting the attention I’m giving it. And if that’s your complaint about this post I won’t argue with you.
At the same time, I’ve long felt there’s a lot of truth to the quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”. Exposing and calling out the ugliness has generally been the default position at STATter911 and I don’t see a need to change now.
Since a day after the announcement on July 10 that Howard County, Maryland Fire Chief John S. Butler was appointed to lead the Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue Department there’s been an active thread about Chief Butler on the website “Fairfax Underground”. The discussion has not been about John Butler the man, John Butler the U.S. Marine, John Butler the Howard County firefighter of 25-years or John Butler the Howard County fire chief of the last four years. The thread is focused solely on the color of John Butler’s skin and much of what has been written is not pretty. (The comments posted on this page may be some of the least offensive found about Chief Butler on “Fairfax Underground”.)
The comments don’t shock me and likely won’t shock you. If you regularly read website and social media comments you’ve probably been exposed to the anonymous, racist underbelly of the digital world. Along with death and taxes, racist comments have become a certainty of modern life. In this case, thanks to “Fairfax Underground”, the hate is all there in one spot and it’s inspired by the simple fact the leaders of Fairfax County, Virginia dared to appoint someone who isn’t a white male as its fire chief.
Since no one has the balls to use their real name on “Fairfax Underground”, I can’t say for certain any of these comments were posted by firefighters. But the way many of them are written it’s a pretty safe bet firefighters made some of the comments. And some of those posting seem to have insider knowledge of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. It’s something Fairfax County is investigating (see statement below).
This whole scenario should sound familiar and that familiarity is another reason for this post. A little more than two-years-ago the same website made news because of scores of other toxic comments about the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Most of those were directed at Nicole Mittendorff, a Fairfax County firefighter. We learned about the shaming of Firefighter Mittendorff on Fairfax Underground only after we learned of her suicide. While investigators claim the online bullying was not behind Firefighter Mittendorff taking her own life, the targeting of the firefighter left bitterness and helped expose concerns of women in the department.
So, here we are again with “Fairfax Underground”. Only this time, instead of dealing with sexism, its racism. It would be a waste of my time and yours to attempt to lecture the scum who post these things. In another era I’m sure many of these brave souls would be wearing white robes and hoods to remain anonymous. Today they hide behind screen names. Screw them.
My message is directed toward the good men and women of the department who have served my family well in the 20-years I’ve been a resident. They expertly serve ALL who live in, visit and work in Fairfax County. Thank you for what you do. Based on my knowledge of you I’m confident the vast majority will be judging John Butler based on criteria not mentioned on “Fairfax Underground”–his abilities as a leader.
Statement from County Executive Bryan Hill:
Racist, sexist, harassing or retaliatory comments like those on Fairfax Underground are reprehensible. However, those comments do not deter from the mission to protect and serve our great residents. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors supports a zero tolerance approach to this type of conduct within all facets of Fairfax County Government. At this time we don’t know who is responsible for the posts, but an investigation is underway. Any employee found to have participated in posting these comments will be subject to severe disciplinary action. It saddens me that in 2018 our country continues to deal with the hateful actions of a select few.
More from “Fairfax Underground”: