A message of anti-Semitic hate was left in the driveways of a subdivision Sunday morning. The rice is used to give the bag weight. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

OPINION |

Chapel Hill. It’s a neighborhood where in one house you’ll find the conductor of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra; in another a Springfield school board member; or across the street the former police chief of Juneau, Alaska; or a retired family-law judge around the corner.

They were in for a surprise Sunday morning.

On their driveways, just off the curb and out of reach of home-security cameras, someone decided to drop off some hate.

It came in a zip-lock bag with a bit of rice to weigh it down.

I can’t help but think that there are places in this world where a bit of rice could serve a far better purpose.

Inside the bag was one of three sheets of paper with the same-old racist, anti-Semitic screed:

“Every single aspect of abortion is Jewish.”

“Every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish.”

“Every single aspect of Disney child grooming is Jewish.”

If there is humor to be found here, it’s at the bottom of the flyer.

“These flyers were distributed randomly without malicious intent.”

The person who wrote that definitely is not the guy I would want running the show at my retirement party.

So what do you do if you got one of these? Throw it away and say nothing?

What do you do if you’re a journalist? Write a story knowing someone is going to tell you shouldn’t have?

On Tuesday I walked the neighborhood and the people I met wanted to talk.

If the first three residents I encountered had told me they did not want to discuss the anti-Semitic messages — or if they would only talk about it anonymously — I would have dropped this as a story. I have so many other stories I could write.

Instead, I met people who felt strongly that it was important for the public to know.

Their general view was that, in a world where too often these days the arc of the moral universe seems to be bending not toward justice but down the toilet, why this?

Why this Sunday morning hate?

They wanted to make sure we know that the message was hateful and not well received.

‘Just a horrible thing to do’

Years ago, Colene Hank walked this neighborhood and created the Neighborhood Watch after her home was burglarized.

She read the message left in the plastic bag and, once again, walked her neighborhood.

“That is so troubling,” she says. “It is just a horrible thing to do. To put that out in front of your house. Why aren’t they out trying to help this community, instead?”

The neighborhood is just outside city limits, east of Highway 65 and north of Sunshine.

Harvey Hank, her husband, called the Greene County Sheriff’s office and a deputy responded.

The deputy said that it did not appear a crime was committed.

“What about littering?” Harvey Hank asked.

“It’s just one more incident that speaks to where we are in the country,” Harvey Hank says.

Kyle Wiley Pickett picked up the plastic bag, saw what it was and immediately reviewed footage from his home-security camera to see if he could get a license plate.

He could not.

Pickett, music director and symphony conductor, had only a week before been in Redding, California, where he saw news coverage of the same thing there.

The exact same flyer that superimposed a Star of David on the foreheads of what are portrayed as Disney executives — I don’t know if they are or aren’t — was distributed in Redding, too.

“Because of that, I knew my neighborhood had not been targeted,” he says. “I’m sure it is meant to instill discomfort and fear. It is a desperate and lazy attempt to get attention for their white supremacist views.”

Pickett called the Springfield office of the FBI. He spoke to an agent and provided copies of the material.

The agent logged the information and asked Pickett to let him know if anything else happens.

I asked Scott Tinsley, a retired family-law judge, how concerned he was about the message on his driveway.

“I think we have to take it seriously in terms of recognizing there is an element in our society that is anti-Semitic,” he says. “It is a serious thing, and it cannot be taken lightly.”

The flyers mention a website.

I clicked the “donate” tab not because I wanted to contribute to the Rice Fund but because, I thought, if there was one place to get a name or address it might be there.

The name is Jon Minadeo.

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

“The Goyim Defense League, also known as the GDL, is an anti-Semitic internet troll and conspiracy theorist network of public personalities active across a number of social media websites, primarily YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Gab.”

(Goyim” is a Yiddish word that refers to anyone who is not Jewish.)

“The GDL emerged in 2018 and is led by the Sonoma County-based Californian comedian actor Jon Minadeo. Others previously associated with the network have included Patrick Little, an anti-Semitic candidate who ran for the United States Senate in California against Dianne Feinstein in 2018.”

At this point, I’m going to hand things off to Phil Barber, a reporter at the Santa Rosa, California, Press-Democrat, for 18 years. He knocked on Minedao’s door and wrote a story in a March 21, 2022 story. It says, in part:

“This was how we spent most of our time, with Minadeo citing reams of ‘evidence’ of a nefarious worldwide conspiracy. But I had no desire to debate him. Nor am I particularly interested in analyzing his points now. All of them have been thoroughly debunked for anyone who isn’t in the tiniest and most toxic of echo chambers.”

That’s a phrase worth repeating: “the tiniest and most toxic of echo chambers.”

That’s definitely not where the good people of the Chapel Hill subdivision live.

This is Pokin Around column No. 55.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin