Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

August 14, 2017


Filed under: Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:40 am
A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. At least one person was arrested.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. At least one person was arrested. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 12:  Anti-fascist counter-protesters wait outside Lee Park to hurl insluts as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" are forced out after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – AUGUST 12: Anti-fascist counter-protesters wait outside Lee Park to hurl insluts as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the “alt-right” are forced out after the “Unite the Right” rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Well it finally happened, sombody got killed at a demonstration.

This was not a surprise to some of us. We knew it was going to happen, it was only a matter of when, where, how, and which side.

Heather Heyer, 32, was struck by a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr, 20, from Ohio. Heyer was reportedly marching alongside the Democratic Socialists of America, Antifa, and Black Lives Matter in a counter-demonstration against white supremacists and neo-Nazis protesting the upcoming removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Fields is reportedly a kid who thought Nazis were “pretty cool” according to a former high school teacher.

This is very bad and I doubt it’s going to get better soon.

There are reports of clashes between Antifa and police in Portland, Oregon, and a free speech rally has been announced in Boston this Friday.

So far there have been more questions than answers. The protestors evidently had a permit to demonstrate. It is not clear if the counter-protestors did or not.

Charlottesville Police failed to deal with the two groups effectively and were reportedly ordered to stand down when they clashed. We’ve seen that before, in Berkeley.
Worse, it appears they may have funneled protestors leaving the park site to within a block of the counter-protestors.

Worse still, there is video footage circulating around the Internet that purportedly shows someone bashing the back of Fields’ car with a baseball bat before he accelerated into the crowd.

According to unconfirmed stories Fields wasn’t malicious, he was terrified.

If that story pans out, and Fields does have a defense enough to acquit him or convict him of a lesser charge, care to guess what kind of reaction that’s going to provoke?

Understand something, those protestors were or at least had in their midst real live Nazis and white supremacists. The photographic evidence is there, Nazi flags and symbols. If there were participants who weren’t Nazi sympathizers they didn’t have the influence to demand those flags be put away nor the sense to walk away themselves when they saw them.

But the counter protestors are no angels either and here is where it’s getting sticky.

Antifa and BLM showed up spoiling for a fight, armed with bats, pepper spray bags of urine and feces, and reportedly caustic liquids.

On a few pictures you can find some were waving red flag with the yellow hammer and sickle.

And this is where it’s getting very bad. It does indeed look like the major media is colluding to downplay the fact the counter-protestors are thuggish left radicals. Published pictures have apparently been chosen to exclude images of the flags and weapons in the hands of counter-protestors. The fact that they haven’t entirely succeeded would seem to indicate this required some effort on the part of journalists and editors.

New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported the Antifa counter-protestors were also acting with hate-filled violence and was evidently made to walk it back.

Some friends I’ve talked to flat don’t believe this was a case where there were no good guys, because “they were fighting racism.”

Acquaintances on the hard left however are jubilant and quite open about it.

One posted a meme with the legend, “When you can’t convince a fascist, acquaint his head with the pavement.”

Facist pavement

As mentioned, confirmed information is scarce so far. When all comes out, if it does, the city government of Charlottesville is going to have a lot to answer for, and the press as well.

I am going to recommend readers go to the site Zombietime to see what I’m talking about.

Zombie is an anonymous blogger on the west coast who for years has been documenting the manipulation of press photos by carefully chosen angles and cropping, by showing their own photos of the same events from the same perspective, and showing what was not reported.

Zombie convincingly demonstrates a long standing pattern of photo manipulation in support of a narrative. After you’ve seen it you might recognize the signs of it elsewhere in the country, and realize photos can indeed lie.

Be warned, some pages are definitely not for children.

October 31, 2016

Native grievances and Standing Rock

Filed under: Media bias,Op-eds,Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 3:57 pm

It has all the ingredients of a Great Cause. Native Americans versus corporate greed with jackbooted company thugs and sinister militarized police forces.

Wasn’t there a Steven Seagal movie with this plot a few years ago?

But say it softly… there’s something that isn’t adding up about this story.

We heard the evil corporate greedsters were running Dakota Access Pipeline though sacred Indian land and across the Missouri River where it would promptly poison the water and despoil Mother Earth.

But it turns out the builders did in fact jump through all the regulatory hoops and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe made no protests at the time the public hearings were held.

For those who care about hearing both sides I refer you to Rob Port of North Dakota and the Say Anything blog. Port is looking at the other side of this contentious issue and taking the heat for it so I don’t have to.

