Here’s a tall tale about stealing Celebration Park | Livingston

And so it goes, with this satire of a column, our present-day reality will forever be conspiracy-muddled when those who know better choose not to know.

Mayor!” — the chief of staff shouts as she runs into his office — “I just saw several postings on Facebook that said that Celebration Park has been stolen!”

“What?” shouts the mayor. “What kind of idiots do we have in this town?”

His chief of staff quickly reminds the mayor to not refer to potential voters as idiots. Our next election may be close, and we need every vote, even if some of the voters have lame ideas. Contemplating what to do, both individuals start vigorously scrolling on their phones looking for a thread of logic about how people came to believe the park had been stolen.

Finding none, they looked at each other and asked, “What does a stolen park look like?” Based on what they were reading online, Celebration Park was now a giant hole in the ground, and the posts kept saying the city was fooling everyone by setting up an elaborate holographic representation of the park. Another meme on Facebook was saying, “Don’t be fooled, it may look real but it is not.”

In the replies, comments were made explaining how to tell it is a doctored image covering up a hole in the ground. Another reply stated, “They had been to the park and when you walk on the grass it has a funny spongy feeling of not being solid.”

Another meme popped into the mayor’s screen stating, “The city secretly sold the park to balance the budget.” The mayor said, “This is crazy. Who would start such a rumor, and why would people believe this nonsense?”

The mayor and his chief of staff had read enough. They said to each other, “Let’s go see what all the fuss is about.” As they arrived at the park they saw the park, but they also saw hundreds of people testing the grass to see if it was real, and from the crowd, they kept hearing people say, “It does not feel real,” “Something is wrong,” “That dad-gum mayor of ours must have sold our park just like they reported on Facebook.”

News trucks were pulling up, leveling their vehicles, and raising their satellite dishes. These nutty social media posts were attracting major media attention. Man-in-the-street interviews were taking place and the media was hard at work establishing the facts about the missing park and the unique hologram that was masquerading as a park and why what they were walking on somehow did not feel quite right. Not one person being interviewed had any facts or credibility, but they shared conspiracy-laden speculation with authority.

The media all of a sudden made a beeline to the person who had shown up in a big truck draped in flags. He walked over to the media microphones with a grifter’s smile and shouted to the media: “Our park has been stolen and it is the devil’s work and done with the knowledge of our quick money-seeking mayor. The election is coming and you need a mayor who will not let your park be stolen.”

This was quickly getting out of hand. The media kept their focus on what the man with the grifter’s smile was saying — after all, he was entertaining. The media moguls chose to drool about the ratings they were gaining. Ratings mean advertising dollars, better share prices, and reporting a missing park was nothing but fun — in a junior-high-prankster sort of way.

The moguls did not care about the damage being done by not reporting the fact that the park was still there. They had been investing for years in duping their target audience into being strident lower-caliber thinkers. Fear was their tool and the opinions sounded plausible backed by talking heads with law degrees, Ph.D.’s, or no education at all, who spoke in rhetorical riddles that defied common sense. They knew how to make falsehoods sound like truth and truth sound like lies.

Those present, who shared the grifter man’s point of view, slowly turned their attention to the mayor and started accusing him of misconduct and asking him to prove that the park had not been moved. The mayor said to the crowd at hand, “We are being had by nonsense being spoken to benefit illusions of grandeur by a man who needs you to conclude that our park has been stolen. The city may need revenue, but the logic is not there for a park to be stolen or sold.”

“There are no alien forces at work from outer space capable of duping our town, but we are capable of duping ourselves when we choose not to believe facts and what is real. The park still exists, even if you choose to continue in your delusion, but I as mayor assure you that the park in front of you is not an illusion.”

“When traditional media sources and social media influencers get caught up in playing the ‘sort out the facts from fiction game,’ we lose perspective of why misinformation is manipulating our thinking as a way of achieving someone’s potentially nefarious objective. Politics, thinking, ideas, common sense, and ethics get lost when we believe established facts are not real.”

“Our town has many challenges and finding common ground based on facts and ideas that can be shared and debated with openness and integrity is essential. We must put the grifter’s conspiratorial beliefs back in the ‘bad-idea’ alternate-reality-box. The media should be ashamed for not being able to disclaim and be the voice of integrity while establishing facts objectively.”

The crowd continued shouting, “Bring back our park.” The media’s cameras kept recording, and the talking heads kept talking as though the illusion of conspiracy was real, and the ratings increased their vanity while challenging honest people’s sanity. And so it goes, with this satire of a column, our present-day reality will forever be conspiracy-muddled when those who know better choose not to know — and believe it or not, our park is still real.

Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at