Oh, look…1984…

I’m going to write stuff that regards the Andy Lopez shooting from a few years ago but my intent is NOT to re-open that debate.  My goal, here, is to highlight an example of a real-life 1984 moment.  My point is about the corruption of the “free press” and how that affects day to day living.  For any who may have missed the book, ‘1984’ is a future dystopian novel written by George Orwell.  The protagonist in the book is a guy named Winston Smith whose job is to re-write – that is, “fix” – archived news stories that no longer support the current government orthodoxy.

Andy Lopez was a 13 year old boy who was walking down the street in Santa Rosa, California with a toy gun that looked real when he was shot dead by a Sheriff’s Deputy named Gelhaus.  Originally, I thought Deputy Gelhaus must have been alone in the cruiser but it turned out that Gelhaus was the passenger and the driver was another deputy named Schemmel.  Deputy Schemmel was an experienced deputy but new to the Sonoma county Sheriff’s Office, so Deputy Gelhaus was showing him some of the areas he was going to need to know.

When I found out there were TWO deputies on the scene at the time of the incident, a question popped into my mind: why did Deputy Gelhaus empty his service weapon into the kid while Deputy Schemmel never fired a shot?  It’s not an unreasonable question.  It became my focus because, to me, it was critical in the question of whether Deputy Gelhaus had acted properly or not.  So, I waited and watched for the answer.  I got it, too.

The Santa Rosa Police Department conducted the investigation into the shooting.  At the conclusion of their investigation, a Lt Henry of the SRPD did a press conference to disclose the findings.  A reporter asked the question I had asked, why one shot and the other didn’t.  The answer was that Deputy Schemmel was still maneuvering the car into the “ready position” and by the time he stopped the car, the threat had been “neutralized.”  It’s a key detail.

Cops have a way of protecting themselves in these situations.  It’s called the “ready position.”  They park the car, open the doors, then crouch down behind them, using the door as a shield and the gap between the car frame and the door frame to shoot through should shooting become necessary.  The day after the shooting, the local paper, ‘The Press Democrat’, ran a photo of the two officers in the ready position.

But Lt. Henry reported that Deputy Schemmel was still parking the car while Deputy Gelhaus was “neutralizing the threat.”  Whoops.  How could Deputy Gelhaus have fired from the ready position if the car was still moving?  THAT meant Deputy Gelhaus had left the support of his partner and the security of his cruiser and put himself in a position where he might very well have felt “vulnerable.”  But, in turn, THAT meant that Andy Lopez died as a result of poor police procedure.

It has come up again because now, the pseudo-Supreme Court is being asked to shield the deputy that did the shooting from lawsuits and the story that reported the information said the deputies had taken the ready position and THEN confronted the young Andy.  Because it had been a focus of particular interest to me, I knew that was wrong.  I started looking for the contemporaneous news stories that had reported that Deputy Gelhaus had left the vehicle before it was parked.

I couldn’t find them.  They’re just…gone…

I DID find the official DA Report that supported the story that the Deputies had taken the ready position before confronting Andy.  I found other newspaper accounts that said the same thing.  Frustrated (and, frankly, a little scared), I kept digging.  All I could find said the same thing.  Then, I stumbled on this story in the Press Democrat.  The story, itself, was about a witness tho gave information that conflicted with most other eye-witness reports but it contained this: “The two deputies have said they spotted him from their patrol car and pulled up behind him. Gelhaus said he got out of the car, drew his gun and ordered Lopez to drop the rifle while Schemmel parked the car.” (Emphasis added.)

It seems Winston missed one.

Deputy Schemmel was still parking the car while Deputy Gelhaus was “neutralizing the threat” but that story highlights possible poor procedure – so the story has been changed.  Even if the original report had been wrong, good journalism says you don’t pull the story.  You correct the original and report the correction.  I’ll tell you this: I know that District Attorneys cover for cops all the time.  It’s part of the job, really.  But when the press does it too?  That’s ‘1984’ territory…

Not In The News…

It sure is tough writing about politics, these days.  With our vaunted “fourth estate” in tatters, it’s hard to even know what’s going on.  Have you seen the cleverly edited video in which newsreaders were ordered by Sinclair Broadcast Group to read a script supposedly decrying the practice of forcing newsreaders to read scripts that “ some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think…”  These pieces are called “must-runs” as in, the given station is ordered to run them whether they agree with the content or not.