Instead I’m going to tell you about something that happened in Oklahoma long ago. The following account was dredged from my memories of the news reports at the time, which differ significantly from what you can find about the case today on various political websites.

On September 19, 1979, a Native woman Rita Silk Nauni got off a plane at Will Rogers World Airport with her 10-year-old son. She was reportedly fleeing an abusive relationship and bound for Lawton, Oklahoma, a few hours’ drive away.

Nauni and her son began walking down the airport road. She was reportedly whacked out of her mind on airplane booze and possibly pills.

After discarding several items of clothing from their baggage along the road two airport rent-a-cops, one elderly man and his female partner contacted them about a littering complaint.

Remember in these pre-9/11 days airport police were pretty much night watchmen not real cops.

They arrested Nauni, who started to struggle with them, possibly after her young son attacked one of them. In the struggle the female officer’s firearm retaining strap broke, Nauni seized the gun and killed the old guy and wounded the female officer.

She was taken into custody soon after, and that’s when the circus began.

Native activists brought a medicine man to the jail as her spiritual councilor, and the county sheriff got stupid enough or angry enough to deny access. Round one for the activists.

Understand, there was nothing in this case that was remotely political or a civil rights issue. Nauni just happened to be Native and local activists seized on the opportunity.

Feminists quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

“Self-defense is a woman’s absolute right!” they proclaimed.

Nauni’s case went to trial, but the defense had no case. At literally the last minute they changed their plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, a defense that has a long history of not working in Oklahoma.

I ran into a feminist friend soon after, who confided she felt betrayed.

The only possible effective defense would have been a “Let’s have some mercy for a screwed up human being please.” But her legal team sacrificed her to make it a political issue.

Ordinarily she’d have been out in time for her son’s high school graduation. Instead a ticked-off judge threw the book at her and for Manslaughter One she got 150 years. An appeal was denied.
According to Oklahoma DOC records she was released in 1998.

What you can find about Rita Silk Nauni these days is mostly on left-wing websites where she is called a “political prisoner” who was imprisoned, you know, because racism.

My observation: nobody has more legitimate grievances against the United States than the First Nations. They are a conquered people who first lived on sufferance, and then on charity – which turned out to be far more destructive of their native culture.

The problem has always been that at a time the dominant culture is inclined to listen and address them, they are not very good at articulating their grievances. Perhaps because there are so many it’s difficult to focus.

The consequences have been terrible for them and well-meaning attempts to help often have the opposite effect. Especially when white activists jump on board to attach their own agendas to theirs, because Indians!

March 16, 2016

Free Speech

Filed under: Free Speech,Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:13 am

I think as I please, and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees, this crime I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater, to duke or dictator
No man can deny, die gedanken sind frei!
Die gedanken sind Frie (“Thoughts are free”)
– Adapted from a Swiss protest song, 1810

Well, a Trump rally in Chicago on Friday, March 11, was cancelled.

Trump cancelled over security concerns as hundreds of protestors filled sections of the arena and massed outside. Protestors were visibly elated. Supporters simmeringly angry.

This is not good – except for Trump. Some polls indicated astonishing jumps in his support after the incident. Causing some critics to cry hysterically that Trump cancelled as a calculated move.

Trump has been castigated by critics, including some in the GOP, as having incited violence at previous rallies.

I think this is not entirely fair. Protestors at these rallies attend not just to express disagreement but to shut down the speeches via the “hecklers veto.”

True, Trump has a mouth that lives its own life, wild and free. He’s shouted from the podium to throw the hecklers out and expressed a wish to punch them.

But that’s not why his opponents want to shut him down.

On February 22, conservative intellectual Ben Shapiro’s scheduled appearance at California State University LA was cancelled by university president William Covino after protests.

“After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity. Such an event will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints,” Covino announced.

Covino’s concern for diversity of viewpoints somehow never emerged during previous appearances by radical leftists such as Cornel West, Angela Davis and Tim Wise.

Shapiro is certainly outspoken, but his speaking style is measured, rational and well thought out. Worlds apart from the Trumpster’s bluster.

Which got him no respect at all, when during an appearance on Dr. Drew On Call in February, large transgendered Zooey (nee Bob) Tur put his hand on diminutive Shapiro’s neck and said, “You’d better cut that out now or you’ll go home in an ambulance.”

Shapiro alleged Tur later said he’d meet him in the parking lot. An allegation given credence when Tur later went on record as saying he’d like to “curb stomp” Shapiro for the crime of calling him “sir.”

