So, about that billboard again.
Ron Ford, a landlord who lives just outside Manhattan, has again taken aim at the city with a new billboard on property he owns. The billboard, right beside Interstate 70 near Junction City, warns “business persons and investors” that Manhattan is the home of “communism, fascism, crony capitalism and fake juvenile journalism.”
A year ago, in the same spot, he said it was “the next best thing to communism.”
So, hey, we’ve now added two more ideologies and lousy reporting, too. Moving up in the world!
Mr. Ford has every right to say whatever he wants. The billboard is on his property, and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees him the right.
What is to be done?
Not a darn thing, at least not by the government.
We imagine anybody driving down I-70, unaware of any of this, would take a look at that billboard and mutter: “Wonder who put that up.”
The extremism of the message undermines whatever point it is that Mr. Ford is trying to make. Who could take seriously the assertion that one Midwestern college town was simultaneously capitalist, fascist and communist? As you might recall from history class, those were the three -isms clashing in World War II. Only two of them survived that war, and then really only capitalism made it out of the Cold War.
Nobody is going to read that billboard and take it seriously. What’s next? The Pope? The Rockefellers? Colonel Sanders?
At worst, an average driver might mutter: “Hmm. I wonder what the flap about Manhattan is?”
But let’s think about that. Somebody once said that all publicity is good publicity, as long as they spell your name right.
Let’s assume that somebody is intrigued enough by the flap that they actually look into it. Let’s assume, for the sake of entertainment, that they’re serious enough to care about facts.
So, what are the facts? The facts are that Manhattan is a growing, prosperous and lively town, the kind of place that people love to live in. Tens of thousands visit every year. College alums routinely wear T-shirts saying: “I miss Manhattan.”
If you want to have a serious discussion about our community’s problems, that’s fine, and this newspaper is a good place to learn about them. We report routinely on all sorts of problems, including the topic of the regulation of the residential rental market, which has been an ongoing discussion for decades.
We assume that’s what’s irritating Mr. Ford, although we don’t know for sure because he hangs up the phone every time a journalist actually attempts to give him a chance to comment.
So we welcome the goofball billboard. Eventually, it will come down, and everyone will move along to the next thing. In the meantime, we can all take comfort in knowing that it does an excellent job of mocking itself.