The level of political hate has reached a crisis level in Minocqua, a level we have not witnessed in more than a score of years writing these opinions, and a level that now demands that the citizens of Minocqua take action.
For a particular reason, Kirk Bangstad and his followers on the progressive left — most of them nonlocals — have directed a hate campaign toward Minocqua town chairman Mark Hartzheim.
The reason? It’s pretty simple, Mr. Bangstad wants to do with his property as he pleases, without playing by the rules the rest of us have to follow. Mr. Bangstad apparently is only a property rights enthusiast when it concerns his own property, but that’s the signature of the progressive left these days — they are elite liberals who want tons of rules and regulations for everyone, so long as they don’t have to abide by them.
The other signature of the modern left is their tactic to stir up a storm of division and hate, including destruction and violence, to get their way.
The target of Mr. Bangstad’s frenzy has, until now, been Mr. Hartzheim. It’s illogical, but Mr. Bangstad blames Mr. Hartzheim for zoning regulations he doesn’t want to follow, and has whipped his followers into a frenzy to try to get around them.
In this edition, we have published a sampling of the hate mail spewed out in Mr. Hartzheim’s direction. Many of these emails have gone beyond the acceptable. For example, one email implored Mr. Hartzheim to “go off somewhere quite [sic], and wait for death…”
At the town board meeting last week, Mr. Bangstad made a remark that is very concerning to us: “Obviously my politics I wear on my sleeve, and I am very brazen. And sometimes I use ridicule when I think things are ridiculous, as opposed to calling for violence, as opposed to doing deplorable acts.”
It is curious to us that calling for violence emerges as the stated option to ridicule, but, again, that’s the progressive left these days. So what happens when ridicule doesn’t work? More to the point, do any of the followers stoked into a frenzy by Mr. Bangstad view violence rather than ridicule as the best alternative?
We fear that might be the case, and just because most of his cult lives far away doesn’t mean they won’t travel to act out what they might imagine to be the best solution. After all, they can also stop off and have a beer at Kirk’s place and kill two birds with one stone.
Just a week ago, in fact, a disturbed person traveled from California to Maryland, planning to kill Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. It wasn‘t too long ago that New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer uttered threatening words, singling out Kavanaugh and justice Neil Gorsuch: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Schumer later walked the remarks back, to his credit, but did those words play a role in the planned assassination of Kavanaugh?
We can’t be certain, and Mark Hartzheim certainly is not high profile like justice Kavanaugh, but what is certain is that the politics of hatred — the spewing of hate, the obsessive targeting of individuals using ridicule or any other distortion that makes the target look evil — carries great risk.
It is unacceptable. It must stop.
The irony of all this is that Mr. Hartzheim is a target by delusion. Whatever his feelings about Mr. Bangstad or his project, he is but one vote on the town board. And the town board itself has no power to do anything but make recommendations. The county controls the decisions.
To be sure, Mr. Bangstad accuses Mr. Hartzheim and county zoning director Karl Jennrich of collusion, but, as Mr. Hartzheim pointed out at last week’s meeting, there is no evidence of that. It’s an accusation snatched from thin air. 
In the past year, to cite just one example, Mr. Jennrich said he would not help the town enforce a moratorium on shipping containers, and he also stated that he would issue a permit for a container meeting applicable county standards (for use as a boathouse, for instance), despite Minocqua’s moratorium on them, a moratorium Mr. Hartzheim supported. 
Even if they had been in cahoots, there are plenty of mechanisms to ensure Mr. Bangstad would have due process. For instance, any decision on an administrative review permit (ARP) can be appealed to the county’s Board of Adjustment.
And, if Mr. Bangstad did not feel the zoning director was moving quickly enough, he could have simply picked up the phone and called zoning committee chairman Scott Holewinski or vice-chairman Mike Timmons. They would in all certainty have entertained him on an agenda.
He could have attended a zoning committee or county board meeting and made public comment. There are so many ways he could have pursued his goals by using the proper channels instead of making a public ruckus, the dual purpose of which is to receive special zoning treatment and simultaneously carry out a marketing publicity stunt.
Indeed, he could have done all the things he is screaming about now way back in January, after he and the town agreed to the terms of the ARP last December. Instead, he played the game of polarization, of whipping up hatred against targets to raise money from his far-away followers, who do not know what a pariah he is.
Mr. Bangstad always needs a target: Tom Tiffany or Mark Hartzheim, now moving on to Karl Jennrich. The list is long. They are his bank chips.
Over the years, we have had major differences with Mr. Hartzheim. We don’t see eye-to-eye on very many issues, but he most certainly does not deserve the enmity being directed his way. And, as we say, such “ridicule,” as Mr. Bangstad calls it, along with outrageous portrayals of his character, is freighted with the risk that some delusional person will choose the left’s other preferred option: violence.
Don’t think it can’t happen. We’ve seen the burning and destruction in Kenosha and in cities around the country. In 2020, protesting leftists attacked a state senator in Madison, punching and kicking him in the head, to the point that he needed surgery. In 2017, a left-wing activist with what is described as a “personalized violent ideology” shot up a baseball field where Republicans were practicing for an annual game, seriously wounding a Republican congressman.
One cannot ascribe violence to those where merely speak their political mind and someone becomes so angry by it that he or she takes action. But when the person on the social media megaphone is calling for action, that’s a different issue.
Mr. Bangstad is the most polarizing figure that Minocqua and now Oneida County have ever had to deal with. His treatment of the local population, his spread of disinformation, and his polarizing grandstanding for fundraising at a distance has even spawned a anti-Bangstad Facebook group with 367 members. That’s saying something.
One thing is for sure: Mr. Bangstad has no intention of stopping the division. That’s how he makes money. And that’s why a town meeting to address means to immediately offer protection to Mr. Hartzheim is needed.
The sooner, the better.