MERIDIAN — When artist Scott Pentzer came up with the idea for a shirt design combining Idaho and California, he thought it might be fun to make a few.
So Thursday morning, he posted photos of his daughter, Hannah, and son, Jake, modeling Idafornia shirts on a handful of Facebook buy/sell groups: $12 for short sleeve, $15 for long sleeve.
“What in the absolute f—- is this b———?” one commenter complained.
“That shirt’s not even good enough to wipe your butt with,” groused another.
“Idahoans be hating on just Cali but every state hates Idaho,” retorted another.
The Idafornia fight was on.
Within hours, Gem State natives, California transplants and anyone else with an opinion had flooded Pentzer’s posts at Facebook places such as Boise Buy Sell Trade. The shirt controversy spilled to Boise’s Reddit page.
“Oh my God, dude. Everybody went ape s—-!” Pentzer says. “All this hateful stuff. I got some fun messages, too. Like, ‘Go back to California.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not from California, I’m from Idaho!’ ”
In a growing state that’s painfully sensitive about newcomers from the West, the social-media madness was sadly predictable.
But Pentzer, who grew up in Lewiston and works at Modern Printers in Meridian, was flabbergasted.
“I had no idea, man,” Pentzer says. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know it was going to blow up. ... It’s insane! I was so surprised. I know some people go, ‘Oh, this will go viral.’ But you never think it really will.”
“It’s like a protest shirt. It’s intended to be humorous — not angry, hateful. Just, like, yeah, there’s a ton of Californians moving here.”
You know what the funny part is? “I have sold NONE!” he says.
OK, maybe one, he confesses. To a lady from California. And he’s still hoping to sell the rest.
“I only made 24,” Pentzer says. “That’s what’s so funny. My best friend printed them. I thought people would understand what I meant, but I see people missed the target. My wife said I should put a ‘no’ sign or the red circle with the slash, and people would know what I meant.”
Maybe. No matter what, some people are always gonna go berserk.
“Basically, all I’ve done is open up a forum for a bunch of haters that spew hatred,” Spentzer says. “That’s not at all what I intended. In that sense, I’m really bummed. I’m proud to live in Idaho. I just meant it strictly as a humorous social commentary.”
Really, all a person can do is laugh. Right?
“It is funny,” Spentzer agrees. “And that’s why I laughed it up. We’re all getting such a kick out of it here. It freaked me out. I almost deleted it immediately. But my boss says, ‘No, just let it roll off your back.’ ”