“Twitter is weird. A huge amount of what’s written there is metatextual commentary on other tweets intended for a knowing audience reading in a specific moment. It’s an ephemeral, self-referential mode of discourse that is unfortunately not ephemeral or tied to reference points at all — in fact, it’s designed to be broadcast, archived, searched, and embedded by anyone, in any context, at any point in the future.” – Ezra Klein from Vox
Everyone wants to build their own special brand. They want to be someone unique, while being controversial enough to push just the right buttons and step outside boundaries by inches to stand out in a crowded online world. Provocation = profit. A few make a living and following by doing this and the rest don’t. You can be a self-made man and be your own boss! Basically you self-brand.
We of course have a bit of familiarity with those who make it and can ACTUALLY freelance and pay their bills because they did just that. That “fame” and newly acquired online rep comes at a price though; you can go from self-made and having made it to zero quite fast.
It all started at the local DipStick that I get my regular oil changes from. Everything seemed like a regular morning around 7:30 on my way to work. Two hours later, my facebook feed blew up. #FoxLake was trending on Twitter.
The small town of 10,000 where I lived was national news.
I thought it was perhaps another deadly accident that had killed three and left a huge black mark on the tree besides the road that didn’t budge an inch. I then got a text from a friend and began to scour twitter and the Mchenry County Scanner FB page that people were posting every tidbit of information they knew. Details began to emerge.
The suspicious suspects – which our town is constantly full of if you know anything about the people who live here – were actually very dangerous for once. (I’d estimate about half our town looks “suspicious” on a given day, which is why officers sometimes wisely employ their discretion. ) Murky details confirm that Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz spotted them, described them, and then gave chase.
Minutes later, he was dead.
Even worse – or better if you consider overall surveillance implications – there are no cameras in that area. I can’t recall any cameras at the Dipstick, the old car dealership across the street, or the Fox Lake Animal Hospital. The abandoned cement plant where drug deals and other nefarious activity takes place certainly doesn’t have any.
The suspects would run toward the heavily forested and hilly terrain that somewhat reminds me of scenes from Rambo: First Blood.
We have no way of knowing whether the suspects were actually armed – all of them – or if they managed to get ahold of Joe’s sidearm and murder him with it. Regardless, this lack of clarity doesn’t matter when it comes to jumping on tragedies for political use. No side or cause is immune to this jump, but often the wiser elements give it some time before they use it as a talking point on CNN.
Enter Shannon Watts
Joe’s death didn’t stop degenerates like Shannon Watts of “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” from pissing on our towns tragedy for her twisted political gun-control nonsense. In fact, it encouraged her to trash those of us who do own firearms in the town – probably 75% of us terrible uneducated rednecks who don’t believe in “white privilege” – or better yet don’t have time in a quest to survive.
This isn’t even close to the first time she’s pulled this. It’s a consistent pattern with her. This behavior has become the norm for virtually every ideologue with a dragon to slay. The real victims – our community – be damned. This is of course to be expected from urbanite “educated” liberal types who think they know whats better for us then we do.
She clearly isn’t aware of the criminal element that exists in Fox Lake that doesn’t care about legally purchasing guns let alone drugs.
Practice some of your tolerance and demand for diversity with observing history and those of us who have had our ancestors go through genocide because of gun-control. As someone who is half-armenian and whose ancestors were subjected to the genocide, check your white middle-class liberal privilege.
Thanks to “gun-control”, the entire history of my Grandfather’s side of the family has been wiped out. I couldn’t even find out that much about his side because his mother was so distraught from the genocide, that she cried and broke down every-time he tried to ask her about it.
What do my dead ancestors know though? Shannon Watts knows best.
What happens in Fox Lake these days?
Cars are broken into. Garage doors are tagged. Attempted house break-ins are becoming normal. Crack addicts live three houses down from me and end up completely naked except for a shirt in my driveway. Bouncers are shot by thugs that come to Pugs from Waukegan.
In fact, years ago, I was almost beaten on Forest avenue by gangbangers armed with bats and knives who mistook me for someone else. As I began to panic, I put down the hood on my sweater and to my relief,they got back in their car as I overheard, “Oh it’s not him.”
Fox Lake residents have had a mixed relationship with our PD and its differed quite a bit depending on our residents. The more well-off avoid encounters with the police, but the section 8 and bad housing areas of the town certainly don’t.
I won’t name any specific names, as I can’t risk being targeted, but the power tripping abuse from some of the cops in the department is so bad, that our Chief of Police was finally forced to step down for some of the incidents he continually swept under the rug. Perhaps the trustees of this town and the municipal policies they have been pushing to fund Grant Highschool share part of the blame.
Despite how much damn money is poured into the highschool alone, they always need more. It is literally a financial blackhole and the blatant evaporation of money is treated as excusable because “our students!” Several molesting and drug distributing teachers later, the slogan is still employed. This doesn’t even include the other stories I’ve heard from students.
Rather then actually tackle these problems, the police here do what they do best – generate revenue. A cop hides down the hill from me waiting in a private citizens driveway where he anticipates the inevitable physics of speed to pick up in order to nab speeders.
They hand out “public intoxication” tickets in a town defined by its insane amount of bars to residents and those of neighboring towns who instead of getting a DUI have the good sense to walk home. Yes, lets punish those people who have absorbed the lessons of Illinois, “Don’t drive drunk” commercials, because that makes perfect sense.
He actually cared about the community, and this is precisely why his death has been so mourned. I realized this after chatting him with twice. My brother from my second family Caleb experienced his good and gentle nature through his two years in the Explorer program that Joe ran.
He was for all purposes, our Andy of Mayberry.
Fundamentally Joe understood that the police are supposed to protect their communities rather then harassthem; a lesson some of the younger officers on the FLPD force have yet to learn in their attempts to “prove” themselves. It’s why so many people showed up at the vigil to remember him and rally around his family and friends.
Now, despite the racist bullshit spewed by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, there are good cops out there, and we need to not only support them, but rally around them and their families when tragedies like this occur.
Let me make this clear; not even the worst cops deserved to be murdered in cold blood. To go even further, no one deserves that.
Not all the cops on the PD are bad. Unfortunately, the blue code of silence has prevented the good cops there from addressing some of the uniformed thugs out to make a name for themselves.
The rule of law must be respected, and I say that as a very anti-authoritarian thinker. Yes, I understand how pissed people are the cops, as I am one of them. I’ve said some rather insane things about how to deal with the cops before – including predicting tragedies like this to happen frequently, but in hindsight it’s a bit of a shock when it happens to cops you know – particularly the good ones, and not the abusive gestapo type frequently portrayed on Copblock.
It is absolutely VITAL that the relationship founded on trust between civilians and the police is restored.
