Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chicken Taco Has Beef With Me

Perennial Podium commenter "taco" has been quite active recently. I'm posting discussions we've been having in two posts' comment threads on the main page for everyone to enjoy.

The following conversation resulted from my post "Panel Mildly Critical Of RNC Policing."

Taco:
"Well, I heard that press are going to jail tonight, anyway," Snyders reported the officer said. "So it doesn't matter."

Having used this quotation multiple times, you obviously think it's significant, but answer these questions: Do you honestly believe that a press credential is literally a Monopoly-like get-out-of-jail-free cards? Do you honestly believe that being issued one exempts you from law enforcement jurisdiction?

And rhetorically, do you believe that press credentials exempt you from being shot on open ground in a warzone?

Me:
"Do you honestly believe that a press credential is literally a Monopoly-like get-out-of-jail-free cards?"

No.

"Do you honestly believe that being issued one exempts you from law enforcement jurisdiction?"

No.

"And rhetorically, do you believe that press credentials exempt you from being shot on open ground in a warzone?"

No.

However, about two months after my arrest, I received a letter in the mail from the St. Paul district attorney. He informed me that they had conducted an investigation into me and concluded that I was a bona fide journalist and ought not face charges of any kind. A copy of this letter was also sent to the St. Paul police.

So, answer me this: If the city's own top criminal justice attorney didn't feel that I had broken the law, why was I arrested? There's nothing he knew that the officers on the scene shouldn't have known as well.

The police don't just get to arrest whomever they want. The law requires that they have probable cause. Given that it was exceedingly obvious to the arresting officers that Snyders (we were arrested together) and I were journalists and not actually participants the the peaceful (though illegal due to the event permit's expiration) protest, we should not have been detained let alone processed through the county jail. If I had more financial resources at my disposal, I would have already filed a law suit against the arresting officer and the department as a whole.

Taco:
"So, answer me this: If the city's own top criminal justice attorney didn't feel that I had broken the law, why was I arrested?"

I'll answer your question with another question: What exactly where you doing that put your credibility as a reporter in doubt?

Just in case you want to avoid the question and quibble about the wording there, I'll ask the same question another way: What exactly were you, Amy Goodman and "independent media" blogger types doing differently that got you arrested that did not get the majority of traditional media reporters arrested?

Maybe the Minneapolis is the headquarters of the national blogger suppression task force and they have a dossier on you and Trentz so they can take you down on site and protect their corporate mass media overlords.

You mention in a posting today that you want to redefining journalism ethics. Well, perhaps you could consider that if you blogger "journalists" start some kind of social movement redefining what journalists are, it's inevitable that the government and the public are going to redefine their understanding of journalist rights and privileges accordingly. I have nothing against your love of the medium, but you need to acknowledge the flaws of the model and recognize its considerable opportunity for abuse and its potential to destroy the respect and trust that the traditional hierarchical structure that brought this country to where it is today.

Me:
"What exactly where you doing that put your credibility as a reporter in doubt?"

Nothing.

"What exactly were you, Amy Goodman and 'independent media' blogger types doing differently that got you arrested that did not get the majority of traditional media reporters arrested?"

First, I'll say that your qualification about "the majority of traditional reporters" is quite warranted, as a number of people who work for traditional print publications as well as two Fox News producers suffered the same fate as Treftz and I in getting caught up in the fray. And second, I'll tell you exactly why Snyders and I got arrested: It was because we were within visual distance of the protest on the last night of the convention. Everyone within a large commercial block got arrested, including plenty of random bystanders and passersby as well as more than a dozen journalists working for a variety of different types of outlets.

I'm not even asserting special assembly privileges as a journalist. Merely following quietly a block behind a peaceful protest and taking notes and talking with Snyders does not constitute legitimate probable cause to arrest me. I wasn't breaking any law--and any law interpreted in such a fashion clearly runs afoul of the First Amendment.

The only relevance my personal political opinions have in any of this is that I believe in the American Constitution and the rule of law.

You're living in a fantasy world if you believe no one ever gets arrested illegally. Frankly, I just think the cops were pissed that we were watching how they were being unnecessarily forceful with the often silly, but entirely harmless, likes of David Goodner. So they decided they'd bring us in to teach us a lesson. Less not learned.

I'll say once more, taco, before you continue in your irrational visualization of me as some sort of scary left-wing activist, you should really meet up with me for a cup of coffee sometime. I'm confident that a face-to-face encounter with me would make you realize that I'm nothing but a sweater-wearing and obsessively polite gay guy.

