Silsbee Texas: Apologists for Rapists

A girl was raped in the Texas town of Silsbee by a student athlete.  Since the rape, she has been ordered to “lay low”, kicked off the cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer (when ordered by superintendent Richard Bain Jr) for her rapist.  The community turned against her, supporting the rapist (and his accomplice), calling her a slut, and a bitch (one cowardly family even going so far as to put their 2 year old up to the task) and even threatening her life.  The Supreme Court of the US has shown brazen moral bankruptcy in refusing to hear her free speech case (rape victims don’t rate as high on their priority list as corporations seeking to influence elections).  As a result she now owes school district $45,000 in legal fees.  (You can donate directly here, or commission comic art with all proceeds going to help pay the fees here (via)).  Trigger Warning: Full Details Here.

While it is worth calling attention to the heroic actions of the two young men who broke down the door (putting an end to the attack) and even attempted to chase down and confront her attackers (in one case succeeding), on the whole the town of Silsbee and its citizens have shown themselves to be the very worst sort of people.  There is a vile rotting husk of flesh where there ought to be a heart, and their actions epitomize so much of what is deeply wrong with our country.  They need to be taught a lesson in morality.

I’m not sure what form that lesson ought to take, whether a boycott will have any meaning for instance.  Given the campaign of shame and harassment aimed at this young woman, I think it only appropriate to respond – legally – in kind.  Below the fold is contact information.  For the superintendent of schools.  For city hall.  A link to a google search with a list of Churches.  Call the superintendent and let him know what kind of person he is.  Call city hall and let them know their town is no longer the home of “Tiger Pride”, their new public face is “Rapist Pride”.  Call the churches and ask ministers and priests to work their thoughts on rape into their sermons.  Clearly communicate both what you think of the people you call, the community at large, and what it is their moral responsibility to do: Regardless of their court victory, the school district owes the rape survivor and her family an apology – and to absolve them of any responsibility for paying the district’s legal fees.

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NYPD Police Brutalize Musician, Threaten Crowd

NYPD, as part of a recent crackdown against musicians, arrested a man playing music illegally in a park in Chinatown.  The man, forced face down on the pavement with officers holding him down, displayed a bloodied face.  As of this time it appears he did not resist.  The crowd did voice their opposition quite loudly.  They were rewarded with threats of being maced and threatening movements made by one of the officers.

The video on youtube has been flagged inappropriate, making it harder for people to see, and artificially driving down its view count.

The Fake SEAL Pastor and His Enabler

Can we fit three of the most poisonous things wrong with our society into a single incident?  YES:

A Pastor fabricated his past as a Navy SEAL (emphasis mine):

Several former SEALs wrote into The Patriot-News casting doubt on the reverend’s account of his service.

“We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up,” said retired SEAL Don Shipley. Shipley also speculated the waterboarding and kitchen details came from the action depicted in “Under Siege.”

One could write a library’s worth of books about the propensity to lie in order to convert, or that sticky mix of patriotism and bloodlust that so fully consumes the national discourse on war.

The paper’s response upon finding out about this falsehood takes the cake (emphasis mine):

The paper, meanwhile, is unapologetic for printing Moats’ prevarications.

“The Patriot-News regularly interviews veterans to tell their stories. We do not regularly ask those we interview for proof of their service, believing these men and women would not lie and dishonor those who have fought bravely defending our country,” the paper said in a special note to readers about the incident.

A newspaper that eschews proof in favor of faith is worthless.

So there we have it.  A pastor who lies and the newspaper that enabled him and refuses to apologize for taking the information it gathers at face value, and the underlying obsession with our warrior class simmering underneath it all.  If you have any question as to how we find ourselves continually suffering as a nation, look directly at this fact: That we glorify violence and avoid the truth.

The Liars That Get Away

Professional liars like James O’Keefe are able to successfully manipulate the media into damaging their targets.  Amanda Marcotte writes:

At this point, he releases a video, everyone knows up front that he’s a liar, and everyone will just pretend that he’s not for the 12-24 hours it takes for the video to ruin someone’s life.  And he’ll basically gloat in public by releasing the full video, as if to say, “Hey, we all know I’m lying, but no one seems to give a flying fuck!”And on that, he’s right.

How do you fight against that?

This folds nicely into a larger question of how we fight a range of falsehoods perpetuated and popularized by the media.  New organizations (or companies purporting to be news organizations such as Fox News) can all too easily put false info out there, at which point it becomes “effective truth” (Digby):

This is why O’Keefe is able to keep going. The Village really believes that it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not once it’s “out there”. O’Keefe and the Brietbartians know this and since they get oxygen from the fact that liberals flail around trying to prove them wrong

This is a dire strategic problem for our country.  Without the proper facts we cannot make the proper decisions, and one party is content with governing based on wild falsehoods:

MAHER: New Rule – Fantasies are for sex, not public policy. When you go down the list of useless distractions that make up the Republican Party agenda; public unions and Sharia law, anchor babies and a mosque at ground zero, ACORN and National Public Radio, the war on Christmas, the New Black Panthers, Planned Parenthood, Michelle Obama’s war on desserts…

…you realize that one reason nothing gets done in America is that one of the political parties puts so much more into fantasy problems. Governing this country with Republicans is like rooming with a meth addict.

You want to address real life problems like when the rent is due and they’re saying “How can you even think of that stuff when there’s police scanner voices coming out of the air conditioning unit?”

This creates a massive power imbalance favoring lie-based politicians and pundits, and leads to policy decisions with very real effects.

