What a sweet place that would be. Say whatever you want to whomever you wish and there’s no blowback.  Just let those opinions fly.

With the advent of social media, those who would hide their identity in order to ridicule or harass others, a.k.a. trolls, found the perfect environment to do so.

Not all those who wish to conceal their identity are trolls, certainly. Some just want to preserve their ability to share their opinion without risking criticism. Is that so wrong? It certainly doesn’t contribute to a level playing field.

In our current hyper-partisan world, where we can’t even agree on the facts of an issue, sharing an honest opinion on much of anything has taken on the aura of an act of bravery.

It didn’t used to be quite that risky to share an opinion. There used to be a concept known as tolerance. It worked like this: You share your opinion. While I don’t agree with you, I listen to it. If I disagree, I share my reasons. All without spittle flying or red faces or raised voices. Gee, I’m getting nostalgic now. For far too many people, a different opinion now is a sign of idiocy or at the very least major naiveté or confusion.

Let us return now to our own little town. Surely this kind of mean-spirited anonymous trolling doesn’t happen here.

In the Island Sand Paper, we print letters to the editor every week. Regardless of your opinion, we’ll print it. Disagree with us, we’ll print it. Agree with us, we’ll print it. We won’t print letters that contain allegations without proof or attack individuals or businesses. If you’ve got a personal beef with a business or your neighbor, take it to them. For some reason, we’ve seen an increase in the last year in folks who make up their own ‘facts’ and demand that we print them. Rest assured that the staff at the Island Sand Paper has access to a wide variety of resources to check facts, real and otherwise.

The one thing that all our letters have in common is a real name at the end of every one of them. Same thing with our editorials, which are the opinion of the editor. If we have an opinion, it will appear as a clearly labeled opinion or editorial. Sometimes the publisher chimes in with his opinion or we print a Guest Commentary. All opinions. Letters are the opinion of the writer.


TPI Project

This week, the Commercial Planned Development (CPD) application for the TPI project was finally filed. Now starts the process of vetting that application.

Residents and visitors are waiting to see how the process unfolds. Our downtown area is blighted, regardless of whether it meets some technical definition or not. It looks terrible. The prospect of something new happening in that space provides a little bit of hope that it isn’t going to be blighted forever.

Everyone will get a chance to weigh in on the plans when they come before the Local Planning Agency and Town Council for public hearings. Don’t clear your calendar quite yet as that is unlikely to happen in the next few weeks. I’d say months, but am trying to be optimistic here.

When those hearings occur, anyone can stand up during Public Comment, identify themselves and share their opinion. We hope a lot of people do just that. This is a big project and deserves the attention it is bound to draw.

While those who speak during Public Hearings are identified, there are others who remain hidden behind their anonymity and offer opinions that they don’t have to publicly own.

As someone whose opinion and attached name appears in print and online each and every week, I find that cowardly. Especially as I suspect an ulterior motive.

When the TPI project first appeared a number of anti-project anonymous social media sites popped up. No names attached to the social media site or the associated website either except for one that has a paid spokesperson from an ad agency. Last year we received a letter critical of a previous TPI project signed by Voice of FMB, one of these anonymous groups. When I explained that our letters must be signed, I asked who made up this group. I was assured that there were many people associated with it and they’d sign the letter. We eventually got a letter signed by just one person associated with a local resort hotel.

It became apparent that this anonymous social media group had/has at its core a group of people with a very specific financial interest in a number of Fort Myers Beach hotels.

If you have a financial interest in whether a project becomes a reality or not, you ought to admit that if you’re going to be campaigning against it.

I completely understand why some (it’s not all) hotel owners don’t want more competition. The more rooms there are, especially brand new rooms with new amenities, the harder it is to compete. So it seems a bunch of them got together and hired a paid spokesperson to do their talking and fan the flames of discontent, all while hiding behind anonymity.

Voice of FMB is still around; still anti-TPI. We hope that the principals of it can find the courage to acknowledge on the site who they are and their connection to businesses that may be effected by the project.

I have no financial interest in whether the TPI project becomes a reality or not. And I have no problem with Voices’ continued opposition to it. I do object to them and other anonymous groups not owning up to their opinions and attempting to manipulate public opinion on a project from the shadows.

Our town deserves better.


Missy Layfield