by Redwhitenblack, TC|TW Editor
Let's get this out of the way right now - what Christopher Dorner did was wrong. Much of the public debate about the weeklong ordeal in the California hills focuses on how wrong Chris Dorner was. I'm not sure that point is worthy of much debate though.
It may be far more important that we recognize collectively that what Christopher Dorner did was stupid.
Dead men tell no tales. We will never hear on-the-record court testimony about the actions of the Los Angeles Police Department from a dead Chris Dorner. According to his manifesto, Dorner's ultimate goal for the shooting spree was to clear his name. Well Chris, how's that working out?
With that said, I cannot condone obscenely biased journalism either.
This editorial from the Press-Enterprise, based in Riverside, CA " Officers Are The Real Heroes In Dorner Saga" is not a joke. To address the most obvious potential criticism of the piece, the editors do at least acknowledge that mistakes were made during the manhunt:
Police made deplorable mistakes by twice errantly shooting at civilians during the manhunt.
See? The police made mistakes. And the Press-Enterprise deplores them. What more could anyone possibly ask of a newspaper?
One could begin by asking that they revise the above statement to reflect the fact that the police did not simply mistakenly shoot at a couple civilians, but actually hit them - and sent them to intensive care. That's important. And they make no mention of Dorner's ultimate demise - the one bullet he fired into his own skull as the police proceeded to burn the cabin he occupied to the ground.
But, if we're talking about a newspaper - which is to say a member of the 4th estate, protected by the first amendment and tasked with making democracy possible by disseminating information to the public - then one could also ask that they stop wasting time deploring mistakes and get busy investigating them instead.
Bias in this case takes the form of presenting one set of facts, or claims while ignoring another. The Post-Enterprise is hardly alone, check out this smear job by the Los Angeles Times blog, "Dorner Had History of Complaints Against Fellow LAPD Officers". Convincing the average reader of bias in major media can be a tough sell. But you have to look deep into someone's background history and stretch pretty far to turn this into a character-defining accusation against someone:
In 2006, Schefres was interviewed about the punching incident during an investigation into allegations that Dorner slapped the hand of another recruit officer, internal affairs records show. Dorner had accused that second recruit--as well as another recruit -- of using a racial slur while they were traveling in a police vehicle during their time in the academy.
So from another perspective that headline could just as easily have been, "Dorner Had History of Confronting Racial Prejudice from Fellow LAPD Officers". But the headline doesn't mention prejudice. It only mentions complaint.
Ordinarily when media outlets exhibit deferential bias (the bias of rearranging facts so that they defer to authority) their main purpose is to maintain access to sources. For instance, when cable news refuses to grill senators and representatives during election season, they do so because they don't want to be shut out. They need the candidate to pick up the phone when they call. There's a give and take in the relationship that doesn't always serve the purpose of informing the public very well.
That's not the case here. The press has no real concerns about access. The LAPD is not going to stop trumpeting it to the press whenever they make a huge drug bust or arrest a mobster. It's just not their style. If the motive here was not to "play the game" as it were, then what is it that's driving media outlets to shirk responsibility?
It may be the fact that Chris Dorner has a fan club (or, an 'appreciation society' more precisely).
These papers are essentially crafting a counter-narrative to a counter-narrative. They're using the bully pulpit of mass media to confront the misplaced idealism of not-quite 800 people on Facebook who "like" the page. And they're doing a truly lousy job of it because they can't seem to bring themselves to attempt to directly discredit the claims that are made on the site. I would like to see the L.A. Times and others directly address the claims that, for instance, Chris Dorner burned his own blue truck to prevent the police from harassing or potentially killing anyone else driving a blue truck. Instead we get this, "Dorner manhunt: LAPD will give new truck to women shot by officers" as though it is out of the kindness of their hearts. You're damn right she's getting a new truck, because they're legally responsible for the damage they caused. Good to know she can still sue them anyway.
Or I would like them to show that in fact the Los Angeles area police departments did not fruitlessly search 400 homes without a warrant in the course of the manhunt. I would like reporters not to take at face value the LAPD's assurance that they're now investigating the claims Dorner made in his manifesto and provide some accountability in that process. I would really like that.
More than anything though, I would like them to take a hard look and see if there's any connection between Dorner, the LAPD, and the innocent people the police fired on during the manhunt. We are told they were basically just innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time as a "frightened" LAPD was on high alert. No newspaper writer, editor, or reader should be satisfied with that as an explanation. Did they have information that could have backed up some of Dorner's claims? We'll never know.
Dead men tell no tales, right?
It's a sad moment in journalism when local and national outlets are muting facts of the case to craft the story they prefer. And that story is that the LAPD and the partner departments in the Dorner manhunt were heroes. I'm sorry, but if you have to leave 102 bullets fired in a case of mistaken-identity, fire-induced suicide, and departmental racism out of your story because they're inconvenient then maybe it would be better to simply report the truth: There are no heroes in the Chris Dorner Saga.
News & Notes
Local giving opportunities -
Help support the Special Olympics by pledging a donation to the March 3rd, 13th Annual Chicago Polar Plunge. Seriously, it's freezing out there. Help these folks out.