Taco:
"Nothing."

That's what we all say, of course...

"First, I'll say that your qualification about "the majority of traditional reporters" is quite warranted, as a number of people who work for traditional print publications as well as two Fox News producers suffered the same fate as Treftz and I in getting caught up in the fray."

Let's not even play games with this. No reporters from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, NPR or other full-time professional organization were arrested. The vast majority of them are older than you, have been doing their jobs longer and have had their opportunities to reflect on their ethical duties and responsibilities as journalists. You and some other recent grads and alternative news "reporters" who "coincidentally" haven't been at the typewriter as long and haven't had to face the full professional pressure of a traditional journalism position, did manage to get arrested in noteworthy numbers, and now you blame the police for it. Pull your head out of the blogosphere for one minute and look around at your other industry peers. A journalist's role is what it is for good reasons. If you behave like you're something different you'll get treated like something different. You need to stop being so egotistical thinking you're already capable of crafting a better definition of professionalism than the millions of journalism professionals who came before you.

"I'm not even asserting special assembly privileges as a journalist. Merely following quietly a block behind a peaceful protest and taking notes and talking with Snyders does not constitute legitimate probable cause to arrest me."

I don't know, I can't keep your "FUCKING FACISTS" Twitter posting from coming to mind when we start talking about your role in events. You obviously were caught up in the moment and without video of the incident I have no way of knowing whether this is the truth or not. Like I said, everybody thinks they're innocent. But I can see how its very possible that by standing in a certain place or moving around in a certain way in a hostile environment, perhaps without you even realizing it, you could be seen as contributing to the disturbance. Not entirely unlike being shot at if you were reporting from somewhere in Iraq and got shot at by one side or another when you took the wrong step. You may not have intended to do anything wrong, and the shooter could hypothetically have a high personal regard for journalists. But if you make an imprudent move, even accidentally, severe consequences could await.

Even if you're right - and yes I'm skeptical of personal accounts of one's own arrest, but I admit, you could be right - then I regard your personal situation as unfortunate but not necessarily improper action on behalf of the police, not so much their "being pissed and ... deciding to teach you a lesson." Based on the above lack of mainstream journalist arrests, it just doesn't seem likely to me that this was an organized sting on journalists by police as you suggest with your choice quote. They have a job to do too. You have your own duty to the University of Iowa community and they have a duty to the city of St. Paul. The fact that they went to the extent of sending you an apology letter confirms this in my mind, admitting to you that they made a mistake and that they seemingly don't bear you any ill will upon reflection.

Me:
I'm not saying it was an organized sting on journalists. They just decided to arrest everyone anywhere near the protest. They arrested journalists on purpose, but likely hadn't planned on doing so ahead of time. And I personally heard the comment the officer made to Snyders in my editorial, so I know what was going through at least one of the officers' minds. Ultimately, the DA's letter to me just indicates that he actually knows what the law is and cares about enforcing it. The police on the other hand didn't care. They decided they wanted to arrest everyone they came across and they did. It was illegal. Period. And the police should follow the law--obviously.

Regarding my Twitter posts at the time, it's hard not to react strongly when one is getting tear-gassed for no reason. I was mad about it then and am still mad about it now.

And you're just wrong about no mainstream journalists getting arrested. Do a little research and you'll find out otherwise. But I'm sure you'd rather continue to make unfounded assertions. Have fun with that.

Taco:
"And you're just wrong about no mainstream journalists getting arrested."

Kthx, no need to give any specific counter examples after my 173 word expansion of that statement. Thank you, Mr. Cutting Edge Reporter.

Me:
Here's a list of journalists who were detained that includes the names of the outlets they were working for:

http://minnesotaindependent.com/8190/cataloging-the-journalist-detainees-connected-to-rnc-protests

I suggest learning how to use Google--it's quite useful.

And this simultaneous exchange grew out of my post "Journalism Ethics 2.0."

Taco:
"Old rule: You can't cover something in which you are personally involved.
New rule: Tell your readers how you are involved and how that's shaped your reporting."

Old rule: Freedom of the Press
New rule: You're on your own, kid.

Adding to the comments I just posted on the RNC post: You really need to give some hard thought to all this advocating for new journalism ethics standards.

For one thing, in light of your accusations of police brutality at the RNC it makes your argument look horribly two-faced: "The police shouldn't have any right to lay their hands on me when I'm covering a political convention! Oh, and journalists should get some additional new rights too."

