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Published February 20, 2022

Upside Down Under: We all need to be better listeners

Written by
Marvin Baker
| The Dakotan
Marvin Baker
Marvin Baker

I’m sure you all remember Craig Cobb? He was a self-proclaimed white nationalist who came to the Grant County community of Leith and tried to take over the town by buying up properties and bringing like-minded individuals to Leith.

Cobb caused quite a stir that lasted a long time. His actions manufactured a lot of stress for the Leith City Council, the Grant County Commission, and Sheriff’s Department and even the state of North Dakota.

Sometime after the “siege of Leith” ended, Cobb, in 2015, attempted to purchase property in Antler, but the people of the Renville County community made it clear he wasn’t welcome there. A short time later he moved to Sherwood and basically lived in seclusion, but made a similar attempt to buy property in Red Cloud, Neb., and that failed.

One day I came back to work after lunch and there was a note on my desk that Craig Cobb had called The Kenmare News and wanted to talk to me. I looked at the telephone prefix and it was Sherwood so I knew it was the same guy.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I wondered for most of that afternoon why he wanted to chat. I came to the conclusion that I’m a journalist and it’s my job to interview people whether I like their agenda or not.

He wanted to talk about what had happened in Antler. I was one of the reporters who covered the Antler City Council when it was dealing with Cobb. Anyway, he just wanted to talk about his perspective, so I listened and took notes.

But that is what a reporter is supposed to do – listen, take notes, and write articles. It wasn’t my job to lambast him for what happened in Leith or Antler. That was up to police, lawyers, and judges. My role was to listen and take statements, and that’s exactly what I did.

We spoke several times on the phone. I never met Mr. Cobb, but I learned a lot about his agenda through those conversations and I also learned that this man is extremely intelligent, but unfortunately, he channeled that intelligence in the wrong lane.

I just want everybody who reads this to know that I’m not supporting nor condoning Cobb’s actions in any way, shape, or form. The point here is as journalists it’s our job to form articles from the statements we take, make them as objective as possible and present them to our readers, listeners, and viewers.

That’s what we are trained to do. During one of our conversations, he told me that myself and Blake Nicholson of the Associated Press were the only reporters he could trust. It became clear that neither I nor Mr. Nicholson were injecting our opinions into our articles about Cobb.

We don’t receive a paycheck to plug our opinions into our articles. But since this is an opinion article on an opinion page in your newspaper, I feel compelled to tell the readers that most of us missed a couple of things regarding Craig Cobb.

He really had no business turning Leith or Antler upside down. His actions were not in the best interest of himself, the communities of Leith and Antler, or the people of North Dakota, and the law prevailed.

However, what we all seem to have forgotten is no matter how far right Cobb is, he is an American citizen, and it’s his right to live here. If he wants to follow the Neo Nazis or some other fringe group, it’s allowed according to American law, as long as it doesn’t bother others.

I’m sure some people are going to shiver, scream, and demand a retraction for me writing that just now. Consequently, that’s how the United States functions.

Recall your history right after World War I. There was a movement in the United States that became known as the Red Scare. Communists were knocking on doors demanding people vote for their candidates.

Those communists were American citizens, but when they began to infringe on the general public, public opinion about them changed drastically. And if my memory serves me correctly, a communist has run in every presidential election since 1912, but you can do that in the United States because it is a free nation.

These are the two extremes and there are a lot more examples in between. One of them is with the Second Amendment, and here again I think we’re missing the point. There was a recent article in the news about Sandy Hook and a settlement with Remington.

The rhetoric is just ridiculous. It isn’t political left theater and Biden isn’t going to take your guns away. Twenty-six people died at Sandy Hook and instead of trying to find an answer and a deterrent, we argue about anything but what’s important here, the 20 children and six adults who died that day in Connecticut. All this juvenile rhetoric isn’t going to bring any of those people back.

It’s the same with COVID. It’s a disease. It doesn’t distinguish between Republicans and Democrats, Americans or Russians. It is a disease just like polio, just like small pox, and we ought to treat it as such.

Instead, we’re fighting about mandates and going to court and suing each other. Yet the people applying the pressure, don’t seem to have the answers on how to stop COVID. Why don’t we put our heads together and eradicate this disease. Don’t you think that would be a more logical option.

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