Editor’s note: The following is a first-person account from Context Florida columnist Daniel Tilson.
After getting home from shooting video for a client today, I found a business card shoved in my front door.
Much to my surprise, it had the name and contact info of an FDLE inspector on it.
Remember FDLE, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement?
That’s the one run with distinction for so many years by Commissioner Gerald Bailey … until he refused to play along with Gov. Rick Scott’s political agenda and was summarily fired. Then came accusations of foul play, and the still unresolved “Baileygate” scandal.
Although I’ve been writing about it off and on, I didn’t request an FDLE home visit. So, it was with great curiosity that I called the number on the card and left a message.
The callback came within minutes.
“You’re going to think this is silly …,” the inspector began.
That got my attention. “Hmm …”
“Well, we got an anonymous tip that you’ve posted what may be a threatening comment about Governor Scott on Facebook.”
I’ve learned after many years that when first recovering from having been stunned into silence by someone’s surprising words, it’s usually better to stay silent than to blurt out the wrong thing.
So, I waited and listened.
“You posted something about the governor,” the inspector continued, “with the comment, ‘Coming to take you away, take you away’ … right?”
Now I relaxed, laughed.
I explained I’d posted a link to my Context Florida column about Scott’s tax-cutting propaganda gimmick this week, which I playfully (OK, mockingly) titled Rick Scott’s Magical Mystery Tax Cut Calculator. I explained the process of posting links to my columns in various Facebook groups, and of trying to mix up the accompanying brief intros.
I asked, “Ever hear of The Beatles’ song, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’“?
Now the inspector chuckled. “Yeah, we actually have a couple of Beatles fans at the office and they said that sounded like them. So we googled it …”
“And did you find the line that says, ‘The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away, take you away’ … Did you see that?”
“Yeah, we saw it.”
I explained how for the sake of variety — and some lighthearted Beatles fan fun — I had used the “take you away” lyric as intro for one of the posted links (don’t even remember which one), referencing folks in the general public who might be “taken away” by the governor’s PR stunt, as in conned .
The inspector said, “Yeah, we figured it was something like that. But once the tip goes from Tallahassee to our office, we have to investigate, you know?”
I thought to myself, “No, I don’t know, not in this case.” And, “Is this how FDLE functions under Rick Scott’s new handpicked, former security guard turned replacement Commissioner, Rick Swearingen?” I then thought to myself, “Once you connected the dots between song title and lyrics, why use taxpayer dollars to send an inspector to my house?”
What I said was something like “Sounds like someone’s paranoid. Are you guys at FDLE doing OK with the scandal?”
“We try not to worry about that, we just do our job. Don’t worry, I’ll write a report about our talk, make clear there’s nothing to the tip, OK?”
“Thanks. And thanks for your service.”
I asked if it was OK to write about it, leaving the inspector’s name out. The inspector said, “Fine with me,” and we said goodbye.
Now I wonder if Sunshine laws extend to identifying sources of such “anonymous” tips.
And to my secret admirer … a little advice … by way of another Beatles title/lyric:
“Hey! You’ve got to hide your love away …”