Mixed Feelings About the Backlash Against the Press (Guest Post)

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The news cycle has been dominated by the events in Paris and Charlie Hebdo from last week, but there’s another story about backlash against the press that’s fallen by the wayside.

In late 2012 a small New York Newspaper, The Journal News, decided to publish a map showing local gun owners’ home addresses in the wake of the Newtown school shootings. It’s natural that a shooting as horrific as Newtown’s that anti-gun sentiment would surge, but one would think that news organizations would keep a cooler head before lashing out. The Journal News correctly pointed out that all of the information that they released were public records and that they simply compiled them. Obviously, gun owners in the area were unhappy about being singled out so publicly. And of course, there were the secondary effects, such as police officers working in jails getting harassed by inmates who could now easily find their homes, or more obviously, the fact that the map was a useful guide for criminals who wanted to know which homes did not pack heat.

As expected, the response was intense, with angry calls and e-mails flooding in, advertiser boycotts, and unfortunately, threats as well. In the ultimate ironic twist, The Journal News hired armed guards out of response to the backlash, however I could not confirm if the JN also published the names and home addresses of the guards they were employing. When this story broke I remember thinking to myself that if I had the money for it I’d be tempted to take out a full page ad in the JN that contained a map of the home addresses of all of that paper’s staff, cross referenced with whichever ones were gun owners – completely public knowledge, of course.

Fast forward to the Ferguson trial, and The New York Times decided to essentially publish the home address of Darren Wilson, the accused officer. Of course, The Times published this innocently as a simple piece on a police officer’s wedding who just happens to live halfway across the country. Apparently local stories can warrant publication in a national publication after all.

But what caught my attention to write this post was an entertaining article that David Weigel wrote for Bloomberg.com, “How a Conservative Backlash Silenced #Ferguson Reporters for All the Wrong Reasons”. The title alone is enough to tell you that what you’re about to read is going to be entertaining, and sure enough the article did not disappoint. As one might guess from the last example the authors of the NYT piece received a similar treatment when their addresses got published by Charles Johnson’s gotnews.com site:

Julie Bosman “keeps calling the 020th District station complaining about people harassing and threatening her,” our source told us. She’s also “complaining about numerous food deliveries being sent to her residence.”

Gotnews.com published Julie Bosman’s address in Chicago after she published the address of Officer Darren Wilson and his new wife in a widely criticized move.

And from there Weigel dedicates most of his piece to telling us how crazy Charles Johnson is, without realizing that many on the right would agree with that assertion. It only takes until the third paragraph for Weigel to start going off the rails , as he opens wit the assertion

What had been innocuous information became the kindling for a media bonfire.

“Innocuous?” How does publishing the home address of the subject of a major controversy contribute to any story? Perhaps Weigel should have contacted the reporters he was defending to see why their reasoning for this unprofessionalism was. In the next paragraph faithful readers are informed that

On the right, the story of #Ferguson is that a vile and biased media inflated a simple case of self-defense into a bogus “racism” story. In this storyline, Wilson is the real victim, and his aggressors need to be shamed out of their jobs and comfort.

Note how beautifully worded that is? Nobody on the conservative side is saying that Brown isn’t a victim of a shooting death, but it is legitimate to question the choices that Brown made that lead to his death. And given the overall number of violent acts committed by non law-enforcement citizens greatly outnumber the small number of white cop on black criminal stories, then yes, that qualifies this as “a ‘bogus’ racism story.” In the following sentence he suggests anyone sympathetic to Wilson is declaring him the “real victim” and the offending parties deserve retribution. As a matter of fact, if you become the target of a national hate campaign based on lies over how you legitimately did your job, then I think that the term “victim” does apply.

Actually, that last part from Weigel was what gave me pause to think about how the Times reporters were being treated. While what Boseman and Robertson did in The Times was wrong, I don’t like the idea of anyone being harassed as they are, and absolutely do not want to see any kind of violence against them. Luckily for them, they did not offend the ideologies that are almost always behind politically/religiously motivated acts of violence in this country, so I doubt that will come to pass. And as much as I hate this kind of harassment, what other recourse does the public have against journalists who engage in this kind of malpractice? It’s not like they have a license that can be revoked, and however unethical, Boseman and Robertson’s actions were completely legal. Boycotting advertisers is always available, but it still is not always effective and affects everyone who works at said publication, not just the offending reporter(s) and editor. Is there a better way? I can’t think of one, so I’d love to hear alternatives in the comments.

