This posting is one about a prolonged verbal battle that lasted for over two days between myself and an op/ed writer for a major publication. To me this is interesting because I see op/ed writers as basically doing the exact same thing that I do as a blogger. They report on current events and write down what thoughts they have on current events from a point of view, from a point of personal bias. Journalism is (well supposed to be) neutral and objective. What I do here and what a op/ed writer does is not journalism. It is personal opinion conveyed through media. The only real difference? I do what I do, I research stories and put together the information that makes up this blog for free. I am not influenced by a paycheck like an op/ed writer may possibly be.
But back to the subject at hand which is the latest battle here in Wisconsin revolving around the recall election of fraudulently elected Governor Scott Walker. Earlier this week a publishing firm called Gannett Publishing, a privately owned entity revealed that dozens of its employee's had signed the recall petition against Walker. Gannett apologised for this and stated that they would punish those who had taken part in the democratic process, other publishers soon followed.
The paper here in Madison to which I am referring to, like Gannett's papers up in northern Wisconsin, have a decidedly right wing slant. The papers stated that they were ashamed that employee's had violated the public trust, that they lost they're neutrality, by taking part in recalls and elections. Excuse me??? What the fudge???
Gannett publishing has a long history of running pro-Walker and anti-recall stories. Gannett Publishing endorsed Scott Walkers run for governor. They sent some pretty serious campaign money Walkers way as well. Neutrality?.........I'm calling shenanigans! And I am not the only one.
Two days ago a local celebrity and friend of mine, internationally celebrated D.J. Nick Nice criticized the persecution of employees by their employer, Gannett Publishing. Quick to jump to the aid of the publisher was a local op/ed writer, and he was not happy about the subject matter. I found this very curious that a writer would defend those who were attacking other writers (though the majority of these employees were not journalists but support staff) for taking part in the democratic process. And so I initiated a conversation with this individual. First I sent him a link to a story that was published by Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. The story is titled "Signing a Recall Petition Does Not Require Judicial Recusal" and you can find it online.
Marquette is a conservative, private University and friend of Scott Walker, and even they could not defend the stance of the publishers. And this is the University that recently concluded a poll showing that Scott Walker could win a recall election and sought to deflate the Wisconsin Movement. That was until they were called out for using very questionable techniques in the poll, and they were forced to conduct a second round of more scientific research. Suddenly the numbers flipped and Walker had some very poor odds indeed.
I assume that the op/ed writer, who I will refer to simply as 'Bob' read the article because soon afterwards he replied to me "whats your point?"
I replied that my point, now backed up by Marquette University, was that there is no legal nor moral basis for his opinion. I stated that from my point of view, that he was compromising journalistic integrity for the almighty dollar. I told him that Julius Stryker, editor and publisher of 'Der Sturmer' had done the same thing years ago and that, that had ended very poorly indeed for him.
'Rufus' replied like he had no idea what I was speaking of and so I reiterated 'Are you not compensated by (this paper) for the writing that you do, are you not protecting your paycheck even though it runs contrary (from what I know) to journalistic ethics?'
Rufus was amused by my reference to monetary influence from his employer, apparently he felt overdue for a raise. So I asked Rufus, 'Are journalists not supposed to be part of the vanguard of honesty and integrity, of the dissension of truthful information, are you not compromising your own rights in exchange for a paycheck? Are you not setting a horrible standard here?'
Even our brave sailors and soldiers serving in our Armed Forces have the right to vote, and they sign away almost all of the rights that they have under the constitution when they join the service. Is being an opinion writer really more important than that? To the point where you throw your rights straight out the window? Yes being a media writer is a position of public trust but so is being a doctor, a nurse or a judge. Should all these people give up their right to vote as well? What about teachers and professors? What about pilots and fire fighters and police officers, state troopers and emergency medical technicians; should all these people give up the right that they have to take part in the democratic process?
Rufus replied that the "appearance of non-bias" is what counts. Really? Do you think Rufus that folks don't expect writers to have a personal opinion? That after all the years they have lived on this planet that they never formed an opinion about a candidate, a party or a piece of legislation?
I told him that yes the appearance of neutrality must be there in what they write, but that should not be the all controlling factor in their personal lives. In other words yes you write like that, but you don't live that way, how is it possible to even expect people to believe that?
"Journalistic neutrality/integrity should be based (in part) on the law of the land" All Americans (with some exceptions based on age or felony record) have the right to vote. That is ultimate and inalienable. Journalism should absolutely NOT be leading the way, by example, into people giving up that all important right! Especially if the motivation is the political and/or monetary gain of others.
Rufus replied "Recall elections will be by secret ballot, but that is different than signing your name to a document that calls for putting an elected official on the ballot, speeding up the calendar, before their term of office is up" Just like with nomination papers perhaps.