This however will not happen until bad cops are held accountable for their actions, police unions are weakened, external independent investigations of complaints become normal, and the blue code of silence is reformed by giving police officers and environment in which they won’t fear alienation and a lack of backup from their fellow officers for calling out and addressing the actions of the bad officers in their department.
Good cops do exist. Plenty of them are out there. My aunt is one of them.
If you shoot at her, you can rest assured that I and the rest of my family will find you and hold you accountable by any means possible.
Now if I’m completely honest, I don’t necessarily respect the police. I respect individual officers who have earned my respect and/or trust. I hope to expand this to more of the police force as time goes on, but it’s tough when you never know if you can trust the blue or not.
Remember, it was illegal with threat of a felony up until just two years ago to even record cops without their consent – and when it was finally made legal, the police unions and Fraternal Order of Police protested vehemently.
They are the real enemy, and should be treated as such.
For the true liberal types out there, “Minority rights” and police accountability can’t exist when Police Unions have the power they do to erase all accountability. Either choose your token minorities or choose your police unions. You can’t have both.
Don’t forget about the municipalities either who will turn a blind eye, if not outright encourage and mandate the bad behavior we see from the police. Often there is a mayor and a board of trustees behind the push for greater tickets. This is often forgotten in the attention placed on departments who police for profit. That push is coming from the corrupt towns, counties, and numerous government bureaucrats who have realized that if they can’t increase taxes anymore, they can easily make that revenue by harassing, abusing, and slowly destroying the poor of their communities.
It this kind of behavior which will make shootings of government officials and police a norm. I’m not encouraging it, I’m merely predicting that it will become much more frequent until changes happen.
Disclosure: I’ve recently talked a bit with Ben via digital means. He also points out that he does not identify as a feminist.
Ben was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
The vengeance for all of the cat-calls, all of the “creepy” men with their ingrained misogynistic awkwardness, and the sum of all “harassment” that they had ever experienced was visited upon Ben. His apology was scorned. These militant feminists; they know not what they do.
Or do they?
You terrible male cis shitlords, check your privilege.
It wasn’t until this week that I found out who Ben Schoen was. He is actually the the owner of Feminspire and what one would call an equality feminist – similar to that of Christina Hoff Summers. Arguably, he’s put a lot of time, effort, and resources into fighting the good feminist fight.
But, based on a series of interactions that certain feminists didn’t approve of, none of that mattered at all. Anything he had done to help women was all thrown out the window. Today in popular feminist online blogging and academic culture, the burden of the sinful male feminist is a tough, exhausting, un-rewarding, soul-sucking, and constant mandate to prove the support they have for their female feminist masters.
Ben’s mistake was one he was born with, one that all of us terrible male shitlords who breathe oppression suffer from on a daily basis – he is male.
This is the original sin of not just 3rd wave feminism, but of much of today’s social justice tripe that focuses on only your biology, while entirely ignoring your character.
The Entitled Interaction
Our story begins with a message to a Buzzfeed writer, Grace Spelman who decided to air all of their personal dirty laundry which started this twitter lynch mob – something that should surprise none of you. (Note that when I tweeted at Ben, she suddenly followed me then blocked me. I reciprocated the favor.)
Ben used to be involved in a Harry Potter fan podcast and she friended him on Facebook because of that podcast about eight years ago. Forward to present day and a certain site had an article on Grace’s twitter – or instagram – profile as one with 10k followers that people should check out.
Well, he did just that and realized he knew her. He then sent her several tweets, to which she didn’t respond. So he sent her a message though Facebook, one that I must admit while somewhat humorous was awkward. (Another reason why men should learn about Game.)
Then he moved to Facebook. I politely told him I was seeing someone and then blocked him on FB & Twitter pic.twitter.com/k84dCJ3OrT
Consider some of the gems Grace has written for Buzzfeed.
“30 Shirts For The Weirdos In Your Life” with the sub header, “Embrace Your Inner Weirdo”. Besides all the shirts apparently being made off Zazzle’s shirt maker in 30 seconds, that inner weirdo embrace definitely didn’t seem to apply to Ben.
18 Pickup Lines You Should Try Immediately” I particularly enjoyed “6. I noticed your arm grazed against my sweater. Pretty soft, huh? Go ahead, feel it. Do you know what it’s made of? Cashm-—CRAP, I mean, “boyfriend material.” I’m sorry. I’m really nervous.“
18 Sexts You’d Actually Love To Get. My personal favorite, “About to go through your Facebook and like all your profile pictures.” That’s not at all creepy and stalkerish that every male feminist should embrace…
Ben would then send her an apology though email, which would be the last contact he would have with her.
It was here that Ben made a crucial mistake; he apologized to this nasty harpy innocent glorious snowflake princess worthy of all admiration. His mistake is highlighted in Mike Cernovich’s excellent post, “How To Survive A Public Shaming” which I suggest you all read and thoroughly take to heart, because any of you male feminists – no matter how devoted to the cause – could become next.
What remains to be seen is why Grace felt compelled to publish the messages and emails, despite the apology. No, I’m joking. Never, ever, apologize to people like her. They don’t want an apology, they want blood.
They would get that blood when Spelman shared these conversations between them available to the ever controversy and outrage hungry feminist audience. (In all fairness, Ben did express his fustration on twitter before Spelman made these public.)
The Bleeding Frenzy
The timing of this was of course fantastic. It all happened right during the hashtag prominence of #ThingsFeminstMenHaveSaidToMe. A male villain to go with the tag had just presented himself and confirmation bias would strike a vicious blow with Ben as its target.
Eight hit pieces came within a matter of 72 hours from sites that all publish articles concerning Feminism and how it also care’s about men. I thought I was a terrible piece of sexist misogynistic male anti-feminist racist homophobic transphobic ableist trash, but I would have nothing on one of their own, namely Ben Schoen.
I didn’t even bother linking the hordes of other ones off blogs. I’d estimate there are over 100 different sites which covered his terrible misogynistic actions. These actions of his were of course so atrocious, that they make women cower in fear for their very lives every time they sneak a look at Twitter, read an email, or browse through Facebook in search of the powerful patriarchal oppressors who control every aspect of society.
These articles would direct thousands of tweets to Ben’s twitter, all telling him what a terrible misogynistic piece of shit he was. His tweets specifically were pointed out as tweet rape harassment as tweeting at someone must be a consensual activity governed by enthusiastic, clear, and concise verbal consent.
Feminist hurricane Spelman would continue to rage, but she would make one very interesting admission concerning why she didn’t accept the apology. This might not be as ideological driven on her part as I initially thought.
That angry mob spewing threats, harassment at Ben, and every other vicious form of Twitter rape at him was funny. I think we know who the real victim is here Scoob.
