When Saga met Hannah: 111 lies in 28 minutes

Saga Stevin is, by far, the most virulently anti-honesty, anti-Lakeland, and anti-black candidate for any office in my 22 years of living here. It's not even remotely close.

Again, for non-local readers, I know I’m writing a lot about the Lakeland mayor’s race. But it’s worth it for you to read. Saga-ism is a very American challenge. And this article is about lies — and how they don’t correct themselves. We must engage them as questions of community and personal character. Our institutional media is terrible at engaging and neutralizing and punishing lies; so we have to do it as citizens.

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Saga Stevin lies. That’s what she does. She lies. She lies with the ease of breathing, in a myriad of styles. She lies in ways that reflect her cultural and racial triggers. She lies in ways that reflect Q-Anon-style delusions. She lies in ways meant to reduce and marginalize and intimidate the subjects of her lies. Lying, as an action, defines the entirety of her public life. And I don’t care about her private life.

She asserts crazy things with hyper specificity — like how many Polk County companies George Soros owns or how bike lanes have no bikes and are a Marxist conspiracy — without any attempt to document. Other times she lies so vaguely it’s like trying to comprehend toxic fog.

The sheer volume of lies and her completely self-satisfied delivery of them means the vicious mean girl dishonesty gets obscured by the overall bonkers. But we must never allow crazy to become mitigation for vicious.

Indeed, I would bet my house that Saga terrorized anyone from whom she sensed vulnerability in high school. Somebody, perhaps her parents, perhaps not, taught and modeled this behavior for her. No one in her family or community has ever corrected her effectively, which is why lying and verbal brutality come so easily to her. Community correction is long overdue — and not just for her.

The unions of your Lakeland police and firefighters, to their deep deep shame, have endorsed this human whirlwind of vicious dishonesty to be your mayor. I’m a rare Polk County supporter of public sector unions, generally. They bring an important ground-level perspective for vital public work. But I guarantee you this: no teacher union would ever show such profound disrespect and contempt to the communities they serve as the police and fire unions have here, even if they’d been badly treated in negotiations, which they often are.

And as a bonus, previous mayor Howard Wiggs, an inconsequential joke of a leader, fully endorses Saga — grinning right there on her mailers.

Saga-ism is about much more than just Saga.

111 lies in 28 minutes

If you doubt me on any of this, I’d encourage you to watch Saga lie endlessly, effortlessly, viciously on this video interview with Hannah Peterson of the so-called County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF). Hannah herself is no slouch in delivering mean girl lying at mellifluous scale. Game clearly recognizes game.

I counted 111 lies by Saga and 17 lies by Hannah in their 28-minute chat. Please go count for yourself if you want. Your methodology may be different than mine; and both of these women are so self-absorbed and so lacking in self-reflection or curiosity about the world beyond their prejudices that they create a reality distortion field in which multiple individual lies flow into each other within larger sentences and paragraphs. Their lies form tapestries of bullshit so intricate that it’s almost artwork. They may or may not even know they’re lying all the time.

Predictably, the lies per moment explode when the interview focuses on “black lives matter” and COVID-19 [“It’s an injection, not a vaccine,” for example]. Here’s a clear easy example of both Saga’s lying and her casual racial viciousness in one paragraph:

“Not once has Black Lives Matter ever put a dollar or anything into helping the black community. Breonna Taylor’s family is like, basically her daughter got killed and, in my perspective, got raped by Black Lives Matter.”

How many lies within that couple of sentences can you count? I, personally, did not count the “rape” part as a lie because she actually said “in my perspective,” a hedging that she rarely uses.

Nevertheless, how morally and emotionally and spiritually broken must you be to say that entire riff about a dead woman’s family in Kentucky that you have never met during an interview about running for mayor in Lakeland, Florida?

Moreover, here is a 2020 brochure in which Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc. literally “put a dollar or anything into helping the black community in Lakeland.”

It took me about a minute to find that brochure in my old emails. It was forwarded from the NAACP. Saga, who lies about how thoroughly she researches stuff, didn’t bother to check. Also, this was a job fair in the pursuit of “economic freedom” through wage work for businesses. What kind of Marxist organization does that? What kind of Marxist group puts “Inc.” in their name? These are all clear lies Saga has told.