So let’s clear the air about what’s happening here.

Trump is no champion of free speech. He’s threatened to sue critics. He’s tried to get journalists fired for writing critical articles about him. But ironically a lot of fed-up Americans are rallying around him because he exercises his own right of free speech.

We all know there are things we can’t say in America, and we all know pretty much what they are.

The left owns academia, entertainment, and most of the broadcast media. Though there is no formal censorship in this country of the kind you’d find in North Korea or Cuba, an awful lot of people are afraid for their livelihoods and even their safety if they express certain unpopular opinions or just tell a joke someone takes offense to.

Listen, I’ve lectured in Belarus and taught in Serbia during the Milosevic regime and I said what I pleased. But I can honestly say the two places I’ve worked where I really felt I had to watch my mouth were Saudi Arabia, and an American university.

It’s been this way for decades now and we’re dangerously angry about it. It is not natural for Americans to be afraid of what we say.

I’ve always known we wouldn’t put up with it forever. I wish free speech had a better champion and I hope its enemies wake up and back off. Because if they don’t, free men who wish to speak their minds are not going to retreat to their safe spaces.

December 12, 2014

Rape accusation shows danger of issue-driven journalism

Filed under: Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 12:56 pm

Many years ago I had a vindictive ex.

I believe I can sense the rolling eyes and hear the impatient groans among male readers.

“Oh you think you had it bad!”

Bear with me please, it gets better. I hadn’t seen anything of my ex for a while and I first found out exactly how vindictive she was when two police detectives showed up at my front door.

“Is there a problem officers?” I said, or something equally witty.

It’s unnerving at best when detectives show up at your door, no matter how clear your conscience is.

“We had a report that someone answering your description robbed (the local strip joint) and shot the bartender in the knee,” said one. “You know anything about this?”

My jaw literally dropped open.

“Well is that a yes or are you catching flies?” he asked.

I have to say, under most circumstances I admire the ability to banter like this, in classic tough-cop style. I briefly considered bantering back about how this was typical ethnic stereotyping on my Irish heritage. Why does everyone assume when someone gets knee-capped there must be an Irishman behind it? But it didn’t seem like a good idea at the time.

“I guess I’m catching flies,” I said (which was pretty good you must admit). “I’ve never been in the place.”

So they asked, did I know anyone who worked there?

As it happened I did, and as I was going down the (short) list it broke on me like a flash.

“Oh,” I said. “I have an ex who makes rounds there selling flowers, and she’s just crazy and vindictive enough to say something like this.”

I will never forget to my dying day the look of disgust on the face of that cop as he actually managed to slam his notebook shut.

I offered to come downtown for a lineup but they obviously felt they’d wasted enough time on this lead.

Reaction around town was universally sympathetic, and the proprietors of the strip joint I believe made it plain to my ex she wasn’t welcome to vend in their establishment anymore.

Thank God it wasn’t a rape accusation!

Last month Rolling Stone magazine published a truly horrifying description of one young lady’s gang rape at the hands of a group of fraternity boys at a frat party at the University of
Virginia. I defy anyone to read it without being overcome with a sick feeling of horror, and rage.

And immediately after that, if one has a brain in their head, the thought of, “Wait a minute, this is bogus!”

To summarize, Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Erdely wrote a story using precisely one source. Moreover she was deliberately misleading as to whether she was quoting the alleged victim or her friends.

She made no attempt to contact any of the five or seven alleged rapists “at Jackie’s request”, even though details the alleged victim “Jackie” supplied should have made it easy. When other journalists tried to, they could find no members of the fraternity that matched the details she supplied. Nor was there a party at the fraternity on that date.

Being gang-raped on shards of broken glass should have left trauma enough for a visit to the emergency room. Erdely evidently couldn’t be bothered to check, or even ask.

Jackie’s friends are now walking back from their previous support of her after reading unflattering details about themselves that in no way match their memory of conversations with Jackie.

Erdely admitted in an interview that she went shopping for a spectacular rape story on several university campuses, but most were too “prosaic” for her purposes.

Bottom line, not a single detail could be corroborated. Rolling Stone apologized – and has since revised their apology. They at first said their trust in Jackie was “misplaced,” then backtracked and said it was entirely their fault.

No, it’s their fault for believing a serial fabricator. But Jackie, whoever she is, has to take some of the responsibility too.

This was not a harmless thing. Campus fraternities were suspended and the fraternity in question’s building has been vandalized.

