They are a relentless gossip subculture made up of cliques that can sometimes be defined by profession, class, political affiliation and even religion. They are purveyors of venom, specialists at character assassination and devoted to devious intention. Sometimes they are effective enough to create a town-wide murmur over something that legitimately does not even deserve a whisper. If you are not careful you could easily be swayed into believing that their mouthings represent popular public opinion. In their heyday they could alter the public agenda and dictate the behavior of the insecure. They once had a unique ability to present themselves as a force but trust us; their sum total is 88.
As already stated the circle of 88 trades mostly in negative, inflammatory and unflattering information. Some of them have even been known to initiate discussions solely to make mischief. And their various expertises have earned them contemptuously admirable titles among their peers. Highest ranked among the 88 are the “Brewglers.” They initiate stories and rumors. They rise to the height of “Brewgler” based on the amount of skill they demonstrate at adding just the appropriate hint of potential credibility to an out and out lie. When an accomplished “Brewgler” skillfully applies their trade, the line between truth and falsehood is almost completely blurred. They have appointed themselves guardians of the city.
And then there is the “Yeast Master.” This able confounder raises the stakes. The “Yeast Master” makes mountains out of molehills. He/she enhances the work of the “Brewgler” by magnifying it tenfold. Once an outrageous or ridiculous scenario is brewed and just the right amount of yeast is added all the ingredients, “Grist” for the Gossip Mill are in place. After an evening or so of marinating in the whisper chamber, the foul mouthed concoction is collected by the “Spreader Drones” to deposit their waste in every receptive vessel.
Amazing is the ability of circle members to convince themselves of their importance and relevance. Most amazing though is that they become infective by their own invective. To them, their madness becomes real and sometimes they go so far as to make it the basis of causes and campaigns. So far as the 88 are concerned, anything that passes through their circle should be taken seriously and reflects the views of the majority of citizens. When you talk to them they confirm their sanity by quoting other crazy people. They gleefully reference people with whom they have spoken that confirm their views or echo the manufactured sentiments that they have validated. Believe it or not, this surreal bunch has actually influenced serious events in our city—and almost always to the detriment of the public.
A new struggle for Newark is underway. Some forces have clear plans to shove poor and underrepresented people aside. We need capable objective advocates and warriors for our causes. So-called leaders who weave untruths and fabricate disinformation have to be exposed and neutered. The time has come to bid all witchdoctors farewell. The circle of 88 has kept us going in circles for far too long. Their influence has helped render us unable to make sustainable progress and continuously grappling with the same issues over and over.
We are moving backwards in the face of a bold shameless push by huge monied interests to control all of Newark’s assets. This is an observation not a complaint. But outmoded leadership cannot confront the new challenges that we face.
So look deeply into the sources of negativity when they try to engage you. Take care not to become captive of the shallow. Do your best to recognize and deflect the influences of the 88. You probably know members of the circle—or their minions. Identify and reject them. They are dangerous. They are “Punkle Toms.”
Punk•le Tom (puhng’-kuhl tom), n. [ME.; U. S. Dial. < Afr. heriter prut], 1. a person who sells services to his or her master for lowly and unworthy purposes; one who is debased, corrupt, poor or bad in quality, a hoodlum, who works solely for his or her slavemaster's whims; 2. a slavish prostitute who is regarded as being humiliatingly subservient or deferential to white people and who unabashedly sells out his or her own people; 3. worse than an Uncle Tom.
November 15, 2007