Earlier this month, The News-Gazette reported on an incident involving Champaign Mayor Don Gerard and a local musician who goes by the name of Jammin' Jimmy Bean. According to reports, Bean was in the middle of playing a set at the Boneyard Creek Community Day, an event where volunteers picked up trash near the creek, when he and the mayor were involved in an altercation.
According to Bean's account, the mayor interrupted his set to call him a vulgarity commonly reserved for genitalia and then ominously predicted Bean's future resides behind bars, receiving intimacies from the prison population.
In the mayor's account, it was Bean who initiated the conflict. Officers responded to the mayor's call and interviewed both men. Ultimately, no arrests were made.
Bean quickly took his perceived injustice to Facebook, recounting the story over and over again for anyone who would listen — until finally taking the next step and requesting an order of protection against the mayor. This request was, in turn, denied. Twice. A third attempt is scheduled for late April.
In a subsequent interview with The News-Gazette, the mayor dismissed Bean as "a sociopath," accusing him of "cyberbullying" Gerard's daughter when she was 14.
Who is telling the truthiest of truths in this situation?
I decided to referee the conflict based solely on information I have acquired from a public search of their Facebook pages. (If you would like to play along at home, Google will show you the way.)
I want to note, before we get too heavy into the specifics, that I am not "friends" — on Facebook or in real life — with either party. Therefore, my alliance is neutral.
NUMBER OF FACEBOOK FRIENDS
At the time I visited Gerard's page, he had more than 3,800 Facebook friends. By contrast, Bean had only 2,700. Both are considerable totals that dwarf my triple-digit tally and sent me spiraling into a deep depression.
Edge: If this were a popularity contest at Bayside High, Gerard would be Zach Morris, Bean would be Screech and I would be the guy who does magic tricks for the approval of teenagers hanging out at The Max.
FRIENDS IN COMMON
In a more accurate indicator of personal integrity, I was able to determine the number of Facebook friends I have in common with the mayor and the musician. This helped me decide whose table to sit at during lunch period.
I was surprised to find I had 15 friends in common with Bean. But in a twist ending, I discovered that 31 of my friends were in Gerard's camp.
Edge: Gerard rulez, Bean droolz!
Facebook users have two photos with which to establish their online identity: the cover photo and the profile photo. For those of you not privy to Facebook (I have heard whisperings of your kind), the cover photo is a panoramic banner that runs across the top of the individual's page; it helps set the tone. The profile photo is the individual's avatar; it shows the image its user wants to project to the world.
At the time of this writing, Bean's cover photo is a close-up shot of an ancient Buddha statue imposed against a bright blue sky. It seems to suggest Bean is a lover, not a fighter.
The profile picture features Bean in a bucket hat and dark sunglasses, looking not unlike a member of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, with his arms around two young girls that the info section reveals to be his daughters. This image suggests he is a devoted father who values children, and not the kind of guy who would go around harassing the mayor's kid for kicks.
At the time of my information gathering, Gerard's cover photo was a picture of him delivering a presentation at a recent TED conference. His profile picture features him presenting the late Roger Ebert with the key to the city.
Clearly, both parties wish to convey a certain image to the world. Bean wants you to think he's a peaceful, responsible guy who loves his kids, bucket hats, rockin' in the free world and Buddha — in that order.
Gerard wants you to think he's a super-cool politician who knows more famous people than you do.
Both parties have an agenda here, but only one directly helps argue his case in the Boneyard Bust-up.
Bean lists his occupation as "Singer/Songwriter/Drummer/Guitarist/Funnyman/Activist for Social Justice." Not only is that an impressive number of titles, but Jammin' Jimmy has been practicing this trade since 1969! That's a lot of hard-rockin' social justice, my friends.
By comparison, Gerard's two-year stint as "Mayor of Champaign" seems to lack the same breadth of experience. In fact, it seems downright amateur hour.
Edge: Bean for social justice and rocking your socks off.
It is a tale of two cities. Gerard lists the University of Illinois as his alma mater, while Bean is a graduate of Parkland College. Clearly one of them has an upper hand in this category.
Edge: Parkland Cobras, HISSSSSSSSSSSSS! P-Land pride gives Jammin' Jimmy the edge in my book.
My great Uncle Charles always used to say "Never trust a man who calls himself Jammin' Jimmy." But on the other hand, Uncle Charles was also famous for saying "A man in a bucket hat can tell no lies."
Despite the fact that Bean clearly has more to gain from publicizing this situation than the mayor, the Facebook jury finds in the favor of Bean in the case of the Boneyard Bust-up.
All rulings are final — but subject to bribes.
Ryan Jackson has done his civic duty for the day, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.