Tuesday, March 28, 2017

We Need More of Those Who Watch the Watchers -- so Why Are We Employing Less of Them?

Jacqui Helbert, fired reporter
In our upside-down world, where truth seems to be out of fashion and we are horrified to see how far horse manure can get you, the public radio station in Chattanooga fires a reporter after a legislator complains, and Gannett continues to cut staff at The Commercial Appeal and its other newspapers.

We have seen an increase in arrests of journalists in this decade, while the ranks of reporters continue to slide.  If there were ever a scarce commodity in America, it is the commodity of truth and the companion acute need for truth tellers to watch-dog elected officials.  Thus, we are living upside down and backwards to be ditching truth-tellers -- whether it is because a corporate behemoth is seeking to trim its bottom line, or whether a state-funded university is so afraid of its money getting cut that it lets a legislator make editorial policy.

In the case of Jacqui Helbert, the reporter at WUTC in Chattanooga, the gist of it is that some Republican legislators were at a meeting with high school students, and she talked to them, then did a story.  They complained they did not know she was a reporter.  She said she was wearing her WUTC station ID, carrying some bulky gear, and held a 22-inch directional mic in their faces.  Being a radio reporter, there was no camera and no cameraman to ride alongside the reporter.

My take: While I do not believe she played "gotcha" with the legislators or did anything sneaky, it seems as though their own stupid statements made them look bad.  In other words, much Trump-like, they complained that the media reported what they did and said.

Further, we should not distinguish between media and citizens.  Citizens are journalists with as much standing as any member of the dwindling ranks of reporters.  Anything an elected official says to any citizen is as much a comment to the public as anything he or she says to a card-carrying, corporate-paid reporter.  A citizen can talk or write about her experiences with a politician, or what the politician does or says, same as any journalist.  A citizen can talk to a journalist and report, representative Smith or Jones said or did this or that.

See, there is no distinction between "journalist" and citizen journalist.  In this era, especially, when everyone has a cell phone that can record video, every citizen is a journalist.  Get used to it.  If you are an elected official and you don't like people knowing you say and do stupid things, I have a simple fix for you:  Quit saying and doing the stupid things that make you look foolish.

Thus, the answer to Who Will Watch the Watchers? is everyone of us.  It's a necessity.

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the 21st Century

While Americans are distracted by celebrity news and funny pet videos, and as macro forces move slowly and invisibly, the Earth and its political societies face events that can change life as we know it.

J.P. Harpignies writes about it in Bioneer, and makes the point that we often ponder:

"It is an open question whether our species is wired to be able to respond to long-term existential crises..."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

DOJ Consent Decree Embraces More than Spying on Activists

A Report: When Police Arrest Citizens for Taking their Picture

Memphis police arrest Paul Garner who was live-streaming at Valero Refinery on MLK Day 2017
Image by Hive Swarm News & Media

The 1978 Department of Justice Consent Decree with the Memphis Police Department has been thrust into the news lately, and it is the basis of a lawsuit for political intelligence gathering.  However, the consent decree cites the First Amendment in broad terms.  One violation of First Amendment rights occurs when law enforcement stops persons from recording them, sometimes by even arresting them.

From time to time, these actions and video clips appear publicly such as on the Internet or TV news.  Following are summaries of seven such incidents in Memphis, Tennessee, which are included only because they notably made the news.  In five of these incidents, those recording or attempting to record with cell phones were arrested.

All of those cases were dismissed once they came before a judge.

1—Oct. 2, 2011. A woman sees five officers on top of a man on Beale Street, and one is punching him. She begins recording and says, “He didn’t do nothing” and “I’m going to get a picture of this.”

As the woman persists in recording with a cell phone, three officers approach her and say, “Get off the street; the street is closed” and “shut the fuck up” as the camera gets tossed about and captures a jumble of images.

No arrests were made, but the images made YouTube and local TV news.

“Excessive force on Beale Street”  10/2/2011 YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPa89aLErZ8&index=8&list=PL4ciy-ln_07nF1k1KlM3CD22KH1k_e9DH