Friday, January 9, 2009

The Media determines who we vilify

Most Americans, especially those whose opinions are easily molded by the media, have an immense dislike towards Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Yet when asked why, they are unable to give a cogent reason. Many people believe that Mr. Chavez is anti-American. That is not the case, for if he were, he most definitely would not be providing free heating oil to low income Americans to help keep them warm during the winter. According to an article that appeared in the News & Observer in January 8, 2009 edition, Hugo Chavez directly intervened with the Venezuelan government’s U.S. based oil subsidiary (Citgo) to assure the continued uninterrupted flow of this free oil to poor Americans (providing heating oil to 200,000 household in 23 states and 65 Native American tribes). The program to provide oil was threatened with the recent decline in oil prices.

Now an argument can be made that the administration of oilmen Bush-Cheney coveted Venezuelan oil fields, that Venezuela was next on the Bush administration’s to do list, and that Chavez was vilified in order to justify the need for a regime change (which would be to the advantage of the greedy oil companies in the United States). However, the U.S. government never got around to it after the might of the US military got bogged down in Iraq. As a result of the aggressive nature of the Bush administration towards Mr. Chavez, a case can be made that he retaliated with his colorful rhetoric about our chief executive. However these arguments are not published or aired by our media, and as a result, Mr. Chavez is still considered a pariah by the American public and treated like one by US government officials. It was sad, for example, that when RFK’s son, former U.S. Representative Joseph Kennedy, was asked if he personally spoke with Mr. Chavez, he danced around the question, stating, “I did what was necessary to keep this program (a Boston based non-profit to provide heating oil to American poor) going.” Mr. Kennedy was intimidated about any association with Mr. Chavez (regardless of how beneficial it is to the American people) and refused to answer the question directly.

Again, the case can be made that Venezuelan President Chavez has done more for the poor people in the United States than US President Bush. The Bush administration has, however, done a lot to bail out (with taxpayer dollars) greedy corporate CEO fat cats who have run their companies and the economy, of this nation and the world, into the ground. Yet, it is Mr. Chavez who is demonized by the American media and hated by the American people, many of whom benefit from his largess. The reason for this paradox is because the US media propagandizes in such a way that it molds the opinions of Americans who do not take the time or initiative to analyze or question what is spoon-fed to them by the media.

An example of vilification that is closer to home is best represented by the media-prosecution of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. The media both locally and nationally, including the the News & Observer, demonized Mr. Nifong to the extent that most people (who do not know him personally or who do not have a mind of their own) despise him, just like they hate Hugo Chavez. The media references Mr. Nifong unflatteringly and it secrets stories that are sympathetic toward or shed a positive light on Mr. Nifong. While doing so, the media downplays the egregious acts of misconduct, some of which are criminal, that are perpetrated by other North Carolina prosecutors. The majority of times, when articles about prosecutorial misconduct are made public, the names of those prosecutors guilty of malfeasance are not even mentioned.

There is the case of Theodore Jerry Williams, an inmate who filed a law suit against the District Attorney’s Office in Stanly County. For retaliation, he was transferred to Union County where he was maced and beaten up by sheriff deputies and then falsely charged with assaulting one of the officers (which they claim resulted in Mr. Williams’ injuries, which included a broken arm). Mr. Williams was facing fifteen years in prison as an habitual offender, if convicted of the “assault”charge against the officer. For a laugh, the District Attorney’s office then put up a poster showing two booking photographs of inmate Theodore Williams, one before the beating and one shortly thereafter. The caption read to the effect, “before and after he decided to sue the district attorney.” When Mr. Williams heard about the poster, he requested it in order to help with his defense. The prosecutors then removed all of the posters he had requested and destroyed them (critical and material evidence for Mr. Williams's defense). The trial court, upon hearing about the destruction of evidence by the prosecutors, dropped the assault charges against Mr. Williams.

Now, even though the Stanly prosecutors conspired with Union County officials to carry out their vendetta against Mr. Williams, assaulted Mr. Williams (including a broken arm), trumped up false charges against Mr. Williams which could net him fifteen years or more in jail, and destroyed material and crucial evidence needed for Mr. Williams’s defense, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper tried to appeal the trial court’s decision.

This is but another example of selective justice by Attorney General Roy Cooper and the North Carolina State Bar. It is a selective justice system that ignores the unjust actions and defends the criminal behavior of its prosecutors who follow the tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”

The media minimizes exposure to the public of stories about Mr. Williams, James Arthur Johnson, and other victims of the criminal justice system who are poor, disenfranchised, and of color. In the Duke Lacrosse case, the media portrayed the party-going lacrosse players (from families of wealth, status, and privilege) as saints, and demonized Mr. Nifong (a prosecutor with an exemplary record over 27 years who was diligently carrying out his professional duties in the Lacrosse case).

The media is, in large measure, responsible for the unjust persecution and prosecution of Mr. Nifong (including disbarment [the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception], loss of his job as district attorney, 24 hour jail sentence, and an attempt by NC Attorney General Roy Cooper to have the US Department of Justice investigate Mr. Nifong for depriving the Duke lads of their civil rights). The media is also partially responsible for the three Duke Lacrosse defendants, 38 un-indicted Duke Lacrosse teammates, three separate un-indicted Duke lacrosse players, and the Duke lacrosse coach for filing lawsuits against the university and the cash-strapped city of Durham. And, the media is responsible for the overwhelming and unjust animus by the public against Mr. Nifong, one of the best public servants Durham will ever have.

It is time for people to start using their common sense in building opinions about individuals and events, rather than relying on the media to tell them what to think. This can be difficult, especially when the media elects to keep the public ignorant about stories or facets of certain stories that might enlighten the people and lead them to conclusions that are at variance with those championed by the media.

No comments: