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Where Bloggers Dodge Beers

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A recent post on one Rogers Park blog began: "Proof that Barack Obama is a friend of Satan." Another asks, "Commander Sobczyk, what are you planning to do about GANGS, sir, like the Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples, and whatever other SCUM roam the streets of the 24th District?"

Rogers Park's many bloggers don't pull their punches. While some are fixated on minutiae (litter from Cheetos bags, the life of a purported ninja) most focus on a favorite theme: Rogers Park is going to hell, and the people in it have no one to blame but themselves—along with gangbangers, the president, the mayor, the City Council, Congress, bad parents, slumlords, liberals, and especially, and most emphatically, 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore.

So when the Nation recently named Moore the country's "most valuable local official of 2008" the bloggers jumped.

"Of the tens of thousands of local officials in the United States, the choice of a shady, ineffective, unresponsive official like Joe Moore seems odd indeed," Tom Mannis wrote at the Chicago News Bench (rogersparkbench.blogspot.com). "The only good thing about this is that the Nation didn't waste any paper on it; the 'awards' are online only."

On the Broken Heart of Rogers Park (morsehellhole.blogspot.com), regular contributor "Hugh" responded with a series of entries. One had the straightforward heading "Joe Moore Is an Abomination of a Choice"; another, called "On the Twelfth Day of Christmas," listed things "my Rogers Park true love gave to me," from "12 high school students rumbling" to "2 corner boyz dealing/And a red-capped vial of crack."

There are some things to complain about. RP Moto Chick (rpmotochick.blogspot.com) found her motorcycle vandalized recently, and Toni Duncan posted photos at howardwatchers.blogspot.com of some abandoned storefronts that had caught fire. The loss of the Adelphi theater seemed as big an insult to some as a tattered Clark Street banner did to another. But the most active and vocal bloggers save their best hits for Moore.

Craig Gernhardt has been blogging for five years at Broken Heart of Rogers Park about issues like empty storefronts, drug dealers, and Moore's opposition to foie gras and Wal-Mart. That's long enough to have inspired several bitter rivals, including the Broken Liver of Rogers Park (albionhellhole.blogspot.com), When Morse Hellhole Says... Here's What It Means (whenmorsehellholesays.blogspot.com), and Mountain of Evidence (mountainofevidence.com).

Gernhardt says his Moore posts are nothing personal. "If he would just take better care of his neighborhood than taking on a food industry that doesn't even have a presence in the neighborhood, if he spent time on the neighborhood instead of worrying about Wal-Mart, if he was up front with us about the money he takes from developers—other than that, he's a nice guy."

Moore credits the blogs with keeping his feet to the fire, saying spirited debate characterizes a healthy democracy, but adds that he wishes his critics would stick more closely to the facts: "They're sort of like the modern-day version of the old scandal sheets at the turn of the last century that highlighted and sensationalized every horrific incident that took place."

Mannis maintains that bloggers are a bigger problem than Moore will admit and that they cost him votes in 2007, when he barely won reelection. Since then, Mannis says, the alderman's staff and supporters have tried to intimidate him by sticking a camera in his face or standing in front of him at community meetings. He says that last summer things escalated to the point that a Moore supporter threw a beer at him at a street fair. "They're just very hostile," he said.

"Now, I'm sure on occasion there have been people, supporters of mine, not at my request but on their own, who have taken their picture while they were taking mine," Moore says. "You know, if you want to do that to someone else and you don't like it done to you, it's kind of hypocritical. But it's just meant to have some fun with them—it's not an intimidation thing or anything like that."

He says he can't explain bloggers who seem to thrive on rancor. "I'm not a psychologist, so I don't know what all is going on there," he said. "But I try to avoid a lot of negative energy in my life."v

See this story at chicagoreader.com for a list of Rogers Park blogs and links.

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