In a chapter of Niagara-on-the-Lake's social media wars, Town Coun. Paolo Miele made and deleted an offer to make a $100 donation to Newark Neighbours if somebody can identify what he called a “fake poster” on social media.
The bounty-of-sorts was posted to his councillor Facebook page, sparked by an illustration that began circulating on Facebook on June 20 — posted to a group called NOTL 4U by administrator “Bjaren Hansen.”
The caption reads:
“Listen up my 2 favourite councillors! It's time 4 your M&M's game.”
Underneath, there is an illustration of a clown popping out of a box, with the captions “NOTL 4 All” (with the L slanted down) and “Blair in the Box.”
The illustration does not specifically identify who the two councillors are, but Miele said he thinks “M&M” is in reference to himself and fellow councillor Martin Mazza.
“Whoever it is is obviously thinking it's funny and it's not,” said Miele.
He said he believes Bjaren Hansen is a fake profile created by a NOTL resident.
As recently as Monday, Miele tagged the profile in a post that said: “Can Bjarne Hansen call me I have some exciting and good news.”
Miele has since taken that down too and did not say what that news was.
He said he's reached out to try and find out what the “real issue” Hansen has with him.
“You know, I can deal with it but I figure this guy lives in Old Town … whether he's anti-Miele/Mazza or anti-council I don't know.”
“I reached out, I said here's my phone number, here's my email, here's my cell number, you know, if you want to meet for a coffee and tell me what your real issues are with me, then maybe I can help out.”
The Lake Report contacted Hansen and met with him in person to confirm his identity. His profile is in fact a pseudonym of sorts, though he is a real NOTL resident living in Old Town. He said his middle name is Bjarne and his father's last name was Hansen.
His first name, he said, is “known by people that matter these days.”
He said he has no interest “whatsoever” in contact with Miele due to previous engagements, in which Miele was “hot headed.”
Hansen claims to have 12 screen shots saved of “attacks” on him.
No direct messages were sent to the paper, and other posts were not found to be directly threatening in nature.
Hansen said he has no malicious intent towards Miele, and when asked what the intention of the illustration was, he said he just likes to stir the pot, and he thought it was funny.
“If you look at it, it's pretty funny,” Hansen said.
“And what does it really say? Share about your favourite political issue.”
He notes the illustration did NOT mention any councillors by name.
“But obviously somebody got his nose out of joint. Funny enough he was the only councillor who reacted,” said Hansen.
The name Blair is in reference to Blair Cowanetti, administrator of a Facebook group called NOTL 4 All.
Hansen said likewise to claims he is not real, he thinks Cowanetti is not a real person.
The Lake Report also contacted Cowanetti, who is a real person living in Virgil, though he also uses a pseudonym of sorts.
The two groups — NOTL 4U and NOTL 4 All — and the administrators of both appear to be pitted against each other.
Cowanetti said he too has questioned why Hansen has stayed anonymous, and thinks Hansen does have malicious intent if he is making such illustrations.
Hansen, who said he moved to NOTL just last fall, said he has always liked to stir the pot, and it's nothing new for him. He said he started the NOTL 4U group as a response to Niagara 4 All, which he sees as a political campaign for Miele and Mazza.
Hansen identified his first name to the paper, but requested it not be released as he feels it is his right to use his middle name, which he has used since grade school.
It is not against the law to create a fake Facebook profile in Canada.
Miele said he will be making a $100 donation to Newark Neighbours either way.
He admitted he may have overreacted to the post, though he wishes Hansen would contact him to talk.
“I'm just that kinda guy. I'm old school, and if you want to talk, let's do it face to face. People have their games they want to play on social media. Look, I've had fun too but in a joking way, and sometimes people construe things as not a joke and so it's gotta be taken with a grain of salt.”
“I don't think it's defamatory,” he said of the illustration, “I just think it's childish.”
“And I understand that I'm on council, and people want to take pot-shots and councillors and that's fine, but sometimes I take it personally … then I start playing their game too and that's where I've got to figure it out and say stop.”
“I've told these turkeys to lay off because I've got family too right? I've got kids that are both in high school and one's in Grade 2 — they live here locally and you know, the last thing you want to see is people taking pot-shots at your father.”
“And my kids are the first ones to say 'dad, just don't respond.'”
“I'm just a human being sometimes. I've just got to get the thick skin going again.”
Coun. Mazza, who said he isn't bothered by the illustration, and “couldn't care less,” said he thinks the best way to combat trolls on social media is to ignore it and focus on council business.
They're just putting out bait, said Mazza.
“And (Miele) fell for it hook, line and sinker.”
Meanwhile, Hansen said he's drumming up some new cartoons for the future.