What took so long?
It’s been six months or so since Aberdeen Mayor S. Fred Simmons, who is also a local airport owner and insurance agent, erected a billboard on Route 40 at the city’s eastern border for his State Farm Insurance business. It wasn’t until this week, however, that the billboard, which features a nine-foot tall photo of Simmons’ head, was defaced.
The first time I saw the billboard, I was driving into Aberdeen with the rest of the westbound traffic on Pulaski Highway. I was immediately struck by several thoughts:
– what an effective advertisement, not just for his insurance business, but for his continuing mayorship
– what an impossible-to-miss target
I was editor of The Record newspaper at the time and had just covered the special election that turned out to be a public drubbing, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, of the largely Simmons-promoted Wetlands annexation. The mayor made a lot of enemies during the nearly year-long struggle to annex and then un-annex the golf course property. He received death threats and even had an angry resident grab him by the shoulder during a city council meeting.
With so many enemies, perhaps the billboard was a brilliant strategic move on Simmons’ part; perhaps it was his very own bat symbol, I wondered.
For those uninitiated into the comic book world, the oft-given explanation for why Batman, the dark knight detective, wore a brilliant yellow bat symbol on his chest was that the iconic oval was heavily bullet-proofed, thereby providing would-be assassins with a perfect, yet impenetrable, target.
Simmons may have done the same thing, essentially giving his enemies an easy target, which, if struck, would do him very little actual harm. Far less harm than, say the guy who advanced on him with a baseball bat a few months back.
Much like how the bat symbol was also intended to strike fear into the hearts of the cowardly thugs of Gotham City, Simmons’ billboard might also be a psychological weapon to be used against local miscreants looking to do some damage in Aberdeen.
“Watch out, you’re on my turf now.”
(Incidentally, as something of a self-made vigilante, a renegade pilot who carries with him at all times a loaded gun and a sharp wit, Simmons is sure to get a kick out of all the comparisons to Batman).
I think he and I even talked at one point about taking bets on how long it would take for someone, either extremely brave or extremely stupid, to vandalize his billboard. He knew it was just a matter of time before his giant paper likeness became dotted with graffiti. Hell, he was probably counting on it.
Simmons is, after all, a month and a couple weeks removed from a re-election bid and could use the extra publicity. What better way to get people talking about you than to have someone literally and very publicly deface you?
[Note: There are those who have reservations about publicizing, and in some way glorifying, such a crime. While The Dagger does not condone criminal behavior, even of the symbolic nature, it does recognize its significance and will not self-censor what can and has been seen by any thousands of passersby each day.]