“Shooting the messenger” or “killing the messenger” is a metaphoric phrase used to describe the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news.
Until the advent of modern telecommunications, messages were usually delivered by a human envoy. Sometimes, as in war, for example, the messenger was sent from the enemy camp. An easily provoked combatant receiving such an overture could more easily vent anger (or otherwise retaliate) on the deliverer of the unpopular message than on its author.
In Rome messengers were sent about the roads which were the revolutionary change in communications. If you knew of a message that was not favorable to your plans: be it war, business, or love, killing the messenger was a known extreme but effective practiced tactic. One had to simply kill the messenger to prevent the communication from taking place.
“Shooting the messenger” is a tactic commonly used by governments, politicians, organizations, etc. when they can not refute information reported about them by the messenger.
Attorneys use this tactic in court to discredit witnesses. The Romans used it against Jesus Christ, the Germans used it in the Holocaust and politicians use it against their opponents. Today, you can find examples of it everywhere.
So how does this work? Basically, when the subject of the message can not refute the message, they may smear the messenger using rumors, misinformation, calling him names, etc. They discredit, and demonize the messenger, although he is not responsible for the bad news, to minimise the effect of the message. Their tactic takes attention away from the message and places it on the messenger.
The Messenger & GSMOL
Over the years COMO-CAL, Mobilehome Magazine and now MH Life have been the messenger. We have educated and informed, and watched out for you. Our #1 priority has been you, the California manufactured home owner. All our decisions have been based on that priority, i.e. doing what is right for you. We know it’s in your best interest to be informed (Knowledge is Power) and we are proud that the magazine is free (because we know many of you live on fixed incomes, as do we).
We ALL want a strong GSMOL and of course we all are concerned about GSMOL’s membership loss from 100,000 to about 10,000. This has always been a huge concern of ours.
So the next question is what can we do to help turn the decline around? We can support the organization and that’s just what we’ve been doing.
Supporting GSMOL, The Organization
Over the years we have supported GSMOL because GSMOL is an important advocate with a history of protecting you, especially through its work in Sacramento. Our goal was, and continues to be, to help keep the organization strong and viable.
We have worked with GSMOL to defeat bad legislation and pass good legislation. That meant sending out thousands of post cards, writing articles, etc.
In 2004, we chaired a committee to write the Recommendations Report, a two month undertaking suggesting numerous ways to strengthen GSMOL.
We attended three summits with GSMOL and other advocates where we made key suggestions, including the formation of a single state-wide group founded with code of ethics.
In 2013 we printed 25 articles that were supportive of GSMOL.
Last year we offered GSMOL the use of the magazine to increase their membership.
Unfortunately all our efforts to help improve and strengthen GSMOL have all been rebuffed by the GSMOL Board of Directors. It is difficult to understand why.
Changing Our Focus
Keep in mind, there is GSMOL, the organization, and GSMOL, the Board of Directors. We have always supported GSMOL, the organization. Why not! We support any individual or group that helps protect you. That’s our mantra.
Who is responsible for GSMOL’s membership loss? There can be only one answer: the GSMOL Board of Directors. They run the organization, they make the decisions and they control the assets. No one else. They are responsible. Let’s praise them when they do a good job. Let’s hold them accountable when they do a poor job.
After all our efforts to improve and strengthen the organization over the years, we have no option but to confront those GSMOL leaders who are not doing their job. After all, we can not afford any further decline in the organization.
GSMOL’s Policy of Nontransparency
An advocate, especially a non-profit, must be open and transparent. GSMOL members and the MH Community have a right to know what’s happening with GSMOL, after all if we don’t know something is broken, how can we fix it? If perhaps the MH Community had known, they might have rallied to help GSMOL turn the corner. Of course GSMOL leaders have done their best to hide problems.