Yea, she found it funny, but the lynch mob angered over his vicious retaliatory responses to her “rejection” didn’t and they would continue to go after Ben.
This was all deliberately blown out of proportion for the sake of the cause – the unwilling martyrs of #ThingsFeministMenHaveSaidToMe – don’t matter.
The supposed sin that Ben committed was that he didn’t respond the “right” way – according to SJW feminist dogma- about how to handle his “rejection”. He was accused of the usual “male entitlement” when it comes to conversations with women. Observe the tactic from the NewYorkMag:
“The whole exchange is pretty emblematic of the inherent difficulties of rejecting men, both online and off. Women are frequently made to toe a line between being polite enough to not set off the suitor, but not so polite that their manners are interpreted as flirting.
“You can’t win in these types of situations,” Spelman told the Cut. “Even if you are polite in your rejection, they’ll demand that you tell them WHY you did it. It’s just a mixture of entitlement and the fragility of the ego … Because you don’t know how they’re going to handle it, you don’t know if you should be afraid or not.”
“I still am not quite sure if I should be scared of this guy or not,” she added.”
Considering who the mob’s pitchforks have been stabbing, I’d say Ben should be scared.
Now reverse the genders for a moment, and you will notice that this same concept of “entitlement” in regards to conversations between the genders is not applied. You will also notice a specific expectation – or dare we say entitlement – by feminist women as to how men should respond to “rejection” in conversations.
Who are the real entitled one’s here?
Rhetorical question, shitlord. Of course it’s us terrible male cis straight oppressors.
You will respond how they think you should, or you will be castigated with every “ist” and “ism” under the sun. They don’t care about the women and angry girlfriends in the thousands of YouTube videos who are destroying their ex’s car, home, possessions, and property. In fact, it’s considered funny. Humorous.
Now could Ben have initially handled it better?
Is it “harassment”?
No, not even close. But that’s the key tactic at play. If you can label this as harassment, Ben is a complete and utter shitlord, despite how ACTUAL interactions between men and women occur.
This is as much “harassment” as is Dish sending you two more additional letters asking if you would renew your Cable subscription with them.
Observe some of this BS
@GraceSpelman It reads like your typical sexual harassment case. Guy offers the promise of employment in exchange for fringe benefits.
You know what’s worse then being called a slut? Being called a creep. People at least want something from sluts. They prefer to completely avoid creeps. It’s not enough to shoot someone down, you have to label him in to practically an untouchable for his awkward approaches. That’s the kind of forgiving 3rd wave feminism encourages.
Think of what this entire situation implies to all male feminists out there.
Have an interest in a girl who is an ardent feminist and you are a male feminist?
Don’t bother. You are a manipulative oppressive betraying shitlord who is taking advantage of her trust placed in you as a worthless slave ally. In fact, expressing interest is harassment and a manifestation of Patriarchy, so back the hell away and check your privilege for the 1000th time today.
Obviously, you should wait for her to express interest in you, and if that never happens, too bad. Sit down, and shut up. Listen in silence like the slaves you are and make sure to kiss her shoes while you are bowing down, face to the ground.
The Disposable Cannon Fodder Ally
I ask myself, “How can one allow themselves to be treated with such disrespect and dehumanization?” Female feminists take their male allies for granted, that is why. They demand respect, but refuse to offer any in return.
Respect is earned, not given. Until male feminists realize this, they will be treated like dirt and disposable tampons for purely emotional use and support. Ben was then further accused of harassing her by threatening her job. Well, let’s look at what he said.
The so-called threat was Ben hinting that he was going to check Buzzfeed’s policies on the matter. Ben’s response:
Your article is printing a flat out lie. I never threatened her career. She started posting private emails and I said I would let her bosses know as that is against the policy of many media companies.
Of course, this was made out to be vicious harassment, despite the fact that companies like Buzzfeed have policies about not publishing people’s private emails and correspondence. As the infamous shitlord Vox Day has said, “SJWs always lie.”
Regarding his own employment, the mob would wish him well:
They literally blew up his private life, bringing up conflict between him and his ex-girlfriend who had been the co-partner of the site before he bought her out. His side of what happened in their relationship was irrelevant to their narrative.
Ben would go on a livestream with infamous and now Twitter banned Chuck Johnson to explain his side of the story.
During the interview Ben points out that he still identifies as a feminist – don’t ask me why he tortures himself. He did however make a key distiniction about it, “I am sincere about being a feminist when feminism truly means equality.”
Considering modern day feminism has nothing to with “equality” when men are the subject of conversation, that will happen when pigs fly across the English Channel.
Notice something else about these harpies; Both Ben and Chuck were attacked during their interview for their weight.
So much for Fat Acceptance.
While it’s amusing that they think grade-school like insults based on someone’s physical appearance will hurt them or their arguments, it highlights an internal inconsistency in the “fat is beautiful” crowd; the body positive image part of intersectionality -another faux cause feminism claims to advocate for – is subject specifically to the person in question.
If you don’t personally like them, that oppressive male shitlord should feel not only creepy, but ashamed of his overweight exterior which apparently is not very beautiful at all.
I have a question for you male feminists: Why do you let these small groups of malcontent harpies dictate no only how you should act, but how the rest of us of how should behave and respond in interactions between “insert marginalized/oppressed group here” and whoever else seems to rank lower in the progressive stack?
This whole fiasco and public shaming debacle is what happens to male feminists who are “Allies” and mess up – even slightly – regardless of their apologies. Yet woman like, Bahar Mustafa who writes #KillAllWhiteMen and bans certain people from diversity meetings because of their biology isn’t condemned or called out, but rather affirmed as an SJW of courage? She messed up that bad, and no lesser white feminists of note/faux journalists even called her out.
Speaking of her, shes actually Turkish. Turkey is a nation that has been oppressing everyone around it for over 500 years. Fun Fact: Talking about the Armenian genocide there is illegal, let alone acknowledging it, I consider her an oppressor whose privileged ancestors brutally murdered, oppressed, enslaved, subjugated, and genocided my ancestors for hundreds of years deeply and profoundly triggers me. Her ancestors are one of the primary reasons my ancestors have a hell of alot less today than they should have.
Back to you male feminists: You are considered scum of the earth by radical female feminists. Everyone else matter and needs a voice – except you. Your role is to listen and shutup. R.S. Mccain sums it up well, “Feminists who say their movement is about “equality” are lying. Feminism is a movement about power — absolute and unlimited power — and therefore the first rule for men in feminist movements is, SHUT UP. “
These man-haters aren’t even trying to hide it, in fact they are deliberately trying to make your life hell. Ever heard of Kafkatrapping? It’s a rather devious, sinister, and merciless tactic used to intimidate and bully “allies”.