And yet there are those who are defending this as a good thing because it draws attention to the “rape culture on campus.”

So referring to my story above, how do you think they’d like it if any accusation against them, however improbably, was given the same kind of credence in a major publication as this?

January 7, 2014

Melissa’s apology

Filed under: Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:35 am

Well Melissa Harris-Perry has stepped in it and frantically tried to unstep in it with a public apology.

In the “Photos of the year” segment of her MSNBC show, Harris-Perry showed a photo of Mitt Romney’s large extended family that showed Romney holding his adopted African-American grandchild, Kieran on his knee.

Much hilarity ensued among her guests.

Actress Pia Glenn sang a song from Sesame Street, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same.”

Comedian Dean Obeidallah said, “It sums up the diversity of the Republican Party and the [Republican National Committee], where they have the whole convention and they find the one black person.”

Harris-Perry chimed in, wondering what it would look like if Kieran married North West, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s daughter.

The answer is, possibly a lot like Harris-Perry. She is the daughter of an African-American father and a white Mormon mother.

After a fair amount of indignation expressed by viewers, Harris-Perry apologized, visibly tearing-up on air.

“I intended to say positive and celebratory things about it, but Whatever the intent was, the reality is that the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive, and showing the photo in that context, that segment, was poor judgment,” Harris-Perry said. “So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family.”

There has been a lot of cynical doubt expressed about Harris-Perry’s sincerity.

Noting the fate of Martin Bashir after he suggested someone ought to defecate in Sarah Palin’s mouth, or the hot water Paula Deen got into for admitting to using the N-word 27-years ago to describe an African-American gentleman who held a gun to her head, one might be forgiven for thinking Harris-Perry’s apology was driven by fear for her job.

I would rather be charitable and assume she was sincere.

Years ago Billy Graham was revealed to have engaged in some rather tasteless banter with then-President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office, including some anti-Semitic jokes.

Graham has regretted it ever since. Trying to explain it, he said there are times when the desire to fit in is just overwhelming, to the point it overrides taste and a sense of decency.

Well, in Harris-Perry’s circles taste and decency is not a primary consideration. The network wants “edgy“ commentary.

Harris-Perry once obliged by wearing a pair of homemade tampon earrings for a commentary on the abortion issue. (No, I don’t see the relevance either, but it’s edgy I guess.)

In terms of politics, Harris-Perry hangs out with people who believe those who disagree with them are not just wrong, but evil. If they do anything that seems to be worthy and good, it must be for ulterior motives. One need not demonstrate why or how, it just must. Because that’s the kind of people they are.

If that’s the case, you’ve got all kinds of latitude to be “edgy.”

The problem with feeding the edgy beast is, in this day and age where lines of polite behavior in public have been so blurred, it’s hard to know where that edge is, and very easy to go over it.

The network suits can’t tell you, because they don’t know. They gauge it by audience reaction. Go over that edge a little, get slapped down. Go far enough over, you’re toast.

It’s not fair and leaves the talking heads twisting in the wind. On the one hand there’s that demand for edgy commentary. On the other hand, there are no guidelines for how much is too much.

You skated too close to the edge and almost tumbled over Melissa. A quick apology saved you, this time.

Just remember, those suits you work for are merciless and will throw you to the wolves in a heartbeat if you slip over.

But by all means keep the edgy commentary coming.

July 15, 2013

The verdict is in – on the media

Filed under: Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:18 am

Note: This is my weekly syndicated column and I have also cross-posted it on my professional blog. I usually delay posting my columns, but I think this is important. I take being a journalist seriously and I am deeply and personally offended by this kind of media misconduct.

Well the the Zimmerman trial is over, and the war has begun.

People are lining up on opposite sides of the question of whether a murderer got away, or Zimmerman never should have been charged to begin with.

I have my own opinion but nobody’s going to change their minds and I’m not even going to try.

I’d just like to point out that whatever your opinion is, the conduct of the national media throughout this whole tragic affair has been disgraceful.

Whether you think there was a miscarriage of justice in the verdict or it was legal oppression to even bring the charges, there’s lots of blame to go around.

President Obama weighed in on a strictly local issue with his statement that if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin.

Did the president, an attorney with a degree from Harvard Law, stop for one minute to consider he was doing what’s called “peeing in the jury pool”?

After the president of the United States has given an opinion on a trial that has not even gotten underway I’d think the defense would have grounds for a change of venue to Outer Mongolia!

Worse, it’s been revealed Eric Holder’s Justice Department sent people down to Florida to assist in organizing demonstrations and force the resignation of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee.