I confess I don’t know very much specific about “Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc.” I’m unclear on who makes it up, if it’s even still a thing. I’ve met a few people at various times who I think were involved. They seemed nice. They organized a couple of peaceful demonstrations and did some community clean-ups, if I remember correctly.

Saga Stevin doesn’t even know that much about “Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc.”

So I sent Saga a Facebook message about this lie. I know she can see the note because she actually answered me once a few weeks ago. I showed her this brochure. And I asked her this:

Do you want to admit you lied? Can you tell me why you feel the need to lie as often as you do?

Like all habitual liars I’ve ever met, when cornered on a lie, Saga greeted my question with silence. That’s because lying, more than anything else, rests on a foundation of cowardice. The more you lie, the weaker and more cowardly you are at heart, in my experience.

Saga: all black people are “a pawn”

Despite knowing nothing about “Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc.,” Saga, like CCDF and Hannah Peterson, talks incessantly about Black Lives Matter.

That’s because she doesn't care about the actual thing called “Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc.” It’s the words “black” “lives” and “matter” that obsess her, untethered to anything but absurdly broad, racialized nonsense. Key example from the interview:

Black Lives Matter is out to destroy the black community. They’re a pawn in a game they don’t even realize.

Again, how broken to do you have to be as a human being to say this about an entire “race” of fellow human beings — whatever “race” actually is? “They’re a pawn.” Saga just hand waves away the agency of millions of individual human beings — 20,000 or so of her would-be constituents — and dismisses them as “a pawn.” Not even “pawns.” Black Americans and black Lakelanders don’t even merit a plural insulting description of their individuality.

Reducing the humanity of individuals you do not know to a single derisive abstraction based on some shared identifying characteristic is the essence of “racism.”

But “they’re a pawn” is much more viscerally dark and ugly than the abstractions “racism” as a word conjures. That’s why I try not to use the word “racism” or “racist” very often. I find it rarely conveys the horror it’s trying to represent effectively. “They’re a pawn” is the type of humanity reduction that official and unofficial power uses to put people in ovens or launch pogroms or try to lynch Congress or justify firebombing cities during war.

“They’re a pawn” is also a giant lie that creates another lie when she describes herself as “curious.” Her lies about thousands of black individuals and “Black Lives Matter Polk Restoration Inc.”, which is the only thing using the BLM wording in Lakeland, show that she’s lying about curiosity. She’s not curious to learn anything about “Black Lives Matter Polk Restoration Inc.” or black individuals.

Indeed, Saga’s lies often compound into each other: Saga says crime in Minneapolis is up 700 or 800 percent. This is false. Thus, when she says she cares about “data, data, data” — as she does multiple times — each of those times is a lie I counted.

Saga’s core mayoral election lie: “Lakeland is my home”

“They’re a pawn” is the worst, most de-humanizing and dangerous type of lie for a person seeking power to tell. It’s evil, which, like racism, is a word I very rarely use. So I really want to underline the hideous power of that lie.

However, a different, less evil lie, may relate most directly to the question of becoming mayor of Lakeland.

Several times Saga calls Lakeland her “home.” This is completely false. She grew up here; and by my math and her stories, she would have graduated from Kathleen High in 1976 — give or take a year. She’s welcome to correct me. Then, by her own language, she chose not to make Lakeland her home. She left with “Up with People” and didn’t come back to live for at least 44 years.

She has only taken from this community, which is what children do when they grow up somewhere. She has given nothing back. She has built nothing. She has contributed nothing but insults. She believes Lakeland’s black citizens can be reduced to the word “pawn.” She’s betting that reduction will convince Lakeland’s angriest, bitterest, smallest, most selfish white citizens to give her power over “the pawn” because of it.

By contrast, Lakeland is my home.

My wife and I chose to make Lakeland our home 22 years ago. So did the people — of all backgrounds — with whom we have collaborated, competed, shared friendship, and fought when necessary. We have all been in the arena of this city. When Saga shows videos of the Farmer’s Market or talks about going to “First Friday” during her CCDF interview, she’s mooching off the endless work of my wife and the people who came before her — and to a much lesser extent mine — like the “Marxists” of her fantasies.