“No matter how “nice” you are to a feminist, she will never respect you. The feminist always mistakes male kindness for weakness, and is incapable of gratitude toward males, so that being “nice” to her will only serve to convince her of how infinitely contemptible you are — a servile lackey, a fawning slave who appeals to her sadistic impulses.”
Here’s a confession: I’ve slept with two self-identifying feminists who were well aware of what I think about feminism and social justice. It didn’t matter. Ever wonder why they choose to sleep with “misogynistic sexist deuchebags” like myself instead of their male servants who think all the right things but aren’t ever seen as even the slightest romantic and/or sexual possibilities? (Of course being attractive, good at sex, in good shape, and having some game greatly helps, as it did in my case.)
The call-out culture these feminists in their Twitter lynch mob happily engage in as they target Ben is toxic. However, when fighting a war involving scorched earth – I mean men who have their lives and reputations deliberately destroyed to try to make them permanently unemployable (Yes, some women as well) – I encourage all of you to engage in like reciprocity of call-outs and shaming with feminists who throw the first punch.
Fight back. Stop calling yourself a feminist, because the movement isn’t just not about men, it despises them. There are men and women out there who actually care about you and want you to succeed and prosper as a man, despite the tripe and lies feminists spew about them.
“As feminists, we rightfully put the interests of women first, and we are sceptical of ostensibly feminist arguments that appeal to men’s interests.Solidarity should motivate the privileged in their struggle for change, not self interest; to make an analogy, it would be offensive and misguided to ask the black leaders of the Ferguson movement against police violence to tout the benefits of anti-racism to white people. Likewise, feminists should not be obliged to sell feminism to angry men.”
“But I would offer another analogy: when we combat fascism, it behooves us to offer an alternative to those that fascists would recruit. We may not be able to reach the most hateful misogynists, but feminists must directly attack the false ideology of men’s rights. We must offer a real answer for men consumed by anxiety, and especially those who feel a sense of sexual frustration.”
Avoid vicious women and men like this. Avoid people who label themselves as such feminists and constantly use social media to go after people’s jobs. They don’t care about you. They only care about your original sin- that you were born with the wrong set of genitals.
—— Grace Spelman has had her spotlight, online fame, and reputation boosted from this encounter from the internet trampling of Ben. Evidence of this and her hypocrisy will be exposed and documented in a later article.
I wrote this article over two years ago and I still make updates. Social media still drives media stories, but in the age of “#RESIST” Trump, coverage is more weaponized than it’s ever been. What’s good for ratings is now the dominant driving force in coverage. After all according to CNN’s producer, they are there to make money and journalistic standards are a naivete for fools just out of journalism school. He went as far as to admit that the Russian influence story was bullshit, but ratings are ratings.
To follow that bombshell up, CNN was so angered by Trumps tweeting of a meme of of him bodyslamming a photoshopped CNN figure in a WWE clip from years ago, that they actually went after a private citizen they thought first spread it. The overt threat to dox him a.k.a. #CnnBlackmail if he did anything else to irk seems to be the biggest low we’ve seen in years from any journalistic outlet, to say nothing of other questionable ethical coverage if Trump is the subject.
So what happened? How did we get here?
In school we taught that an attentive, honest, and responsible media must cover the pressing issues of the day, as well as what is considered news. Trump is apparently ground zero, but what drove headlines before? Often it was the mid level outlets online that pumped out stories ripped from social media feeds, which if big enough would work there way up to the national media.
This mid level media would choose WHAT the newswould be often based on what roused people the most. The latter part of this article will prove that anger is what rouses people the most to share, tweet, and to fuel that firestorm. Fuel for that fire is often sought and driven by “news” plucked from whatever the newest twitter storms, Facebook trends, Reddit’s front page, and whatever other platforms are blowing up what is often the latest tragedy.
Well, should journalists actually cover these kinds of stories? Are they even stories worth covering? Should they be covered? Are they actually newsworthy. I guess that now depends on who is the subject matter.
One of the primary duties of the press has always been to cover the activities of our government and hold them transparent, as well as to focus on ethical issues that directly affect our societies and communities. At one point, we had a slight bit of trust in journalists to show “discretion” in how they went about this – particularly after the early days of yellow journalism. (More on that later.)
The internet though has changed all of this and much of that change has been bad. It can be seen in a series of steps, too often repeated:
Getting the scoop ALWAYS takes precedence. This is the golden rule of today’s internet journalism, because the buzz is always changing throughout the day. If you want to remain relevant and continue to maintain meager ad revenue; publish first, ask questions later.
In the 24 hour news cycle of the digital media age, the media – old and new – are the ones who set the agenda through the stories they choose to cover, what we would call the “narrative.” Because of this cycle and the prominence of digital publications, the concept of a “journalist” and what actually constitutes journalism has been drastically altered. We really still don’t know as to how much or where that alteration will culminate, though we can see who and what is being left behind in its wake – it’s often not pretty.
A significant moral responsibility exists for media publications both in which stories they choose to cover and the kind of coverage they give said stories – in particular the disclosure of private details necessary for a story and the balance at stake of the individual(s) in said story.
Again, the duty of a responsible media in a democracy is to objectively inform the public of issues and decisions that effect their society. This assumption is often applied to public figures, politicians, corruption, and social issues and to generate debate about them.
However because of online media in the last decade it has been applied more and more to people who aren’t public figures or even in the spotlight. The ethical guidelines for protecting the privacy of the public has arguably become much more important in the last 20 years with the rise of digital media. Everyone in the process is now in the crosshairs.
As it’s been said, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
If I am honest, the concept of “ethics” in concern to media journalism is not exactly a black and white issue. In fact, its rather murky, especially when all the factors of privacy, loyalties, principle, values, and perspectives come into play.
One of the journalism classes I had to take was a capstone class called, “Media Ethics” which was taught by a rather smart woman. I would describe this professor of mine as “oldschool”, conservative, from South Africa, rigorous with her writing standards, and a strong distaste for dancing. She is also one of the best professors I’ve ever had.
What she forced me to do was to go through over 60 case studies and to examine how the story was told and whether it was broken the wrong way, who was hurt by it, the necessity of it, and the effects of it later. Oh, and she had a ban list of how we could write about said studies and examples in our papers.
One of the studies dealt with Matt Drudge of the now famous online news giant, The Drudge Report, and how, when, and why he broke the Monica Lewinski story.
Newsweek wouldn’t publish the story. One suspects this is probably because of their more liberal bent, but it wouldn’t stop Drudge from taking what would be his shot to prominence. However, one very important question that still remains is, “Should he have broken the story?”