The Reverend Al Sharpton was of course on hand throughout. Sharpton is a prominent media figure with his own radio talk show, “Keepin’ It Real,” and a regular on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.

He has also incited two riots in his career. In one a Jewish Yeshiva student was stabbed to death by a mob shouting “Kill the Jews,” (Crown Heights, 1991). In another seven people died of smoke inhalation after a protester set fire to a shopping mall (Freddies Fashion Mart, 1995). Class act networks.

ABC rushed to judgment after examining a police surveillance video and concluded “Trayvon Martin Video Shows No Blood or Bruises on George Zimmerman.”

In fact Zimmerman had two black eyes, a broken nose, and a cut right across the back of his head consistent with it being slammed against a curb. ABC says the video was blurry. Or maybe it was blurred.

CNN examined the audio of the 911 call and announced Zimmerman had used a racial epithet.

Wrong. Turned out no such thing and CNN had to grudgingly retract.

NBC went one better and creatively edited the transcript of the tape to make it look like Zimmerman was a racist.

They’ve just apologized, called it “a mistake” and promised cross their heart they’ll never do it again.

And of course there is that newly coined term “white Hispanic” they came up with after they found out Zimmerman wasn’t white after all.

Has anyone considered that the media coverage pretty much guaranteed grounds for appeal if Zimmerman had been convicted?

Has anyone who thinks Zimmerman is guilty of a lesser charge such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, wondered if the media circus motivated the prosecution (now facing possible misconduct charges) to go for murder two rather than something they might actually have gotten a conviction on?

Has anyone begun to suspect the networks are practically salivating over the prospects of some nice juicy riots to cover?

Those of us who toil at local papers sometimes have our noses rubbed in the fact that local journalism is often done very well while national journalism is often done very poorly.

Yeah, that could be sour grapes, but the fact is we live here. Our communities are small enough for us to get to know in depth. This gives us an advantage over national media, whose experience with the issues they cover is often superficial.

And because we live here we know we and our children would suffer the consequences if we ginned up hatred and divisions among our community just to sell papers. The talking heads of big media suffer no such consequences, they go home to their gated communities and security protected high-rises and look for the next big score.

May 13, 2013

Terror in rural Minnesota!

Filed under: Media bias,Op-eds,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 6:15 am

I started out last Monday writing my weekly movie review when a report of terrorist activity in Montevideo, Minnesota landed on my desk.

The FBI press release had it that someone named Buford “Bucky” Rogers had been arrested in a raid on his parent’s trailer home on Friday. The FBI claimed they’d seized lots of guns, including a Romanian AKM assault rifle, Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs.

It’s a bit outside of our coverage area but it seemed serious, so up I went and spent most of the day in the trailer park outside of town, talking to the Rogers family, a.k.a. “The Black Snake Militia” and their neighbors, and watching the TV news people from as far away as Minneapolis and Sioux Falls come and go.

Since then I’ve caught the news reports of the terrorist plot as it’s gone national. The FBI claims they’ve saved Lord knows how many lives.

It’s all bull$#!+ and a lot of so-called journalists should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves!

The “terrorists” are father Jeff Rogers, a man four years younger than I am who looks 20 years older. He’s wheezy, out of shape, and had open heart surgery not long ago. His son Shawn is 17, though neighbors told me they guessed his age at 13-14, which should give you an idea how dangerous he looks. As it turns out Bucky doesn’t live there but with his girlfriend and their 10-month-old baby in town, which is actually where he was arrested.

These people aren’t terrorists. They’re dumb as stumps, nutty as fruitcakes – but probably harmless.

The talking heads pointed their cameras at the family, asked a few questions – and sat back and watched them rave about implanted microchips and their “militia.” Because everybody wants to be a movie star, and this was likely the most attention they’d gotten in their lives.

But they’ve got guns!

All of them legal and registered to Jeff. A sizable collection but no bigger than those of friends of mine who include teachers, county commissioners, farmers, and cops.

They wear camouflage!

For God’s sake, cammie is the right-wing equivalent of “Che” T-shirts and “Mao” paraphernalia. “Look at me! I’m wearing the battle dress of a military I don’t remotely qualify to join.”

Nobody gets upset when college students parade around campus wearing the faces of mass murderers on their shirts. Nobody cries “racist” that one was the greatest murderer of Hispanics in the 20th century.

Why the hell aren’t journalists asking intelligent questions?