But when you get ownership groups pressing their agendas by using their platforms to complain about ownership groups using their platforms to press their agendas it becomes that much more difficult to figure out who’s trustworthy and who’s not.  Here’s a hint: American broadcast media is NOT trustworthy.  Print media is better because you have time to linger and think about what’s being presented but if it originates in America, you should assume it’s owned by one of the five companies that own most media in this once-great nation and accept that you’re getting either useless fluff or carefully edited news…

My greatest complaint tends to be around what’s NOT reported.  I’m not talking about conservative bubble “stories” only THEY get because they have their super-secret decoder rings.  (“Why, oh why won’t the mainstream media cover THIS?”  “Um, because it’s bullshit?”)  I’m talking about REAL news stories that don’t get carried for reasons that serve the owners.

As an example, these days, we’re treated to a semi-regular feature in which someone is asked for their “best” example of Trump/Russian collusion.  The most common answer I see is the pee tape.  (And how great IS it that we all get to talk about the President of the United States of America and a “pee tape”?)  They don’t ask me, though.  MY best example of possible Trump/Russian collusion is about a Tanzanian bank that operated mostly in Cyprus, FBME, or the First Bank of the Middle East.

It’s closed now.  Pretty good timing, if you ask me.  But before it was closed down, it was a known haven for Russian money laundering.  Some of the Russians laundering money were VERY close to Putin.  Do you know who else stands accused of laundering money through FBME?  Well, that would be Paul Manafort, the one-time campaign manager for Trump.  Manafort denies the charges.

Turns out?  Deutsche Bank was a Correspondent Bank for FBME.  A Correspondent Bank is one that provides financial services for the “partner” institution – wire transfers, accepting deposits and documents, that sort of thing.  Oh, and Deutsche Bank is, far and away, Donald Trump’s biggest lender.  Nobody else will lend to the guy anymore.  He’s too big of a risk.  But Deutsche went out of it’s way to find borrowers who were out of favor with more…respectable institutions and they found the Donald…

I’ll tell you this: in fairness to our crap media, Robert Mueller has played it pretty close to the vest when it comes to the details of his investigation – as he should.  But the Guardian from the UK covered it, so it was clearly “coverable.”  I guess it’s just more fun to salivate over Stormy Daniels’…um…accusations…

Mark Should Be Emperor of the World…

I have long felt and often said that the single most damaging event in American history was the destruction of the independent media.  I’ve occasionally made calls to restore independent media using various ideas and when I do, of course, other people have other ideas.  One of the bits of “push back” I get comes in the form of pointing out how many options exist for the people out there – so clearly, there’s no reason for a Fairness Doctrine or equal time rules.  There are just so many news outlets out there, the story goes, that if you don’t like one, you can always find another.  I’d like to think about that for a few minutes…

Let’s say I decide I should be Emperor of the World.  I write as much on my blog; ‘Mark should be Emperor of the World.’  Well, okay, that’s an opinion.  One voice on one blog.  One can do with that as one will.  But I really want to be Emperor of the World…so I start a second site.  This new site also takes the position that Mark should be Emperor of the World.  It doesn’t use the same language, necessarily, but it DOES express the basic sentiment.  Two sites aren’t going to give me much more impact than my one site so, before long, all five of my websites are expressing the opinion that Mark should be Emperor of the World.

As it happens, I’ve got some resources I can draw upon so I enlist a bit of help.  Now I’ve got ten sites, all hammering the idea that Mark should be Emperor of the World.  People start asking questions, the most salient of which is, “Who the heck is this Mark guy?”  Turns out, I’m pretty clever.  I realize that as people start asking about me, many may not like the idea that I should be Emperor of the World.  (They’re wrong.)  I add a few more sites.  THESE sites clearly don’t like me.  They take a “hard look” at the question of who, exactly, should be Emperor of the World.  Surprisingly, none of these sites questions the basic notion that we should have a single person functioning as Emperor of the World.  That part is a “given.”  Perhaps not surprisingly, they each arrive – reluctantly, of course – at the conclusion that, Wow, Mark really SHOULD be Emperor of the World…

I don’t mean to suggest all of this happens between breakfast and lunch.  It takes awhile.  But with enough resources and enough patience, eventually you can read any of my five hundred blogs (for me or against me), tune into any of my television or radio stations, pick up any of my newspapers and always receive the same basic message: Mark should be Emperor of the World.  Either with wholehearted endorsement or “reluctant conclusion” my entire network of two thousand outlets will simply continue to repeat the idea that Mark should be Emperor of the World.