As a noted conservative, it should be fairly obvious that Matt Drudge and other conservatives stood to gain something in the public eye and political debate by the revelation of President Clinton’s tempestuous actions of infidelity in the oval office. It was after all Clinton’s private life – specifically sexual privacy in general. While he was THE public figure, did that entail the press to coverage about it? Legally yes, but morally, I’m not so sure.
Whether this was a matter of respect for the office, a secretive agreement and support for those president’s policies and actions by the press, or a combination of both is up for debate. I would point out that the “respect for the president” is a myth when you look at the history of newspapers in America.
Not only were publications prone to bias, personal attacks, outright lies, and throughout the 1800s they were powerful and, “purposeful actors in the political process, linking parties, voters, and the government together, and pursuing specific political goals”. In fact, consider how vicious newspapers were as early as the presidential election of 1800 which would involve threats, libel, and actual imprisonment by those involved with the press of the time.
However, Drudge’s disclosure has become child’s play in light of the new players that have bullied their way onto the block and what details of public and semi-public figures can go viral for the world to see. The rise of online media giants like Gakwer, Vox Media, and Buzzfeed have contributed to a noticeable and worrisome change in what both journalists and readers accept – or become desensitized to – in concern to the ethical guidelines for fellow journalists and publications.
These publications in particular have started to attract millennials who go to these publications for their main source of news even though these publications have ethical standards that often resemble those of celebrity tabloids – Gakwer’s Neetzan Zimmerman rise to “viral” power should come to mind – to the chagrin of any real journalists that still exist.
One specific issue that arises with site like Gakwer, Vice, Upworthy, and Buzfeed is that too many people consider them to be a “rough” form of journalism, even though they don’t necessarily flaunt their supposed journalistic integrity and standards. Essentially, they engage in forms of “journalism” without any actual standards or responsibility to go along with it. Does that at all sound familiar on a certain buzzword in today’s culture wars?
In fact, I’ve seen stories from parody sites that aren’t humorous in nature, so they slip right past the Spidey sense that almost no one on my Facebook feed possesses. I point out that its actually from a parody site, and I am rewarded by becoming the bad guy that is “too” serious.
Studies and “statistics”– which have become a buzzword in their own right – have been suggesting people are becoming more apathetic and less aware on issues and when it comes to the media it becomes more apparent. In line of the recent “gate” labels for controversy, “GruberGate” is evidence of politicians and their well paid consultants who literally think that the public is stupid. They might actually be correct, though in all fairness Gruber didn’t just outright mislead people – he lied.
“In 2013, for instance, I asked Gruber if Democrats understood that the ACA would slowly and methodically erode the system under which millions of Americans get health insurance through their jobs. In pitching the ACA, Democrats had been adamant that the law would support and sustain the employer-based system, not erode it. But Gruber knew better and he told me so, likening workers being kicked off job-based health plans to people “falling off a building,”an outcome that architects of the ACA knew was likely and had planned for.”
Consider the ethical standards of Gawker who have actually developed a feature called “Gawker Stalker” which helps people stalk celebrities via GPS on google maps and relay information about their exact whereabouts in real time on twitter which TMZ can then pick up on for their daily news scoop. That is what the ethics standards for a publication like Gawker advocate on concepts like privacy. This is especially ironic considering how much Gawker subsidiary Jezebel has ranted and raved about the atrocities of violating the privacy of female celebrities which they have directly encouraged with the fore-mentioned feature.
Of course, it is very comforting that these kinds of outlets have become the main source of news for millenials, but it gets worse as we get even more “news” from a kind of new quasi-comedic journalists/whistleblowers such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and even John Oliver.
They aren’t even actually journalists, but rather mildly amusing opinionated comedians – usually with a left-wing bent – who make fun of particular journalism and stories they disagree with, while putting their own opinionated spin on what Fox News has done wrong this time. This doesn’t stop their target audience from swallowing their “comedic perspective” and going out into the world with faux smug enlightened grins about how stupid everyone else is. I won’t even touch on selection bias.
That alone should be a cause for worry, especially in a rather toxic socio-political environment where people accuse each other of not being informed, rather than the more obvious fact of people being poorly and questionably informed and mislead.
Those who do consider themselves to be properly informed are not in much better shape. Often, they run into problems with data selection concerning statistics – often cherry picked – to form a specific narrative and worldview. This is one reason why no one can tell us how much Obamcare really costs, the financial benefits/disadvantages of raising the minimum wage, what part of Planned Parenthood’s budget goes toward abortions, and what the actual “Rape” stats are.
While these new digital publication challengers such as Buzzfeed and Vice remain supreme in their share of millennial readers, the old guard publication giants like The New York Times and The Wallstreet Journal have recently started to carve into their audience.
While these traditional giants aren’t doing bad with millennials – something that surprises me – they have started to resort to similar questionable journalistic standards the new challengers to lure in those with a limited attention span – my fellow millennials. Even the Washington Post has started to closely resemble celebrity gossip tabloid TMZ with some of the articles they have published and it can’t all be blamed on new owner, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.
One of Gawker Media’s subsidiary sites, Gizmodo, both defended and ironically examined the growing notice of the questionable lack and confusion in the ethics of modern day journalists in how they attain important information about stories by somewhat nefarious means. In a piece by by Gizomodo’s John Cook ironically titled, “In Defense of Sleazy Journalism”, about one of Rupert Murdoch news publications concerning theNews Of The World scandal a key observation was made,
“Reporting is basically a variant of rudeness. Done right, it amounts to being indiscreet, airing dirty laundry, telling on someone, calling them out, embarrassing them, usually after lying to them to gain their confidence.“
A rather honest observation if you think about how some of the biggest stories of the last 50 years have been broken. It’s also a disturbing one when it comes to the concept of trust between journalists and the public. Any journalist major worth his metal will have undoubtedly had to read, “All The President’s Men” which details the largest “known” American political scandal, “Watergate” which would be the first in the line of “gates”.
“In his book Mightier than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History, Rodger Streitmatter writes that the Woodward and Bernstein “begged, lied, badgered sources, and, on occasion, broke the law” in order to get the leads and confirmations needed to run their stories”
By today’s standards, what they did is almost child’s play, which should point to a VERY serious and growing problem with journalistic ethics when it comes to getting the information to acquire the “scoop.” Just consider how many “journalists” start digging through someone’s twitter feeds which is technically a public space, but the fact that those tweets weren’t meant to be seen by hundreds of thousands of angry internet protesters doesn’t seem to matter if enough page views will come later.
So where do we actually draw the line as to how journalists should resort to acquiring information in ethical ways? Who sets the standards? No doubt, some of those ways have been questionable and the line is further smudged by those who are willing to go even lower to get what they need. In effect, publications like Gawker are starting to unofficially set that standard. You don’t need me to tell you how that is not good.