If the FBI found bombs in the trailer home – why aren’t the Rogers family in custody? According to Jeff, they weren’t even mirandized.

Molotov cocktails? That’s an incendiary made by filling a bottle with gasoline and stuffing a rag in the neck for a fuse.

Nobody stores Molotov cocktails! They keep cans of gas, rags, and bottles around and assemble them as needed!

Shawn Rogers said the FBI carted off a box of scrap plumbing pipe. I believe him, The Rogers seem to eek out Jeff’s disability pension by collecting and selling scrap. I got Jeff Rogers to open the “bomb factory” shed – it’s a junk heap!

Some reports more cautiously said they had “bomb making materials” in their house.

That I believe. But then again, so do I – and so do you. Between your kitchen and your bathroom you have the ingredients for at least two high explosives which I won’t name, but they go off at a harsh look. Everybody is one chemistry lesson away from a bomb.

Bucky Rogers I haven’t met. Word from people in the school system is he was a trouble maker but not scary in school, but his little brother is rather liked by his teachers.

Bucky was on probation for burglary, but didn’t do time. He mouthed off a lot on Facebook in ways that could be seen as threats. The FBI said he admitted after a Miranda warning to firing his father’s AKM at a gun range.

Gotcha! Probation violation – which is what he’s been charged with so far. So why hasn’t he been charged with making terroristic threats?

Bucky’s parole officer might have taken him aside and told him to dial the nutty stuff down until he was off probation.

Instead the FBI swooped down on Montevideo, roped in several local law enforcement agencies, and when the FBI show up in your office you don’t say “No thanks.” They staged a major operation at considerable expense which I seriously doubt the local law will ever get reimbursed for.

Many readers I’ve talked to are quite sensibly skeptical about the sensationalist news reports. Good on you! The county sheriff has been admirably restrained and rather noncommittal in his public statements. The FBI is often disliked among local law enforcement agencies, but it is not wise to antagonize them.

But why all the commotion? Not to mention the expense.

If I were a right-wing conspiracy nut, I’d suspect that in the aftermath of the Boston bombing the PC Patrol is desperately searching for terrorists who aren’t Muslims. The Rogers are the people America has been taught to fear – white, redneck gun nuts.

But since I’m a cynic I have to wonder if the FBI affidavit didn’t give it away. The agent who signed it said he’d been at the Minneapolis office since he graduated from the academy in 1999. If I had to guess, I’d wonder if someone is tired of being stuck out in the boonies and sees a big score that’ll get him back to the bright lights in the big city.

Note: This is the self-syndicated column I submitted to my subscriber(s) for this week. I usually wait a while before posting on my blog to give the print-only outlets a head start. Currently this is re-posted on the websites of rural newspapers in a five-state area in the upper midwest.

I am expecting the compost to hit the thresher over this one. We’ll see, and stay tuned for part 2.

UPDATE: Just got word Bucky Rogers got 3 1/2 years, i.e. a probation violation. Terrorism charges seem to have disappeared.

August 12, 2012

Injecting opinions into news

Filed under: Media bias — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:32 am

Note: I have a self-syndicated weekly column which I sometimes archive here. To be fair to my subscribers (plus I’m busy and lazy,) I post them a bit later than they appear, so as a consequence they’re not topical. From a few weeks ago.

Injecting opinions into news, here’s how
By Steve Browne

I entered journalism later in life than most when I started writing for the English-language press while I was living abroad. When I decided to make the jump to professional journalism, I headed back to my alma mater, Oklahoma University to get some formal training.

My features writing class was taught by Professor Ray Chavez, a seasoned pro with experience writing and editing for papers around the country. I’ll never forget what he taught me on the occasion I picked the topic of home schooling for an assignment.

I like the idea of home schooling, and it showed.

“This is an advocacy piece,” Ray told me after I handed it in.

I looked at it again. He was right. I had interviewed and quoted only home schoolers. I had not included opinions from anyone who thought it might not be a good idea, even though I knew there were some.

This was a revelation. I believed then and do now, that professional journalism is rife with bias and advocacy disguised as reporting, and there I was doing it too! Worse, I hadn’t even noticed until it was pointed out to me.

This goes on all the time, though somewhat more subtly, and I believe mostly unconsciously. It’s done by both sides, but it’s going to show up more on one side because journalists on the national level are 90-odd percent left of center.

Case in point: The Miami Herald, Sunday, June 24, Erica Bolstad, “Obama’s immigration maneuver could box in Romney, GOP.”