And then she turns around and attacks that work she’s contributed nothing to as the reason she’s running. Asked by Hannah about “what have you seen that concerns you” in Lakeland that made her run, here’s what she said first:

I was drivin’ by Munn Park and I was, like, let me see … what’s missing here, and the whole thing with the statue. And then my mom called me last year: ‘there’s a riot’ in Lakeland. I was like, What? Lakeland doesn't have race issues. And sure enough, it was, Lakeland does have the Black Lives Matter Polk County guy that called in friends because those were not Lakeland residents so it’s bringing in agitators.

There was no riot in Lakeland, no matter how hard Grady Judd worked to invent one. Saga’s mom lied to her if Saga’s not lying herself. (I counted that as one lie; but it could be two.)

There was a moment of dangerous confrontation between a few people and a car at an intersection far away from the demonstration that led to arrests and police clearing the intersection. But there were no injuries and no hint of property damage to businesses or buildings anywhere. If Lakeland had a “riot,” the Capitol Lynch Mob was World War III.

By removing the monument respectfully as the centerpiece of the city and Munn Park — with more respect than it deserves, honestly — the city removed a key symbol of “pawn”-style human reduction that might have made a rallying point for violence if anyone was so inclined. One never knows how things would have gone, but the intense yet peaceful large BLMRP-sponsored rally in Munn Park did not have to contend with Johnny Reb’s cause staring it in the face. And everyone I spoke to of all backgrounds was glad for it on that day.

The missing Marxist

To be clear: I don’t speak for my wife at all here. She has a downtown to run and make a welcoming, vibrant place for everyone — for “Black Lives Matter Restoration Inc.” and Saga Stevin alike.

But Julie and I were both, on the record, in intense public meetings, multiple times for removing the monument to evil human reduction that sat at the heart of the Lakeland Saga Stevin thinks she remembers and wants to drag us back to.

Make no mistake: Lakeland isn’t Saga Stevin’s home; her fantasies about America in 1970 are. Lakeland, Minneapolis, anywhere — the location or community doesn’t matter, only the predjudices and the grievances and the resentment of “the pawn.”

She visits that fantasy home — and its tidy subdivisions of lies — every time she opens her mouth.

So when Saga asks, “what’s missing here” in downtown between moments of hyping her campaign using my wife’s work, the answer is pretty obvious:

Saga was “missing” — from every single important, difficult, joyful community-building bit of work, or debate, or celebration of the 44 years she chose not to make Lakeland her home.

She’s the worst kind of “taker;” and the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a Marxist in public life.

Covering an ongoing referendum on basic decency and humanity

A number of people have expressed disappointment or dismay that over the traction or support they perceive Saga has received.

I’m less concerned or disappointed. I don’t think the traction is as significant as some people think. But I’ve been wrong about that before. And this is America. Saga-ism has always been a thing. It will be with us for years to come. Saga’s weakness makes her good ground for engaging it.

But the fact that Saga-ism is actually much less of a thing than it was in 1970 Lakeland is precisely why she’s running and why we’re having this wonderful confrontation with it now.

Indeed, I relish the clarity of the moment this particular election offers in the ongoing civic referendum on basic decency and humanity and normalcy and citizenship. Individual elections are little push pins on the map of a never-ending journey to citizenship. They rarely deliver what this election does — a marvelous clear-cut moral choice. Bill Mutz is a fundamentally decent and kind person and expansive citizen; Saga Stevin is not. It’s so simple.

So I relish the chance to cover Saga and quote her words back at her while she retreats into weak silence. I relish the chance to make anyone who thinks they support the vicious lies she tells uncomfortable with those lies — in public.

I relish the chance to cover her if she loses; I relish the chance to cover her if she wins. If she becomes mayor somehow, I have not yet begun to cover her. And I will relish that, too. Decency must be enforced with civic judgment and attention. And our current media and governance structures just aren’t capable of covering lies effectively.

I think I am, however. If Saga had lived here at any point in the last 22 years, she might know that.

In any event, there are people Saga can ask today who won’t lie about it. I think they will tell her that one does not reduce my fellow citizens to “pawn” in my home and escape unscrutinized. One does not mooch my wife’s civic work and then talk trash about what’s “missing” and escape unengaged.

As I said before, I suspect Saga is as comfortable as she is in telling the easy, vicious lies she does because no one has ever made the consequences of that behavior unpleasant enough to affect it.

Perhaps our community can provide that vital personal growth for her now.