Then again, any sympathy I might have felt for the journalists was dispelled toward the end of the column as Weigel sums up what seems to be the sentiment of too many journalists who’ve covered this story:

Wilson is being portrayed as a decent man who did what he had to, court of public opinion be damned. And there’s precedent for that.

That “precedent” that he cites would be where Weigel likens the Brown shooting to the My Lai massacre. Stay classy. But even more disturbing is Weigel’s (and almost everyone on the left’s) notion that facts and evidence be damned. If you are the subject of the left’s anger, then you are no longer entitled to due process under law and deserve to be handed over to their lynch mobs, or as Weigel calls it, the “court of public opinion”. If journalists feel that the subjects they cover deserve nothing better than a lynch mob mentality then why should they be treated any differently?


H/T The People’s Cube, but this “jury” that indicted Wilson is NOT a Photoshop!

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Blogging by the credo of "Making the world a more offensive place, one blog post at a time", Brother Bob started writing posts around the beginning of the Obama presidency over at Brother Bob's Blog. A born-again Existentialist and self-professed libertarian with conservative tendencies, he has ironically chosen to live in the Washington, DC area - deep behind enemy lines. He has always loved history, and spent eight years volunteering as a tour guide on weekends, giving over 200 tours to roughly 2,500 mostly foreign guests. His tours were highlighted by stories generally not found in the history books or most other tours, such as the importance of the Battle if Antietam, the origins or Arlington Cemetery, and dispelling the myths of FDR's New Deal. Although his favorite subject to blog about is Economics, as seen in his Economics for Politicians series, his posts try to address angles that other conservative writers and the mainstream media (naturally!) miss. "There's no point in putting up a post on a subject that someone smarter than me has already written". He believes in the "Happy Warrior" approach, and tries to inject humor in his posts, sometimes successfully. Two such examples are his posts comparing the modern left to the horrible Star Wars prequels, and analyzing the laments of a DC woman in search of a feminist boyfriend. Brother Bob lives with his very patient wife known as Sister Babe, and their fantastic son. Little Bob. Little Bob is also the reason that being a tour guide came to an end, as spending Saturdays raising a son takes priority over giving lectures to foreign visitors on the folly of Keynesian economics. BB is also grateful for the opportunity to take his place among the outstanding writers at Flopping Aces, appreciates every person who takes the time to read his posts, and especially those who join him in the conversation in the comments.

9 Responses to “Mixed Feelings About the Backlash Against the Press (Guest Post)”

  1. 2

    Doramin

    As far as I’m concerned turnabout is fair play. If a reporter goes out of his/her way to helpfully feed the home address of someone they don’t like to the baying mob then by all means let the same thing happen to them. Only actual, real-world personal consequences deter bullies. It’s as simple as that.

    Love the picture of the two old fools in clown hats. Fight the Power!

  2. 3

    Nanny

    “Clown hats.”
    Yes, those are their actual hats!

    It’s sad that both the Onion and the People’s Cube as satirical sites are having such a hard time out-doing our political reality.

    Just today I read how the Onion’s satire on a philosophy class being boycotted for being all about old, irrelevant white guys.
    A university paper took it seriously!

  3. 5

    ThunderGod

    Nanny, looks like it’s the Lefty/Indy “Journolister” and not the Little Green Psychos CJ.

    Amazing turn, that; like someone flipped that poles at LGF…

  4. 7

    Petercat

    @Nanny: #3
    Those “clown hats” are Russian ushankas, with what appear to be Russian Army insignia complete with hammer-and-sickle depicted on a field of red, surrounded by a gold wreath.
    Having met a few soldiers in the ’80s, I doubt if they would look kindly on a pair of clowns wearing their hats.
    (BTW, Just because a pair of clowns are wearing them, doesn’t make them “clown hats”. Most Russian soldiers (that I met) were pretty good people.)

  5. 9

    Doramin

    Yes. I know what they are. In this case, it’s not that hat that makes the Klown, it’s the wearer. Something tells me that these two elders (and their attendant grandchildren) do not exactly represent a mighty, grass-roots movement.

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