The Park Owners Must Not Know
The GSMOL BOD has justified their lack of transparency saying they didn’t want park owners or their representatives to know about the decline. However, park owners and their representatives are very smart. It is easy for them to obtain financial and membership information about GSMOL. They simply use public records (990 tax returns provide financial information and the Californian provides membership information) to ascertain GSMOL’s strength. We can only conclude that the BOD’s motive is actually to hide critical information from the MH Community. We believe the reasons are obvious:
They didn’t want to be seen as incompetent.
They didn’t want anyone questioning their mismanagement or unethical behavior.
They were afraid MH owners would either not join or not renew if they knew the real status of GSMOL.
Or (and we have no proof of this), some on the BOD actually wanted the decline to continue. We can only guess why.
A Quick Assessment
Remember our #1 priority is protecting you. That means keeping GSMOL strong. So what’s the big picture? GSMOL’s leaders essentially have no plan, are unwilling to listen to suggestions or accept help. Subsequently GSMOL continues to decline. Ok, we understand GSMOL has recently gained 700 new members, but that doesn’t make up for their lack of transparency, unwillingness to work with other advocates, etc. And that doesn’t excuse the Board of Directors. They are accountable for their actions or inaction. They are accountable for any mismanagement.
Our philosophy has not changed in over 12 years. We would have taken the Pledge then as we have now. And we feel we have a responsibility to inform the MH Community, whether the news is good or bad. Nothing is off limits. The MH Community has a right to know when something effects them. You have a right to know. We will fight for your right to know. We will not be a part of a cover-up.
Over the years we have reported on various “situations” with GSMOL. In August 2008 we wrote an article “We Have the Responsibility To Take Action” (www.savegsmol.com). It was about a “park owner” running GSMOL between 2002 and 2008! Obviously a conflict of interest. We experienced some backlash from the article; however most today would agree the article benefited the MH Community as the “park owner” left GSMOL the very next month. We continue to ask why didn’t GSMOL take care of this situation 6 years earlier when their corporate council and lobbyist first became a park owner?
We have also reported on the decline of GSMOL membership and assets and have written about GSMOL’s lack of transparency, openness and willingness to work with others. We have written about their loss of corporate status and other important issues.
We Are Not The Only Ones Concerned
Prior to the April 2014 Convention we received the following email, dated March 24, 2014 from a long time GSMOL leader:
We in the North have heard of many allegations and irregularities in every phase of operations within GSMOL. All of you are directly or in-directly involved by abiding with rather than objecting to the following conduct of fellow officers.
Using the corporations (our)n money ( credit cards) for personal campaigning (travel, hotels, wine & dining).
Total disharmony in the home office.
Misleading the membership as to why financial report had not been given since before the last convention.
$14,000 retreats We are not a Fortune 500 Corp.
Road trips with little to no sizable rewards. We have made over thirty Road Trips without GSMOL compensation.
We have also heard that just the five above allegations are cause for possible legal/criminal action. It is time to clean up your act NOW or face the consequences of shutting down GSMOL completely until adjudicated. Like any motor vehicle citation, “ignorance of the law is no excuse” and ignoring the obvious is also no excuse. It is the total responsibility of each corporate officer to know what is going on or at least challenge the parties responsible. By ignoring or condoning the above allegations only incriminates each and everyone on the Board of Directors.
Remember, this letter was written by a of GSMOL. We agree 100% with the letter and applaud his efforts to make a change. Remember too we attended the GSMOL Convention in April to chat with Board members and others. Very few would give us the “time of day.” We in fact spoke with only one board member.
It’s Human Nature To Believe Our Leaders
It is human nature to believe our leaders and not question them. After all they have the titles, expertise and prestige. They have been elected by the people, and no one would suspect them of anything but doing their best. However, the loss of 90% of GSMOL members is the elephant in the room. This didn’t happen on it’s own.
How Did GSMOL Leaders Respond?
Our “message” to the MH Community was irrefutable, so the GSMOL leadership attacked us wanting to discredit and destroy us. Rather than view our message as a wake up call to fix GSMOL, they choose to “shoot the messenger.”