A high school friend of mine told me recently about a little girl named Maci Lou Villareal being diagnosed with leukemia. Her family is holding a benefit for her on April 7th. Definitely read her story and follow what it's like to be a family caring for a sick child because Maci Lou's not just a cute little baby, she's a blogger! You can even leave a message for her or give if you can.
On the anti-sex-trafficking beat - A Chicago to South Dakota trafficking ring was recently broken up by federal law enforcement in Sioux Falls.
And while we're on the subject - An even larger operation named Operation Dark Night added 13 new indictments. It was a multi-department operation that included: HSI, with assistance from the FBI; the ATF; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); CBP Air and Marine Operations; Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS); IRS-Criminal Investigations; the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department; the Chatham County Sheriff's Office; the Garden City Police Department; and, the Chatham County Counter Narcotics Team.
Now, I know I shouldn't complain since any movement against sex-slavery is great in my book. But I can't help but note that it required pretty much one department for every two defendants. Homeland Security's efficiency model could use some updating.
Chicago libraries as start-up incubators - A librarian pal of mine once put up a questionnaire asking what public libraries should become in the 21st century and chuckled at me a little bit when I replied, "the Greek Academy". Thankfully, I wasn't the only one with the thought. Chicago Public Library and the Atlantic Monthly are right there with me.
Georgia - Human rights activists and death penalty abolitionists won a narrow but conclusive victory this week with the Warren Hill stay of execution
San Diego, CA - Set phasers to "reform". The 4th annual National Educator Conference this year focused on maintaining safe learning environments for LGBT youth, and included appearances by Betty DeGeneres (Ellen's mom) and none other than George freakin' Takai!
Washington, DC - The IRS has trouble with a capital "T". It's gone under the radar this year but so far the IRS computer servers have crashed 7 times. Filing was already pushed back to Jan 30th because of the new tax-bill passed under fiscal cliff pressure. And if that weren't enough, the IRS is getting pushback from Americans about their particularly harsh interpretation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which they say requires them to ask questions like, "Can you provide any proof that your baby lives with you?" Yeah, really.
All of this amounts to, expect your refund to be delayed this year.
Japan - Gone are the glory days of Japanese Prime Minister Juunichiro Koizumi. Clinton and Koizumi, Asia-Pacific's smooth operators. Ah, good times.
Still, current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is about as popular right now as any Japanese PM in the last 10 years which have seen the Japanese go through about 2 PMs a year.
PM Abe was scheduled to visit the U.S. this week which prompted Pew to publish some data suggesting that American and Japanese citizens are about as chummy as we've ever been.
If there's a point of contention between out governments though (aside from military bases and PRK) it's likely to be human rights since. the Abe government seems particularly execution happy. Not only has Abe's government executed 3 people since he's been in office, but their preferred method of dispatch is hanging. I love Japan and the Japanese people and I know that this is not what most of them have in mind as "progress". I sincerely hope we can find a way to keep them from moving backward on this issue.
Abu Dhabi, UAE - A recent arms trading bazaar in Abu Dhabi underlines the global nature of the gun problem. America's disdain for gun control allows for a globally unregulated market that funnels guns to terrorists and other potential bad actors. Particularly exacerbated by the trade is the problem of child soldiers. Here are some of the testimonials presented in Amnesty International's research on child soldiers and the global gun trade:
In the city of Diabaly – some 400km north-east of the Malian capital Bamako – several people, including the deputy mayor, reported seeing children aged between 10 and 17 with the Islamist armed groups that had taken control of the area.
“These children were carrying rifles. One of them was so small that his rifle was sometimes dragging on the ground,” one eyewitness said.
“They trained us to shoot, aiming at the heart or feet. Before the fighting, we had to eat rice mixed with a white powder and a sauce with a red powder. We also had injections. I had three. After these injections and eating the rice mixed with powder, I would turn like a motor vehicle, I could do anything for my masters. I perceived our enemies like they were dogs and all that was in my mind was to shoot them.”
Farther south, in S�gou, Amnesty International met two captured child soldiers – one of whom showed signs of mental illness.
His 16-year-old companion said they were arrested and handed over to the Malian authorities after the French and Malian armies re-conquered Diabaly in late January.
Yerevan, Armenia - Armenian president Serge Sarkisian successfully stood for re-election this week. Despite minor allegations of misuse of resources, overall this looks to be good news because Sarkisian seems like one of the good guys. So congrats to the people of Armenia
Geneva, Switzerland - After this catastrophic report by Red Cross (ICRC) the US increased its funding for Syrian humanitarian aid. The money thus far has gone toward training medical staff, treating patients, moving in supplies and other vital needs.
Global - The Syrian Justice and Accountability Centre is a fairly new organization with global support in the mission of collecting, documenting and distributing information about the atrocities in Syria. Hopefully, this information will be used in a trial against Assad in the near future. Meantime, you can find out more about the resources they offer on their website.
Finally, a documentary by two filmmakers, one Israeli, one Palestinian, 5 Broken Cameras is nominated for the Oscar. Keep an eye out for it this weekend.
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