BUT they’re all me…or controlled by me.  If someone on the staff of one of my outlets writes a piece describing how I should NOT be Emperor of the World, we just don’t publish that work.  After awhile, because that writer “never got published,” we let him go.  The other writers get the message.  Pretty soon, it’s all ‘Mark should be Emperor of the World’ all the time.

So…you can see the problem.  The key is not the number of outlets, it’s the number of owners.  You give one guy – me, in this case – far enough reach into the media and, with enough repetition, he can convince you of just about anything – Mark should be Emperor of the World.  Thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, these days, most of the media you see in this once-great nation is owned, operated, and/or controlled by five companies.  Five.  THAT is what the destruction of independent media looks like…and it was no accident.

But I’ll tell you this: YOU, my lucky readers, are in on the ground floor.  Today, it’s only one voice on one blog proclaiming that Mark should be Emperor of the World.  But give me enough time and enough resources and you just watch what I can do…

Yesterday Guiding Tomorrow…

This once-great nation was first established under the Articles of Confederation.  The Articles called for a weak central government with a strong emphasis on states rights.  It lasted about ten years before failing.  The time came to replace the Articles of Confederation and the members of the Continental Congress looked at other governments around the world.  They had the advantage of history to guide decisions they were making about the future…

When Alexander Hamilton was establishing the economy of the United States after the Constitution we all recognize today was created, he looked again to historical examples.  He was able to pick and choose the parts that worked well and discard things that hadn’t been as successful…

These days, I find myself using the same techniques to try and divine the future and offer up some ideas that I think might help in the next iteration of the United States.  If the inference is that the United States 1.0 has failed, I believe it.  I can explain but that’s not what I’m on about today.  For now, suffice to say there’s going to be trouble in the country.  Big trouble.  It’s a prediction of history.  My concern, here, is that when it happens, I fear the uprising will throw the baby out with the bath water by which I mean they may decide that, because the Constitution failed, they should go in some other direction.

But I think our Constitution was very well done.  It didn’t fail so much as it was “undone.”  As it happens, it needs only a few tweaks here and there to correct the errors that allowed the selfish few to bring it down.  The problem, as I see it, is one of those that have existed since time began: everyone thinks of themselves as ethical and upright.  This means the Congress critters of the late 18th century were not concerned enough about instituting controls over themselves or certain protections which have proven necessary over time.

So I’ve looked outward and backward and attempted to pick and choose ideas that will help when it comes time to start again.  I’ll give you an example.  After years of study and consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the loss of the independent media in America was the single most important victory for the privileged elite who mean to turn this country into their own personal fiefdoms.  They managed it by simply buying most of the media outlets.  Now we don’t get actual news anymore.  Now we get “infotainment” and there’s nothing people can do about it…because of the First Amendment.  You see, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech but freedom of speech includes freedom to lie.

I wouldn’t change that for individuals but accurate information is vital to the survival of a free society.  Unethical individuals have proven, now, that the destruction of accuracy in media equates to the destruction of the Republic.  It might seem as though the balance  – individual freedom of speech vs a requirement for honesty in news – is too difficult to achieve but look at one small addition to the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  Notwithstanding this guarantee, any organization that purports to be a news agency may not deliver false or misleading information.

One sentence.  It’s not even MY sentence.  I borrowed it from a successful model: Canada.  It does nothing to stop the Rush Limbaughs of the world and it shouldn’t.  Opinions are opinions and everyone has one but news…well, that’s important.  When websites or Russians or whomever flood social media with “fake news” it would be nice to have a place to go for REAL news; actual journalism, investigative reporting, that kind of thing.

A rule that requires news organizations to be honest is a rule that protects the Republic.  Yes, Fox “News” might have to change their name but not their content.  OR, their content if not their name but that’s exactly the point.  I hold that ANY source that pretends to be “news” but delivers misleading and/or outright false information is harmful to America.

I’ll tell you this:  I’ve given this idea a great deal of thought.  I know some will say it’s a bad idea but I can’t escape the notion that the people who will say so are the very same people who want to lie to you for their own benefit…

Am I wrong or am I right?