Secondly, the implications of a "new code of ethics" that all the naive bloggers are all abuzz are much bigger than many of its advocates realize (as detailed in other comment page) or are willing to acknowledge.

Media technology may be changing, but the duty of media to the public has not. You may think of yourself as a dude with a blog, and get stuck in the unintended mindset that you and me and some other people are your only consumers and critics, but if that's really where you stand in cyberspace, you're not a professional and not entitled to press credentials to begin with.

Truth has always been the object of the media. You think Bernstein and Woodward were just giving all sides a chance to give testimony in '72? Do you think that's all journalists were doing at the turn of the century in the muckraker era? You and Niles are confusing the goals of the profession with the details of the job.

The professional responsibility hasn't changed. If you want Freedom of the Press in the form of press passes and the liberty to not be arrested in the middle of reporting, you need to restrain the youthful enthusiasm and not involve yourself in unfolding events. That's central to a journalist's identity. If you give that up, you're testing a professional barrier and running the risk of getting exactly what you got in Minneapolis. It doesn't matter if you felt the protesters were entitled to do what they did, and that you didn't do anymore than they did. When you put yourself in a story, you're playing games with your role and your accompanying first amendment rights.

Consider the fact that Freedom of the Press isn't, and probably can never be, a right reserved to every individual citizen of the United States. There's an essential difference between the role you play in society as an individual citizen and as a reporter.

The Daily Iowan has criticized David Goodner several times for his confrontational and self-inserting style of protesting the Iraq war. I honestly believe that the approach to journalism espoused here is highly analogous to Goodner's approach to protesting. You both express frustration and challenge time-tested barriers of your roles, and in doing so you and others like you overstep long-standing bright lines of trust and respect that your audience and the public at large has for you, and diminish your respective causes in the long-run.

Me:
The First Amendment reads as follows:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

As I recently pointed out to another commenter, I'm a law student at the UI College of Law and earned a solid A in the constitutional law class that covered the Bill of Rights. It's my professional legal opinion that the police acted illegally in arresting me on Sept. 4 in St. Paul. I was there and I know the law. You weren't and you don't--at least not as well--so you're a bit out of your league here, taco.

Most of your comment to this post is merely tilting at windmills. I don't believe many of the things you apparently think I do. Again, I suggest a face-to-face meeting to clear up your unfortunate confusion.

Taco:
"so you're a bit out of your league here, taco."

Oh me my, why 'escuse me Judge I dinna know you had such esstensif' legal backaroun'.

I'm over my head because you got an awesome grade in 91:116?? That's too funny, oh boy! You're right, I take for granted how highly educated and enlightened you are. My apologies for thinking that you, with that attitude, might blame someone else, like the police, for something that is actually your own fault.

If you ever decide you want to actually discuss these issues rather than reveling in how totally cool you are, let me know.

"Again, I suggest a face-to-face meeting to clear up your unfortunate confusion."

Never gonna happen as long as that attitude persists and you continue to demonstrate that you're not really interested in discussing issues with me. I've lived in this town longer than you have, and seen enough bar fights to know how unwise it is to be confrontational with somebody downtown. If you really want to talk in person, you need to show a little more good faith on your end.

Me:
Bar fights? What are you talking about? You think I'm going to physically attack you if we get a coffee at the Java House?

If you actually believe that, you're insane.

I think you're just an anonymous coward.

Taco:
"You think I'm going to physically attack you if we get a coffee at the Java House?"

You know as well as I do that people in general are batshiat crazy and kill eachother all the time over nothing at all.

I don't know you from Adam. When I have to go on is your juvenile namecalling and refusal to keep things academic here in a nonphysical environment, why would I think things would be any different in person? If you don't want to talk electronically, what exactly is supposed to make me think all you want to do is talk in a personal confrontation? Huh?

I'm not stupid, and you're not either, you just seem to have trouble seeing matters from other people's POV and/or following other people's train of thought without getting angry and having to try to prove your original conclusion was correct every time. When you won't dialogue, directly or indirectly tell other media consumers they're out of their league talking to you, call people cowards, and say you'd like to meet them in person, you come off as nothing more than an anal-expulsive testosterone-fuelled internet toughguy looking to foist crazy ideas off on people who otherwise don't listen.

The way you talk down to the majority of your readers, including myself, who are believe it or not, equally or perhaps more informed and educated as you on topics like Constitutional and Human Rights Law, that is the general reputation you're going to create for yourself.