With the advent of social media – which I’m starting to think is a curse – the responsibility that journalists have in choosing what stories they will publish and which ones they won’t are incredibly important. Leaked details from journalists have led to outright destruction of the livelihoods of not just public figures, but private people as well. It’s extremely important that we consider the consequences of the disclosure of people’s private lives in light of digital media. Because of the nature of digital media those professing to be journalists should realize the level of tremendous responsibility now on their broad shoulders.
As we shall soon see, even a slight personal detail can destroy someone’s lives once online twitter mobs convince their employers to fire them.
We can only hope that one day (1) employers will realize that twitter mobs are not potential customers nor their target audience (2) will stop paying attention to their ludicrous demands and (3) that PR and controversy generated from them is not worth catering to the mob.
You can’t please the mob, but you can weather the storm which dissipates as fast as our attention spans so often do. Remember, the public has a short memory and a target that varies very VERY quickly.
Rolling Stone’s recent journalistic disaster comes to mind in which will probably be a case study for every media journalism 101 class for decades to come. It is the most recent clear cut example of atrocious journalism ruining the lives of those in an entire frat house and destroying the reputation of UVA. Note, feminists even called for the “rapist” to be revealed a.k.a. doxxed for the general public to hold “accountable.” We all know what that means when it comes to enforcing their narrative.
While the pen may in fact be mightier than the sword, the press should never use it’s power to essentially carry out justice. It should present the facts and inform people and therefore allow readers to make their own conclusions.
Unless covering the personal lives and details of an individual is absolutely necessary to properly inform the public of a pressing and important issue, it should never be coveredby journalists who believe themselves to retain even a slight ethical compass. The key factor here is to never forget in these ethical situations exactly what the overall context may be and who it may effect – something that is often realized in hindsight.
If you aren’t familiar with the “Potter Model” and don’t want to bother learning about it, skip to the next paragraph.
– J.S. Mill’s Utilitarian line of thought and “The Greater Good” can be applied to the above conclusion.
– Mill though is probably trumped by Rawls via the “Veil Of Ignorance”
– Agape principle a.k.a. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is necessary to the above conclusion.
The Consequences Of Coverage
The importance of the choice of story that journalists and publications should publish comes to light in the infamous Gawker expose on an infamous subreddit called “Jailbait”. It featured scantily clad pictures of underage girls – not exactly illegal – but considered by a fair amount of people to be morally wrong and exploitative.
This however may have changed with the amount of sexualization of the culture and porn exposure, but I digress. “Jailbait” was moderated by then anonymous moderator “violentacrez” who presided over the subreddit.
Well, this of course rubbed many people the wrong way. It appears that it generated enough controversy in some of the social justice and feminist corners of the web to get Gawker to devote some time and effort to figuring out who exactly violentacrez was. A Gawker expose by Adrien Chen would reveal “violentacrez’s true identity” to be that of a man named Michael Brutsch.
Before the story was published Chen had contacted Brutsch making him aware of the fact that he knew who he was and that he was going to publish a story about him. Brutsch in turned begged Chen not to as he was certain it would have a substantial backlash against him in his private life. Essentially, Chen knew that this article would most likely damage the both the financial well-being and reputation of Brutsch, who note was NOT a public individual. Brutsch became an acceptable casualty in a type of public shaming designed to make him pay for wrongdoings – specifically in the public eye.
Before we pass judgement on Gawker – which I really enjoy – and Chen as to whether it was wrong or right, we need to realize the complexity of the situation.
Most people would agree that Brutsch’s subreddit was morally reprehensible- though remember we are talking about Gawker here. However was it appropriate in this case for the media to inform the public of a disturbing ethical situation on Reddit at the cost of the individual’s job, livelihood, and the subsequent death threats by revealing his identity to the public? Did the ends justify the means?
Considering the media does have a duty to inform the public of ethical issues, it could be argued that what Gawker did was acceptable. They had to bring light to Brutsch’s activity and questionable “exploitation” of images of girls online, though they probably knew the public backlash which the article would create would put a stop to the subreddit.
This line of action is “acceptable” if you assume a framework that appeals to “The Greater Good” – namely the sacrifice of Brutsch to address a “wrong” that supposedly affected quite a few people. I however can’t stop wondering if Chen would have refrained from publishing the article if the shoe was on the other foot.
The question we should all ask: “Why would Gawker consider this to be newsworthy and why it was covered so thoroughly compared to their other stories?”
Your guess is probably as accurate or as disgusted as mine.
What Chen did – the disclosure of private details of an individual – has today has become known as unmasking or more popularly described as “doxxing”. Note that in recent years, Gawker and its subsidiaries – specifically Jezebel – has published alot of articles about how terrible doxxing is.
A flurry of those came out during the initial roar of #GamerGate and concerned how misogynistic it was that women were supposedly being doxxed, though Gawker and Jezebel had no problem doing it in the past – essentially “Do as I say, not as I do.”
While “doxxing”was at first the bread and butter of angry angst ridden reddit and 4chan users, it has become disturbingly common in “journalistic” circles and subsequent publications under the guise of “investigative reporting” on whichever groups or individuals have been deemed acceptable targets.
The implications of this practice are troubling as Wired’s Danah Boyd pointed out in her article about Gakwer’s expose on Brutsch and this kind of new vigilantism that was being created by the articles like it on social media,
“Yet, how do we as a society weigh the moral costs of shining a spotlight on someone, however “bad” their actions are? What happens when, as a result of social media, vigilantism takes on a new form? How do we guarantee justice and punishment that fits the crime when we can use visibility as a tool for massive public shaming? “
In the context of essentially using journalism and the ensuing visibility as a tool for publish shaming, it must be emphasized that the revelation of the Brutsch’s identity is the primary reason the subreddit was shut down.
Again, assuming a utilitarian “Greater Good” principle on the matter, the disclosure of that particular detail was necessary to achieve Gawker’s goal to inform the public. Appeal to this principle however, will and has set a precedent that is a potential slippery slope.
If the outing of an anonymous online user for even the most moral reasons becomes common media practice, the media is then engaging in a form of “censorship” of anonymous individuals through the threat of possible revelation of their online identities and the consequences that so often follow. Some may argue that there should be consequences to speech, but would they apply that conclusion to themselves?
What shocks me is the kind of inconsistent and often hypocritical approach toward the concept of revealing people who are anonymous online. Liberal feminist publications in particular, will condemn anonymous individuals for criticism and the fact that they don’t face public backlash for voicing said criticisms behind their anonymous cloak- often labeled harassment by said publications. Even though its not harassment, people still remember the all present, “H” word. Note, that it’s not harassment when they do it.