“WASHINGTON — In the week since President Barack Obama announced a plan that would allow some young undocumented immigrants to stay in this country, Republicans have struggled to embrace any version of immigration reform.”
Note “undocumented immigrants” sounds like someone who lost their drivers license, not someone who has broken the law. But choice of this phrase, rather than the formerly current “illegal alien” could be newspaper policy rather than a reporter pushing an agenda.

And Republicans have “struggled to embrace any version of immigration reform.” Note the implied air of desperation, and that it completely ignores the issue of the constitutionality of the president enacting this reform by executive fiat rather than working through congress. It’s entirely possible to approve of what the president did, while opposing the way it was done.

Bolstad goes on to say, “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has fumbled when asked how he would handle such undocumented youths if he were elected president. And Sen. Marco Rubio, who began talking about his own immigration plan for young people this spring but never had a bill in writing, peevishly told national news outlets that the president should have called him.”

Note Romney “fumbled” but no quotes or examples are given. And note, “undocumented youths” which glosses over the fact that the provisions of the presidents unilateral de facto amnesty covers people as old as 35.

And Rubio didn’t just “say” the president should have called him, he said it “peevishly.”
Well maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. Point is that’s a pretty subjective judgment which wasn’t backed up by a video link or a direct quote that might have showed a peeve or two.

The rest of the article is very good reporting with direct quotes from the individuals cited, but from the first two paragraphs do you have any doubt which side the reporter favors?

Now the thing about this was, the reporter definitely leans a certain way, but probably isn’t aware it shows up in her reporting. It’s just the kind of thing that happens when journalists live in a bubble full of people who agree on most things.

One more thing is worth noting. Over the headline is the label, “Campaign 2012.” Expect a lot of this kind of thing, be aware of it, and whatever your opinion is, let it be yours not ours.

June 22, 2012

How to slant a news article

Filed under: Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:14 am

Note: As mentioned, my personal blog has been less active than formerly for a number of reasons both professional and personal. One is that I’ve launched a self-syndication venture. Here below is an example of one of my columns. You’ll note the style is different from my more rambling blog style. I’ll be posting my columns a decent interval after they go out to my subscribers so as not to give away what they pay me for. And I’ll be posting some of my previous submissions to get them out before potential customers (hint.)

I have a confession to make, I practice slanting news stories. In fact, sometimes I lie awake at nights thinking about how to do it.

However I sincerely hope this never shows up in what I actually write!

The reason I practice slanting news stories is that I study the practice and collect examples of it. Eventually I hope to write a book on the subject.

And gentle readers, there’s a lot of it going around – but I probably didn’t have to tell you that.

It’s done by both liberals and conservatives, and in fact each side has a think tank devoted to finding “gotcha!” examples of the other’s biased reporting. Not to be confused with Our Side’s fearless reporting of the truth with a capital “T.”

Nonetheless, anyone looking with an open mind is going to find more examples of liberal bias, but only because slightly more than 90 percent of national news reporters self-identify as “liberal.”

From MSN, Feb. 18. “In a rare display of openness, Sarah Palin took questions for an hour yesterday at an appearance on Long Island in New York. She’s still unsure of a presidential run:”

“Rare display of openness…” Not much doubt which side that writer is on. The comment is entered as a kind of toss-off, without support or examples of why this display of openness is “rare.”

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. The point is, the statement is unsupported and the writer clearly expects you to take it on his/her say-so.

Notice something, this was probably unconscious. The writer may not be aware of writing a biased piece, and might be wounded should you suggest they did. They were just stating a self-evident fact that “everybody knows.”

That’s just the kind of thing that happens when you only hang around with people you agree with.

Another way to slant a story is to seize on a gaff, a clumsy misstatement, or a quote taken out of context, and hammer on it. If you’re a public figure who has to speak off the cuff into a battery of recorders often, there are bound to be some of those.

Conservatives are still getting a lot of mileage out of John Kerry’s, “I voted for the bill before I voted against it.” But… in the ordinary legislative process a bill may go through a whole series of rewrites, and amendments before it reaches its final form. Even the senator or representative who wrote it might not recognize it anymore.

It’s entirely possible to vote for a bill as introduced, and find yourself unable to vote for the finished product.

You can do this with photos too. Some people are naturally more photogenic than others, but if people are following you around snapping photos constantly, we’ll there’s going to be a fair number of unflattering ones in the bunch. Everybody yawns, grimaces, scratches themselves, etc from time to time. Snap a photo at just the right time…

Or better still, cull the archives for photos and take your pick.

