Is 'Chicagoland' propaganda or a realistic documentary

Is CNN's supposed documentary, "Chicagoland", propaganda? Is it a well veiled serialized public relation campaign and campaign vehicle for the reelection of Mayor Rahm Emanuel? Or, is it a real story about real people?

I told a noted Chicago columnist that I did not watch the opening chapter and had no interest in seeing any of it. But, after continually reading various raves and rants about the show, my curiosity piqued.

I decided to watch the opening chapter online. 

I was born and raised in Chicago. I was a Chicago Police officer for almost 30 years. I am a Chicago history buff and have many books on the history of this city. I love Chicago. Chicago is the greatest city in the nation. I am proud to be a son of Chicago.

We are better than New York, that crumbling metropolis being held together with baling wire, bubble gum, and propaganda public relations. We outshine Los Angeles, which is a cultural desert.

Chicago is the heart and heartbeat of the nation. Yes, we have our problems. They are no worse than other large urban areas. We also have the ability to overcome them, adapt, innovate, and succeed where other cities have failed. Chicago has done this throughout its history.


Mark Konkol. (Peter V. Bella)

The one good thing about "Chicagoland" is the narrator, Mark Konkol. Konkol, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, is a Chicago guy.

He "tawks" like Chicago. He is not some made up, bespoke suit wearing, blow dried pseudo journalist who took elocution lessons just to read a teleprompter.

Konkol talks like a real citizen of this city. His presentation is spot on. He speaks like the cops, Streets and San guys, some reporters, and other blue collar people who toil to make Chicago great.

There are no affectations, no fancy words, no pseudo-intellectual pretenses. Konkol is having a conversation in a nasal gravelly voice, just like regular guys in a saloon.

Mark Konkol also gives a first person presentation on the problems plaguing Roseland. He should know. He lives there. You cannot get more factual than that.

"Chicagoland" appears to be an ode to Mayor Emanuel. The mayor appears in a positive light, fighting the good fight, and at times heroic in the face of fierce opposition.

The angry birds, tin foil hat conspiracy theorists, social media lynch mobs, and others claim the fact the mayor's brother, Ari represents some of the people involved in the series, "Chicagoland" is a reelection campaign piece.

That remains to be seen. There are still installments left to view. If it is, it is one expensive campaign "donation". Mayor Emanuel angered large number of voters during his first term. His popularity waned. The honeymoon is over.


Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy with officers at a major protest. (Peter V. Bella)

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy also appears heroic in his efforts to curb the violence and mayhem that plague Chicago.

The show rightly demonstrates that even with the past summer of violence, violent crime, especially murders, were actually down compared to past years.

Something the local and national media, especially the New York media, ignores.


Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. (Peter V. Bella)

The program did harp on the controversial school closings.

There were news clips of Chicago Teachers Union President, Karen Lewis, calling the mayor a liar, a bully, and the murder mayor.

Giving credit where credit is due, the mayor responded that he is only concerned with what works- "that is reform". He deserves his chance to reform schools in his own way. Time, not the Chicago Teachers Union, politicized parents and students, or political pundits, will tell if Rahm Emanuel failed or succeeded.

He deserves his chance at school reform reform like his predecessors, whether you love or hate him. School reform has been on a success failure roller coaster since the mid 1950s. Every mayor took their best shot, in spite of opposition.

Mayor Emanuel cites one statistic. 56% of African American students do not graduate high school. This figure has not changed much since 1955, when Richard J. Daley tried to reform schools during his first term.

School reform is an elusive quest for Chicago mayors.

For better or worse, Rahm Emanuel deserves his turn at the wheel. He can overcome the obstacles placed before him or fail. Then, it will be up to the next mayor to succeed or fail.


Fenger High School principal, Liz Dozier, talking to a Chicago Police officer. (Chicago Tribune)

There is one hero whose story threads through this first installment, Liz Dozier, the principal of Fenger High School.

She is portrayed as a person who is struggling and working hard to do the best she can for her charges. She is dynamic and a dynamo.

Chicagoland depicts Ms. Dozier as an overworked principal who struggles to run a high school and keep her charges safe.

On the other hand, "Chicagoland" shows how parents and students have been politicized and polarized by the propaganda of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Parents and students are used by the union as props and dupes to demonstrate the evils of school reform under Rahm Emanuel.

Theresa Harrington, a Chicago school teacher, is seen promoting propaganda the Chicago Teachers Union wants to put out, "We are parenting these children". If that is the case, Chicago families are in trouble.

The first installment of "Chicagoland" is a strange mix of documentary, propaganda, and political public relations. It is dramatic. It is real people discussing real problems plaguing Chicago.

It depicts real people trying to solve problems, resolve issues, or commiserate over them.

To a certain extent, it is an ode to Mayor Emanuel and his administration. The mayor is always seen in a positive light, fighting the good fight against the forces arrayed against him.

Since my interest was piqued, I may have to watch the whole series.

Will curiosity kill the cat or cure the cynicism?





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