The inconsistency is revealed when these same liberal publications complain about doxxing of individuals and the disclosure of “private details” that can damage those doxxed. This is often labeled harassment, but not when it came to the disclosure of some KKK members who made threats during the Ferguson controversy.
It is curious, because many feminist publications in particular advocate revealing the identities of anonymous critics to make them “accountable” for said criticism. They often make this argument in regards to trolls whose behavior they consider to be borderline harassment. Lindy West, a noted online feminist writer and fat acceptance activist makes the following observation in an article for The Guardian about online “trolling”,
“Sometimes it’s relatively innocuous (like asking contrarian questions just to start an argument) or juvenile (like making fun of my weight or my intelligence), but – particularly when the subject is a young woman – it frequently crosses the line into bona fide, dangerous stalking and harassment.”
When a “troll” – a very subjective concept considering what some consider to be trolling these days – has their identity revealed to the online populace, the reaction often translates to trying to get them fired from their employment and ensuring that a Google search is enough to permanently destroy their reputation. Tauriq Moosa in an article for the liberal NewStatesman makes the point:
“Again, just because you’re responding to racism or sexism doesn’t make your response right. I’ve seen no good come of publicly shaming someone, when public shaming is the sole response. Sure, someone is also shamed after being rightfully convicted, fired, etc, but there ‘justice’ wasn’t merely a retweet.”
I suggest that journalists should approach stories that may involve revelation of anonymous identities with the two following principles in mind:
– Kant’s principle of The Categorical Imperative in regards to allowing online users to stay always anonymous when covered by the press is a more valid presupposition to make in this and similar situations.
– The Golden Rule. How many of us would want similar treatment in the press even if we were on par with the depravity of Brutsch? It may be helpful to put ourselves in his shoes – something that Chen did not seem to do. In fact, it is surprising that Brutsch did not sue Chen considering he is not a public figure from a legal standpoint.
Mainstream Media And Doxxing
Even reputable publications like Newseek have taken the plunge and engaged in this kind of public unmasking. Newsweek did a famous article in revealing the true identity of the creator of Bitcoin who turned out to be a 64-year-old man and train enthusiast named Satoshi Nakamoto who had essentially created the worlds first working and successful “crypto currency.”
The context of this situation is again extremely important here. The implications of revealing his name, as well as personal details including pictures of his house and car are mind-blowing. One issue itself is the Bitcoin currency and some of the elements that use it – namely some who frequent the infamous “Darknet”
While it’s free from any actual kind of financial regulation or government interference, it is used by criminal networks that are notorious on the darknet who engage in transactions from everything from buying drugs to hiring actual assassins. No, I’m not exaggerating about that.
The Newsweek story had potentially opened up Nakamoto as a target for criminals all in the name of publishing a story and it revealed MANY details about Nakamoto that arguably weren’t necessary to the story as an article from Gigaom points out:
“Newsweek included many personal details about Nakamoto, including his work history and details about his extended family, and even his personal health — and they posted a photo of his home, one in which you could clearly see his address and the licence plate on his car.”
With the information and private details of the creator of Bitcoin now flaunted for the world to see, Nakamoto is exposed to the potential criminal elements who could desire to kidnap him to acquire in-depth information and potential means to exploit Bitcoin and its users. Also consider that just one Bitcoin itself ranges in worth of 75 – 300$.
The Edward Snowden leaks in particular present one of the biggest challenges in the last 20 years for the media in choosing what they would and wouldn’t publish. Arguably the media’s responsibility to the public in a democratic society is to consistently cast the probe of investigation on to the government to make sure that transparency is always there.
An important dynamic came into play that forced the hand of the Guardian in that the British government actually planned to force the publication to destroy the hard-drives that contained the leaks. Usually if someone doesn’t want a story to be covered and resorts to destroying evidence, we should all smell a rat. Luckily, the press this time did not have their noses stuffed in the name of “National Security”. Of course, the U.S. Government would and does continue insist that the Snowden disclosure puts national security at great risk.
However to this day there are still certain pieces of information not published by the press for that reason which notably has attained a rather tight balance on public disclosure of the documents in light of what might hurt the public vs. what they need to know.
Even the most ardent supporters of the actions of Edward Snowden – myself included – will acknowledge that his revelations did expose elements of our government that could potentially undermine it. However many in media from all sides of the spectrum deemed the disclosures to not only be newsworthy, but important enough to keep pressing forward with the stories impact.
In this case it is certain I would endorse the appeal to “The Greater Good,” that was obviously adhered to by the press rather then accepting the government’s time held excuse of “national security. Of course, a story of this magnitude also influenced the media’s decision to publish it.
Currently, the Ferguson controversy brings up a new and significantly more and more important factor in the disclosure of private details by the press; the publication of previously revealed private details by lesser known outlets, bloggers, and even hackers by large mainstream publications.
The New York Times, which might arguably be the publication that sets the bar for journalistic standards, was scolded by fellow journalists and publications for publishing the address of the officer Darren Wilson who is a known name in national headlines after having shot Michael Brown. This revelation occurred through the posting of an image of his marriage certificate by the New York Times.
Considering that it was public knowledge that Wilson had received many death threats, it comes as a shock that the New York Times would justify revealing the address. When the New York Times responded to criticism of the revelation by both Howard Kurtz of Fox News and Erik Wemple of The Washington Post in particular, they justified the revelation under the fact that it was already public knowledge.
While this was in fact true, it sets a disturbing precedent for larger and more mainstream publications that arguably lowers the bar as to what is acceptable disclosure of someone’s details when their lives could be in jeopardy. Officer Wilson’s address might have been public knowledge on Reddit, Gawker, and twitter, but the disclosure of that address in the nations most read publication has a much larger and possibly more deadly impact.
Journalism nowadays is undoubtedly incurring substantial questions about what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to the choice of stories as well as the revelation of details in people’s private lives. All of the blame, however, can’t be specifically laid at the feet of mainstream publications and even the click-bait publications such as Gawker, Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and a series of deteriorating blogs who will actually resort to making things up.(Seriously, read that link. It’s shocking.)
As journalistic mediums adapt to new markets and demands of their audience, they are unfortunately forced to cater to a social media influenced audience who is now not only used to the idea of publicizing daily events of their lives but expect it. The idea of what is ethical and what is not in journalism has been massively impacted by the juggernaut that is online media and the dominance of the constantly updating online news feed.
It is therefore not surprising when the majority of readers don’t so much as bat an eyelash at the disclosure of private details of people by the press. These readers often demand more of these kinds of disclosures and a nasty cycle is therefore created and perpetually maintained.
Now even blogs, YouTubers, and twitter feeds are turning into main sources of news and creating new questions of not only who is a public figure, but also how the standards should be applied to these new growing mediums. For instance, should we hold YouTube to certain journalistic standards? Well, one can certainly try.
