- Governor says Michigan residents requested that he drink Flint's water, so he will for 30 days
- "It would help move #FlintFWD if you resigned. #ArrestGovSnyder" wrote one Facebook user
- Others tell governor to give water to his own family, move to Flint or drink water at their house
(CNN)Boy, that didn't go well, to hear social media tell it.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, in what was billed as a move to establish solidarity with the people of Flint, said Monday he would visit a home with lead service lines whose unfiltered water had tested higher than the national action level and collect said water.
Channeling a souped-up version of ex-Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, Snyder promised to drink and cook with the water for a month, returning to Flint every week for an, ahem, fresh supply of the wet stuff.
Experts, he said, have concluded the water is now safe to drink with a filter, and "I am hopeful I can alleviate some of the skepticism and mistrust by putting words to action," Snyder said in a statement, which added that Flint residents had made the request of the governor.
Before we get to the none-too-kind backlash (which actually presents an interesting case study in the The Art of Sarcasm in 140 Characters), let's recap the situation in Flint:
Officials in 2014 decided to use water from the Flint River, which ate into the city's iron and lead pipes, causing lead to leach into the drinking water. The city switched back to Lake Huron water, but not before residents reported a litany of health problems, outlined in a class-action lawsuit: skin lesions, hair loss, vision loss, memory loss, depression and anxiety. That's not to mention concerns about Legionnaire's disease, imminent learning disabilities in developing children and a state investigation into miscarriages in Flint.
So, with that in mind, perhaps it isn't shocking that the overwhelming majority of responses to the governor's initiative fell into eight categories:
You should be imprisoned
While there was a smattering of thanks and attaboys, Snyder woke up Tuesday to a salty wave of vitriol in his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Said Letitia Smith-Sweet on Facebook: "He should be drinking prison water and food." It was a common theme.
Why don't you resign?
A person going by the Facebook handle, What Fricken Ever (which, while representative of many residents' sentiments, is doubtless a sobriquet), wrote, "You are not credible. Pathetic. The only good thing you can do for Flint is RESIGN." Added Facebook user Joel Robert: "It would help move #FlintFWD if you resigned. #ArrestGovSnyder"
Oh, NOW you want to drink the water
As noted, the state already replaced the corrosive Flint River water with water from Lake Huron, and while things are better than they were when ex-Mayor Walling drank the water to convince residents it was safe (a move he now says he regrets), they're far from perfect. Many folks wonder aloud if Snyder would've touched the stuff when it had high levels of lead and other contaminants coursing through it.
Uh-huh, let's see you give it to your family
When Brett Bilak wrote on Facebook, "Hope you drink the water and take a gallon home to your family. You know, show off your handiwork," it sounded harsh. Leave the family out of it, right? Well, the more you read -- and disregard the unequivocally hateful posts that actually wish harm on Snyder's family -- you see it's a matter of not believing Snyder. It's more like, "You think that water's safe? Prove it."
Move to Flint, guv
Many have pointed out that drinking and cooking with the tap water is hardly representative of what Flint residents have endured. Why not bathe in it? Brush your teeth with it? Or clean open wounds? Better yet, some residents feel, why don't you move an hour west to Flint and live, breathe -- and yes, drink -- what the folks there are experiencing?
I dare you to come drink MY home's water
There is a sense among some that there's a conspiracy at play, if you haven't figured that out from the other categories. This has resulted in invitations for the governor to visit various homes in the city of 100,000. On Facebook, Melissa Mays offered several places Snyder could go (stop; don't go there), including to homes that have tested high in lead or "play Russian roulette and pick a home. .... Also, while you're in Flint, you should shower in my chemical-filled water."
I double-dog dare you to go to a poor part of town
There were also invitations to visit the impoverished neighborhoods of Flint, which to be sure, cover many parts of town. According to federal statistics, unemployment is higher than 10%, the median household income is less than $25,000 and almost 42% of folks live below the poverty line. Demanded Ron Maxson on Facebook, "How about you collect water from the poorest sections of Flint, and use some of the money you've magically appropriated to pay someone to accompany you and ensure that you, and your family, drink nothing but Flint water?"
This is just a PR stunt
It's no secret that in January, Snyder hired a global, out-of-state public relations firm (with strong ties to his chief of staff, no less) that counts crisis management among its capabilities. Thus, it isn't terribly surprising that many observers feel as though his latest initiative is the product of skilled spin doctors.