So what can we do to counter?  A few things:

  1. Support non profit journalism (via Miguel Bloomfontosis)
  2. Build a website to document lies, sources, and media acceptance in a way that makes said data easy to digest and use.
  3. Hit the pocketbooks of media organizations that go along with falsehoods (via Olive)
  4. Proof by Prank – If we are going to drive home how toxic this is, we need to use the media’s willingness to publish anything buzz worthy coupled with their love of navel gazing to our own advantage.
  5. Cultivate brave and perceptive public figures who can – when a new lie hits – see it for what it is and step in to counter it.
  6. Break up the monopolies.

1.  Any support that gives real journalism a chance to live and thrive outside the bounds of a profit motive will serve us in this battle, and in many more to come.

2.  With intelligent data we can identify trends and bolster arguments.  Do some organizations fall more readily for these kind of lies?  How often do they repeat them?  How long does it take to issue retractions?  How frequently do they repeat those retractions?  Are the retractions made through the same media as the lie(is a tv mistake retracted only on the website)?  Etc.  What we need here are dedicated volunteers to gather data, verify data, and a web application that can transform that data into a story laypeople can quickly grasp.

3. Armed with #2 we will know who to go after.  Is CNN especially susceptible?  Then we need a campaign to go after their advertisers.

4. Using your opponent’s strengths and weakness alike against them is essential when fighting a more powerful foe.  The media’s strength is that it can take any story and disseminate it quickly to a large number of people.  Their weaknesses are a willingness to forgo diligence in order to snag a potentially juicy story, and a love of gazing inwards.  This gives us the opportunity for a real one-two punch.  Our first strike takes advantage of their strength and willingness to accept “evidence” at face value.  A false video of our own could gain wide play before it gets outed.  At which point we engage in the essential step two – claiming responsibility and using the prank as an opportunity to drive home repeatedly the problem the media has with accepting stories like this uncritically (and dearth of critical reporting in general).

5. Once someone like James O’Keefe let’s the cat out of the bag – we know.  The instant a known liar puts forth a ridiculous story we need people in high places to go on the news shows and tear down both the lies of people like O’Keefe, and to criticize the media directly for accepting them.

6. Media companies have become large corporations that collude on coverage.  As such when it comes to the product (news articles) – we are unable to get the product we need from the companies that utterly dominate the market.  This impacts what gets covered (blogs may be able to expose cracks here and there, and if we pretend wikileaks isn’t being politically prosecuted we can imagine viable alternatives to getting the truth out – but largely investigative journalism happens at the pleasure of these large media companies).  For a country that votes a functioning news service is a public utility.  If private companies want in on the game that’s fine, but there needs to be a greater responsibility to provide accurate news – even if that responsibility only comes from societal pressure.  At the very least though – we need to break them up.  Large multinationals are simply too powerful to respond to pressure in a way that makes them truly accountable.

With each of these initiatives in place we could make sizable headway towards changing the way our media functions.

Good Reads July 13 2009

Haven’t been blogging of late, but here’s some good reads to tide over folks who still travel here:

WriteChic: Man Murdered by Health Insurance Companies (Obama should read this EVERY DAY until Health Care Reform passes).
DailyKos: Health Care – If you think you’ll always be insurable, Think Again.
Crooks and Liars: Hard Hitting Advertising on Health Care Works!

Feministing: Pharmacists can’t refuse to offer Plan B!
Orcinus: A Reminder That Sarah Palin is a Liar Unfit for Public Office.
Orcinus: Rush Limbaugh Encouraging a Coup Against Obama.
Orcinus (Seriously this is a MUST READ BLOG): Tea Partiers Stepping Up the Crazy.
Pandagon: Apparently the Love Segregation Movement in DC is just a touch psychotic.
Some Guy With a Website (Freaking AWESOME-PANTS Cartoon): Obama and Reid – Super Problem Solvers.
Majikthise: Is on CNN! (Note to Linux Users, CNN HATES YOU and no you cannot watch).
Majikthise: Apparently the US locked up a Journalist seeking asylum. Niiiiice move us.
HateWatch: Will Congress Investigate Extremists in the Military?
United States of Jamerica: On the Wisdom of Bipartisanship.


And in this episodes absolute must read brilliant screed of no uncertain power, the Unapologetic Mexican rings in with this: The Power of Truth and the Weakness of Tough Talk.

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Brief Update and Two Recommended Posts

Shortly (I hope) I’ll be announcing a new education blog related to my nonprofit.  In the meantime I’d like to recommend two exceptionally insightful posts…

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Israel vs Palestine: Trust

A huge problem I have negotiating the very rough waters of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is trust.

Both sides have such a problem seeing and understanding the other that the views pouring out of that miasma are convoluted and stained with assumption.  The pro-Palestine side seems to think a rain of rockets is a mild annoyance, and the pro-Israel side follows the act of American conservative who think civilian deaths are “sad but necessary”.

It gets worse when I talk to friends and family, who share very believable stories about atrocities committed by either side.  Then the digging starts.  Into the past, to reveal the UN’s historical animosity towards Israel.  Into news stories, where single-witness accounts are considered foul-proof evidence of deliberate civilian-targeting in some publications and others ignore the massive pile up of evidence that Israel is using chemical warfare.

I’m finally understanding why Palestinians fire rockets, and why Israelis resort to whatever means “will hurt them most”.  But I find myself in a place where every post from my super liberal friend decrying “Zionists” and every QassamCount status update from my more conservative friend both leave angry.  That pro-Palestine friend is using the language of the insane and the violent.

So in the end I find cause to trust neither side, though in most cases I trust the people espousing one or the other.  I fall back into my old and reassuring thought pattern that violence is without intelligence or justification.  And I look upon my people (which, with an honest look at my history, coming from that region means both sides of this stupid conflict) with disgust and pity.  Their leaders and their fighters are choosing blood even as their supporters choose blindness.