Where the line is drawn with even determining who a public figure is has become difficult as new social media applications such as twitter personalities, YouTube channel hosts, Vine, and Instagram users have become pseudo celebrities and therefore have sometimes become potential “stories.”
Take into account that celebrities have long been a curious and vain obsession of the American public. Various tabloids cover their every waking action including what might be in their Starbucks shake. Now that the pool of celebrities has been greatly expanded, the journalistic standards and ethics on the disclosure of the details of people’s lives are all that much more important.
Last but not least, the ethics of choosing stories in light of appearing to promote specific cultural and social issues is a subject that need to be carefully considered. In fact, the line nowadays has grown very murky.|
As mentioned before, seemingly everyone can become a journalist nowadays and engage in the disturbing practice that is narrative bias confirmation – or as I call it, preaching to your choir. If you want to publish a certain kind of story, you will latch on to experiments and stories that fit that per-determined narrative – whether it is there or not. Your readers already want to believe the worst about your mutual opponents, so it just yet another slam dunk in the enfolding story. (Interesting debate on “Narrative Journalism” here.)
One of the most recent viral video that became news involved a young white women who had walked 100 hours around the city of New York and was catcalled by various men. In what can only be described as either journalists failing to do basic homework or trying to push a very specific narrative, they failed to disclose that all of the catcalls occurred on just a few specific streets that were all in Harlem.
These objective and truth driven journalists also failed to mention the context of catcalling in African American culture which is not seen as a negative action, but rather an accepted an expected one. The context obviously did not fit their narrative. One also wonders if the same worry would have been extended had all the cat-callers been straight white men.
History holds key lessons – some of them quite bloody – in the repercussions that shook nations, stirred foment, and publicized serial killers. Take for example the numerous papers who stoked the American Civil war and the manipulation from all involved during it.
Or the two newspaper mad-men like giants William R. Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer whose journalism would be coined, “yellow journalism” in regards to the tales they spun and stories that were literally made up. Yes, that Pulitzer who the award is named after.
When Remington told Hearst that the rumors of the atrocities were exaggerated and over-hyped, Heart uttered this infamous phrase, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” Remington would do just that and two of his false pictures would grab headlines and stoke the fervors of war even more:
“For instance, he drew some pictures of an American woman being brutally searched by Spanish male security forces. This apparently never happened, as only female officials searched American females coming into the country. In addition, Remington’s famous painting of the Rough Riders charging up San Juan Hill was based not on the actual charge, but on a reenactment performed by the Rough Riders.”
The truth didn’t sell newspapers, but false stories would and for the price of just a cent! In fact, Hearst was sure that a war between Spain and America would sell him even more papers – which it would. When the USS Maine exploded and sunk in February 15th of 1897, Hearst wrote a galvanizing piece in which he blamed Spain for the accident and attributed it to treachery. Here are two choice paragraphs from it:
“It was an accident, they say. Perhaps it was, but accident or not, it would never have happened if there had been peace in Cuba, as there would have been if we had done our duty. And it was an accident of a remarkably convenient kind for Spain. Two days ago we had five battleships in the Atlantic. Today we have four. A few more such accidents will leave us at the mercy of a Spanish fleet.”
“The Government has set an investigation on foot, and the Journal has independently undertaken another. Between them the truth will soon be known. If it be found that the Spanish authorities have fought about this calamity, so profitable to themselves, no power from the White House to Wall Street will be able to restrain the American people from exacting a terrible retribution. And Spain’s innocence must be clearly proven. All the circumstances of the case fix the burden of proof upon her.”
Catch that? Spain’s innocence must be clearly proven. So essentially, guilty before proven innocent. This tactic worked; it caused a war. Perhaps some of have taken this lesson to heart with changes to “Preponderance of Evidence” that now rests on those accused of a crime who must prove their innocence instead of the accuser proving their guilt. Yes, I’m referring to the rape hysteria and charges being tossed about like used wrappers on college campuses.
Fun fact: William Hearst is the inspiration for Orson Well’s Citizen Kane. Bad and downright journalism apparently had the ultimate price attached to it.
Lessons sometimes, are not as clearcut as that of Hearst. When the Zodiac Killer began his rampage, it is highly probable that the press publication of the rants and demands of the Zodiac killer enabled him to gain even more attention and jeopardize even more members of the public.
However, what alternative did they have? The police did not want the papers to give him any voice or attention. He knew this and threatened that if they didn’t publish his demands, he would kill more people. Then again, he killed more people anyway. Perhaps in hindsight they made the right decision by publishing his demands, but there was no way to tell at the time. Yet again, a moral quandary to wade through.
Sometimes, the disclosure of the someone’s private life is done with “good” intentions – or just a unwilling sacrifice for a certain cause. The first “outing” of an LFBT individual wasn’t done by detractors, haters, homophobes, or whatever “ist” we can throw out there; it was done deliberately by one of the biggest political heroes of the LGBT movement himself – Harvey Milk.
It starts in 1975 with Oliver Sipple, who was a former marine that would have a direct hand in saving President Ford’s life from an assassin by grabbing her arm just as she would squeeze the trigger. Of course, the press would want to know everything about Sipple and his act of heroism and would dig up the fact that he was actually gay – something he had been hiding.
Because he had become a semi-public figure in his act of saving the president, his private life would be divulged for all to see and him and his family would face tremendous backlash. He began to drink heavily. In fact, he would start to ebb away both mentally and physically to the point that he wished he had never intervened to save Ford’s life.
While plenty of blame can be laid at Milk’s callous hands – something most people don’t even know about as we don’t like to talk about the bad things our “heroes” have done – the fact that the newspapers were willing to publish this controversial of a disclosure about Sipple’s private life should make us wonder what the line is when it comes to the well-being of an individual and how specific disclosure’s can effect their lives.
These same mistakes by self-proclaimed journalists and publications should not go unheeded. In the future anyone who considers themselves to be any sort of “journalist” should strive to avoid the scoop and the “developing” story if it’s going to seriously impact someone’s life.
Sometimes, the truth must be told, but how much of it, why, and who it may effect must carefully be considered. In today’s media climate, this is even more important to take to heart. One tweet. One post. That’s all it takes. Perhaps, there really are some details of people’s lives that the media should leave alone. But then again, the new challengers on the block have no such hindrance.
So be skeptical of every last thing you read – regardless of who it is from, because chances are they have probably been duped as well. Triple-check “sources” and go to multiple publications – specifically ones you disagree with – to get the other side of the story. It’s important to get outside of our own internet bubbles and echo chambers because the truth is often either very uncomfortable, deeply buried, or downright shunned.