Fairfax: Cyber-bullying 2.0

It’s Steve’s Turn Now

Earlier this week I wrote about recent developments in the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department related to the treatment of women there.

In recent days the women’s program officer tendered her resignation and Steve Mittendorff, whose wife was a department member when she committed suicide in 2016, urged Richard Bowers, the chief, to resign.

In the spirit of “taking care of our own” one wonders how Chief Bowers should respond (or not) to such a call from the spouse of his deceased employee.

When contacted for comment, Bowers said, “I don’t have to, or don’t want to respond to anything he’s said,” Bowers said, by phone. “He doesn’t work for me, and he doesn’t work for the county.”

True, but like it or not, Mittendorff will always have a relationship with the organization and is entitled to a degree of respect and compassion from its leaders even, or especially, when tact and patience are called for.

It’s inappropriate and odd to mention Steve Mittendorff’s call for Bower’s resignation without mentioning his wife.  I wrote, “The county department provides fire and ems service and was propelled into the news about a year ago when a woman member, Nicole Mittendorff, committed suicide under ambiguous circumstances after being subjected to cyber-bullying by other department members.”

That sentence aroused indignation on social media because it fails to utterly absolve the fire and rescue department for any involvement, whatsoever, in Nicole’s death.

Apparently one cannot write of Nicole Mittendorff without a bulletproof and positive affirmation that the fire department was entirely blameless.

I don’t buy that.

But it gets much, much, worse.

A longtime department member wrote on social media,

 “Just thinking here – At what point is it proper to release facts regarding Nicole if we are going to keep using her for a one-sided advantage? The narrative is easy to use Nicole for agendas when releasing factual information regarding her and Steven would be looked at negatively be it 911 calls, medical history, private IMs, etc (hypothetical examples of course). Thoughts?”

That’s a poorly written but thinly veiled suggestion to “release facts regarding Nicole … be it 911 calls, medical history, private IMs, etc (hypothetical examples of course). “

Facts which “would be looked at negatively…”

The “(hypothetical examples of course)” is a weaselly way of disavowing the very action suggested by the writer.

It’s the same as saying “don’t do that” while winking and smiling.

It’s also threatening.

And, I fail to see how properly mentioning her in context is a “one-sided advantage”, it’s not a game of tennis.

Later on, writing directly to me, he says, “If you want to be an investigative blogger try doing a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act Request] on 911 records for said address to start”, advocating a records search related to someone dead from suicide.

I’ll pass on the opportunity to bully a grieving spouse, thank you.

Why do some people need the Nicole Mittendorff narrative to be absolutely clean and simple?

Anyone ever caught up in the suicide of a family member or close friend knows the exact opposite is the case.

The act of suicide, of an otherwise healthy person, is fraught with mystery, ambiguity and confusion.

The idea that a single cause can be determined (or excluded) is as illogical as the very act itself.

Understanding a suicide is like playing pickup sticks in the dark.

Any “explanation” is but a collection of hypotheticals.

Trying desperately to make it fit some convenient narrative will not only fail, it’s a concession to falsity.

Nicole’s death is an immutable fact now woven into the fabric of the department, forever.

It is what it is.






1 Comment

  • Frank says:

    Do you plan on addressing the woman vs women bullying that is currently taking place in the county? Or I should say, 2 females vs women. Seems to be the serious issue. Looking forward to your comment? If I sure of the aforementioned females – feel free to ask.

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