One recent email sent to all Zone A GSMOL members by a GSMOL board member read: The mobile home magazine (National Enquirer) is not always FACT but FICTION. I am asking you again to not read or distribute this rag of a magazine. TELL EVERYONE. Put it in the recycle bin. Pay special attention to the word “again.” This is just the tip of the iceberg. Obviously this board member wanted to destroy us!
In fact, GSMOL over the years has spent considerable time and effort smearing Frank Wodley, COMO-CAL, MH Mag and now MH Life although we have had NO PART in GSMOL’S decline. We have not caused it. In fact just the opposite, we have always tried to help GSMOL turn the corner.
Our Response to GSMOL Members
Every time we write about GSMOL, we hear from a few angry GSMOL members. We’d like to respond:
Question: “Why are you criticizing GSMOL?
Answer: We have reported the decline of GSMOL because we were concerned, like so many others. Our goal was to inform the MH Community their state-wide advocate was in trouble. Our hope was MH owners would investigate for themselves, determine the facts and do something about the decline. Perhaps call for a special election to remove the “bad apples” who were responsible.
Unfortunately this hasn’t happened.
Question: Why are you trying to destroy GSMOL?
Answer: Quite the contrary, our goal has always been to help make GSMOL strong again. Anyone who reads the magazine knows we have reached out many times over the years to support and strengthen the organization. Why not? We support any organization protecting the rights of MH owners.
Question: Can’t you work with GSMOL?
Answer: In fact, we have worked with and supported GSMOL. Refer to our earlier paragraph. Lately we have pleaded with GSMOL leaders to let us help strengthen GSMOL. They have always refused. So please don’t suggest that we are the ones unwilling to work together. We took the Pledge to do just that. GSMOL leaders have not!
Consequences of “Shooting the Messenger”
Actions do have consequences. All the rumors and misinformation have hurt our ability to protect you. We have lost advertising, readers and supporters all because we informed the community, with the facts, in an effort to help GSMOL.
Some GSMOL park leaders essentially put their heads in the sand and asked all their followers to do the same thing rather than investigating and doing something to turn GSMOL around. Alas, banning the magazine is not a very effective method of remaining well-informed. Quite the opposite!
We ask those GSMOL leaders who have banned the magazine take another look at the facts. We are on your side, we only want a strong advocate in Sacramento, just like you.
More Bad News
Unfortunately there is more bad news. Why should we expect anything else? The “bad apples” are still in charge.
We just received a call from a GSMOL “insider.” He also complained about the use of GSMOL credit cards for personal reasons and expenses for travel, lodging and food. He also said there were many more problems. He claims:
GSMOL is being investigated by the California Franchise Tax Board and the IRS. GSMOL chapters are part of the investigation. GSMOL may face large “fines.”
The GSMOL corporation status is still suspended by the Franchise Tax Board, now 9 months.
Conduct by some Board Members and staff is very unprofessional.
And financial reports are inaccurate and perhaps just made up.
We know these are very serious allegations. It gives us no joy to report this. The “insider” felt strongly that GSMOL is hurting the very folks they are supposed to protect and appreciated what we’re trying to do.
In Our Opinion
The only way GSMOL will turn around is to get rid of the bad apples. Even then the future of GSMOL is questionable. The organization sold the building in Garden Grove, their only real asset and we understand most, if not all of that money has been spent. GSMOL may face large fines from the Franchise Tax Board and the IRS. They have few financial assets.
In spite of what you have heard from GSMOL leaders, we have supported GSMOL over the years and made considerable efforts to improve and strengthen the organization. In light of current events, we can not, in good faith, continue our support. Our recommendation is that you not support it either, at least until the bad apples are gone. It is a sad day for the MH Community!
We ask you to continue to support MH Life and COMO-CAL. We have taken the Pledge. You can trust us. We will continue our efforts to protect you and your lifestyle. Let’s make lemonade from lemons. We can do it if we work together.