As a journalist, I have a question about the ongoing media circus around the tragedy in Florida, where a neighborhood watchman fatally shot an African-American teenager.

Whatever the facts of the case may turn out to be in the long run, if they ever do emerge amid the agenda-driven coverage, I’d like to know two things.

One, is a five-year-old mugshot of George Zimmerman in an orange prison jumpsuit the only photo the media could find of him?

Well perhaps so, Zimmerman is not a public figure. But is a years-old photo of the victim

Trayvon Martin as a mere boy the only photo they could find? Surely a high school football player must have some yearbook photos around?

A whole book could be written about the subject, and someday I intend to. But in the meantime, this is an election year and you shouldn’t trust the media not to be advancing their own agenda through biased reporting.

Trust no one!

Except me of course.

May 6, 2012

Review: The Three Stooges

Filed under: Media bias,Movies — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:50 am

Note: Originally published in the TV Guide of The Marshall Independent.

I suppose I’m dating myself, but I can remember when you could expect to run into The Three Stooges pretty much daily on your black and white TV.

The Stooges started as a vaudeville act in 1925, composed of two brothers of Lithuanian Jewish origin, Moses and Samuel Horwitz, a.k.a. Moe and Shemp Howard, and friend Louis Feinberg or “Larry Fine,” scion of a Russian Jewish family.

If you find that surprising, did you know Larry was an amateur boxer and a talented violinist?

Shemp later left to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by another brother Jerome, who wanted into the act so badly he shaved his long flowing locks to become “Curly.” After Curly suffered a stroke in 1946, Shemp rejoined the team until his own death in 1955.

Shemp was replaced by Curly look-alike Joe Besser, and later by Joe DeRita as “Curly Joe.”

Altogether the Stooges made 220 films, most of them shorts that played alongside feature films in movie theaters.

Their humor was noted for broad slapstick, violent and often cruel. But there was also an “us against the world” solidarity, and a lot of clever wordplay. Such as when you see the Stooges outside the law office of “Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe.”

Now after 10 years in the making, mostly spent looking for the ideal cast, the new Three Stooges has arrived, featuring Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly.

Briefly, the trio are on a quest to save the orphanage they were raised in, to the ruin of the institution and the despair of the nuns that run it. They have a month to raise $830,000. They get involved in the machinations of would-be black widow Lydia (Sofia Vergara,) who wants them to murder her husband Teddy (Kirby Heyborne,) who turns out to be an fellow alumnus of the orphanage.

So how does it stack up to the original gang?

In a word – uncanny. These guys have got the Stooges down. The voices, the mannerisms, even Curly’s “nyuk-nyuk-nyuk-nyuk” and “woo-woo-woo-woo.”

The resemblance is so strong it sometimes makes one uncomfortable to see it’s not the original Three Stooges after all.

All of the trademark slapstick tropes are there. They only one they seem to have missed is the board-over-the-shoulder-and-abruptly-turning-around, but perhaps I blinked and missed it.

Of course my 10-year-old son laughed all the way through it.

So how is it different from the original Stooges?

Well as you might expect in this day and age, it’s bawdier and a little crude in spots.

Sofia Vergara displays a generous amount of cleavage, and uses it for comic effect. The original Stooges did the lobster-attaching-itself-to-the-face thing, but wouldn’t have stuffed it down someone’s pants.

Moe gets invited to join the cast of “Jersey Shore” to slap the cast around, and who wouldn’t like to see that?

And did I mention the fart joke?

All of that probably won’t raise many eyebrows, but there’s the Catholic thing.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented, “The Stooges are depicted seeking to raise money for their orphanage; it is run by habit-wearing, stereotypical nuns. One of the sisters is played by swimsuit model Kate Upton; she is shown wearing a “nun bikini” with a large rosary around her neck. Another nun, Sister Mary-Mengele, named after the Nazi war criminal, is played by Seinfeld creator Larry David.”

I’m not Catholic, but it irritates me to see Hollywood congratulating itself for its courage in fighting a battle that was won a long time ago. The Legion of Decency has been moribund for a long time folks, get over it.

And there’s a scene where Lydia is reading the conservative magazine “The Weekly Standard” in bed. Subtle – NOT.

There’s a nod to social responsibility at the end where the makers explain how the stunts are done and caution kids about the eye poke and hitting people on the head with hammers.

Oh come on! Was there ever a verifiable case where anybody was actually harmed imitating the Stooges? Give the kids’ intelligence a little credit guys.

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