In the right hands, a lightning rod can be a powerful tool; few people know that better than Chaz Stevens.
Stevens, editor in chief of My Acts of Sedition (MAOS), the Boca Raton-based political website, is a blogger and self-described “professional troublemaker.” He is also well-versed in the ways to court controversy, especially in local politics using new media.
He is also now a teacher, ready to give the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee a hard lesson on how not to treat someone with a platform and online megaphone.
MAOS, which Stevens describes as “a collaborative experiment of technology and activism,” has made a career of holding those in power accountable for their actions, regardless of the party.
Apart from a radical – yet no-nonsense – demeanor, Stevens is probably better known for his “world-famous” Pabst Blue Ribbon Festivus Pole, proudly displayed in the Florida Capitol Rotunda during the holidays. The pole, approved by the Department of Management Services, was in protest of blurred lines between church and state, where a number of groups applied (and also approved) for holiday displays.
What followed was a nativity scene from Reclaim Christmas for Christ, as well as entries from the Tallahassee Atheists, American Atheists Florida Regional Directors and Freedom from Religion Foundation from Madison, Wis. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was also represented.
However, the DMS denied one request — by the Satanic Temple to set up a holiday exhibition — prompting threats of a lawsuit. As a result, the state changed guidelines in 2014; now Capitol holiday displays are only allowed for seven days.
Stevens – and his Festivus pole – was featured on The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Fox News, and hundreds of national media outlets and some international newspapers.
On Monday, Stevens was unceremoniously dis-invited to the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee monthly meeting on June 16, where he was scheduled to give a talk on blogging, bloggers, and politics.
Stevens, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, didn’t take well to the snub. Instead, he did what he does best – blogging – with a post entitled Dear DEC, prepare to have MAOS’ size 12 boot jammed up your ass.
“Successful activists and bloggers ruffle feathers,” Stevens says. “It’s in our nature to irritate those with the reins while holding ‘truth to power.’”
Using innovative methods and techniques, he acknowledges that his no-holds-barred manner could be unsettling for people used to dealing with traditional media.
But instead of welcoming the opportunity for a “peek” behind the new media curtain – a perfect teaching moment – he said Broward County Democrats decided “to shoot the messenger.”
Hence the withdrawn invitation.
“I suppose one could believe I’m a self-hater, a loather of Democrats,” Stevens writes, “given my very public bashing of (Democrats) William Rankin, Maria Sachs, and others.”
But what really rankles Stevens is hypocrisy.
“Absolutely fucking hate it,” he writes.
The situation will not punish Stevens, but Democrats who might have learned something about dealing with new media. Attendance (or lack thereof) will not impact Stevens’ long-standing activism. The Festivus Pole will return this year, he promises, as a way to press the issue of separation of Church and State.
“Paradoxically,” Stevens says, “the very same people who complain are the first to drop a dime on their ‘frenemies.'”
“Trust me,” he concludes, “they’re talking to me about you behind your back.”
Even though the invitation remains open to the DEC, Stevens now extended the same offer to the Broward Republican Executive Committee, should they accept.
He does provide the DEC a head’s up: “so be it, we’ll do it this way … the hard way … my preferred way.”
For the rest of us, Stevens’ situation offers two lessons: a Pabst Blue Ribbon pole can make a damn good lightning rod (for controversy).
And never piss off a blogger.