Anonymous, somewhat. A coward, perhaps. But I want to talk about the issues, and if your blogging is worth a fraction of its weight in ideas, what do you have to lose in a compare and contrast session with my less-pro-alternative-media perspective? All it amounts to is egotistical truth-averse self-censorship.

Me:
I'm polite to people until they're not polite to me. You crossed that line long ago.

And it's pretty clear to me that you're not actually interested in serious dialogue. Despite Snyders and Treftz's independent accounts of the events surrounding my arrest in St. Paul and even a letter from the city's district attorney, you continue to insist that I must have been doing something that justified the polices' actions. You obviously just don't like me and you have allowed this fact to blind you to the possibility that (as all the available evidence suggests) I'm telling the whole story behind my detention.

Your lack of good faith in our dialogue is further evidenced by your unwillingness to step out from behind your computer screen and say who you are and what qualifications you have. You might not like what I have to say or how I say it, but at least I have the guts to put myself out there. You, however, continue to hide behind your little mask and shoot spit balls at me from the back of the room. I hope that's fun for you.

Ultimately, if you want me to take you seriously, you'll have to act like you're serious. And your claim that no mainstream media reporters were detained in St. Paul despite how easy it is to use Google to find out that people working for the Associated Press and even Fox did indeed suffer the same fate I did indicates a profound lack of seriousness on your part.

Update:

Taco:
"Ultimately, if you want me to take you seriously, you'll have to act like you're serious. And your claim that no mainstream media reporters were detained in St. Paul"

Patently and demonstrably false. You are now officially being either journalistically negligent or intentionally dishonest by denying facts. Second item, 5th post, RNC thread.

Me:
What exactly are you referencing?

You wrote: "No reporters from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, NPR or other full-time professional organization were arrested."

And yet Alice Kalthoff, an editor with MyFoxdfw.com, was detained. As was John P. Wise, a MyFox national editor. Are you quibbling over the reporter/editor distinction? Regardless, those people are both FOX employees.

There are plenty of veteran AP reporters on the list too, if you actually care to look at it:

http://minnesotaindependent.com/8190/cataloging-the-journalist-detainees-connected-to-rnc-protests

Update II:

Taco:
"Are you quibbling over the reporter/editor distinction? Regardless, those people are both FOX employees."

Look, don't play dumb. We both know every single one of those organizations had reporters and cameras in St. Paul that day, some covering the RNC itself and some actually covering the street theater.

But it took Amy Goodman and you "FUCKING FASCISTS"-Twittering, Journalism Ethics 2.0-espousing blogger "journalists" to get yourselves arrested and create these "Freedom of Press suppression" stories. Trying to disprove that observation by pointing to the two FOX editors is insanely disingenuous.

Bringing us full circle back to my original point: When you start talking seriously about redefining what a journalist is and acting on those personal definitions, you call your role and into question in other people's minds and in doing so put your 1st Amendment rights at risk.

You can proclaim "lesson not learned!" like a 5 year old, and plan for a long career of throwing tantrums about police brutality in 2nd rate "indy media" organizations for the rest of your career. Or, you can come to terms with a real journalist's responsibilities and perhaps be taken seriously one day.

Me:
I don't have much interest in debating the future of the media with you, especially since I don't really know who you are or what your background is. Ultimately, these issues will be settled by economics and the broader culture, none of which either of us can individually influence all that much.

But if you're unwilling to concede that two Fox editors, two AP writers, and an AP photographer all suffering the same fate I did weighs strongly against the notion that a journalist had to do something wrong to get arrested, then I no longer consider this conversation worth having. In any case, I look forward to your comments on my series of follow-up pieces this semester.

2 comments:

Iowa said...

Congrats to taco for rubbing Chris's rubarb the wrong way enough that he actually took the time to post this.

Holy Schnikes Chris, how immature are you? Are you now gonna cry to mommy? Way to abuse this form Einstein. Go ahead, respond, you always do. I never thought I'd say this, but you and Bill O'Reilly have A LOT incommon.

Taco, email me at

iowaindependent542@gmail.com

I may have some work for you (seriously, it's a real offer) are you appear astute at challenging some of the odd conjectures Chris makes. However taco if you want Chris to go away I recommend you just ignore him from here on out, just don't comment on his nonsense, only on his worthwhile articles (which for the record Chris absolutely exist, there are some things you write that are decent quality). Or if you want Chris to go away just don't comment on his stuff.

Best to all, I got a football game to watch. Always have fun debating.

Christopher Patton said...

http://diopinions.blogspot.com/2009/01/note-on-my-writing-style.html