It was called “Village of Spring Lake,” and appeared very much to be the village’s official Facebook page.
Parodies are fun. The Onion website has long poked fun at many things, but it’s obviously parody. When Alec Baldwin impersonates Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” only a fool would mistake him for actually being the president. When we published two spoof stories on April 1 (April Fools’ Day), we tried to make it reasonably obvious that they weren’t real.
But what Lee Painter was doing crossed the line. To our eyes, it most certainly was not obvious that it was a parody website.
Some of the posts we read on Painter’s fake village page could be considered racially insensitive. Some of it, according to village officials who monitored it and responded to outcries from people who thought it was real, threw unwarranted shade on the village at best, and may have been slander at worst.
It took an Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office deputy to knock on the Painter family’s door to get him to at least alter his page to make it clearer that it is “satire.”
Was that a strong-arm tactic? Maybe. Perhaps a subtler approach should have been attempted before calling the cops.
The Tribune story of April 9 (“A thorn in our side”) did not name Lee Painter as being behind the page. We wrote that village officials were not going to name him. It was Lee who outed himself by getting in front of television cameras and talking to other media about it.
Maybe he just wanted to set the record straight on why he did it. That’s his choice.
It is also important to call out Village Manager Chris Burns for her inappropriate Facebook response to the issue. She took the low road in a post on her personal page (don’t bother to go looking for it, as the post has apparently been deleted).
Burns is a civic leader who is virtually the “face” of the village, and she should know better.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Mark Brooky, Duncan MacLean and Alexander Sinn. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to [email protected] or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.