To which I added "speeding up the calendar is one way of looking at it. A legal electoral tool for dealing with fraud (such as the case with the multitude of lies told by Walker while he was on the campaign trail) is another way it can be construed."
"Its definitely a legal electoral tool and I wouldn't change anything about the states recall requirements." Rufus wrote back to me. "Obviously, though, its an extreme and rarely used measure, unlike regular voting." Yes Rufus, I thought to myself, but it is still a part of the electoral process.
At this point I was multi-tasking, well actually I am always multi-tasking, and I uncovered the news of George Zimmerman in Florida, the alleged (and truthfully so it seems) murderer of Trayvon Martin having a record for domestic assaults as well as felony assault of an officer, and also that his father was a state supreme court magistrate. I informed Rufus about this, somehow I was hours ahead of the mainstream media source he works for, and I took a break from our discussion to post that information on this blog immediately.
Hours later Rufus came back online and summarized that he called the recall an important election tool. And that elections are of tantamount importance I added. And that is why even in the military, where upon entry you sign away almost all of your constitutional rights (necessary to a structure that sends people into combat) you still maintain three important rights no matter what, those being: 1. You have the right not to be intentionally tortured by your own government. 2. You have the right to a trial by jury, well military tribunal at least, and 3. You have the RIGHT TO VOTE.
And what about day care workers?, I added, and cops, teachers? The problem is not, or should not, be whether folks vote. The real underlying problem here is the GOTea before the recall elections, refused to properly fund the Government Accountability Board, which oversees the elections and recalls in Wisconsin. This made public posting of personal voter information necessary to at least provide some reasonable degree of oversight so as to keep the GOTea from being able to yell fraud and challenge the recalls in court indefinately. It was also a direct and malicious attempt to intimidate and harass the voters of this state who wanted to legally sign the recall petitions. To make them fear for their safety and perhaps even their lives due to the well documented violent history of the Tea Party tools & fools that rabidly worship Walker.
I then added to Rufus that the very paper that he works for is going after its employee's as well for taking part in the democratic process. Rufus denied this to me quite strongly and let me know what he thought of some of my opinions and ideas.
I did receive an apology from Rufus though (thank you sir) regarding the 'dumbness' of my opinions. "I don't have a problem" he wrote me" with journalists saying they wont sign petitions because choose to do that work." Interesting point but I wonder myself, isn't NOT signing the petition making an equally solid stand on the subject of whether or not we should retain this elected official?" The way it is going right now, anybody over the age of eighteen can have theyre name lookedp, and if you didnt sign the petition, then what, you SUPPORT Walker? Neutrality? Seems to me that would be making a statement in favor of Scott Walker and against the recall election.
Rufus then stated that he 'didnt see how journalists voluntarily removing themselves from the process affects democracy.' "Wow" is all I could think to myself when I saw his typed words appear on my computer monitor. It was at this point (some two hours after I told Rufus his employer was punishing staff that signed the petitions which he refuted) that the very publication Rufus worked for released a statement that multiple employees of that publisher had signed recall petitions and that they would be reprimanded/punished for having done so. I decided to be nice and not rub this in, that victory was clearly mine.
I further argued to Rufus, that if journalists, the very people who are supposed to "in the know" the folks with more knowledge than the average citizen like you or me, are these not the same folks who SHOULD be voting, who should be signing recall petitions if they chose? Should they not as defenders of the truth be the first to jump up and cast a vote, fill out a ballot, sign the darn recall petition?!?!
I received no reply, and it has been more than twenty four hours now since I last heard from Rufus. I am running with the assumption that he could no longer defend his position, the position he may have felt compelled to defend whether or not he agreed with it at all. I will take that as a sure sign of his defeat and/or of my victory in this debate.
I know that Rufus is protecting his job, his source of income, and in doing so was protecting the very people that were the threat to his job. The economy is still terrible and nobody cherishes the thought of seeking employment in these economic conditions. But the people he was protecting, the ones who represented the threat to himself, are the 1% that destroyed the economy in the first place. The ones who put their own financial interests ahead of everything else in this world. People like Scott Walker, and that is how this whole conversation began in the first place.
So in the end it seems to me the final score was;
Blogger = 1 Op/Ed Writer = 0
Sadly though Wisconsin, the badger state, is the real lose here. But only temporarily and only in regards to one tiny battle in a long and drawn out war. As long as we keep up the good fight, we will win. And speaking of winning I have now taken on a big time national blogger, Ann Althouse, and kicked her butt. Now I took down a major media market writer and scored again. I think I will try to arrange a political debate against a GOTea representative or senator, I'm on a roll here.
On Wisconsin! FORWARD!!!!